From the traditional Catholic wedding mass to a more modern secular wedding ceremonies, the exchanging of wedding bands is a meaningful event that transcends culture and religion. The wedding ring represents never ending love, as it has no beginning and no end. Typically made from precious metals like gold, silver, or platinum, wedding rings often hold monetary value as well as sentimental value. People wear wedding rings as a reminder of the promise they made to their faithful partner and as an outward symbol of love.
A Culturally Diverse Tradition
Christian Wedding Ring Traditions
For Christian couples, rings are exchanged by the husband and wife during the wedding ceremony after the vows have taken place. The rings are a symbol of everlasting love and the promise of commitment to their soulmate. Many Christian wedding ceremonies feature phrases like, “Take this ring as a token of my love and faithfulness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Catholics believe that the ring is both a symbol of the wearer's love and devotion to their partner, and a reminder of the promise that the partner made to the wearer. Traditionally, Christian weddings are adjourned by a blessing for the newlywed couple.
Jewish Kiddushin Ceremony
The Kiddushin is the point during an Orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony where the groom gives a ring to the bride. Traditionally, the bride would not offer a ring in return but recently it has become more common for a mutual exchange of rings to take place. To adhere to the religious traditions, the ring must be given to the groom only after the Kiddushin has taken place.
Many Rabbis prefer to have the bride present the groom with his ring during the signing of the Ketubah (Traditional marriage “contract”). The bride will offer the ring while saying: “Tikabel taba’at zo vi’tihayev li bkhol hiyuvay ketubah zo k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael”–“Accept this ring and obligate yourself to me with all the obligations of this ketubah, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” As the groom is given the ring to wear, he agrees to remain faithful, committing his heart and soul to his new wife.
Indian Sagai Ceremony
Unlike the typical western wedding ceremony where the celebrations are focused around one day, Indian wedding and engagement festivities can last up to a year. As a part of these large celebrations, some Indian & Punjabi families hold what is called a Sagai ceremony for the couple before their wedding day.
The Sagai is the event wherein the groom officially asks for the bride's hand in marriage. During the celebration, the bride and groom exchange gold rings in the presence of their family. This is said to bring good fortune on the soon-to-be newlyweds as the rings are now endowed with the blessings and well-wishes of their loved ones. When the Sagai concludes, it is typically followed by the families gathering together to exchange gifts with the couple and enjoy a traditional meal.
Muslim Mangni Ceremony
Much like Indian culture, pre-wedding celebrations are a huge part of Islamic culture. When the couple has mutually agreed on the terms of their marriage, their families will often hold a Mangni. The Mangni is an engagement ceremony where the families and friends of the bride and groom celebrate the impending marriage. The couple will exchange rings in front of family and friends at this time. The families then shower the pair in gifts and sweets. It is imperative, according to custom, that the groom must not wear a gold ring, though the bride is allowed the ring of her choosing. A wedding date will be announced either during or following the Mangni.
A significant amount of cultures and religions recognize the toe ring as a symbol of a married woman's commitment to her spouse. Both Hindu and Muslim women have been known to wear gold or silver toe rings instead of Western style finger rings. These traditional foot ornaments are known by various names depending on the culture they are recognized in. They may be known as Metti, Bichiya, Mettelu, or Kalungra. Traditionally worn on the second toe, the ring or rings which are usually silver, are said to serve both a representational and literal purpose. These rings are said to vitalize and balance the body, helping the wife live a happy and long life. The rings are placed onto the feet of the woman during the time of the wedding as a symbol of the man placing his honor and commitment before his bride.
Modern Wedding Ring Ceremonies
Many people are venturing away from their parent’s religions in favor of other beliefs that better suit their ideals. Non-denominational and secular ceremonies are growing in popularity. Why then, are people still exchanging wedding rings, a tradition seemingly tied to religious meaning?
The wedding band holds remarkable meaning as a symbol of everlasting love and commitment. It is the symbol that has come to represent the circle of life and all of the events therein. Birth, life, love, and death. All beautiful and meaningful parts of life. These events are especially poignant when shared with another human being. The wedding ring is a promise to be apart of someone’s world to share, celebrate, and even mourn with them throughout this life.
Across tradition and religion, the ring is seen as a promise and a reminder of the day two souls were bonded as one. Whether your ring exchange includes classic vows like “With this ring, I thee wed.” you choose to put your own spin on vows, or you don’t include vows at all, you are infusing that ring with personal meaning. In exchanging the rings, you are telling the one you love “I want you to join my life. I choose you to celebrate with, laugh with, and cry with.” As the ring encircles your finger, it serves as a symbol of the vows that have been spoken and the love you will share together.