Throughout history, the ring has been used to symbolize the bond of marriage. Although it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that both men and women started wearing rings (before that it was only women), they have long been used to show that a person is no longer on the market (so to speak). But there are actually quite a few points of significance concerning the giving and receiving of wedding bands. Here’s a little rundown of what that ring on your finger really means.
Historically speaking, there were certain monetary considerations tied up in marriages. Women generally had to be given over into marriage with a dowry (a sum of money or goods like livestock). This was to counter the increased expenditures of her new husband due to having another mouth to feed (or several, once children started to be born), but it was also to give the couple a fresh start in life. In addition, a woman came with their own contributions, mainly in the form of a hope chest which she would have filled with needlework and other valuables from the time she was a child. Interestingly, the ring was not only given as a symbol that a woman was no longer available for courtship, but also as an item of value that could one day be added to a daughter’s dowry to make her more desirable.
But that was just business. These days, the ring is more a symbol of love than wealth (although wedding bands are made from precious metals, giving them inherent monetary value). During WWII, men and women began exchanging rings, probably so that soldiers going off to war would have something to remind them of their love awaiting their return. Of course, the jewelry industry probably supported this move, although there is no evidence that they were responsible for starting it.
Finally, there is the unbroken circle to consider. Even ancient cultures considered a circle to be symbolic of eternity and strength, both aspects of a strong marriage. And while the wedding band did not necessarily stem from religion, many religious ceremonies now include wedding bands simply because the circle holds special significance within their dogma. For the happy couple exchanging rings, these metal bands can be considered to signify commitment, longevity, prosperity, and any number of other positive influences on the relationship. In truth, the value of a wedding band has a lot more to do with what the individual endows it with, rather than what history and culture have to say on the matter.