Choosing and buying a wedding ring is one of the most important parts of your wedding preparations. And unlike the flower decorations or the wedding cake, you will see the results of the choice you make on your hand, ideally everyday, for the rest of your life. But here’s the question: on which hand is a wedding ring actually worn? We will explore this topic in terms of history as well as the present day and will also give some practical tips.
The ring finger of the left hand: a tradition that continues until today
In Western countries, the left ring finger is where a wedding ring is most commonly worn. This custom has its roots as far back as the ancient Egyptians. They believed in the so-called “vein of love", which was supposed to lead from the fourth finger of the left hand directly to the heart.
The placement but also the shape of the "ring of love" was symbolic. A circle that has neither an end nor a beginning which represented the infinity of love. The open space that the ring encircles then symbolising the gateway into the new and as yet unknown relationship.
Historical changes in wedding rings
This tradition continued in antiquity, but wedding rings still looked different in those days from the ones today. They were made of everyday materials, such as leather or wood. Only gradually did metals begin to be used, and initially that was mostly iron. The Romans were probably the first culture which used wedding rings to confirm the union of marriage.
Over the centuries, there were changes in the meaning, method of gifting, the appearance and also the placement of the wedding ring itself. At one particular time, it was even worn on the thumb. Its design also varied. A design of two joined hands was very popular and widespread. Engravings also became popular, first on the outside of the ring, and later also on the inside. The engagement and wedding rings were not always two separate pieces of jewellery and sometimes their meaning blended into the one ring.
What is also interesting is that until the 20th century, wedding rings were worn only by women. A man also wearing a wedding ring might be seen in the context of some gender equality statement of that time. But there has also been some discussion of World War I being a milestone - when married soldiers began wearing wedding rings to remind them of their wives.
Left or right hand? Europe and the world is divided
And now we come to the heart of our topic, namely which hand the wedding ring is worn on. The answer is not easy if we take into account the whole world. Even in Europe there are multiple possibilities. Here is at least a brief overview:
The Czech Republic belongs to those countries where the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the left hand. This is the case in most of Western Europe, in parts of Eastern Europe and in many non-European countries. To name just a few of these, they are Great Britain and Ireland, USA, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania and the Spanish autonomous regions of Catalonia and Valencia.
On the other hand, wedding rings are worn on the ring finger of the right hand in Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Poland, The Netherlands, Norway, most of Spain and also in Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Cuba.
In Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Romania and Brazil, the ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand until the wedding day and afterwards it is moved to the ring finger of the left hand.
During a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, a woman receives the ring on the index finger of her right hand, but these days she usually moves it to the ring finger of her left hand after the ceremony.
In most Muslim countries, with the exception of perhaps Iran or Jordan, exchanging wedding rings is not part of the wedding ceremony. The tradition is for both men and women to wear engagement rings, men wearing it on their right hand and women on their left. This is also similar to India.
Don’t put your engagement ring away in a box after the wedding
If we are only discussing customs in our own country, we’ve already cleared up where our wedding ring will end up after we exchange our wedding vows. But there is the more pressing question of what to do with the engagement ring which has so far occupied the ring finger of the left hand. To avoid having to move the rings around during the wedding ceremony, work out a solution for yourself beforehand. There are several options and the decision is entirely up to you.
- Move the engagement ring to the ring finger of your right hand. Each ring will then have enough space to shine on its own and there is also the chance that you will avoid the need to adjust the size of the engagement ring.
- Move the engagement ring one finger along to the middle finger of the same hand. Choose this option if you feel that both rings should be close together. Be prepared, however, that if the engagement ring fit you well on your ring finger, then you most likely will not be able to put it on the bigger middle finger.
- Wear both rings on the ring finger of your left hand. This option has become increasingly common, but rings are not always compatible in their shapes and styles. You therefore need to consider their overall compatibility at the time you purchase the engagement ring.
The wearing of wedding rings has a long tradition and deep symbolism. But whichever hand or finger you choose to wear yours on, the most important thing is that it reminds you every day of the one you love the most.