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Wedding rings

A pair of plain gold band wedding rings.

A wedding ring or wedding band is a metal ring indicating the wearer is married. Depending on the local culture, it is worn on the base of the left or the right ring finger. The custom of wearing such a ring has spread widely beyond its origin in Europe. Originally worn by wives only, wedding rings became customary for both husbands and wives during the 20th century.[1]

Compositions and styles

In Western countries, wedding rings are often made of gold, typically 9-carat or 18-carat in Europe or 14-carat in the USA, but may be made of any other precious metal. In recent years, silver has become a popular choice for wedding rings, as have a number of non-precious metals such as titanium and stainless steel.

Wedding ring profiles

Wedding rings may come in a variety of thicknesses, sometimes described as "weights". A normal wedding ring, sometimes called a "D-shaped ring", has a low profile consisting of a flat inner surface against the finger and a shallow curved top. A "heavyweight" ring, sometimes called a "high-domed" or "high D-shaped" ring, contains more weight of metal and has a much more pronounced curvature to the top, but still retains the flat inner surface. A "Court-style" wedding ring, sometimes described as a "comfort fit", has the high domed top of a "heavyweight" ring, but also has a curved inner surface with rounded edges designed to make the ring more comfortable to wear. Less common than rings having curved profiles are flat bands which have a basically rectangular cross-section, usually with radius-ed corners for comfort.

The most common style of wedding ring is a simple plain gold band, which can vary in width from around 2mm wide up to 10mm or more, with the most popular widths being 2mm to 4mm for women, and 4mm to 8mm for men. However, some women may choose a wider ring, up to 6mm in width, with some preferring up to 10mm or more.

Engraved wedding ring

An engraved wedding ring.

After plain bands, the next most common style of ring is a patterned or engraved band. In the west, these currently tend to be much more common with women than with men. They can have either very simple or extremely complex engraving on what is basically a plain band base, or a heavily patterned surface with deep ridges and other shapes on a quite wide ring. While heavily patterned rings were quite fashionable in the 1970s and early 1980s, they have somewhat fallen out of favor again as most women now prefer narrower and lighter rings. However, simpler engraved rings continue to be popular with many women.

Since the 1980s, gem-set rings have increased in popularity, with diamonds being by far the most popular gem used. Many gem-set rings are plain or engraved bands inset with a small number of widely-separated diamonds. However, many celebrities and more wealthy couples have chosen to use rings set with a full circle of diamonds all around their circumference. More usually used by other couples as an Eternity ring, such "fully-set" rings have become the preferred choice for many celebrity wedding rings.

Some couples choose to have engravings made on the inside of the ring or rings. Common engravings on the inside of the ring include the name of the partner or the names of both parts in the relationship, and/or date of the wedding.

Traditional customs

Pre-wedding customs

According to some customs, the ring forms the last in a series of gifts, which also may include the engagement ring, traditionally given as a betrothal present. This tradition was already in use in Ancient Rome and is possibly much older.[2]

Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, the exchange of rings is not technically part of the wedding service, but rather are exchanged at the betrothal. It is always a two-ring set given to her by the priest or by the best man.[2] The orthodox Christian Church of Greece has recently stopped performing betrothal blessings separately, as these were often non-committing, and now a betrothal ceremony is the initial part of the wedding service. In many families an informal blessing is now performed by the betrothed ones' parents in a family dinner that formalizes the betrothal. The ceremony of betrothal is now possibly performed immediately before the wedding (or "crowning" as it is more properly called), and the actual symbolic act of marriage is not the exchange of rings, but the public exchange of wedding vows.

Wedding ceremony customs


A groom placing a wedding ring on the finger of his bride during a wedding ceremony.

In several traditions, the best man or maid of honour has the duty of keeping track of a couple's wedding rings and to produce them at the symbolic moment of the giving and receiving of the rings during the traditional marriage ceremony. In more elaborate weddings, a ring bearer (who is often part of the family of the bride or groom) may assist in the ceremonial parading of the rings into the ceremony, often on a special cushion.

In older times, the wedding rings were not only a sign of love, but were also linked to the bestowal of 'earnest money'. According to the prayer book of Edward VI: after the words 'with this ring I thee wed' follow the words 'This gold and silver I give thee', at which point the groom was supposed to hand a leather purse filled with gold and silver coins to the bride.[3]

Historically, the wedding ring was rather connected to the exchange of valuables at the moment of the wedding rather than a symbol of eternal love and devotion. It is a relic of the times when marriage was a contract between families, not individual lovers. Both families were then eager to ensure the economic safety of the young couple. Sometimes it went as far as being a conditional exchange as this old (and today outdated) German formula shows: 'I give you this ring as a sign of the marriage which has been promised between us, provided your father gives with you a marriage portion of 1000 Reichsthalers'.[3]

The double-ring ceremony, or use of wedding rings for both partners, is a relatively recent innovation. The American jewellery industry started a marketing campaign aimed at encouraging this practice in the late 19th century.[1] In the 1920s, ad campaigns tried introducing a male engagement ring, but it failed due to the necessity that its advertising campaigns make secret appeals to women.[1] Marketing lessons of the 1920s, changing economic times, and the impact of World War II led to a more successful marketing campaign for male and female wedding bands, and by the late 1940s, double-ring ceremonies made up for 80% of all weddings, as opposed to 15% before the Great Depression.[1]

Post-wedding customs

Wedding and engagement rings

A woman's hand showing both wedding and engagement rings.

