A wedding is probably one of the most important events in lives of most people. It is the day that two people decide to forever link their lives and their futures together for better of for worse. The wedding ring is that physical manifestation of that vow and the reminder of the promises that were made. Considering how important this simple band of metal is, it not surprising that there are quite a few myths and traditions that surround them.
In many parts of the world, the wedding ring is worn on the fourth ring of the left hand. This is the common practice in many Anglo and Franco countries. In Slovakian countries and some others, the practice is to wear the ring on the right hand, though the finger remains the same. The decision is based mostly on tradition with differences not only between religions, but even different sects of the same religion such as Catholicism.
This does present with some confusion sometimes. In countries where the ring worn on the left hand, there is also a tradition that widows and widowers move the ring to the right hand when their spouse has passed. They do this to show that they still remember and respect the person that passed.
The tradition of the fourth finger has two sources. The first comes from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. They believed that the fourth finger contained an artery, the vena amoris, that lead straight to the heart. By placing the ring on that finger you are linking the ring, and your devotion straight to the person's heart. While this belief has been proven wrong by medical science today, it is still a pleasant romantic notion.
The other source comes from the Middle Ages. When a man placed the ring on his wife's hand, he would start at the thumb and make his way along her hand. He would only slide the ring halfway up the first three fingers (thumb, index and middle) while naming the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. When he reached the final hand he would slide the ring all the way up. In a way, it suggests that the Holy Trinity comes first before their mortal love.
Throughout time, many civilisations have believed that circles are representatives of eternity as they have no beginning and they have no end. This symbol is appropriate for the bond between two people who want to be together for the rest of their lives and even beyond.
There were also beliefs about the ring specifically that were taken very seriously, until the church put a stop to it. The first was that a ring should fit perfectly. If the ring was too tight, it indicated that someone in the marriage would be smothered or the relationship would be very tense. A ring that was too loose indicated that the marriage may not be very strong and may be plagued by adultery.
The material also made a difference. At one point there was a belief that if a ring was not made of gold the marriage would not be prosperous. Today, when rings are made from silver, platinum, titanium and many other materials, that belief would certainly not have held much water.
As for customs, the wedding ring has a few attached to them. In ancient Persia, the custom was that the bridegroom had to give rings to all the guests that were invited to the ceremony as well as the bride. Today, as it has been for quite some time, it is the duty of the best man to take care of the rings until they are needed.
Wedding rings are perhaps one of the most important components of the wedding traditions today. It symbolises love, eternity and a promise made. Though some of the beliefs associated with these rings have obviously fallen away, there are still some that people like to hold dear. Especially the idea that the ring means forever.
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