The Origins of Wedding Rings
Getting married is probably the most important and special day of your life, whether you opt for a small private ceremony or a spectacular day hosted in a beautiful castle wedding venue. The giving and receiving of a wedding ring is the final and most significant element of your wedding ceremony, a tradition which can be traced back to ancient times.
The oldest evidence of wedding rings originates from ancient Egypt, approximately 4800 years ago, when Reeds and Rushes growing along the river banks were twisted and braided into rings and other ornamental jewellery to be worn by the women in those days. To the Egyptians, and many other ancient cultures, the ring or circle was the symbol of eternity, and the hole in centre was considered a gateway or door leading to unknown events.
These rings failed to endure due to the fragile material they were made from and were soon replaced by rings made of ivory, bone or leather. The more costly the material used to make the ring, would demonstrate the wealth of the giver and also the extent of their love for the receiver.
In Roman times, the Roman men would give a ring to a lady as a sign of ownership rather than as a token of love. Roman rings were usually made of iron and they symbolized strength and permanence. It is also believed that the Romans were the original people to engrave their rings.
In approximately 860 A.D. Christians began to use rings in wedding ceremonies and these generally were very highly decorated and engraved. The church however, disapproved of such highly ornate rings, classing them as unreligious and disrespectful to the church, so around the 13th century wedding rings were simplified to the plain band we know today.
According to Roman tradition, the wedding ring is worn on the left hand ring finger because there was a notion that a vein in the finger, referred to as the 'Vein of Love' was directly connected to the heart. This concept has since been medically proved as incorrect. A more practical premise is that, as the largest percentage of people are right handed, a soft metal such as gold, is less likely to get worn or damaged by being worn on this finger with it being one of the least used digit.
In ancient Asia a popular style of wedding ring was the puzzle ring, which was given to seal the bond between husband and wife and also to check on the wife's fidelity. If a wife removed her puzzle wedding ring to attend a clandestine, extra-marital rendezvous, the ring would fall to pieces and could only be reconstructed by the craftsman who made it, thereby alerting her husband to her infidelity.
Wedding rings were predominately worn by women only up until the twentieth century, when men started to wear wedding rings also. This is believed to have started during the Second World War, when men absent from home and separated from their wives would wear a wedding ring to remind them that their wives were at home waiting for their safe return. In this day and age, for most couples, the giving and receiving of wedding rings is purely symbolic, but it also has cultural significance, so a couple may choose to exchange rings so that they can wear a symbol that communicates their commitment with the rest of the world
For thousands of years, the meaning behind the giving of wedding rings has been evolving and today the exchanging of rings is an indication of a couple's commitment to love each other and to honour their wedding vows, rather than an expression of ownership.
The wedding ring has, throughout time, symbolised love, dedication, and in some cultures, an agreement between families. The sentiment attached to the simple band is clearly recognised as saying 'I love you', 'I want to be with you forever' and 'We belong to each other'. Some couples have personal messages engraved on the inside of their wedding rings, which adds greatly to the sentiment and symbolism.
Selecting the metal out of which your wedding band is to be made is an exciting prospect. Platinum is probably the most expensive, but most durable metal used for ring making. White gold is a metal which can be polished and brushed to give the appearance of platinum. The most commonly used metal for wedding rings is yellow gold of either nine or eighteen carats. In today's modern world jewellers are mixing and matching metals for rings, so a bride and groom could have gold and platinum rings, three colour gold, or even diamond or gem set wedding rings, it is up to the individual and some couples even design their own wedding rings for a more personal touch.