If you wonder about the proper way to wear engagement and wedding rings, especially on which hand you should wear each, we have a simple answer and few pretty interesting alternatives. Let's face it - everything related to marriage has a rich history and if we dig a little, we can find many spectacular facts.
We'll start with seemingly the easiest question and gradually expand the answer, not to find an ultimate truth, but hopefully to provide enough background to help you choosing how you should wear your engagement (and other) ring(s).
What Finger Does An Engagement Ring Go On?
A reasonably educated American will promptly answer on this one: it goes on the fourth finger, if the thumb is numbered as the first one. This means on the finger between the middle finger and the pinky. Well, it's called a ring finger after all!
While this finger is used for rings (engagement, wedding, eternity and other rings) all over the world, we can still find many exceptions to the rule. Many wear an engagement ring on the fourth finger until the marriage, but move it to the third one, to make space for the wedding band, which goes on the fourth. The reason for importance of the fourth finger is in a traditional (and wrong) belief about the vein going directly from heart to to the ring finger. This vein is even called vein of love (vena amoris in Latin).
For the same reason old Egyptians, who are credited as inventors of engagement and wedding rings, wore their rings on the third finger!
There are also other explanations for the popularity of the fourth finger. Early Christians incorporated a ring into their wedding ceremonies, where the Holy Trinity was called: Father for first, Son for second, Holy Spirit for third finger and the next (fourth) was for the ring, which represented the unity of family with with Holy Trinity. According to old Chinese philosophy each finger has its own meaning – first for parents, second for siblings, third for yourself, fourth for your spouse (!) and fifth for your kids.
More practical explanation is strictly medical: the ring finger is the only one with just one tendon (all others have extensors for their strengthening) and it is also the second least used finger (following little finger), but till big enough for jewelry (pinky is quite small, so rings often fall off and are not not nearly as prominent as rings on other fingers anyway).
Throughout the history all fingers were used for indicating the marital status of the wearer and this includes fingers on feet too. For instance, even today in several parts of India two (!) rings are placed on both second (most often) or other toes of both feet of a married woman and these rings are called Birchiya.
What about other rings?
While the engagement ring is usually the most dominant and expensive of all, we should mention other rings suggesting the intimate status of the wearer.
In some North European countries three rings can be worn at the same time: first for engagement, second for wedding and third for the birth of the first child. This caught up in parts of USA too, where we can often see offers of ring sets, instead of engagement rings. A typical set consists of three rings, just like in already mentioned Scandinavian countries with slightly varying reason for the third, often called eternity ring, which is given at birth of the child or at the first anniversary.
Some wedding sets are made of two rings only - classic e-ring with a stone and double band wedding ring, with enough place to nest it between the bands. Or you may have both rings single banded and this is the situation where the question which comes first and which second on the finger. Majority believe the wedding gift should come first, because it is where it is closer to the heart.
Maybe you will be told just before the marriage to move engagement ring from left to right hand to make place for wedding ring and then put it back, this time over the wedding band, so the stone could protect the wedding. A w-ring should stay on forever, right? If you decide to do just the opposite for any reason, don't worry, marriage police won't come after you.
Even if you decide to use the same ring as for engagement and the wedding, it's okay. In several cultures this is absolutely an usual thing. However there is one more ring to mention. It is called a promise ring and is in most cases worn by both partners who decided to 'promise' each other, but are not formally engaged yet. Some promise rings are also called purity rings or chastity rings and are worn as a sign of abstinence before the wedding.
All Right, Which Hand Is For Wedding Ring?
Again, to some people a left hand is an obvious choice. For romantics it's closer to the heart, for practical ones we can add more than 80 percent of people use right hand much more, so a jewelry would be safer on the left. But there are other options as well.
For the practical reason above some left handers decide to wear a wedding band on their right hands. Depending on cultural heritage, for instance some parts of Austria, Belgium, Germany and East Europe and South America the right hand is sometimes also the first choice. One of the reasons may be very old belief so important sign should be worn on the better (right, not wrong) hand. In Latin the name for left is 'sinister', what can be translated as ominous or evil. Left hand is in many parts of the world still closely associated with bad things, evil forces and even a Satan.
So there is no definite answer on this question. One of alternative options is to hang it on a chain. It can be close to your heart this way too!