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Published: Friday, Nov. 26th, 2021

The Wedding Ring Finger - Which Finger, Which Hand, and Why!

The romantic history and meaning of the wedding ring finger tradition and the wedding ring exchange

 

 

In the US and other Western countries, happy couples wear their engagement rings and wedding bands on the fourth finger of their left hands -- appropriately called the ‘ring finger.’ 

 

But have you ever wondered why? 

 

The history of this custom might surprise you…

 

 

 

Photo of a woman's forearms and hands against a white background, with a small cut out red heart placed on her pulse to represent the Vena Amoris

Straight to the heart...

 


The Vein of Love

 

According to a very romantic legend, ancient Romans wore wedding rings on the fourth finger of their left hand because they believed the ‘Vein of Love,’ or Vena Amoris in Latin, ran from that finger directly into the heart. 

 

When lovers placed a ring on this finger, symbolically wrapped around the ‘Vein of Love,’ it meant that their heart already belonged to another… Not unlike the reason we wear wedding rings today. 

 

But the tradition didn’t start there. It’s even older! 

 

The history of the ‘Vein of Love’ might actually begin with the Egyptians, before being adopted by the Romans. 

 

Early Egyptians had been wearing elaborate rings for centuries before crossing paths with the Greeks and Romans. These rings were wrapped in an unending circle to represent the sun and the moon, and were thought to symbolize all of eternity.

 

How far back does the tradition go? It’s hard to say for sure, but some of the oldest recorded Egyptian jewelry dates back to around 4500 B.C.E., more than 6,500 years ago! It’s uncertain when wedding rings were first used to symbolize eternal love, but it was definitely a long time ago!

 

 

Close up photo of a woman placing a gold men's wedding band on her groom's ring finger as part of a wedding ceremony ring exchange

The tradition continues! 

 

 

 

The Modern Ring Exchange 

 

These days, most couples still exchange rings as part of the wedding ceremony, slipping them onto their partner’s finger as they take their marriage vows:

 

 

  • “I give you this ring, as a symbol of my love. I ask you to wear it as a sign to the world that you are my wife (or husband)."

 

  • “With this ring, I thee wed, and pledge you my love, now and forever."

 

  • “Let this ring represent the unbreakable bond we make today…”

 


Even the most simple of wedding bands symbolizes unending love and devotion, just as they did thousands of years ago. And although we have a better understanding of the circulatory system now, most happy newlyweds still choose to place them on the traditional ring finger during the ceremony. 

 

Men didn’t always wear wedding bands, but those gendered rules are out. Now, people of all genders wear wedding rings if they want to (and any way they want to). 

 

Interestingly, couples in many countries wear wedding rings on the fourth finger of their right hands, instead of the left. (Some speculate that the Romans wore their rings on the right hand too, and that the switch to the left hand is more recent… but we can’t be sure.)

 

Can you wear your wedding ring on the right hand? Absolutely! According to Brides.com, it’s common for couples in India, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Russia to wear their wedding and engagement rings on the right hand. 

 

 

Close up image of a groom placing a wedding band on his bride's right hand during the wedding ceremony

Some couples choose to place their wedding bands on the right hand.

 

 

 

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts that include a Ring Exchange: 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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