We’ve got Rings on the Brain! With Valentine’s Day this month inspiring a lot of marriage proposals, we are wrapping up “engagement season”! Here are a few fun facts about the history and meaning of the Wedding Ring, as well as it’s proud protector during wedding ceremonies: the Ring Bearer.
The Wedding Ring’s Shape: A ring, most commonly in the shape of a circle, has no beginning or end, just as marriages are meant to last forever. Wedding rings symbolize your immortal and eternal love for another. Additionally, the hole in the center of the ring also has significance: it can be viewed as a gateway to the future, for those events both known and planned, as well as unknown. Very exciting to think about!
The Wedding Ring’s Origin: No one has yet been able to find when exactly the tradition of wearing a wedding ring began, however the most common finding is that from ancient Egypt, where chains and bracelets used to be a symbol of bonding. At some point this transitioned into rings being worn on the hand. Reeds, papyrus, hemp and other plants were used to braid into rings adorning women as decorative ornaments. The materials of these rings could not withhold very long and were later substituted with rings made from leather, bone and ivory. Romans then began using metal such as iron. Gold and silver rings were typically given on rare occasions. We have heard two different stories: 1. The man gave his wife a ring made of silver or gold because he was trusting his wife with such a valuable item 2. The mad gave his wife a ring not as a symbol of love, but more as a symbol of ownership, claiming the woman for themselves. These are two very different viewpoints, however both seem plausible.
Why do we have a ring bearer? The tradition of having a Ring Bearer guard the wedding rings is thought to have begun in ancient Egypt as well, where it was customary for treasured jewels to be carried on ornamental pillows during wedding ceremonies. Additionally, in Medieval Times, Norther Europeans presented the bride with her wedding ring on the tip of a sword. In Victorian England the first ring bearers were called “pageboys.” A pageboy during that time period originally carried the train of the bride’s dress, as well as a prayer book and the wedding rings. He would wear a white lace collar and a sash, and because it was somewhat difficult to carry the train, most pageboys were at least seven years of age. Over time it has become acceptable for the ring bearer to be very young, and it’s simply a way to include younger relatives or loved ones in the wedding ceremony. The trend now is for the Best Man to actually hold and guard the rings while the Ring Bearer carries a pillow with fake rings sewn onto it.
Placement of the Wedding Ring: From a traditional standpoint, during early Christian wedding ceremonies, the priest would recite during the binding ” In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” and as he spoke he would take the ring and touch the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger. Then, as he said “Amen” he would place the ring on the ring finger which sealed the marriage.
It is also a traditional romantic belief from thousands of years ago that a vein from the fourth finger on the left hand ran directly to the heart. This vein was called the “Vena Amoris,” which means the “Vein of Love” in Latin. It has been scientifically proven that this in actually inaccurate, as all of the fingers of the hand have a similar vein structure, however this belief still led to the tradition of couples placing their wedding ring on this finger.
Another romantic belief is belongs to the Chinese, which was perfectly explained on Mervisdiamond.com’s blog.
“The Chinese developed a theory, which is actually really interesting and a bit fun to try. If you look at your left hand, each finger is a representation of the past, present and future generations within your family. For example, the thumb represents your parents, your index finger represents your siblings, the middle finger represents yourself, your fourth finger represents your life-partner and the fifth finger, your pinkie, represents your future children.
Now it’s time for a little experiment. Place your hands together and bend your middle fingers together, allowing for your knuckles to touch. When doing this, allow for your other remaining fingers to touch.
Begin to pull each finger apart, individually. You will see that your thumbs will pull apart because you are not destined to be with your parents forever. Now do the same action with your index finger and pinkie; you will see the same results. According to the Chinese theory, you are not meant to be together forever with your siblings, as well as your future children as they will leave the home and start a family of their own.
Now try to do the same action with your ring finger, which represents your life partner. When you try to separate these fingers apart, it doesn’t lift as easily as the other fingers, right? This is because you and your life partner are meant to be together forever.
We hope that we were able to shed a little bit of history onto why we have wedding rings. They are not worn simply for the beauty of them, there is much more to it! Happy Valentine’s Day!
XO The Storybook Team