Lessons in Wedding Planning: 17 things you might not know about wedding rings

24 Jan 2017

As her wedding date draws nearer, bride-to-be Jessica Phillipson reveals some interesting facts about wedding rings

Hello fellow brides-to-be,

There’s less than three months to go for us until we’re married, so we’re on to the final finishing touches – including wedding rings.

We recently bought ours, but it got me thinking: why do we wear them? Who invented them and how has the tradition changed over the years? I was surprised to find that, even today, tradition varies from country to country.

Here’s what I found out…

- Wedding rings were first worn in Ancient Egypt, when braided hemp or reed rings would be exchanged by lovers

- Egyptians believed the ring symbolised a gateway to the future

- The tradition continued with the Romans, who believed the circular shape symbolised eternity

- It’s worn on that particular finger on the left hand as Egyptians believed there was a vein in that finger called the ‘vena amoris’, or ‘vein of love’, which is directly connected to the heart

- Rings used to be just for women

- In the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, men would give women gimmel rings – two interlocking bands. The man and woman wore one of these bands after their engagement and the two bands would be joined on the wedding day on the woman’s finger

- During the Renaissance, the poesy ring (a ring band inscribed with a poem) became popular

- The first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 when King Maximilian I of Germany proposed to Mary of Burgundy

- The trend for rings for both men and women was started in late 19th century America by the jewellery industry to make more money (they unsuccessfully tried to launch a male engagement ring)

- In Nordic countries, plain engagement rings are used for both people and it’s the wedding ring that has a jewel and is reserved for the bride. The groom’s engagement ring then becomes a wedding ring

- In Germany and Austria, plain engagement rings are used for both people, but wedding rings go on the right hand

- In Russia, Bulgaria and Poland wedding rings are also worn on the right hand

- Hindus sometimes use a toe ring (called a bichiya) instead of a ring

- In India, some women wear a bangle (called a loha) instead of a ring

- The Claddagh ring (hands holding a crown or heart – my mum’s is in the picture) dates back to Roman times and symbolises friendship, loyalty, faith and love. They were used as engagement and wedding rings in the Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe. In Ireland, they are traditionally passed down from mother to daughter

- Jewish tradition has the wedding ring on the middle finger or thumb, but more recently it’s the index finger that’s used

- When weddings used to be contracts between families rather than a celebration of love between couples, the wedding ring symbolised an exchange of valuables

There’s no legal requirement to wear wedding rings, but most couples do. Will you be wearing them? Or, more interestingly, will you both be wearing them?