As different cultures mix in our modern societies, we see some women wearing their engagement and wedding rings on their right hands and others on their left. Who is right?
How you answer that question is going to depend on three factors: 1. What country you are from, 2. Your religion and 3. Your personal preferences.
Ring wearing traditions around the world
Engagement rings became an important part of marriage traditions in the 1940s and local traditions, which vary from country to country, dictated which hand they were worn on.
Brides and grooms lovingly slip their engagement and wedding rings on to their fingers – some on to their right hands, others on the left and a few even use both hands. Here are the most common ring wearing traditions from around the world:
Rings worn on the left hand
Brides and grooms in France, the Netherlands, the United States, Great Britain, Australia and many other english-speaking countries traditionally wear their rings on their left hands. This tradition stems from the ancient Greek belief that the “vena amoris” or “vein of love” connects the ring finger of the left hand to the heart.
Rings worn on the right hand
Couples in Belgium, Russia, Poland and a few other eastern European countries prefer to wear their engagement and wedding rings on their right hands. Their tradition began years ago when the Romans ruled the world and believed that the left hand represented all that was untrustworthy.
Rings worn on both hands
Brazilians, Germans, Spanish and a few other nationalities wear their rings on both hands. This tradition began long ago when couples could only afford one set of rings. They would buy wedding bands at their engagement and wear them on one hand, and then move the bands to their other hand during the wedding ceremony. Brazilians begin with the band on their right hand and move it to their left, while Germans and Spanish do the opposite.
Religious customs affect ring wearing traditions
A bride and bridegroom’s religious beliefs don’t always influence what hand they wear their rings, but in a few religions it may, for instance:
Judaism began more than 3,500 years ago. At that time and in some cases today, rings are not exchanged during Jewish engagements and weddings. However when a Jewish couple decides to use rings, the groom will put the ring on the bride’s right index finger during the wedding. After the ceremony, she will move it to her ring finger and also give the groom his ring in private.
Before it began spreading around the globe, the Roman Catholic Church held the tradition of brides and grooms wearing their rings on their right hands. Historical records suggest that this was simply a tradition and not linked to any religious convictions which explains why Catholicism has since adopted the ring wearing traditions of any country they are in.
In 1517, different groups began breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and beginning their own churches. These protestants changed many of the traditions that they had learned in the Catholic Church and this included moving their wedding rings from their right hands to their left. Like Catholics, protestants today adopt the ring wearing traditions of the culture around them instead of continuing their own traditions.
Almost 80% of people in India are Hindus and for years, their traditions did not include engagement or wedding rings. Rings are slowly rising in popularity now, but most brides still insist on wearing the traditional “sindoor” or red dot at the parting of their hair to show they are married.
Your personal preference remains important
For generations, local traditions and religious customs dictated which hands engagement and wedding rings were worn on, but now a bride and groom’s personal preference are just as important as these traditions and customs.
Couples today can choose to wear their engagement and wedding rings on their left hands or right hands based on what feels good to them or even what will be most practical with other jewellery that they enjoy wearing.
In today’s society personal preferences are important, often even more important than time-honored traditions or religious customs.