In contemporary wedding ceremonies – as in the ‘courting’ process, and the arrangements involved therein – it has become more and more common for people to throw off the shackles of the old ways and really make their special day their own.
This is certainly true of engagement rings – which in heterosexual marriages were generally only worn by the bride, but which in modern times are, can, and should be worn by whoever wants to wear them.
But where exactly does the tradition come from, and why was it previously only worn by the bride?
What Is The Purpose Of An Engagement Ring?
In western cultures, the engagement rings – also known as a ‘betrothal ring’ – are traditionally worn as signs that the person in question is engaged to be married, and as such are off the market.
The Ancient Egyptians are widely credited with inventing the concept of the engagement ring – as are the Ancient Greeks for adopting and popularizing the tradition – and even then they were worn on the ring fingers of the left hand.
This was thought to be due to a vein within the finger – known as the vena amoris – that they believed was connected directly to the heart, thus the association with love and marriage.
While there has been a misconception that engagement rings were part of the ‘bride price’ – that is, an effective purchase and ownership of the bride by her husband – this has since been disputed by many modern scholars who state that, while it might have been true in certain cultural traditions, there is by no means evidence that it was the rule of thumb.
The ‘Modern’ Tradition
The ‘modern tradition’ – that is, post the birth of Christ – of presenting a loved one with an engagement ring was popularized in 1477, when the Archduke Maximillian of Austria presented his beloved Mary of Burgundy with a ring to symbolize their betrothal.
This tradition was also popularized and encouraged by the Catholic church, who made it commonplace for a public declaration of proposal to be required for couples who wanted to wed.
The idea of the diamond engagement ring, which is perhaps the most common idea surrounding the practice, didn’t come around until after the end of the Second World War, when the cost of diamonds was cheaper, and DeBeers launched a campaign promoting the idea to young couples in the western world.
Are Engagement Rings For Brides Only?
While there is a modern misconception that engagement rings are only worn by the bride before the wedding, this is only really something that happened during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Prior to this, it was more than common in many cultures for men to also wear an equivalent of the engagement ring – sometimes referred to as a ‘management ring’ – which also was representative that the husband was no longer single, and was engaged to be married.
The idea of only the bride wearing an engagement ring seems to very much have derived from the dawn of Christianity onwards, and in the pre-Christian world it was more than commonplace for both parties to wear some symbol of their betrothal – be it a ring, or some other form of adorning jewelry.
In contemporary nuptials, both parties can (and do) wear engagement rings – and this has become something of a personal choice, and a symbol of commitment, rather than an explicitly religious notion.
Engagement Rings & Changing Gender Roles
Over the course of the late 20th century and into the early 21st century, the idea of gender roles – in the traditional sense – have become more and more dissolved, creating a greater sense of individualism, and allowing people of all genders, sexualities, and beliefs to celebrate their nuptials in their own way.
This has also coincided with the rise and support of the LBGT+ community – namely the legalization of same sex marriage in most western countries – which had benefits both for homosexual and heterosexual couples, who could then express themselves and their love for one another in whichever way they want.
What Is A Male Engagement Ring?
Regardless of gender, an engagement ring is a ring to mark the fact that two people are betrothed to be married. However, there are several distinct styles that are generally designed for, and worn by, men.
In accordance with tradition, the ring generally still contains diamonds in some shape or form, although any style or preference can be chosen by those involved.
Engagement rings worn by men generally have a simple band style, as opposed to the more delicate designs with central diamonds commonly worn by women – although depending on the nature of the marriage, and the preferences of the individual, this is still a matter of personal choice.
Should Both Partners Wear Them?
Once again, the idea of ‘should’ is not really something that should come into the decision making process. If both partners want to wear an engagement ring, then they should be more than entitled to do so – and for whatever reason they choose.
However, there are certain advantages to both partners wearing them – at least in the sense of romance and commitment.
First and foremost, both partners wearing engagement rings is a visible sign that both parties are engaged to be married to someone.
This can be important to some people, who might otherwise worry that their partner could be unfaithful or hit on by other people.
Both partners wearing rings creates a sense of mutual trust, and a stronger visual bond that might feel harder to break.
Does It Have To Be The Left Hand?
While tradition might dictate that the left hand ring finger is the ‘marriage’ finger, there really are no rules for couples in contemporary relationships, and it is more than common for men and women to wear their engagement rings on any hand and finger they like – depending on comfort and ease.
Ultimately, it is about personal choice!
And there we have it, everything you need to know about engagement rings, and who exactly does (and should) wear them.
While traditionally it tends to be the bride who wears an engagement ring, it ultimately comes down to personal choice and preference, and in contemporary nuptials – both in heterosexual and homosexual marriages – it is the decision of those involved as to who wears what rings, and what they choose to do with their special day.
So, if you are getting married and wish to wear an engagement ring, then you should totally go for it!