Wedding Rings

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QUESTION: What does the Bible say about wedding rings? What do they symbolize?

ANSWER: There is not much evidence, if any, that suggests wedding rings have any religious significance. The Bible is also silent about them. Nevertheless, many feel a ring symbolizes a never-ending circle of eternal love.

The use of a ring in a wedding most likely came from an old Roman custom that predates Christianity. At a time when arranged marriages were quite common, this token was likely a pledge to fulfill the marriage contract. Though they had doubts about their use, Christians in the Roman Empire tolerated wedding rings given in a betrothal ceremony.

In the first century, it was common for those who were financially well off, both Jews and Gentiles, to wear several rings (wedding, etc.) on their fingers as a sign of their wealth and status in society. The book of James warns that those who wear such jewelry in church should not be favored and respected more than those who do not (James 2:1 - 4).

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The Bible does not mention any rings or other tokens of love used in marriage ceremonies. It does, however, have much to say about courtship and offers couples a clear admonition on how to treat each other (Ephesians 5:22 - 25, 28). Jesus underscored the importance of marriage as a lifelong commitment by referring back to God's institution of the marriage covenant (Matthew 19:4 - 6).


Pairs of Wedding Rings
Pair of rings

Because God has not commanded the use of any token to symbolize the marriage between two people in a wedding, the choice is yours whether to use rings or not. If their use encourages faithfulness to strengthen the marriage bond then their use may be a good thing.


Traditions

One European marriage tradition involves engraving a mate's name and the marriage date on the inside surface of wedding rings.

In the Old Testament, it was a tradition that the bride stood on the groom's right hand side (Psalm 45:9). The right hand was thought a place of honor. Modern wedding tradition, however, places the bride on the groom's LEFT side as they both face the person who officiates the ceremony. Why did the switch occur? It seems this placement grew out of the Middle Ages, when grooms (who many times had to defend their brides during the ceremony) needed to have their right hand free during the wedding ceremony in order to grab their swords.

Why do people wear wedding rings on the next to last finger of the left hand? This tradition came out of the ancient Roman belief that this finger was the only one that contained a vein that led directly to a person's heart. Jewish tradition places a simple ring (no stones or inscriptions) on the bride's first finger of her right hand.

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