The Ancient Egyptians began the tradition of wearing wedding rings on the fourth finger of the left hand. They believed that the vein in this finger ran directly to the heart and that wearing the ring there would reinforce the feeling of love between partners.
As the custom of wedding rings was absorbed by the UK, the church accorded particular importance and significance to them. In early Roman Catholic ceremonies, wedding rings were given benediction to the priest and many ceremonies today still see the rings being blessed.
The religious importance of wedding rings may have something to do wit some of the superstitions that grew out of the Middle Ages. According to ‘The Wedding Day in all Ages and Countries’, by Edward J. Wood, it was believed in Somerset that rubbing a wedding ring across an eyelid infected with a stye would cure it. Likewise, in Ireland, there was a strong belief that wedding rings could cure sores and even warts, if pierced by a thorn from a gooseberry bush directly through a wedding ring, could also be cured.
Many superstitions concerning wedding rings were also tied into the wedding cake! Small pieces of wedding cake were often passed through wedding rings nine times and placed under pillows at night, so that young people would dream of their lovers.
In Burnley today, there is still a custom for putting a wedding ring into a posset. Once the drink has been shared out, the recipients check their glasses to see who has the wedding ring. The person that does is then deemed to be the first of that group to be married.
In Northumberland, a similar practice sees members of the wedding party fishing in a bowl for the wedding ring. Again, whoever gets the ring is the next to be married.