The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Wedding band

A wedding band, or wedding ring, is a token of marriage worn by a spouse to indicate a marital commitment to fidelity. Wearing of such a band is a European custom which has been adopted worldwide.

A wedding band is a precious metal ring worn on the base of the fourth finger (with the thumb counted as the first finger). This custom is the last gift in a series and follows the engagement ring, traditionally given as a betrothal present, and the promise ring, often given when serious courting begins.

Before medical science discovered how the circulatory system functioned, people believed that a vein of blood ran directly from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart. Because of the hand-heart connection, they chose the descriptive name vena amori, Latin for "the vein of love", for this particular vein.

Due to this understanding, it became accepted that the wedding ring be worn on this finger. By wearing the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, a married couple symbolically declares their eternal love for each other. This has now become a matter of tradition and etiquette.

It is considered highly improper to make sexual overtures to a man or woman wearing a wedding ring.

In the Great Britain and the United States in past generations it was more common for a woman to wear a wedding band than for a man. Today, both partners usually wear rings but where professions forbid the wearing of jewlrey, such as actors, police and electrical workers, it is not uncommon for either marrage partner not to wear rings. In addition, people often remove wedding rings for comfort or safety. So it is not uncommon for chaste married people not to wear a wedding ring. It is unremarkable for either partner to wear it on a chain around their neck. This is socially equivalent to wearing it on his or her hand.

A band of any material (even a rubber band) is accepted to complete most religious marital ceremonies, with unusual substitutions permitted in marriages under unusual circumstances. Rubber bands are often used when people marry on shipboard, and no ring can be fitted.

The most common material is a precious yellow alloy of gold, hardened with copper, tin and bismuth. Platinum and white alloys of gold are accepted as equivalent or superior to gold. Titanium has recently become a popular material for wedding bands, due to its durability, affordability, and gunmetal grey color. The least expensive material in common use is nickel silver for those who prefer its appearance or cost. Silver, copper, brass and other corroding metals are not as frequently used because they stain the skin. Stainless steel is seldom used, as it is not considered a precious metal. Aluminum or poisonous metals are also never used. Rings made by either spouse are considered so precious that any material is acceptable, even if practically unwearable.

Christians and traditionalists wear the ring on the left hand, while Orthodox Christians and Jews traditionally wear it on the right hand.

The plain gold band is the most popular pattern. It is commonly worn by medical personnel because it can be kept very clean. Woman usually wear narrow bands, while men wear broader bands.

In France and French-speaking countries, a common pattern is three interleaved rings. They stand for "faith, hope and love," where love is that particular type of perfect distinterested love indicated by the ancient Greek word agape. It is provocative that this pattern slides off quickly, because the rings flow over each other.

A traditional Irish wedding ring is the Claddagh ring, now popular in the United States and Australia as well, thanks to Irish immigration to those countries.

Puzzle ring s are sometimes given to and worn by men in Greek, Italian and Anatolian cultures. These are sets of interlocking metal bands that must be arranged just so in order to be worn as a single ring. Women wryly give them as a test for their mens' chastity. Even when the man masters the puzzle, the ring still cannot be removed and replaced quickly!

In North America, many married women wear two rings on the same finger: an engagement ring and a plain wedding band. The rings are often purchased in a pair designed to fit together. One interpretation states that the wedding ring is placed on the finger below the engagement ring, because it is closer to the heart. Purists hold that the practice, though common, is incorrect, as no ring is supposed to be placed above the wedding ring, which should be worn alone.

See also

Last updated: 02-11-2005 05:34:13
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01