Wedding Rings: Why That Finger?
Platinum wedding rings are the most instantly recognisable and obvious sign of a married couple, but have you ever wondered why we traditionally wear wedding rings on the third finger of the left hand?
It is believed that the tradition for exchanging and wearing wedding rings came from the Egyptians and the Romans, who recognised the symbolism of the circle of the ring as meaning everlasting love and an unbreakable bond. Wedding rings are a token of love between husband and wife, and also let others know that the two people are married and committed to each other.
The western custom of placing wedding rings on the third finger of the left hand is believed to come from the beliefs of Greek physicians in the third century BC. Through their studies of human anatomy they believed that there was a major vein – the vena amoris, or vein of love – that ran directly from that finger to the seat of all human love and emotion, the heart. Therefore, it made perfect sense that wedding rings, as symbols of love and commitment, should be placed on the third finger of the left hand.
The Romans adopted the practice of placing wedding rings on the left hand’s third finger, then the tradition was also adopted by Christians in the 12th century after Pope Innocent III decreed that all marriage ceremonies must be celebrated in church, with wedding rings given to signify a couple’s love and the solemnity of the vows. In the sixteenth century, King Edward VI decreed that the third finger of the left hand was to officially be the ring finger because it is on the side of the heart, which was followed by the Book of Common Prayer declaring the ring finger as the bearer of the wedding band.
Exchanging and wearing wedding rings is now an accepted public declaration of the love and unity between partners, and the early origins of the ring finger as the site of a vein of love straight to the heart is a wonderfully romantic idea that appears to have led to our traditions today.