Have you ever asked yourself why people put themselves through all the stress of planning a wedding? This blog takes a look at wedding traditions and a deeper look at how they started. Some might give you a laugh as you jump your own wedding planning hurdles. We will also share unique twists on old traditions to make them new.
Welcome to the history of Wedding Traditions and Origins and all things wedding.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Wedding Ring History
Byzantine Signet Ring
The history of the wedding ring isn't clear cut. No one is
certain of the origin of the "finger ring" but it is speculated that they
originated in ancient Egypt as the signet or seal evolved into a signet ring, a
portable seal and display of authority. Later history shows that wealthy
Egyptian women wore ornamental finger rings including the famous scarab design.
Rings grew more common and complex during the middle kingdom. Over time
Egyptian styles were supplanted by Greek and Roman rings during the Ptolemaic
In the ancient writings of Pliny
the Elder (23/4-79 CE) he said, "It was the custom at first to wear
rings on a single finger only – the one next to the little finger, and this we
see to be the case in the statues of Numa and Servius Tullius. Later it became
usual to put rings on the finger next to the thumb, even with statues of the
gods; and more recently still it has been the fashion to wear them upon the
little finger too. Among the Gauls and Britons the middle finger – it is said –
is used for the purpose. At the present day, however, with us, this is the only
finger that is excepted, for all the others are loaded with rings, smaller
rings even being separately adapted for the smaller joints of the fingers."
In Rome, laws were passed to govern the wearing of finger
rings. Pliny goes on to say that the Emperor Tiberius required that people who
were not of free descent be required to own a large amount of property before
they could have the right to wear gold finger rings. Later the Emperor Severus
gave soldiers the right to wear gold rings, and then extended the right to all
free citizens. Silver rings were worn by freed slaves, and in Imperial Rome, gold, silver, and iron finger rings were worn in accordance with
Ancient Roman iron betrothal ring
Along with rings tying a person to their social class, the
Romans were also the first to wear rings that tied them to their spouse. However,
unlike today, the ring was not slipped onto the ring finger at the wedding ceremony, but more an engagement ceremony
called a Sponsalia. The groom slipped the iron ring (annulus pronubis) on
the bride's finger as a pledge of fidelity. Rings were originally placed on the fourth finger because the ancient Greeks believed a vein in that finger led directly to the heart – the "vena amoris." Today we call this finger the ring finger.
With the ring in place, the bride would say,
"Nubo," meaning "I veil myself," which signified she was
promised to a man. The ring was also a symbol to the bride's family of his commitment and his ability
to support his bride financially. Much later, the ring became
part of the marriage ceremony.
Some suggest that the binding aspect of the ring for betrothal
ceremonies came about from an older superstitious practice in which the man
bound the woman he loved with cords around her waist, wrists, and ankles to be
sure her spirit would be held under his control. This pagan superstition did
not deter early Christians from adopting the use of the betrothal ring, though
some Christians today question whether or not a Christian should wear a wedding
ring for that reason and others. In the book Christian
Dress and Adornment by Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., he suggests that even a
plain wedding band could "fall in the category of the inappropriate ornaments
of gold and pearls mentioned by Paul and Peter" (1 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:3),
and for these reasons question whether or not a Christian should wear a wedding
(or any) ring.