Many of the wedding traditions that we follow today date back to centuries past. The exchanging of rings is one of the oldest wedding traditions around and is a beloved tradition for most newlywed couples. We will take a closer look at the origins of this ritual and how it is carried out in weddings today
Although the exact origin wedding ring is technically considered unknown, most historians believe that the tradition of wearing wedding rings started in Ancient Egypt. Archaeological discoveries, some dating back more than three thousand years, have led to this conclusion. At that time, a ring served as a seal with which the pharaohs certified their orders. Additionally, articles in papyrus scrolls andimagery on artifacts reveal the ancient culture exchanged rings braided from reeds and hemp. As time passed the Egyptian aristocracy began putting gold on their valuable items as well as silver, glass, and clay, this became knows as the first "jewelry". Through translated hieroglyphics, experts have learned how this society viewed the circle as a symbol of endless love between a couple. It made sense that a couple wanting to celebrate their unending love would use a ring as that symbol. Additionally, Egyptians wore their rings on the fourth finger of their left hands. They believed this finger held a special vein directly connected to the heart. By putting the endless circle of their love around the vein that went straight to the heart, they were making a declaration of their devotion.
Interestingly, another ancient civilization also used the ring as an important social marker. In Rome, a ring designated the social status of a person.During that era, only the higher class was entitled to wear gold while the free citizens wore silver and the slaves wore iron. Romans had a defining use in marriage with the ring where before the marriage occurred the groom handed to the parents of his future bride a ring with which to prove that he undertook an engagement to marry their daughter and that he was able to take care of her. This ring exchange ritual was more important than the actual wedding itself which was merely the closing of the promise and the celebratory party.
The tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand also shows up in history from the ancient Greeks. In ancient Greece, it was also believed that an artery from that particular finger led directly to the heart. This is where they would wear their rings. While we now know the "vein to the heart is in the ring finger" is a myth, it does serve as a rather romantic explanation for the origins of the tradition.
People in Medieval France believed that for a married woman to attract a younger man she merely had to put a handkerchief through her wedding ring and then hand it to her loved one. This message was received loud and clear by the intended suitor.
In today's world, we recognize the wedding ring as a symbol of the unity of marriage and the unendingness of the union. The couples of today also generally choose their wedding rings together, thereby adding to the symbolism a personal touch that the rings carry for them. Additionally, the wedding ring also serves as a social symbol in today’s world, signifying to others that this man or woman is not available for a relationship, they are already taken.