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With This Ring, I Thee Wed: The History of the Wedding Band

By  , Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The wedding band doesn’t always get as much attention as its more flashy partner, the engagement ring. But in many ways, the wedding band is even more symbolic and important, as it represents the marriage itself. But who first decided that the union between two people be represented by a piece of jewelry? And why do we still wear wedding bands today?

comfort fit ridged wedding band

Comfort fit ridged wedding band

Legend has it that the first people to wear wedding bands were the Pharoahs of Egypt. They chose the circle because it is a shape without a beginning or an end, and therefore was a symbol of eternity. It is unclear whether men and women both wore wedding bands during this era.

During Roman times, wedding bands began to become popular among ordinary people as well. Roman wedding rings were simple iron bands, inexpensive enough that anyone could afford one. During the medieval era, wealthier people began wearing more luxurious wedding bands that distinguished them from the lower classes. These wedding bands were often made of gold and set with gems—popular gemstones included rubies, which represented the heart, and sapphires, which represented the heavens and God. Diamonds were highly coveted but extremely expensive. During the Middle Ages, engagement rings were introduced, but the wedding band remained the most important ring on a woman’s finger.

mens champagne diamond wedding band

Men's champagne diamond wedding band

In modern times, new mines were discovered that allowed diamonds to become a relatively accessible luxury for all segments of society. Still, diamonds remain a highly symbolic choice of stone, especially for a wedding band. Many ancient societies believed that diamonds had magical powers and protection for the wearer—in India, they were thought to protect the wearer from all harm. Others believed the diamond’s indestructibility ensured a long-lasting and strong marriage. Today, people attach just as much significance to their engagement rings and wedding bands. Some people won’t even leave the house without them for fear of bad luck.

channel set diamond wedding band

Channel set diamond wedding band

Although the practice was common in ancient times, it wasn’t until the 1940’s that American men began wearing wedding bands. Back in the Middle Ages, the Greek Orthodox church instituted dual ring ceremonies, hoping to instill in men a sense of responsibility towards their marriage. However, this tradition was largely forgotten until World War II, when young soldiers were forced to leave their girlfriends at home, not knowing if they would ever see each other again. Many couples married before the soldier had to ship off to war, hoping to keep their relationship strong enough to withstand the coming trials. A matched set of wedding bands—his and hers—helped the couple feel connected even when they were far apart. By the end of the war, 85% of weddings had dual-ring ceremonies.

shared prong diamond eternity band

Shared-prong diamond eternity band

Today, many traditions and preferences exist in regards to the simple wedding ring. Some brides favor eternity bands, which are wrapped in a row of diamonds. Others prefer wedding bands that complement their engagement rings. Still others opt for matched his-and-hers wedding band sets, which are often simple and made of platinum. No matter how they choose to wear it, the wedding band represents the very same thing today that it did in ancient Egypt and Rome—eternal love and devotion.
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