In most parts of the world, wedding rings are an essential part of wedding ceremonies and an important symbol in the wedding itself. In many parts of the world, you do not need to ask if a person is married, a glance at their finger can give a quick indication of that. The fact that a person is married or not is so easy to spot because there are traditional fingers that the ring is worn in most parts of the world.
What Fingers Are Wedding Rings Worn?
Rings can be worn on all five fingers of the hand to signify various things for different people. However, some fingers are reserved for wedding rings in most cultures; here are some of the common fingers that wedding rings are worn on. In summary, you can divide the fingers that wedding rings are worn on into the Fourth Finger and Others.
1. Fourth or Ring Finger
The fourth finger on both hands has always been significant in many cultures, with many of them giving it a name that depicts something supernatural. In Japanese culture it is called the “medicine finger”, the Arabs called it bansur (meaning “victory”), while the Chinese called it “the unnamed finger”. It is therefore no surprise to see the finger used most popularly as the default holder of the wedding ring.
Wedding rings are so commonly worn on the fourth finger that it is commonly called the ring finger. Wearing wedding rings on the fourth finger is prevalent in most Western countries or parts of the world where there is heavy Western cultural influence.
The most common origin story of this practice is from the ancient Egyptians who believed that there was a vein from this finger that led directly to the heart. This belief soon spread to European nations who continued to wear the rings on their fourth finger. When the Catholic church declared that all marriages be conducted within the church, the use of rings as a sign of the bond of marriage became a norm.
Nowadays this practice of wedding rings on the fourth finger on the fourth finger is popular in most parts of Africa and the Americas. The practice of wearing the ring on the fourth finger is a result of strong colonial influence and the spread of Christianity in those parts of the world.
2. Other Fingers
In 17th and 18th century England, wedding rings were worn on the fourth finger while the couple took the vows. However, after the wedding ceremony, the bride could wear the ring on any finger she chooses– even the thumb.
According to Jewish tradition, the bride wears the wedding ring on her right index finger on the day of the ceremony.
Nowadays, Jewish brides wear the ring on the middle finger or thumb and move it to the left-hand ring finger after the ceremony. Orthodox Judaism does not demand men to wear wedding rings; however, those who choose to, commonly wear it on their left ring finger.
What Hand Are Wedding Rings Worn On?
As we have seen, in cultures where wedding rings are worn, they are commonly worn on the ring finger. However, it’s also important to know what hand you should put the ring into, and once again, this varies according to culture.
In medieval western Europe, Christian wedding ceremonies generally led to the groom placing the ring on his bride’s left ring finger. On the other hand, the practice in the Eastern Orthodox Church was for the bride to wear the ring on the left hand before the ceremony, and then switch it to the right after the wedding.
Nowadays, the wedding ring is worn predominantly on the left hand in western European countries apart from Spain where it’s worn on the right hand. Some Orthodox, Protestant Western European, Central, and South American countries wear the wedding ring on the ring hand. In countries like Brazil and Turkey, the ring is worn on the right hand until the wedding day, after which it is switched to the left hand.
Do All Cultures Wear Wedding Rings?
Wedding rings are very common in most parts of the world; however, they are not as popular elsewhere as they are in the Western world. In China, for example, wedding rings are a recent introduction that’s a result of Western influence; so, you would find it more common for younger couples to have wedding rings than the elderly ones.
In India wedding rings are not a compulsory part of the traditional wedding ceremony; however, Christian Indians use them as part of the church wedding ceremony. Apart from the usage in church, engagement rings are more popularly used than actual wedding rings.
A traditional Muslim wedding does not involve the use of rings in most Islamic countries. What is more common in these countries is the use of rings by women to signify engagement or betrothal; these rings may be worn on the ring finger of either the right or left hand by both men and women.
The use of wedding rings is not originally a part of sub-Saharan African culture. However, colonialism and the spread of Christian missionaries to this part of the world have made it commonplace. Most African weddings consist of a traditional and religious ceremony; it is in the religious ceremonies that the rings are usually exchanged between bride and groom.
History Of Wedding Rings
The exchange of wedding rings is a tradition that goes back more than 3,000 years. The earliest evidence of rings exchanged by lovers is in ancient Egypt where rings were a symbol of eternity because of their endless shape. The earliest Egyptian rings were made from plaited reeds or hemp and were worn on the ring finger because they believed there was a vein that ran from there to the heart
Rings were also shaped like the moon and sun, which were important parts of Egyptian religious practices, making them sacred to the wearers. After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, the tradition of giving rings as a sign of devotion was picked up by the Greeks.
The tradition was again spread to the Romans after they conquered Greece; at this point, rings were now made of iron and copper rings that depicted Cupid– the god of love. Some wedding rings had symbols that indicated that the wife was now in charge of the household.
In recent times, wedding rings became a part of mainstream culture largely through the influence of the Catholic church, although they were worn almost entirely by women. The custom of men wearing rings became popular during the Second World War, as Western troops wore them as a reminder of their wives. Soon, civilians too started wearing wedding rings and the culture of men wearing rings became as common as we have today.
Nowadays, wedding rings are as popular as ever and you’ll mostly see people wear them on the ring finger of their left hand. However, even in places where the use of wedding rings is popular some couples still don’t wear them all the time. Sometimes the nature of their jobs doesn’t allow them, they might be uncomfortable wearing it, or they might have some kind of reaction to the ring.