What Finger Does the Wedding Ring Go On?

By Dan Ketchum

In America and other western cultures, tradition dictates that the wedding ring goes on the fourth finger—the one between your pinky and middle finger—of your left hand. Simple as it seems, this practice actually has a rich and romantic history. However, your wedding ring should be uniquely yours in terms of both style and symbolism; the type of ring and the way it's worn is a choice that's ultimately up to you and your partner, and no one else.

Wedding rings. Bridal bouquet of white flowers
credit: Victor_69/iStock/Getty Images
These simple gold bands keep the message subtle but strong.

Symbolic Significance

The traditional ring finger wasn't chosen at random. Ancient beliefs, thought to be rooted in Egyptian culture, presented the notion that a vein ran straight from the left-hand ring finger to the heart, also on the left side of the body. The ancient Greeks and Romans carried the belief on, dubbing the vein the vena amoris, or "vein of love." Placing a ring on this finger, the one with the strongest link to the heart, made for a powerful romantic symbol. There's no historical data to support these speculated beliefs, but the stories inspired western newlyweds to carry on the tradition.

Exploring Etiquette

Traditionally, the groom moves the bride's engagement ring to the third finger during the wedding ceremony, replacing it with a wedding ring on the fourth finger. After that, the bride may opt to continue wearing both rings, or wear just the wedding ring. She could decide to make a bold stylistic choice of her own, like having a jeweler weld the two rings together.

In terms of stylistic matching, the choice is yours; some couples choose matching antiques and jewels while others choose contemporary-style wedding rings. Others select bands that "complete" one another, such as pieces of sleek, modern jewelry that can interlock when worn together.

Around the World

Tradition in the U.S. is only one small example of wedding-band etiquette. In countries like Spain, Denmark, Venezuela and other cultures influenced by Orthodox religions, married people traditionally wear their rings on the fourth finger of their right hand, which is considered a position of strength. In India, brides often wear a toe ring or an iron bangle rather than a finger ring. Chinese finger symbolism, perhaps associated with traditional beliefs that bind numbers to fingers, associate fingers with familial generations; the ring finger represents your spouse, the preceding fingers represent past generations and the pinky symbolizes your future children. Whether you take inspiration from a cultural belief or you come up with wedding ring traditions all your own, there's no wrong way to wear a wedding band.

Making It Yours

View marriage as an opportunity to connect your symbolic jewelry with the personal styles and passionate beliefs held by you and your partner. You might embrace tradition with a ring of gold and diamonds, or buck it completely with a wood-and-titanium band to symbolize the strength of your love and reflect a more unisex style. Speaking to Vogue Magazine, stylist Jessica de Ruiter says she wears three simple gold bands of varying width on a single finger, each of which symbolizes a relationship milestone. Like de Ruiter, you have the option to personalize your ring in any way you like.