Wedding Rings and the Bible

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

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 it 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 tokens given in a betrothal ceremony.

A Common Practice

It was common, in the first century A.D., for those who were financially well off, to wear several rings on their fingers as a sign of their wealth and status in society. The book of James acknowledges their use by warning Christians that those who wear such jewelry should not be favored and respected above other people.

Pair of Wedding Rings
Pair of wedding rings

My brethren, do not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. Now then, if a man comes into your synagogue wearing gold rings and dressed in splendid apparel, and there comes in also a poor man in lowly apparel,

And you give preference to the one who is wearing the splendid apparel . . . Then have you not passed judgment among yourselves, and have made yourselves judges with evil opinions? (James 2:1 - 4, HBFV).

The Bible does not mention any 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).

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.

Wedding 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 tradition, however, places the bride on the groom's left side as they both face the person who officiates the ceremony. Why and when did the switch occur?

It seems the placement of the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony grew out of the Middle Ages. Grooms, who many times had to defend their brides during the ceremony, needed to have their right hand free 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 this token, with no stones or inscriptions, on the bride's first finger of her right hand.

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