A Guide on the Traditions and Symbolism of Wedding Rings in Various Cultures

A Guide on the Traditions and Symbolism of Wedding Rings in Various Cultures

Wedding Rings are steeped in tradition.  In recent times, couples are opting to head back to the more traditional ways but they are embracing it in a modern style.
How Temperature and Lifestyle Can Affect Your Ring Size Reading A Guide on the Traditions and Symbolism of Wedding Rings in Various Cultures 10 minutes Next Why Wood Can Make a Beautiful and Unique Wedding Ring Material

What is a Wedding Band?

So much excitement leads up to the beautiful union of two committed people that once the engagement ring has been accepted, choosing the perfect set of wedding rings is really the cherry on top.  It is an important decision since the wedding band is a symbol of the promise you make to God to care for and love one particular person for the rest of your life.  But it is also important to remember that the wedding ring is the symbol of the thing, it isn't the thing itself.  With that in mind, you can also have some fun with it.  During the wedding ceremony, the exchange of wedding bands marks a physical symbol of love and unity.  At Minter + Richter Designs, we like to use various materials like stones, sand, antlers and whiskey barrels from around the world to express the fun and color that can be a part of that serious promise made by you.

Simply put, a wedding band is a ring you wear once you are officially married. While people traditionally wear the wedding ring on the left hand, some cultures wear it on the right hand. Ultimately, it is up to you and your fiance' to decide.  Christians tend to wear their wedding rings on the left hand.  This tradition stems from the ancient Greek belief that the “vena amoris” or “vein of love” connects the ring finger of the left hand to the heart. Greek and Armenian Orthodox Christian couples wear their rings on their right hands in observance of the rings of power, authority, and pledge worn by the Biblical figures Joseph, Daniel, and the prodigal son. Specifically, the prodigal son received a ring before he left home with his inheritance. 

Orthodox Christian couple exchanging wedding rings

Orthodox Christian Couple Exchanging Wedding Rings

In general, most religions put less emphasis on the rings than on the behaviour after marriage.

Proverbs 18:22: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Muslims often wear wedding rings on the right hand, but the left hand is also allowed. Culture and where one lives can also have an influence and determine which hand wedding rings are worn on and which hand engagement rings are worn on. In the Islamic world, especially in parts of the Middle East and South Asia, it is customary for women to wear their engagement rings on their left ring finger, and for men to wear a wedding ring on their right ring finger.  There is a rule as to how a wedding ring must be worn in Islam. The women may wear on any finger they choose but the men are not always supported to do so. "Muslim men must not wear the ring on their index or middle finger", as per the hadith. The Messenger of Allah told Ali that he should not wear the ring on specific fingers.

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) forbade me that I should wear a ring in this and that finger of mine, and he pointed to the middle finger and the next one. It was narrated from Ibn 'Abbas that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “This and this are the same” - meaning the pinky finger, ring finger and thumb.

Muslim Ring Exchange

Muslim Wedding Ring Exchange

In Judaism, the wedding ring plays a major role in the Jewish wedding ceremony, but after the wedding is over, many men don't wear a wedding ring and for some Jewish women, the ring is moved from the left hand to the right hand. More details from M. Lamm below.

"While the marriage ring appears to have an ancient tradition, there is no specific reference to it in the Talmud. Maharshal cites references to indicate that the ring is a Palestinian custom that only later was accepted in Babylonia practice; one scholar posits that it was introduced into Palestine in the seventh century and into Babylonia in the ninth century. The author of ha-Ittur records a strange custom that may have been a transitional practice that ultimately led to the use of the ring: The groom performed the betrothal over a cup of wine with a ring inside the cup, saying, "You are hereby betrothed unto me with this cup and all that which is inside it." 

Jewish law, unlike history, is clear and unequivocal. The ring is a money equivalent, shaveh kessef, which is one of the original three legal acts of acquisition and the one that is exclusively practiced today. Rema writes, "It is the correct custom to betroth with a ring." The Halakhah established the following practices regarding this central object of the wedding ceremony:

1. The ring should be of plain metal, and with no precious stones. The reason for this is the avoidance of possible misrepresentation on the part of the groom—for example, using costume jewelry that the bride believes is genuine. This might invalidate the marriage because she accepted the proposal on false premises, and might not have willingly. consented to marry under those conditions. The bride has to be aware only that the ring is worth a minimum of a pe’rutah, a low-valued coin.

