The symbolism of the ring

Emma Blickensderfer

The exchange of wedding rings is not a foreign concept to many students, but the meaning and history behind the bands is a mystery for some.

Wedding rings represent a person being “off the market,” said Susan B. Stewart, professor of sociology.

“The marriage market is comprised of anyone unmarried, and that pool of people are the ones who are available for marriage,” Stewart said. “If you have a ring on, that signals you are not.”

A wedding band is given to join two people at a ceremony and show how they commit to a relationship with a particular person forever, said Gary Youngberg, owner of Ames Silversmithing.

Wedding rings are also a religious symbol, Stewart said.

“When you have a religious wedding ceremony the rings are often blessed, and there are readings that tell you the importance of the ring,” Stewart said.

The presence of wedding rings is not a worldwide trend.

“Wedding rings are more common in western culture and not in developing countries,” Stewart said. “It is a part of western culture to save money to afford jewelry.”

It is traditional to wear a wedding band on your left-hand ring finger because of the way the blood runs from that finger to the heart, Youngberg said.

“The Romans believed that the vein in the ring finger on the left hand ran directly to one’s heart,” said Lauren Frankfort, writer for “They called that vein the ‘vena amoris,’ or vein of love.”

As time has passed, wedding rings have evolved and become more elaborate.

“During their origins, they were very simple and unadorned bands,” Youngberg said. “Now, some people are doing simple, classic bands and some people do sapphire and diamond combinations.”

People are realizing they have their own needs and desires, and what someone else thinks isn’t what they should hold as a priority, Youngberg said.

In western culture, a wedding ring holds such deep significance that we have a ceremony where the focus is about presenting the rings.

We have a ritualized ceremony because the ring is symbolic of the couple’s future status, Stewart said. The traditional wedding has become a lot more exclusive because the western culture still highly values marriage.

Wedding rings and engagement rings tend to go together, but as time goes on, it is becoming more of a trend to only have one ring instead of two, Youngberg said. But that doesn’t mean one is more important than the other.

“They have equal importance,” Youngberg said. “You don’t have B without A first, but a lot of people are doing an engagement ring without the wedding band, or vice versa.”

Even though having one ring rather than two is trending, it is not a tidal wave tradition that will take over, Youngberg said. A reason why one ring is trending is because an engagement in this day and age is more of a commitment, Stewart said.

“It used to be that engagements were a trial where you can back out, and they used to be a lot shorter,” Stewart said. “Now, couples want a firm commitment and to be financially secure before marriage.”