Thursday, March 15, 2018

When Did Men Start Wearing Wedding Rings?

When you look at the history of wedding rings, it is speculated that they date all the way back to ancient Egypt. At that time, couples exchanged rings as a symbol of their love, but the ring exchange wasn’t part of any particular ceremony. Later, in ancient Rome, the tradition of metal wedding bands started with brides being presented with two rings -- an iron ring to be worn around the house and a gold ring which was worn out in public. But what about the husband? When did men start wearing wedding rings?

Male Wedding Rings: The History
In today’s western culture, the man’s wedding ring is as important as the woman’s ring as part of the marriage ceremony and the couple's married life together. 

Wedding rings are considered symbols on more than one level. First, it is a symbol of the bride and groom’s relationship as they join to become husband and wife. They also symbolize unending love and just wearing the ring represents the fact that the two people are married and no longer "available." But the tradition of men wearing wedding rings is actually a fairly new addition to the wedding tradition, because while women have worn wedding rings since ancient times, the practice of men wearing wedding rings only dates back to the 20th century and it wasn’t for the reasons we think of wearing wedding rings today.

The practice actually started during World Wars I and II, when soldiers wore wedding rings as a reminder of their wives back home. It wasn’t until after the Korean War that wedding rings for men took on the sentimental value we associate with them today. At that point in time, matching wedding bands grew in popularity and rings designed specifically with men in mind became available.

Male Wedding Rings Today
While male wedding rings have become a traditional part of today’s culture, when choosing a wedding ring for a man a lot of different elements of life should be taken into consideration. For instance, what does the man do for a living? Many jobs don’t allow men to wear a ring for safety reasons. However, that’s no longer a reason to forgo wearing a wedding ring. Today, silicone wedding rings are crafted to be attractive, comfortable, heat resistant and non-conductive and make a “safe” alternative for everyday wear.

So really the same guidelines apply to men and women when choosing wedding rings. You want to take lifestyle as well as preferences into account. Traditionally, men wore plain metal bands because most men worked with their hands, but ring styles have changed along with the times. Men who don’t have to worry about safety or dirt collecting in intricate designs can choose a ring based on how it looks and feels with choices in metals now ranging beyond gold and silver to include more durable choices like stainless steel, tungsten and titanium.

Meaning of Male Wedding Rings Today
Of course the exact meaning attributed to a wedding ring will vary depending on the culture. For example, many cultures wear the wedding ring on the right hand to represent the wedding vows taken because the right hand is the hand used when taking an oath. For others it is worn on the left hand based on the ancient belief that the vein of love runs through the ring finger of the left hand. A secondary reason for the left hand is that usually the right hand is more dominant and so the ring would go through less wear and tear being worn on the left hand. But beyond all this, the meaning of the male wedding ring is the same as the ring worn by the bride. It’s a symbol of eternal love shared by the couple.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The History of Wedding Rings Leads to Rome

While the origin of wedding rings isn’t one hundred percent certain, based on archeological evidence dating back 3000 years, historians have pointed back to ancient Egypt as the first culture to exchange rings to commemorate marriage. The rings were given by spouses to each other as a symbol of the love between them, but it wasn’t a part of any ceremony. It was a private gift shared between them. However, to find the origins of the tradition of metal wedding rings exchanged today, we look back to the ancient Romans. At that time and in that culture, marriages had to conform to Roman law and were categorized by social class. This included three different categories of weddings: Usus, Coemptio, and Confarreatio

Ancient Wedding Rings Didn’t Always Represent Love
In plain English, the Usus was marriage for the lowest class. Today, we might compare it to what we call common-law marriage. The next "step up" was the Coemptio which involved purchasing the bride. Historians don’t totally agree on whether this was an actual purchase or a symbolic sale, but that’s what the ring in these marriages represented. Then there was the Confarreatio – the only “legal” marriage and it was reserved for the elite upper class. This marriage was presided over, and the groom presented his bride with a ring. Most of these rings were made of iron or gold which is what led to the tradition of metal wedding rings. Unlike the Egyptian rings which were symbols of love, historians believe the Romans looked at the metal wedding band as a symbol of possession. Thus, the wife belonged to the husband once that ring went on her finger.

Ancient Romans Owned Two Wedding Rings
As I mentioned, the ancient Roman wedding rings were made of iron or gold. What I didn’t mention is that the wealthy women in ancient Rome actually were presented with two wedding rings, an iron one and a gold one. The first was to be worn at home and thought to represent strength and permanence. The gold ring was worn in public to impress people. Laws actually prohibited those from the lower classes from wearing gold rings, but these laws were somewhat difficult to enforce, because historical evidence shows that even slaves plated their iron rings with gold if they could.

Motif of the clasped hands, signified love, betrothal, and marriage. These rings are known as "fede rings," named after the Italian term for good faith and belief.
Laws of Ancient Roman Marriage
Back in ancient Rome, couples had to have connubium which denoted the legal right to get married. Needless to say this was a requirement for marriage and it wasn’t a permission granted to people who were already married, eunuchs, and people who shared certain blood relationships. Parental consent also played a role with the minimum age for marriage set at age 12 for girls and age 14 for boys.