After marriage, the ring is worn on the hand it had been placed on during the ceremony. By wearing rings on the third finger, a married couple symbolically declares their eternal love for each other. This has now become a matter of tradition and etiquette. Many women also choose to continue wearing their engagement ring alongside their wedding ring, with the usual convention being to wear the wedding ring at the base of the finger with the engagement ring above it. This practice is especially common in the USA and UK, particularly if the engagement ring features a large and expensive diamond.

Some cultures exchange additional rings: In some parts of India, Hindus may use a toe ring or bichiya which is worn instead of a ring on a finger; although this is only for women, and increasingly worn along with a finger ring. In the eastern parts of India, primarily West Bengal, an iron bangle, or 'loha,' is worn by women. Increasingly, this bangle is given a gold or silver coating to improve its appearance. In Romania, spouses celebrate their silver wedding anniversary (25 years of marriage) by exchanging silver wedding rings, which are worn on the 3rd finger of the left hand along with the original (usually gold) wedding ring.[4]


Wedding ceremonies that reference rings

  • Church of England (1662 Book of Common Prayer): "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."[5]
  • Jewish: "You are consecrated to me with this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel."—said in Hebrew by the groom at an Orthodox Jewish wedding and by both the bride and groom at a Reform Jewish wedding.
  • Roman Catholic: "N., take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."[6]
  • Eastern Orthodox: "The servant of God (N.) is betrothed to the handmaid of God (N.), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."—from the Eastern Orthodox Service of Betrothal, part of the Mysterion of Holy Matrimony ("crowning"), said three times while the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the bride's ring over the bridegroom's head, he then places the bride's ring on the groom's hand. The same words are said three times over the bride, reversing the names of the bride and groom, placing the groom's ring on the bride's hand. The rings are then exchanged three times (either by the priest or by the best man), so that the bride and the groom end up with their own rings. In Eastern Orthodox tradition the wedding ring is worn on the right hand rather than the left.[7]

Celebrity wedding rings

Claudia Schiffer wedding ring 1
When German supermodel Claudia Schiffer married magician David Copperfield in 1994, her wedding ring was a narrow Platinum band studded all around with diamonds.
Claudia Schiffer wedding ring 2
When Claudia Schiffer married her second husband Matthew Vaughn in 2002, her wedding ring was a simple narrow plain 9-carat gold "court-style" band.
Jennifer Garner wedding ring
Actress Jennifer Garner's wedding ring from her second husband, fellow actor Ben Affleck, is a narrow plain Platinum band from her favorite jewelry designer Neil Lane.
Leelee Sobieski wedding ring
When actress Leelee Sobieski married fashion designer Adam Kimmel, she chose a narrow "court-style" gold band as her wedding ring.
Anne Hathaway wedding ring
Actress Anne Hathaway also wears a narrow "court-style" plain gold band as her wedding ring.
Kate Humble ring
British TV presenter Kate Humble's wedding ring is a wide 18-carat antique flat gold band that used to belong to her great-grandmother.
Jessica Simpson wedding ring
Singer Jessica Simpson's wedding ring from first husband Nick Lachley was a Platinum band studded all around with diamonds.
For her wedding ring, actress Christina Applegate chose a "high-domed" plain Platinum band.
Linda Barker wedding ring
British interior designer and TV presenter Linda Barker wears a very wide white gold band as her wedding ring.
Australian actress Phoebe Tonkin's wedding ring from husband Paul Wesley is a Cartier "Love" gold band.
MKO ring1c2
Actress and fashion designer Mary-Kate Olsen and her husband Olivier Sarkozy wear matching thin gold bands for their wedding rings.

See also

  • Engagement ring
  • Eternity ring


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Howard, Vicki (2003). "A 'Real Man's Ring': Gender and the Invention of Tradition". Journal of Social History 36 (4): 837–856. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Romans are also thought to have originated the custom of betrothal rings, or engagement rings, symbolizing a promise of marriage to a member of the opposite sex. Encyclopaedia Britannica, ring.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kunz, George Frederick (1917). Rings for the Finger. J.B. Lippincott Co.. http://www.farlang.com/gemstones/kunz-rings/page_289. 
  4. History of Wedding Anniversary Gift Lists
  5. "1662 Book of Common Prayer > The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony". http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/occasion/marriage.html. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  6. "Liturgical Texts > 1970 Missal > Rite of Marriage During Mass". Catholic Liturgical Library. http://www.catholicliturgy.com/index.cfm/FuseAction/TextContents/Index/4/SubIndex/67/TextIndex/8. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  7. Your Wedding Ring…Left or Right Hand? « Greek Weddings and Traditions

External links