So, why do men wear wedding rings? The short answer as to why men wear wedding rings today is because it’s largely a cultural tradition that has grown to be prevalent throughout the course of history. However, you might be surprised to learn that once upon a time, it was not so popular. Women wore them, or at least some version of them, but men did not. And the fact that some men may have wanted to wear engagement rings was definitely out of the question back in the day.
So, let’s talk history. Why do men wear wedding rings in the first place?
It’s thought that the first wedding rings ever exchanged occurred some 3000 years ago in Ancient Egypt. However, these weren’t wedding rings like what we think of today. They were more like precursors of sorts.
The rings during this time were braided from plant matter like hemp, rushes, or reeds and eventually were replaced with more durable materials like bone, leather, and ivory. The idea was that the more luxurious and expensive the material of the ring, the more love there was that existed between the couple. After all, you had to care for someone a lot to spend that kind of money on them, right?
The material the ring was made of was also thought to be a representation of wealth. The finer and more expensive the materials were, the wealthier the owner was.
The wedding ring in Ancient Egypt was believed to be symbolic of eternal love and commitment, much like it remains today. Whether both parties exchanged a ring or if just the woman was given a ring is unclear, but either way… it makes for a colorful addition to the wedding ring history.
The Ancient Romans stepped up the wedding ring game by exchanging bands that were made of iron. Some consider these to be the true precursor to today’s wedding bands. Due to the strength and durability of iron, the rings were meant to reflect the strength and durability of the relationship. Those Romans were a creative lot, too. They were the first to think of engraving their rings, a tradition that’s still wildly popular even today.
Something else to note—the Greeks and Romans both wore their wedding bands on the fourth ring finger of the left hand, much like we do now in Western culture. This is largely because they believed that the fourth finger contained what’s known as the “vein of love.” How placing a ring over the vein of love was thought to help a marriage is anyone’s best guess, but there you go!
If you fast forward in time to the 16th and 17th centuries, you’ll soon see the rise of the gimmel ring as well as the sterling silver poesy ring. Sterling silver poesy rings were extremely ornate, while gimmel rings were made of two parts that interlocked. The two parts were worn by both parties until the nuptials were complete, and then the couple rejoined the two parts on the finger of the bride, making the ring one unit once again. You can see the symbolism there!
There were also other, slightly odd traditions during this time, like a woman being given a thimble in Puritan Colonial America, lest she be seen wearing a ring that’s “frivolous.” These women would then create a ring from the thimble by removing the top. Interesting days, to be sure!
Today, at least in America and many other Western countries, both men and women wear rings. Women (and even some men) wear an engagement ring in the months leading up to the wedding, and then both men and women wear a wedding band after the ceremony. However, some guys may even wear a promise ring or a men’s wedding band prior to marriage.
The trend of men wearing a wedding ring appears to have begun back during World War II days. The practice then gained more traction during the Korean War. Men in the military during those days wore a wedding ring to signify they were married and committed to someone back home.
It was thought to remind them of their wives and their commitments while they were abroad and alone, vulnerable to infidelity. This soon led to civilian men wearing wedding rings too, possibly because it became “fashionable.”
Where a Wedding Band is Worn
Depending on where you live, men might wear the wedding band on the left hand or the right hand. In Western countries like North and South America, and certain countries in Europe, the left hand is the time-honored tradition. However, in some European countries like Russia, Spain, Greece, and others, wearing the ring on the right hand is the time-honored tradition.
Some countries do a swap, wearing a ring on one hand, and then after the vows switching it over to the other hand. Some traditions, like Jewish tradition, start with placing the ring on the index finger and then the bride transfers it to the ring finger after the wedding. There are even cultures that wear a wedding ring on the thumb. However, it’s done, why a man wears a wedding ring (and where) ultimately boils down to current cultural norms and symbolism.
Symbolism Behind the Wedding Band
Although the origins of the tradition of a wedding band can be muddy, the symbolism of a wedding band can be even muddier. Ancient cultures believed the circular shape of the ring represented eternity, because a circle has no end. They also believed that space in between the ring, the hole, symbolized a door or gateway to the future, leading to things that couldn’t yet be seen, but that freshly married couples looked forward to with hope. In other ancient cultures, a wedding ring was often given as a symbol of ownership. It was a man’s way of laying claim to a woman and proving that she belonged to him.
