There are a lot of questions about how engagement rings and wedding bands should be worn - left or right hand? Wedding band above or below the engagement ring? Does it matter? Why do we wear rings a specific way?
Left or Right Hand? Does It Matter Which Finger?
Wedding rings have been worn for more than 6,000 years! Wedding rings are traditionally worn on the ring finger (or fourth digit) of the left hand of the wearer. Well, at least in Western cultures. Why? The origins are debated, but one theory is that the ancient Romans believed that a vein, called the Vena Amoris (or "vein of love"), ran directly to the heart from this finger. Therefore, wearing a ring on this finger and hand meant that the ring was closer to the heart and made it a stronger symbol of love. This theory of an important vein running to the heart has since been debunked, but the tradition has remained. Other historians argue that this theory is entirely a myth, and that the Romans actually wore their rings on any finger they wished, even pinkies and thumbs!
Historians argue that the true origin is is rooted in religion, and suggest that the practice started when the Anglican Church separated from the Catholic Church in England in about 1549. In order to differentiate the church followers, members of the Anglican Church were instructed to wear their wedding rings on the left hand ring finger, whereas Catholics were known to wear their rings on their right hand.
Other cultures and countries wear their rings on the right hand and sometimes even a different finger entirely. In many countries with heavy Orthodox and Catholic influence wedding rings are traditionally worn on the right hand. This includes countries like Germany, Russia, Norway, Colombia, Peru, and many others. In other places such as Brazil and Turkey, a bride will wear her ring on her right hand ring finger and switch the ring to her left hand after her wedding. In traditional Jewish wedding ceremonies, the ring is placed on the bride's right-hand index finger. In some cultures in Sri Lanka and India, the bride wears her ring on her left-hand ring finger while the groom wears his ring on the right hand.
Historically, some cultures associated left-handedness and even just the left hand side with evil. In fact, the word sinister comes from a Latin word meaning "on the left side." This was likely simply because the majority of the population is right-handed and left-handed tasks can seem awkward and unnatural. This may be one reason some religions and cultures choose to wear their rings on the right hand instead of the left. Meanwhile, some Western cultures believed that wearing your wedding ring on the "sinister" hand would ward off evil spirits.
There are many traditions and customs related to how to wear your ring, but in the end it's entirely up to you! Today couples are creating their own traditions, challenging the status quo with whatever works best for them. Some couples even wear their rings on necklaces if they don't like the feeling of wearing a ring or don't want to cause as much damage to their rings.
Wedding Band Above or Below the Engagement Ring?
Whether the wedding band or wedding ring should be worn above or below the engagement ring is another topic up for debate. Some brides choose to wear their wedding ring and engagement ring stacked together, some wear their engagement ring on their right hand and their wedding ring on their left, or some brides choose to wear only one ring depending on the occasion. However, most Western tradition holds that the wedding ring is worn below the engagement ring, closest to the heart. Some brides may find this inconvenient during their ceremony though, as the engagement ring will need to be removed in order to put on the wedding ring before putting the engagement ring back on. To avoid this fumbling and fuss, many brides simply choose to have the wedding ring put above their engagement ring.
We find that many wedding ring designs simply fit and look better when worn above the engagement ring, but always encourage our clients to do what they think looks and feels best for them! There is also the option to put one band on top and one on bottom, creating what we call a "bridal suite."
Designing a Custom Ring (For Whichever Finger/Hand You Choose!)
Whether you want to embrace tradition or challenge it, the way you wear your rings is entirely up to you. There is not right or wrong way to wear your ring, and you should always do what makes you happiest! We hold this same mindset with the design of your ring as well - we want you to choose the design and stone that makes you happiest despite what traditions hold as standards. We can help you design the nontraditional engagement ring or wedding band of your dreams! Shop our collections of customizable engagement rings and wedding bands, start with a stone from the Staghead Mine first, or reach out to our designers to design your ring from scratch!