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Before we say, "I do," the gentleman usually gets down on one knee and pops the question, and this is where the engagement ring comes into play. Then on the day of the wedding, the couple will customarily exchange wedding rings, in which the lady's would be worn alongside the engagement ring. This has been going on for years and years throughout history, and as much as we love sticking to customs from generations before us, the engagement and wedding rings have changed a bit throughout history.
Wedding Ring History
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It is believed that the tradition of exchanging rings on the wedding day first started back in Egypt almost 5000 years ago. At this point in time, these rings may not have consisted of fine metals or stones, but instead of reeds or straw woven together and worn on the fingers. Because these rings made of materials that may not have lasted a long time, people started making rings out of leather and ivory. The amount of love was shown by using a more expensive material to make these rings. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the ring was not only a way to show love to the one they were marrying, but a way to show ownership over their spouse. They would give the woman a ring to claim them as their own on their wedding day. Later, these rings were made of iron and symbolized the strength of the union. The Romans were the first to engrave wedding rings as well.
During the 9th century AD, Christians started using wedding rings that were more decorative. Christians moved to a more simple style for wedding bands during the 1200's, as they believed that the more decorative rings were too worldly. Clergy considered the wedding band to be union ordained by God, and rings looked more simple and plain. Today, wedding bands are commonly considered to represent the commitment to each partner in a marriage, and are to be worn during the duration of the marriage by both partners.
Being that rings are in the shape of a circle, the circle is believed to symbolize the marriage lasting for eternity because they have no beginning and no end. The single circle of the wedding ring also symbolized the two people becoming one whole never-ending unit. As rings are exchanged, these represent the commitment to this long-lasting union of marriage.
The Ring Finger
The wedding ring has been worn on several different fingers throughout history. At some point, the wedding ring was worn on the thumb and the right hand ring finger as well. It is commonly believed that the left hand ring finger contains a vein that leads directly to the heart, so some believe that the wedding ring is worn on that finger to symbolize two hearts becoming one. Others believe that the left ring finger is the common finger for wedding bands because most people are right handed, and so wearing it on the left hand would keep it from becoming damaged. The two least used fingers on the hand are the pinky and ring finger, and some believe that the ring finger was picked because the pinky is usually the smallest finger.
One historical theory includes the priest performing the wedding says, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen" as he touches each finger starting with the thumb in the left hand. When he gets to the ring finger and says, "Amen" the ring is then traditionally placed on that finger as a spiritual commitment between both partners.
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Before WWII, some American men would not wear a wedding ring, and the bride would be the one to wear the rings. When the war started, men were going away overseas and leaving behind their wives and fiancées. To symbolize their commitment to their spouse who had gone to war, both the bride and the groom wore the wedding band to show their union during this hard time.
Wedding Ring Alternatives
Tattoos are becoming more and more popular to show the commitment between two people. Instead of exchanging rings on the day of the wedding, each will have the date, initials or their spouse's name tattooed on the left hand ring finger. Others include bracelets, necklaces or other important pieces of jewelry.
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