Wedding Traditions: Why Do We Wear It on the Left Hand?
Traditionally in the UK and in Ireland, the man proposes to the woman with an engagement ring. He puts it onto the fourth finger of her left hand, known as ‘the ring finger’.
Some couples buy a promise ring previous to an engagement ring. A promise ring may symbolise the couple’s commitment to each other. Or it can act as a substitute ring until the couple chooses an official engagement ring. Promise rings are worn on the left ring finger in the same way as engagement rings.
Wearing engagement and wedding rings on which finger?
After marrying, British women usually wear both the engagement ring and the wedding ring. It’s acceptable to wear the wedding ring alone, although this is less common. Either way, both are always worn on the left ring finger.
Which ring goes on first? In the UK women normally wear their engagement ring ‘on top’ of the wedding ring. Meaning the wedding ring is put on first. The reason is an old British superstition which states that a wedding ring must never be taken off. During the wedding ceremony the bride puts her engagement ring temporarily on their right hand. This leaves the left hand free for the wedding ring. When the ceremony is over, the bride places her engagement ring ‘on top’ of the new wedding band.
The history of the British ring-wearing tradition: The UK wedding ring tradition is thought to have come from the ancient Romans. They had in turn inherited it from the Egyptians. In Old Egypt, people held a belief that the fourth finger of the left hand was where the Vena Amoris, or the ‘vein of love’, began.
This vein was supposed to lead all the way to the heart, therefore making the fourth finger of the left hand the optimal place to wear a ring as a symbol of lasting love and commitment.
However, the Egyptians only wore wedding rings and not engagement rings. So while the British wedding ring tradition goes back to Egypt, the engagement ring tradition is actually attributed to Rome. There, it was customary for suitors to give a pre-marriage promise ring to their brides-to-be, in order to seal the commitment to marry them.