Many people are interested in weird, quirky or unusual lines of research. During the course of my writing for this blog, I myself have begun to wonder not only just where the tradition of giving and receiving wedding rings came from, but when and even why such activities began as well.
Many people in America take for granted that a wedding band is worn by both men and women on their left ring fingers. The reason that both engagement and wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand has been accredited to the ancient Egyptians, who thought that the "vein” or “artery” of Love ran from said digit directly to the heart. Though there is little evidence to support any claims that the ancient Egyptians actually wore wedding rings or otherwise incorporated them into their marriage ceremonies themselves, anthropologists and cultural historians have managed to tie this ancient Pagan belief to the first incorporation of wedding bands in marriage ceremonies between ancient Judean peoples who had settled in the Upper Kingdom of the ancient Nile River delta some four thousand years ago. Surprisingly, there is only one other parallel to this custom in the entire world which has not sprung from this early monotheistic ceremony. In both ancient and modern India, as well as other countries and regions where Hinduism is commonly practiced, a wedding toe-ring or “bichiya” (as well as an assortment of other wedding jewelry) is often worn by married women!
The left ring finger, however, is not the sole province of the wedding band. Wedding rings are often worn on the right hand. One reason wedding rings are worn on the right hand stems from ancient Roman customs. The Latin word for “direction left” was "sinister". Now who in their right mind would allow for such a precious time as a wedding day to be ruined by something sinister? Hence why the right hand, which was often seen as the hand of nobility and truth in the ancient Roman world, became the favored place to display one’s love with a wedding ring. In many modern countries and cultures, such as Germany, Norway, Columbia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia and the Ukraine (to name only a varied few), wedding rings are often worn on the right hand. Jewish women often wear wedding rings on their left hands, though it is worn on the right hand during the marriage ceremony itself. Men of the Hebrew faith do not traditionally wear wedding bands, although in some countries the practice has gained a great deal of traction. Many Greek Orthodox Christians wear wedding rings on the right hand as well, so as to be keeping with Greek tradition.
In some nations different religions will wear wedding rings on different hands. For example, in the Netherlands, Catholics wear wedding rings on the left hand whilst Protestants wear them on their right. In Austria that same practiced is reversed! In Danish speaking countries, the choice of hand depends on the region of the country.