Cultural Differences: Wearing Bridal Rings on the Left or the Right Hand
Around the world, wedding ring sets represent a couple’s lifelong love and commitment to one another. The practice of exchanging rings has a significance that has evolved over thousands of years. Even today, there are a number of cultural differences when it comes to wedding rings that vary by country or religion.
In the United States (and many other Western countries), the custom is to wear wedding rings on the fourth findger of the left hand. However, in many other countries, it is traditional to place wedding ring sets on the right hand instead. Why the difference? And which parts of the world opt for the left or the right? Let’s take a closer look at the history and context of wedding ring traditions.
A Brief History of Wedding Rings
The first wedding rings are believed to date back to ancient Egypt, when people wove grasses and reeds into circles symbolizing eternity and completeness. The Egyptians wore their rings on the fourth finger of the left hand, believing that a vein from that finger led directly to the heart. The Romans call this the “vena amoris”, or “vein of love”.
Over time, the materials used for wedding rings evolved to include leather, bone, and eventually metals such as iron, silver and gold (and later, diamonds and other gemstones). Until recently, it was less common for men to wear wedding rings than for women. World War II marks a significant shift in this practice for some Western countries; many married men who were stationed far from home chose to wear wedding rings as a reminder of their wives and families.
Where in the World…?
Today, when you travel internationally, or meet people from different countries, you will notice wedding rings worn on both the left and right hands.
On The Left Hand
Couples wear wedding rings on their left hands in many Western countries, such as North America, South America, and European nations including the UK, Italy, France and Slovenia. In the United States, women (and some men) wear both engagement rings and wedding bands on the left ring finger; how the rings are stacked depends on the bride’s personal preference. In Asian countries, people also tend to wear the band on the left hand.
On The Right Hand
Traditional Indian practice is to wear the wedding ring on the right hand, because the left hand is considered unclean. However, modern Indians may wear the ring on the left hand to match the custom in countries such as the United States. In many Northern and Eastern European countries, including Denmark, Norway, Russia, Poland, and Bulgaria, it is more common to wear the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the right hand. In Portugal, Spain, and Greece, the right hand is also customary.
In Brazil, the fiancé and fiancée wear plain bands as engagement rings on their right hands, and upon saying their vows, they switch the rings to the left hand. Couples in Germany and the Netherlands often do the opposite: sporting engagement rings on the left hand and wedding rings on the right.
In the Jewish tradition, the groom slips the ring on the index finger of the bride because it is the most prominent finger. Today, the bride typically moves the band to her ring finger after the ceremony.
For most couples, the three main rings worn will be an engagement ring, a ladies’ wedding band, and men’s wedding band. Modern couples are opting to buy all three rings as a trio ring set to save time and money, while ensuring their rings match, just like their commitment to one another. Browse the biggest selection of trio sets to wear proudly – on either your right or left hand!