Wedding rings have been worn throughout the ages to symbolize an everlasting bond.
Couples exchange wedding rings during the wedding ceremony as a symbol of their love and devotion. According to a 2006 study done by the Bridal Association of America, the average amount of money couples spend on wedding rings is estimated to be a little more than $2,000. But with so many options available, couples need not worry about breaking the bank to show off their signs of love and commitment.
It is thought that Egyptians first used the shape of a circle to signify eternity as it is a shape without end. They also began the tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the left hand's third finger because they believed the vein in that hand ran straight to the heart. The Romans were told of this legend several hundred years later, leading them to call it vena amoris, which translates to vein of love. Although scientists discredited this theory in the 20th century, rings still find a spot on the ring finger of left hand today. Some European countries, however, feature couples with rings on their right hand.
Dual-ring or double-ring ceremonies, in which both the bride and groom exchange rings, dates back to Greek Orthodox churches during the 1300s. It did not catch on in the United States until World War II. At this time, young men had to leave their girlfriends behind as they entered the military. Due to heightened fears, many couples married quickly before the men received news of being sent overseas. The wedding bands served as a reminder of the spouse, providing solace to the lonely soldier and comfort to the new bride of her husband's courage. According to The Knot, 85 percent of marriages were dual-ring ceremonies during the height of the war.
Over the years, wedding rings have evolved, thanks to the availability of materials. When the Pharaohs first wore rings, hemp or reeds found along riverbanks were the materials of choice. Due to the short lifespan of the rings made from plants, they were quickly replaced by leather, bone or ivory as these substances withstood daily wear and tear better.
Metal found its way onto wedding rings years later, but the craftsmanship was poor. To distract from the uneven metal shape, couples would have precious stones and gems placed in the bands. Diamonds found their way onto the band in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented his beloved Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring.
For any style of wedding ring, the groom's ring is usually larger than the bride's. Although it is not necessary, it is common for the newly married couple to have matching or complementary ring styles. Ranging from plain bands to intricate designs, the most common metals include gold, platinum or stainless steel. Some couples even consider titanium due to its hardness, signaling stability within the marriage.
Designs are another option for the bride and groom to consider, especially if they are seeking bands that symbolize their love. A popular design choice is the Claddagh, which is a Celtic wedding ring design where two hands hold a heart topped with a crown. The Claddagh represents love, loyalty and friendship. Another style to consider is a French-based ring with three separate interwoven bands. These three bands symbolize love, hope and faith. Couples can also design their own wedding bands by using items, stones or other materials that mean something to the betrothed.
There is no right or wrong when buying wedding rings. Traditionally, the groom buys the bride's ring and the bride purchases the groom's ring, but tradition need not guide the decision. Plain bands, those decorated with expensive jewels, ones with engraved messages on the inside or even a family heirloom are all styles to consider, depending upon the couple's tastes and budget.
It is a good idea for couples to shop around at in-store displays before purchasing. At these locations, staff can fit the bride and groom with a ring sizer to determine ring size as this can help if buying rings online. Couples need to decide whether any engravings should appear on the inner band; sometimes couples write their wedding date, include initials or feature an inside joke as a constant reminder of their love. If purchasing in a store, couples should not be afraid to negotiate: retailer's prices usually have substantial markups.
Couples should also educate themselves on the various metals before purchasing wedding rings. While yellow gold ranging from 14 to 18 karats remains the most popular choice, white gold allows for stones to stand out more. Platinum is a fashionable option and although it is more expensive than either gold options, it is also more durable.