Since ancient times, western tradition has been that wedding rings are exchanged and are worn on the third finger of the left hand, however, there are many different traditions around the world which symbolise the love and unity between two people, some very different to our own.
Some of the first ever recorded wedding rings originated from ancient Egyptian tribal customs where brides used materials such as grasses and flowers to adorn their wrists and ankles. In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic marriage ceremonies, wedding rings are exchanged at a two-ring ceremony when the couple becomes betrothed, instead of being part of the wedding service.
The groom’s ring is made of gold, and the bride’s of silver and both are blessed with holy water by the priest before being exchanged three times by the priest or the best man. In some European countries, wedding rings and engagement rings are one and the same but change their status during the journey from proposal to marriage through the addition of engraving and the changing of the hand on which the ring is worn. In Greece, the wedding rings are identical plain bands made of platinum or gold.
They are worn on the little finger of the left hand by the happy couple until they are transferred to the right hand at the wedding. In Brazil, the wedding rings must be engraved, with the bride’s name inscribed on the groom’s ring and vice versa, and in Colombia the Christian marriage ceremony includes a candle ceremony after the wedding rings ceremony, where the bride and groom each light a separate candle then bring them together to unite the flame.
In Italy, the bride is not permitted to wear anything gold on her wedding day until the wedding ring is placed on her finger, and in Sweden, the bride wears three wedding rings at her marriage – her engagement ring, wedding ring, and a ring to symbolise motherhood.
Whatever the traditions surrounding the giving and exchanging of wedding rings, the universal meaning remains the same – of an everlasting symbol of a couple’s love and commitment to each other, a commitment made from the heart.