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“What finger does the wedding ring go on?” We’re willing to bet you’ve known the answer since you were a child. It’s pretty common for most people, particularly in the United States, to sport their wedding ring on the left ring finger. But why is the wedding ring worn on the “ring finger” in the first place? And do brides and grooms absolutely have to?
In many Western cultures, the ring finger is designated as the fourth finger on the left hand. The tradition of wearing a wedding ring on this digit originated from the belief that this finger has a vein running directly to the heart.
“Historically, wedding rings have been documented to be worn on every finger, even the thumb,” says jeweler Stephanie Selle. “Today, wedding rings are most commonly worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. But some countries including India, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Russia traditionally wear their wedding and engagement rings on their right hand.” Overall, it seems cultural traditions and norms set the standard for this custom. “It’s interesting that with all of the wedding traditions and trends that people decide to make their own in some way, the ring finger is one that most people keep,” notes Selle.
The tradition and symbolism of the ring finger can be traced back to ancient times. “According to legend, it was believed the ring finger had a vein that connected directly to the heart, so lovers’ hearts would be connected by their rings,” notes Selle. “The early Romans called this the Vena Amoris, or vein of love.” So, to solidify a union founded in love, a ring was placed on that specific finger to signify the romance that the newly wedded couple shared, essentially connecting their two hearts.
Sadly, our modern-day understanding of anatomy shows that all fingers have venous connections to the heart and no such singular vein exists, shattering the adorable symbolism. Yet tradition still holds true for many couples who designate their left-hand ring finger to signify their commitment to each other.
If you’ve decided to wear your engagement and wedding rings on the same finger, you may be wondering about stacking. Married duos conventionally wear their wedding bands closest to their hearts, meaning they’re at the bottom of the stack, below the engagement ring and pushed towards the base of the knuckle. If you want to honor this on your wedding day, the most popular strategy is to switch over your engagement ring to your right hand just before you walk down the aisle. Now your spouse-to-be can slide the band right up your left finger.
It can be topped off with the engagement ring during the ceremony, or later on. For added pragmatism, some brides opt to have their wedding and engagement rings soldered together into one unified piece. We love how this introduces an entirely new “marital bond” metaphor.
Absolutely! The choice often comes down to personal or cultural preference. Some women opt to wear their wedding ring on the left ring finger and their engagement ring on the right ring finger. Whether you choose to uphold a time-old tradition or create your very own is entirely up to you.
An old wives’ tale denotes that wearing a non-committal ring on your left-hand ring finger could be bad luck. Not the superstitious type? If the ring fits, wear it! That being said, wearing a ring on that finger could signify to others that you are in a committed relationship, which might not be ideal if you’re out on the dating scene.
While it might be tempting to keep those rings on at all times (read: one last step to think about), you’ll want to avoid any potential damage to the rings like scratching the metal, harming the stones, or disfiguring the setting. You’ll definitely want to remove the the rings when cleaning (especially if you’re using chemicals), going to the gym or participating in other physical activities, and even before bed. Removing your rings at night will not only protect your rings and thwart swelling, but it will also keep you (or your spouse) from waking up with scratches.