The Origins of Wedding Rings
If you have a young female in your life, you will know that when the time comes for marriage, there is nothing more exciting than a proposal with a gorgeous ring to place on her finger. Young people in serious relationships often fantasize about their marriage proposals and which kind of ring their sweetheart will pick out. Much planning goes into the process even if the engagement does not begin with fireworks and balloons. How did we come up with this ritual anyway?
There is some evidence that as early as 6000 years ago, Ancient Egyptians wore a band of braided reeds or hemp on their fingers to indicate they were married couples. They wore these specifically on the ring finger of the left hand because they believed that it contained the “Vena Amoris” (vein of love) which they believed traveled directly to the heart. Other cultures used wedding rings as a promise of the bestowal of the marital dowry and of course faithfulness in marriage. In 17th century England, these rings were often worn on the thumb while Britons wore them on the middle fingers.
Depending on the culture, the wedding ring might have been worn on either right or left hand. In some places, only women wore rings while in others, men wore an engagement ring which became the wedding ring. After the conquer of Egypt in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great, the practice of wearing wedding rings was adopted in ancient Greece. “Up to this time, betrothal rings were generally made out of hemp, leather, bone, or ivory. In early Rome, the use of metal rings gradually began to take over from these materials, and the metal of choice back then was iron. Gold and silver rings were given on rare occasions, to prove that a man trusted his wife with his valuable property.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vena_amoris)
According to Wikipedia, wedding rings have had a long history. The article states, “Historically, the wedding ring was connected to the exchange of valuables at the moment of the wedding rather than a symbol of eternal love and devotion, a sign of "earnest money". According to the 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer: after the words 'with this ring I thee wed' follow the words 'This gold and silver I give thee', at which point the groom was supposed to hand a leather purse filled with gold and silver coins to the bride. It is a relic of the times when marriage was a contract between families, not individual lovers. Both families were then eager to ensure the economic safety of the young couple.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_ring#History)
In our culture today, the rings symbolize both eternal love and fidelity. Men and women wear a ring to indicate their marriage status.
Joseph Smith wore a band on his hand with a simple circle etched on the top. He had an understanding of the eternal nature of mankind and used the simple circle as a symbol. President Lorenzo Snow described a revelation of the eternal nature of man given to him in the following words, “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”1 Eternity is part of our nature, part of our present and certainly part of our future. For members of our faith, we may recognize also that the never-ending circle of the ring can symbolize the eternal nature of the covenant we make in the temple for time and all eternity. I hope that as our people continue to court and marry, that those covenants become the main focus of a marriage proposal rather than the size of the engagement and wedding ring.
- “Is President Lorenzo Snow’s oft-repeated statement—“As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be”—accepted as official doctrine by the Church?” Gerald N. Lund, Study Section, February 1982 Ensign