Why we wear an engagement ring
The tradition of wearing an engagement ring dates back to many centuries ago. Many believe the idea of a ring as the symbol of betrothal stems from the ancient Egyptians or Greeks. But we can not prove this. What we do know is that at least the ancient Romans already gave engagement rings. In the second century BC, a man gave his bride-to-be two rings. One ring was made of gold. This was the ring she wore in public. The other was an iron ring. The woman would wear this ring inside and around the house while attending household duties. The rings were a symbol of "owning" the woman.
The meaning of the engagement ringOver the years, the symbol of presenting the rings changed. Instead of getting ready to be owned by a man, receiving an engagement ring meant getting ready for a promise. A promise to love each other unconditionally and be together for the end of days. Later on, the tradition of engagement rings was incorporated into wedding proposals. Who says everything was better in the old days?
How to wear the engagement ringNowadays, the promise - or proposal - still often comes with a ring to symbolize the planned wedding and life together. Even though we are more emancipated than many centuries ago, most of the time it’s the woman who receives the engagement ring. In Western cultures, it is custom she wears it on the ring finger of her left hand.
The Vena Amoris
The reason to wear the ring on the third finger of the left hand originates from the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They believed the “Vena Amoris” was a blood vein that ran from the third finger of the left hand immediately to the heart. This way, the ring from the loved one would be as close to the heart as possible. Romantic, isn’t it? Modern anatomy, however, teaches us that the Vena Amoris is just a myth. There is no vein that runs straight from the heart to a finger. Bummer.
Wait, I wear my engagement ring on my right hand
In many Western countries (e.g. the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States) it is common to wear the engagement ring on the left hand. However, there are also exceptions. In many countries, people wear the engagement ring on their right hand. The Old Romans stated that right symbolizes everything good in the world and left all evil. The Latin word for left is “sinister”. So, yeah… With that in mind, I guess it makes sense to wear the ring on the right hand.
Religious reasons for left or right
And then there are religious rules to tell you how to wear your engagement rings. Which side you wear your ring is subject to the country you live in. In the Netherlands, Catholics wear the engagement ring on the right hand. Protestants wear it on the left hand. When they eventually get married, the ring switches to the other hand. But in some countries, it is exactly the other way around, so it can be quite confusing.
Practical reasons for left or right
Nowadays, people are more practical regarding how to wear their engagement ring. Religion plays a less dominant role in these kinds of situations. From a practical perspective, it makes sense to wear the ring on the left hand. Most people are right-handed and use the right hand more often than their left one. Engagement rings are very valuable. So you want to avoid traces of use or damage as much as possible. By wearing the engagement hand on your non-dominant hand, you reduce the risks of damaging it. If the wearer is left-handed, she can wear it on her right hand for practical reasons.
How to wear a wedding ring
After stating your vows and saying “I do” it is time to put the wedding rings on. Just like the engagement ring, people usually wear the wedding ring on the ring finger of their left hand. People who wear their engagement ring on their left hand can put it on their right hand before the ceremony. Just like the engagement ring, the hand of the wedding ring can also differ between countries, cultures, and religions. Dutch Catholics wear their wedding bands on their left hand (and engagement ring right). Protestants on their right hand (and engagement ring left).
The engagement ring after the weddingAfter the wedding, there are basically three things one can do with the engagement ring:
- Stack the engagement ring on top of the wedding ring. Often women wear the engagement and the wedding ring on the ring finger of their left hand;
- Some decide to wear the wedding ring on their left hand and the engagement ring on their right. Or vice versa of course.
- Only a few choose to not wear the engagement ring at all anymore.