Plain Wedding Ring by Minter & Richter Designs

Plain Wedding Ring is preffered by traditional Jewish Custom

2. The ring must belong to the groom. He may borrow it from someone on condition that he return it after the wedding, and if the bride knows about it, the marriage is valid. It is not good practice, however, to borrow his bride’s engagement ring for the wedding!

3. The bride should not put the ring over a glove. To do so does not invalidate the marriage, but it is preferred that there be no obstruction between her finger and the ring.

4. The ring should be placed by the groom on the bride’s index finger, not her "ring finger." Abudarham says the pointing finger is used so that she will more easily be able to show the witnesses that she received the ring. Maharam Mintz says that the index was once the ring finger; even though this is no longer so, we retain that custom. In any case, because it is the most active finger, it may serve as a symbol that the ring is not accepted as just another gift but as an act sealing the most important transaction in life.

Jewish Ring Finger

In traditional Jewish Custom the ring is placed on the brides index finger

5. The groom must first propose by reciting the marriage formula, and only after that may he place the ring on her finger. It is her silent consent after the proposal that clinches the matter. Silence after receiving the ring does not indicate her assent to marry."

Here at Minter + Richter Designs, we do get to make a lot of rings for Jewish couples for some of the very same reasons stated above.  We do not use precious stones as they are too brittle and cannot, therefore, be inlayed into a ring.  That is perfect for the Jewish faith since they are not supposed to have precious stones in the wedding bands.

While women traditionally wear a sparkly engagement ring, wedding bands allow both spouses to get in on the wedding jewelry excitement. So why not have fun with it and take the time to choose a wedding band that is unique to you and the story of your relationship.

The wedding band itself has often been fairly simple. However, people have begun to personalize their wedding bands with car parts, woods, beach sand and even engravings. Couples can use their style and personal stories to choose and design a wedding ring set that is unique and special to them.

Couples from religious communities (Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh) that have adopted the exchange of weddiing rings in the western tradition in more recent years often come to us with a desire to base their wedding ring design more on color than on material, which is very exciting to us as we have such a large library of colorful stones other materials from which to choose.  One of our favorite local Boston Couples below chose a brilliant red and blue wedding ring for the Groom!

Indian Couple dancing at wedding reception

Minter + Richter Couple


The Jig is Up - Minter & Richter Designs Red Wedding Ring

The Grooms Wedding Ring


Where did the Wedding Ring Tradition start?

We can date the wedding ring back centuries to the Egyptians, who preferred jewelry made from organic items.  The first recorded evidence of a formal exchange of rings was from about 3,000 years ago between two people and was found in ancient Egypt. Writings, better known as papyrus scrolls featured couples exchanging rings made of hemp or reeds.  We are down with the Egyptians in that mode of thinking as well.  That is why we offer so many wedding rings made out of wood, antlers, horns, stones, etc.  Egyptians viewed wedding rings as a symbol of eternal love and a gateway to the future.  Egyptian Jade is one of our most popular inlay materials in fact.

Egyptian Jade Wedding Ring

Egyptian Jade Wedding Ring by Minter & Richter Designs

The style of modern wedding bands dates back to ancient Rome and Greece when they used gold and precious stones to create rings. However, it wasn’t until around the 12th century that the Catholic church in Europe began using rings for a formal marriage ceremonies.


Engraving is Very Traditional for Wedding Rings

One of the most popular traditions out there for wedding rings is the process of engraving.  The most popular Engravings are the wedding date and your intiials, but we can customize your engraving any way you like it.  We can also engrave any written language so that your ring is in keeping with your communties traditions.

Engraving is $45 for up to 30 characters.  You can add engraving to any band during the checkout process. Learn more about our engraving services here.

Below are some engravings we have done for traditional wedding rings.

Engraving image from mInter and Richter Designs

Hebrew Engraving

Crow for good luck - engraving in wedding ring

Japanese Writing Engraving

Persian Writing Engraving

Korean Engraving Phrase


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Stunningly Unique


Learn how to sort through thousands of options to design your perfect rings—for weddings or for life. And be the first to know about limited releases, new design, rare discounts, and more.