Another interesting development was that with the rise of Christianity, the style of rings given in marriage began to change. Where once they were often ornate, replete carvings and designs meant to represent different things, they became simpler and more traditional, as people rejected ornate rings. The excess ornamentation was thought to be something only a heathen would wear.
Today however, wedding bands for both men and women run the gamut, ranging from intricate and heavily detailed to simple and elegant, with everything in between. Are you looking at modern men’s wedding rings? Does your fiancée want a traditional simple band for her wedding ring? In today’s world, the bride and groom can express their marital status however they please.
Also, in addition to the “vein of love” theory and why many wear their band on the fourth finger of the left hand, some believe it’s worn there as an ode to an old Christian marriage ritual.
So, the story goes, during the ceremony, the officiate would use the ring to touch the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger as a representation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then place the ring on the fourth finger to seal the marriage commitment with an “Amen.”
Others, more practical in nature, believed the left hand wasn’t used as much as the right hand, so it just made sense for a wedding ring to be worn on the non-dominant hand. While this does scream practicality, we say, “What about all the lefties of the world?”
Why a Man Wears a Wedding Ring
While it may not have always been the case, there’s no denying now that in today’s world, men wear a wedding ring more often than they do not. Though a lot of it may stem from pop culture and what’s in style, there are other reasons men choose to wear a wedding ring too.
A Symbol of Honor
Men want their wives to know they love them and are committed to making the marriage work. Therefore, many men will wear the ring because it’s important to their wife and it is a symbol of their marital status. It is worn as a sign of respect, to reassure their wives that they are cherished and esteemed, and that their feelings matter. Choosing not to wear a wedding band despite your wife wanting you to wear one communicates you don’t care what she thinks or feels. That’s a bad way to start a marriage! Wearing a ring on a daily basis is a way for married men to say, “Hey world, I love my wife and I’m happily married!” Remember, a happy wife is a happy life.
A Symbol of Commitment
Some men wear a wedding band as a reminder to the world as well as themselves, just what they signed up for when they said, “I do.” Getting married means, you are no longer an autonomous person looking out for number one. Now you are looking out for the two of you, and sometimes we all need reminding of that.
Once a couple is joined together in marriage, everything about their lives becomes joined together, whether either party wears a ring or not. The wedding band serves as a reminder that what was once one, is now two. You’re not a “me” you’re a “we.” It’s both a beautiful and terrifying thing.
A Symbol to the World
There’s no doubt that people can be judgmental. In today’s culture, many men may wear a ring just to keep from being shamed for not wearing one! If people know a man is married, but notice he’s not wearing a ring, the first thought the mind tends to harbor is, “Why isn’t he wearing his ring?” Assumptions are human nature; we all make them.
Men who aren’t wearing a wedding ring but are known to be married, cause people to assume there must be a nefarious reason he’s not wearing it, such as infidelity. While that’s not always the case, it is almost always the assumption. Your wedding ring also serves as a warning to other women that you belong to another. This can help ward off potential infidelity at the pass, which isn’t a bad thing!
A Symbol to Your Family
Wearing a wedding ring also makes a statement to your family, including your children. Family members (especially more difficult ones) know that you are serious about a woman when you exchange vowes and wear a wedding ring. And if you have children and start a family of your own, wearing your wedding ring is a conversation starter for what marriage should look like, when your children are ready to take that step someday.
Couples that model strong, healthy marriages for their children, have children that go on to have strong, healthy marriages as well. While wearing a wedding ring alone doesn’t ensure that, it does help serve as a symbol of your commitment to your wife that your children will notice and hopefully model.
Given there is so much symbolism attached to men wearing wedding rings, and so many good reasons they should, never mind the cultural norms, there’s really no justifiable reason why you wouldn’t wear one. Yes, some men really just don’t like wearing jewelry, but marriage isn’t just about you. It’s also about your spouse too.
If it makes her happy to see a ring on your finger, you should wear one. If you work in an industry that makes wearing jewelry dangerous, consider trying a silicone wedding ring instead of more traditional men’s wedding bands. There are always options for men motivated to show their devotion to their wives.
Ready to buy a men’s wedding band? Come and shop our affordable selection of men and women’s wedding rings right from our website.