Do we really need wedding rings?

Of all of the traditions that I have been trashing in this post series, I must say that this tradition is one that we probably think of the least, if at all, and that for most couples it is one hundred per cent the norm to have a) an engagement ring and b) wedding rings. I am a wedding ring wearer and proudly so, but I do like the idea of encouraging some dialogue on this topic and looking into the whole idea of engagement and wedding rings to see what kind of stronghold this tradition has on all of us.

In eight years of being a wedding celebrant and the four hundred plus wedding ceremonies that has come with it, I can probably count on one hand the number of couples/individuals who have not had wedding rings.  So I can see that this isn’t a tradition that’s going anywhere soon but I’m definitely up for trashing it and seeing what other options are out there for couples looking for an alternative. Of my couples who opted out of having rings, they either both jointly decided not to have rings or just one of them chose not to have a ring (men in most cases). Some of the couples had nothing symbolic to replace the rings with, whereas a few of them went with matching tattoos or necklaces instead of rings.

So let’s have a look at all this ring business and see why of all weddings, no matter what type, this is one tradition that nearly every single couple will include on their big day.

The history of wedding rings

It seems that nobody really knows for sure exactly when wedding rings came into use, but it is thought that as far back as Egyptian times, rushes, reeds and other coarse natural products were weaved and braided to make rings which were given as a symbol of love. They were given either as a type of engagement ring or a wedding ring, which then were usually worn only by women and the more rare the material, the more you were considered to be loved! With time, stronger, more durable materials were used like bone and leather. By the Roman times, those beastly Romans turned it all on its head and made the ring into a symbol of possession. I like you, here’s a ring, I own you, kind-of-thing and so with that the ring became a clear symbol that a woman was already claimed by someone else. Nice! Thank you Romans. Soon rings of more expensive and less common materials like metal and gold were then put in use and with the rise in Christianity, rings then became a part of the actual wedding ceremony. The plainness of a wedding band is believed to be in line with modesty and Christian values, as anything too ornate or fancy was seen as vulgar and disrespectful, which is why most wedding rings now are simple plain bands, but that said, more people now choose to bling theirs up a bit.

It was also believed that the Romans placed the ring on the third finger of the left hand because this finger has a vein that leads to the heart. This is actually a load of rubbish, but nonetheless the tradition still stands, as it is a lovely idea after all. However, different cultures also have their own ring traditions. In Spain for example the wedding ring is worn on the third finger of the right hand!

And lastly, you may not realise it either, but weddings rings have no legal value or status. Although they are included in a wedding ceremony, their inclusion is merely symbolic and are not a requirement to making the marriage legal. So do not be fooled into thinking you HAVE to have a wedding ring, if you really don’t want one.

Photo by Owen Farrell

Photo by Owen Farrell

Put a ring on it (or not)

As a teenager I remember when my secret girl crush Pamela Anderson got married to Motley Crue rocker Tommy Lee. I thought they were so damn cool, not just because they got married four days after meeting on a beach but also because they didn’t have wedding rings. Nah-ah! Not these two! They opted for kick-ass tattoos, instead. How cool is that? Well, yes cool until they got divorced four years later and then were stuck with their ring tattoos! But, you can’t knock the idea and their intention of their marriage being forever.

There are many people who simply do not like the idea of wearing a wedding ring. Of my couples that I mentioned earlier who opted out of having wedding rings, most of the reasons why were because one or neither of them liked jewellery. I get that. If you are not a jewellery person, and aren’t even comfortable with wearing a simple wedding band, then don’t.

There are also couples who look deeper into the origins of the wedding ring and do not like what they symbolise. For some, a wedding ring isn’t just a symbol of love but also a sign of possession. A physical sign of telling the world that you belong to someone else. Some people feel they don’t need to broadcast this with symbolic symbols and being married, being in love and trusting and respecting your partner is more than enough of a statement.

I have also had couples where only one of them has worn a ring and again I think that is great. It takes a lots of understanding of each other and maturity to respect one another’s decisions, especially when potentially you know that people, i.e your families and friends may think it strange or even worse, think that your love is not one hundred per cent reciprocated because one of you chooses not to wear a ring.

Maybe if you’re someone who doesn’t like the idea of wearing a ring on your finger but isn’t adverse to jewellery then you could also keep it on a chain around your neck.

I think there is something quite powerful about deciding not to have wedding rings. It’s like saying our love is strong enough, as is our belief and trust in each other and we don’t need a physical reminder to show that we are married. I think that’s very brave, I really do. I don’t know if I could do it, but I know I really like the idea of it and fully embrace couples who feel strong enough to not have a wedding ring.

And on another note, although I feel this will need to be a separate post all together, why do only women have engagement rings? Why not their partners too? If after all, the point of being engaged is to say ‘we are getting married’ why don’t both of those people wear a ring to show that ‘they’ are getting married? Just putting that out there!

And nowadays, when we are trying to be a bit more budget conscious, wedding rings and engagement rings too can be bought at ridiculous prices, if you want to buy them at ridiculous prices and there can be pressure to have a ring whose value matches the amount of love you have for your partner! My engagement ring was a cubic zirconia fifty quid ring from Top Shop. It came in a little draw string bag and I keep it in a little box because it’s lost its shape and the stone is now yellow, but I do not love it any less. My husband knew I would have been livid if he spent any more than that.

As with all of this Tradition Traditions series the point I have been trying to make all along is that just because something is a tradition, it doesn’t mean you have to include it on your wedding day, if you don’t want to.

Would you feel less married if you didn’t have a wedding ring? I’d love to know.

About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Independent Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. From traditions, to breaking them and everything else in between, her aim in life is to champion unique wedding ceremonies and encourage couples to get married in exactly the way they want to, NOT the way they think they have to!

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