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, lending the symbol even more depth. 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.
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 your left-hand ring finger to your heart, also on the left side of your 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. While no hard historical data supports these speculated beliefs, their stories inspire western newlyweds to carry on the tradition.
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, wear just the wedding ring or make a bold stylistic choice of her own, such as having a jeweler weld the two rings together.
In terms of stylistic matching, the choice is yours; some couples choose matching wedding rings while others choose complementary rings. Still others select bands that “complete” one and other, such as pieces of sleek, contemporary jewelry that can interlock when not worn on the finger.
Around the World
Tradition in the U.S. is only one small example of wedding-band etiquette. In countries such as 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 tied to traditional cultural beliefs that bind numbers to fingers, associates 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 is no “wrong” way to wear a wedding band.
Making It Yours
View marriage as an opportunity to jell 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 worn on your thumb to symbolize the strength of your love and reflect a rugged fashion sense. Speaking to Vogue, stylist Jessica de Ruiter says that 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 — your options for expression are virtually limitless.
References and ResourcesLBC: Why Do We Wear Wedding Rings on the Left Fourth Finger?
Mervis Diamond Importers: Why Are Wedding Rings Worn on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand?
Man and Number; Donald Smeltzer
American Gem Society: Blog: Wedding Rings Around the World
Vogue: Put a Ring on It -- Just Not a Diamond One
Leon Mege: Right Hand or Left Hand?
Joint Venture Jewelry: The New Rules of Wedding Bands: There Are No Rules.
Mervis Diamond Importers: In What Order Should You Wear Your Engagement and Wedding Rings?
ResourcesReal Simple: 13 Unique Wedding Rings
Business Insider: 15 Unique Wedding Customs from Around the World