Tradition states that the engagement ring and wedding band are both worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, also deemed the “ring finger”. While many people have accepted this as common practice, others may be wondering why the engagement ring is worn on the left hand. To answer this question, we’ll have to take a brief look into history to see where this tradition originated from and why we still recognize it today.
Why Do We Wear Engagement Rings on Our Left Hands?
Engagement rings have been worn on our left hands since the wedding tradition of exchanging rings started centuries ago. In ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome, it was customary for suitors to give their bride-to-be a ring before their wedding to symbolize their promise to get married.
During the 15th century, it was actually standard for both males and females to wear an engagement ring. These rings were exchanged as a symbol and token of their love and devotion for each other. Eventually, this trend lost its popularity with men, leading to engagement rings mostly being worn by women. Today, however, we are seeing more men wearing engagement rings again—perhaps starting a new trend that could last many years into the future.
Why wear an engagement ring on the left hand? Historically, many people believed in an old wives’ tale that claimed that wearing an engagement ring on your right hand was bad luck. While we don’t believe this theory to be true, it is one of the reasons why we wear rings on our left hands still today.
Since then, the custom of exchanging and wearing an engagement ring on the left hand has continued to be shaped by cultural norms and traditions dating back many years. It’s up to you whether you choose to take part in this old-fashioned tradition or create your own with your future spouse.
Why the “Ring” Finger?
The meaning of the left ring finger is also a practice that dates back many centuries. The fourth finger on the left hand was initially named the “ring finger” because those who got married in Ancient Greece and Rome believed that this finger contained a special vein called the Vena Amoris, translated to the “vein of love”.
The heart was believed to be the center of all emotions, with this special vein leading straight to it. Therefore, couples believed that by wearing an engagement ring on the left-hand ring finger, they were sealed eternally by their love and passion for each other.
While science has since disproved the existence of this “love vein”, the tradition started by the Greeks and Romans still continues today. Not all cultures worldwide follow this same practice, but the western tradition that dates back centuries shows why married couples wear rings on their left ring finger. We may no longer believe that emotions literally originate from our physical hearts, but we do continue to associate romance, love, and other emotions with them.
In What Order Should the Rings Be on My Finger?
Nowadays, many opt out of old-fashioned traditions and begin their own trends instead when purchasing an engagement ring. Because of this, many brides may choose to wear their engagement ring and wedding band in a myriad of ways, since it ultimately comes down to personal preference and how one chooses to wear their jewelry.
Tradition states that wedding bands are worn closest to a person’s heart, meaning that the band is put on the left ring finger first, followed by the engagement ring. If you want to follow this cultural norm on your wedding day, a popular strategy for brides-to-be is to have their engagement ring on their right hand as they walk down the aisle. After their future spouse slides the wedding band on their left finger, the engagement ring can be switched back over to the other hand during the ceremony or afterward.
Some brides may choose different ways to style and show off their wedding rings. They may choose to wear them on different fingers, or they may wear the band and engagement ring separately. Many also decide to have their engagement ring and band joined together into one jewelry piece instead of keeping them separate.
When it comes down to it, you should wear your jewelry in a way that feels the most right to you. One of the most important details is ensuring that both rings are sized properly and fit comfortably on your fingers.
How Do Brides in Other Countries Wear Their Engagement Rings?
While western tradition has heavily dictated how wedding rings are worn in many western countries, other countries follow different practices. Though many have followed the “vein of love” theory, historically, wedding rings have been worn on every finger during one instance or another—even the thumb. For example, some believed that the left came to be defined as evil or anti-Christian, opting to wear rings on the right hand instead.
Other countries follow their own traditions and reasons for choosing their right hand over their left. These include Germany, Spain, Norway, Austria, some parts of Belgium, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia. Other country-specific traditions include:
- India: Traditional practice states that the left hand is considered unlucky and unclean, therefore leading many in India to wear their wedding ring on their right hand.
- Brazil: When couples get engaged in Brazil, both partners wear an engagement ring on their left hands. After vows are exchanged, they switch the rings to their right hands.
- Sweden and Chile: Both the man and woman wear an engagement ring on the right hand. During the wedding, the ring is moved to the left.
- China: In traditional Chinese culture, engaged couples would exchange money and other goods rather than engagement rings as a sign of their future union.
- Northern Kenya: Those in the Samburu Tribe living in Kenya wear ornate beadings around their neck with specific colors that symbolize engagement instead of wearing rings.
The reason why married couples wear rings on the left hand dates back in history, and it’s a tradition that continues to last in the modern world. Whether you and your future spouse choose to follow this cultural norm or not is entirely up to you.
Noe’s Jewelry is a local jewelry store in Raymore, Missouri. If you’re looking for an engagement ring for your true love, we have a large collection of stunning diamonds and other pieces you are sure to love. Visit our store or contact us today at 816-322-7227 to learn more.