Wednesday, May 2, 2012

'Crazy Wedding Traditions...Rings and Things'

(Photo courtesy of 'Stellasweet Photography')

Wedding rings are one of our oldest wedding back to 2800 BC.  But where exactly did this tradition come from and how has it stood the test of time? rings have a very interesting, and somewhat mysterious, history.  So, let's take a look....

 (Medieval wedding bands)

The Ring...
The ring itself, being a circle, symbolizes eternity.  It has no beginning or end, and returns to itself.  Circles have been worshiped by cultures for eons of in the moon and it's the perfect symbol to define undying one's love.  

The hole in the center of the band had a purpose too it seems...according to historians, it symbolizes the gateway, or door, to thing unknown and yet to come.  Which translates into the life the newly married couple were beginning.


It is believed that way back in the day...and we're talking prehistoric times here...grooms would bind the ankles, and wrists, of their betrothed with grasses to keep her soul from escaping.  Although, truth be told, it was probably to keep her from running away...LOL!   This binding was moved to her finger once the wedding ceremony had taken place.   Later, prehistoric man moved away from grasses, to rope, then leather and finally to the ever popular metal band.  But, the ring was used to symbolize ownership of the woman by her man.

The first 'real' wedding bands can be traced back to ancient Egypt where rings were fashioned out of papyrus and other reeds found along the banks of the fertile Nile River.  Later, when precious metals were discovered, the 'well-to-do' Egyptians quickly switched to these ever-lasting materials.  These metal bands not only signified the grooms ranking in society, but they were also more practical than reed bands which would tend to break apart easily and need to be replaced more often than not.

(Egyptian engraved wedding ring)

Ancient Roman's used iron as their metal of choice because to them, iron symbolized strength and therefore proved a man's 'strong' love for his wife.  But, as you might have guessed, rust was a problem, and iron was eventually given up for other less popular metals like gold and silver...oh my!  Forward thinking renaissance Italians however, preferred silver...while other cultures chose copper.  Gold, it seems, would not become really popular until much later in history.  But whatever the metal, it seems wedding bands were here to stay.

Here's an interesting fact.  Many, many years ago, it was believed that by marrying, a man was trusting his wife with all his worldly possessions, so for several years, a ring in the shape of a key was given to the bride as her groom carried her over the threshold of his home. This key proved to the world that he trusted her beyond measure.

(Key wedding ring)

Engagement Rings...
According to folklore, the tradition of wearing an engagement ring sprang from a sanction from the Catholic Church when Pope Innocent III declared that anyone wanting to be married would be required to have a waiting period, or an 'engagement', before their marriage, and would need to wear an 'engagement' ring as a symbol of their promise to marry.  If either person, man or woman, broke this promise, they would either be excommunicated from the church or banished to a nunnery. Ouch...!

 (Pope Innocent III)

The first diamond engagement was reported to have been given in 1477 by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria when he proposed marriage to Mary of Burgundy.  But the tradition of using diamonds didn't really catch on until the late 1700's.  Then it took off like 'wild fire'...hence the expression, 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend'...thank you Marilyn Monroe!

 (Archduke Maximilian and Mary)

Men and Rings...
Interestingly, men didn't begin to wear wedding rings until World War II.  Remember, women were still considered to be the property of her 'man' so the ring was a marking of ownership.  However, when the war came along, many men began wearing rings to remind them of their loved one back home...and the tradition stuck.

So why the left hand...and the 'ring' finger?
Well, there are some interesting theories here too.  According to folklore, the choice of the third finger on the left hand dates back to ancient Rome when it was believed that this finger held the vein that lead directly to the heart...the 'Vena Amoris', or 'Vein of Love'

 (Photo courtesy of 'Turning Leaf Studios')

Others theorize it is because of an old religious tradition where the groom would slide the ring part way down each of this bride's fingers reciting, 'in the name of the father' on the thumb, 'the son' on the index finger, and 'the holy ghost' on the middle finger...and finally coming to rest on the third, or 'ring' finger.


And then there are others who strongly believe the left hand was chosen because as a groom was facing his bride, he would reach out with his right hand...and of course, it would be her left hand that was immediately in front of him.  Whichever theory you choose, the tradition remains...

So, there you have it...the history of the wedding ring.  

Until next time...

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