Issue Date: May 1, 2009
City: Washington, DC
Whether simple bands of gold or jewel-encrusted works of art, wedding rings symbolize a couple’s enduring love.
The custom of exchanging wedding rings began several centuries ago. In ancient Egypt, grooms presented their brides with rings made of plants grown on the banks of the sacred Nile River. Ancient Egyptians believed the vein of the fourth finger of the left hand was connected directly to the heart, where the soul resided.
Romans followed the practice of placing wedding bands atop the “vena amoris” or “love vein” of the ring finger. Early Roman wedding rings were fashioned of iron and presented at the engagement ceremony. The bride-to-be often wore the ring on her right hand until her wedding day, when it was placed on the fourth finger of her left hand. As centuries passed, it became customary for grooms to give their brides rings of silver and gold as a symbol of trust.
It was uncommon for American men to wear wedding rings until World War II. Facing the prospect of military duty, many young grooms chose to wear a wedding band as a reminder of the brides they would leave behind. Today, most couples in the U.S. choose to exchange rings during their wedding ceremony.