The tradition of giving or exchange wedding rings has been part of the marriage service in many different cultures for centuries. From 1662, the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer included the following lines in the marriage service:
With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Many couples getting married in the 21st century still make these vows, or a slight variation of these and the tradition of exchanging rings has of course never gone out of fashion.
Traditional Wedding Vows and Rings
Many different faiths use wedding rings to symbolise the commitment of marriage including Orthodox Jews, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (Byzantine) churches.
- "With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel." (Jewish)
- ".. take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Roman Catholic)
- "The servant of God …. is betrothed to the handmaid of God ... in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." (Eastern Orthodox)
Traditional Wedding Ring Designs
From Roman times, solid gold wedding bands have been one of the most popular and traditional wedding ring designs. Roman wedding rings were also carved with clapsed hands or a carved key, through which a woman was able to open her husband's heart. These motifs of joined hands and hearts also come together in the traditional Irish claddagh ring design.
Traditional Jewish and Russian Wedding Rings
In Jewish tradition, weddings have included the formal acceptance of an object given by the man to the woman - a tradition called kinyan. Since the 7th century, this object has often been a ring, traditionally made of gold and plain, with no gems, engravings or carvings. This was to symbolise the purity of the union and of the ring itself.
Similarly, in Russia the traditional wedding ring given at the wedding service is a simple gold wedding band. The three-colored rings also thought of as Russion wedding rings are a more modern phenomenon.
Gimmel and Fede Rings
Although not a common tradition in the modern age, gimmel (or gimmal rings) were fashionable in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. The gimmel ring consisted of three hoops with one hoop worn by each of the engaged couple and the third by a witness until the wedding itself, when the hoops were united as one ring. Around 1600, gimmel ring designs began to include hearts, clasped hands and gems. Clasped hands were the centrepiece of fede ring designs (fede meaning faith in Latin). These lovely ring designs could also be seperated into two individual rings worn by the couple during their engagement and reunited as one ring on the bride's finger during the wedding service.