The Wedding Day is a special day for both the bride and the groom. So much planning goes into arranging the perfect wedding day. All this planning often distracts from the actual meaning of the wedding.
The two parties are making promises they intend to fulfill for the rest of their lives. Part of those promises is the Wedding Ring. Why is there a wedding ring? Or in most cases, wedding rings? What are they symbolizing and the psychology of object attachment?
The first recorded use of wedding rings took place about 3000 years ago. That would be the time when both the wife and the husband exchanged rings so that they both had them. A wedding ring was mentioned in the will of a widow when she passed away. This is the first recorded mention of a diamond Wedding ring jewellery and it dates back to 1417.
The Egyptians used the ring to represent Eternity. A circle has no beginning and no end. When Alexander the Great conquered the Egyptians, it was the adopted ritual of giving rings to the lovers as a representation of devotion. Many of these rings were designed to represent Cupid, the God of love.
When the Romans conquered Greece, they continued the tradition and began to use Iron and Copper rings in ceremonies. The iron rings were meant to signify that the woman now had complete control of the household goods.
By the time the 2nd century rolled around, the majority of rings were made of gold. Many of those rings in Rome had an inscription of one ring that stated ‘Beauty’s Ring’ this was to signify that the ring was given to the most beautiful women in the world, according to the man giving the ring.
During the 3rd and 4th Century, rings began to become more immaculate, it was all based on the giver’s wealth. The more money and goods the man had, the more elaborate the ring.
Ancient Egyptians believed that the fourth finger on the left hand contained the vein of love that connected directly to the person’s heart. This is in fact, not true. But the tradition of wearing wedding rings on that fourth finger is still followed to this day.
It was during the Medieval times that precious stones began to be incorporated into wedding bands. There was a certain logic and reasoning with the stones they used.
- Rubies signified passion
- Sapphires signified the Heavens
- Diamonds signified the steadfast strength
This could be significant when one considers the Wedding Vows that are spoken during the ceremony. The lines in the vows do actually match up to the significance of the stones. ‘Love, honor and cherish, from this day forward, in richness and poorness, sickness and health, till death do us part.’
In 1475, a poem was written about the wedding of two socialites. The poem, in part, reads, ‘Two wills, two hearts, two passions are bonded in one marriage by a diamond.’
At one time, a wedding was simply when a man offered a woman a ring, if she took it they were married. This could become quite complicated however. At any point, either the man or the woman could claim that a wedding ever happened. This was a prequel to having a clergy and witnesses.
During the 12th Century, the Christian Church declared a wedding to be a Holy Sacrament. This began the Church Ceremonies where rings were included in the ceremony.
Men did not originally wear a wedding ring. The Christian Church did suggest exchanging rings between the Bride and Groom as a way that was meant to keep men faithful to their wife. The idea of two rings really caught on during World War II.
The rings would remind the American and the European soldiers of their wives and girlfriends that were back home waiting for them. This continued through the Korean War also. After this point, dual rings in a marriage caught on with popularity among non service individuals.
While wedding rings continue to be worn today. The meaning is not just what it was when the idea of rings first began. The common meaning or symbolization of the wedding rings today is ‘Commitment, Love and Devotion’.
In the past it was more of a contract between the two people and their families. They were also meant as a security deposit to show that the man’s promise to the woman and her family was serious.
The method to which wedding rings began, what the meaning behind the rings is is different for each culture and Religion.
Not all cultures mandate or suggest wearing wedding rings. Some use the wedding ring as a status symbol. Some cultures will put the ring aways to keep it protected and safe. They will only take the rings out for special days.
In the olden days, back during King Arthur and the Knights of the round table, the meaning of rings was completely different than it is now. At that time, marriage was a union between two aristocrats, generally arranged between the families. This would guarantee the family line and the wealth usually became greater. This is because the woman was usually another aristocrat or royal lineage.
When a man had a woman he loved, usually a mistress, he would provide them with a ring called a Posy. This ring would have an inscription inside that was a secret message between the man and woman. Apparently, only the woman would be able to understand the message.
Today, that message may still be inscribed inside the ring. However, now the inscription is generally their names, the wedding date or a special line from a certain song. The intent is still the same, a message for the woman, but now the man shares in it also. Including an inscription on the inside of his band.
In Ancient Rome, there were three types of marriage. There was common law cohabitation, second was Coemptio, which was the marriage arranged by male relatives and then among the nobles, there was confarreatio, which was a legal marriage with an iron band for the woman.
This declared her as the man’s property and her family had to pay a dowry to the man’s family. The dowry was meant as a payment to pay for her upkeep and maintenance in the marriage. The iron band symbolizes strength and an unbreakable marriage. The iron metal represented the permanence of the marriage.
Metal has always been the most common type of ring, however, rings can now be made out of wood, resin, bamboo and silicone. Depending on the career, the decision could be beneficial for both. Silicone is easier to clean, metal will obviously last longer.
There are some couples who claim to be environmentalists and choose to have a ring tattooed on the finger. This is supposedly the ultimate sign of permanence. However, just like ancient times, divorce happens and even tattoos can be removed like a metal ring.
Some even believe that the three colors of the main metal used each have a meaning of their own. White gold means friendship, Rose gold represents Romantic love and yellow gold represents fidelity.
Due to these meanings, couples may choose to have a triband ring or rings made that will represent all three colors, which is what the Religions state a marriage should be. The couple also chooses to believe that a tri-color band represents the past, present and the future of their lives together.
When it comes to wedding rings, size is said to not matter. However, the status quo says differently. For many couples who have the financial means, a wedding ring with a large diamond is more important to them. In general though, the engagement ring would be the larger stone and the wedding ring would be smaller, if it has any stone at all.
In the past, wedding rings were most often made of gold. This was done for certain beliefs. For the woman, it was likely her only possession as she moved into a home with her husband. The amount of carats in the gold rings signified how well the husband would be able to take care of his wife.
Obviously, the higher the carat amount, the wealthier he was. Also, if for some reason their financial status slid to nothing or hardly anything, the woman could take that ring and sell it to have money for the family.
Ultimately, it is obvious that throughout all of time, rings of some fashion have been part of a marriage. The ideals, the meaning and the customs may have changed over time, but the meaning a wedding ring or rings signifies is a commitment to each other.
A Religious contract pledging your love to each other for all time, until death tears the couple apart. Today, many couples do not adhere to these verbal Religious Contracts they have made with their partner. Which is very sad that the meaning and understanding of commitment is not as strong as it once was.