When Did Men Start Wearing Wedding Rings?
Nowadays it’s rather normal for men to wear wedding rings. So much so that the omission of a ring from a wedded man’s hand could raise suspicion and perhaps even suggest an underhand motive!
Only a few generations ago men were in the minority if they wore a wedding ring but nowadays men are happy to wear wedding bands alongside other items of jewellery.
We have the Ancient Egyptians to thank for the tradition of wearing wedding rings as they exchanged bracelets and wrist chains to cement their relationship. These bands worn on the wrist evolved into rings worn on the fingers as they believed the circle to be a hugely symbolic shape. The circle’s never-ending form represented the eternal nature of a couple’s union and the middle of the ring was seen to be a gateway to their new life together.
The Egyptians may also have been responsible for the tradition of wearing your wedding band on your left hand as they believed in Vena Amoris, that is the vein of love that runs directly from the heart down the left arm to the fourth finger. This sentimental theory was adopted by other cultures and for the most part wedding rings representing a binding pledge between the newly united couple are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. In our modern times this finger is even referred to as the ring finger.
We believe from archaeology that metal wedding rings first appeared in Rome. Before metalwork skills and the forging rings was practised, betrothal bands were mostly woven from hemp or leather or carved from bone and ivory.
These became less popular when iron rings were created for the job of signifying the marriage bond. It seems that what we know as precious metal, such as gold or silver rings, were only given on rare occasions by the very wealthy and actually more to prove that a man trusted his wife with his valuable property rather than representing their union.
It is widely considered that the event of World War II was considered to be a catalyst for a sudden increase in men wearing rings as many soldiers fighting overseas wore bands on their fingers as a comforting reminder of their wives and families back home. This sentimental trend grew again during the Korean War and by the mid-20th Century men wearing wedding bands had become more mainstream.
Historically, another reason a wedding ring was worn only by the bride was because it has served at times to represent ownership by her husband. Thankfully with the advance of women’s rights in the last century and partnership on a much more equal footing these days it has become far more common for the exchange of two rings in a modern day marriage ceremony.
And this brings us almost full circle (if you’ll pardon the pun). In the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, men sometimes wore Gimmel rings. These items of jewellery consisted of two rings that would interlock when placed together. Once betrothed, the suiter would offer one of the rings to his bride to be and wear the other for the duration of the engagement period. On the day of marriage, the Groom would put his band on the bride’s finger during the wedding ceremony uniting the two bands.
The Gimmel ring was probably the forerunner for the tradition of engagement rings given at proposals and worn during the engagement. This tradition of course has largely been for the ladies however, there are signs that men’s engagement rings are starting to emerge.
But that’s a whole different story and certainly a different blog!
Watch this space!
Thanks to @nickkarvounis & @dennymuller on unsplash.com for the generous use of their imagery