3 Feb 2023

With this Ring...

The bridegroom elect has on the eve of matrimony no little business to transact… It is the gentleman’s business to buy the ring; and let him take special care not to forget it; for such an awkward mistake has frequently happened. The ring should be, we need scarcely say, of the very purest gold, but substantial. First, that it may not break – a source of great trouble to the young wife; secondly, that it may not slip off the finger without being missed – few husbands being pleased to hear that their wives have lost their wedding rings; and, thirdly, that it may last out the lifetime of the loving recipient, even should that life be protracted to the extreme extent…Having bought the ring, the bridegroom should now put it into his waistcoat pocket, there to remain until he puts on his wedding vest on the morning of the marriage; to the left-hand pocket of which he must then carefully transfer it, and not part with it until he takes it out in the church during the wedding ceremony.”

Routledge’s Manual of Etiquette, 1860

The bridegroom’s responsibility for purchasing the ring, and the terrible embarrassment that he might suffer if he forgot it or dropped it, was a source of anxiety that dated well back to the Victorian era. In Victorian times, the bridegroom took charge of the ring on the wedding day, and it was the best man’s duty merely to ensure that the groom had the ring safely stowed in his pocket; he was not responsible for carrying the ring himself.

Choosing the Ring

Before the big day the ring (or rings) must be selected and purchased. While the Victorian bridegroom described above was solely responsible for choosing and purchasing the ring, with all the worry about procuring the correct size that this errand entailed, these days most couples will purchase wedding rings together. They represent a considerable outlay, and a joint decision is therefore vital.

For brides it is essential to choose a wedding band that complements the engagement ring – the two rings will be worn on the same finger, so they must look good together and fit comfortably. 

There are three ring shapes to choose from: D (curved edge), flat (straight edge) and court (tapered edge).

The engagement ring and wedding band should be made of the same metal, otherwise over time the stronger metal will wear away the weaker one. The most popular metals for wedding bands are: gold (which comes in a range of shades, tones and carats); white gold (which may need to be re-plated every ten years); platinum (an expensive option that will never need to be replated); titanium (durable yet lightweight). Those who prefer to wear silver jewellery should consider white gold or platinum.

In terms of style the general rule for both men and women is the wider the hand, the thicker the band should be.

The perfect fit will incorporate a small amount of leeway for swelling (allow enough space for a cocktail stick to slide in and out easily).

An engraved message or date inside the band adds a bespoke touch.

Wearing the Ring

It was not traditionally customary for men to wear wedding rings; this changed during the Second World War when soldiers began to wear wedding bands as a reminder of their home and their wives. These days, it is an increasingly accepted practice, though by no means compulsory. Many couples see the rings as symbolic of their love and equality; some men simply do not like to wear jewellery. This is something the couple must discuss beforehand, and they must agree as far as possible to accommodate each other’s wishes.

The giving of the ring/s generally takes place immediately after the exchange of wedding vows in both religious and civil wedding ceremonies. Nowadays it is conventional for the ring to be the responsibility of the best man, and if the couple is exchanging rings, he can look after both. There is no hard and fast rule, however, and other members of the wedding party can be enlisted to hold the rings until the vital moment – for example the maid of honour, chief bridesmaid or mother of the bride.

For brides who already have engagement rings, it is traditional for the wedding band to sit underneath the engagement ring. Some brides therefore choose not to wear the engagement ring on their wedding day, giving the wedding band precedence. Alternatively, they simply temporarily swap the engagement ring to the right hand and move it to its proper place once the ceremony is concluded. It is also perfectly fine to leave the engagement ring on the correct finger and allow the wedding band to be slipped above it – the two rings can always be swapped later.

Wedding Rings and Divorce

Many people have no desire to carry on wearing a ring after a marriage has imploded. Unlike engagement rings, wedding rings are not treated as outright gifts, so you may want to consider the following options:

Give the ring back to your ex-partner. At least it won’t lurk in your dressing table drawer reminding you of an unhappy chapter in your life. If the ring is a cherished family heirloom, you should certainly give it back to your ex-partner.

Save the ring for your child. It may seem to be a symbol of failure for you, but for your child it represents family bonds, and they may not want to see it lightly abandoned.

Alternatively, you can recycle the ring and have it incorporated into a new piece of jewellery or reappropriate the ring. It is perfectly acceptable to wear your wedding ring on a different finger, or on a different hand.


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