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The left ring has not traditionally always been the finger on which a wedding band is placed. First of all it is important to note that a wedding ring being placed on either the right ring finger or the left ring finger is a symbol for the desire for two people to join themselves together in union. In other words, two become one. A ring is in the shape of a circle, which denotes no beginning and no end and “suggests a repetitive unbroken wholeness in time and space.”

A wedding ring is a pagan symbol of a circle that became a part of the Christian tradition many, many years ago. The exchanging and wearing of wedding rings is believed to predate Christianity. A ring is used by the Pope to seal official documents for the papacy for example. The tradition of wedding rings became a part of marriage ceremonies due to the efforts of the Catholic Church, as they wanted something to symbolize the holy union of two people who were committed to sharing their lives together. Those of the Protestant faith made wedding rings a part of the marriage ceremony after the Catholics although the exact date is not known.

In the year 1549, those of the Protestant faith switch the wedding ring finger from the right finger to the left finger, however those of the Catholic faith stayed with the right finger as the wedding ring finger. In modern day society almost every person who identifies himself or herself as a Christian exchanges wedding rings when they exchange their wedding vows. It is believed that the Romans and ancient Egyptians felt that every person possess a vein of love and they called this vein of love the “vena amoris” in Latin. This vein was believed to run directly from the ring finger to the heart and that is how the creation of a wedding ring finger got its beginning.

Across the globe it is generally recognized that an individual (or couple) can choose to wear their wedding rings on whichever hand they choose to- either right or left- and neither is correct or incorrect but it is more a matter of personal preference.

Different cultures observe different wedding ring rituals. For example in China the bride and groom wear their wedding rings on the opposite hands. The bride wears hers on her right while the groom wears his on the left. This is based on the Chinese custom of “nan zhuo, nu you.” The Chinese believed that since the woman is the one in charge of the household and the family her ring should be worn on the right hand because the right hand exerts more influence.

The Japanese have their own special name for the ring finger, which is kusuri-yubi while the Germans call it Arzt-Finger. In the Latin language the ring finger is referred to as digitus medicalis and in the Old Anglo-Saxon language the ring finger is known as lech-man, which stands for “medical finger.” The ring finger was known as the medical finger because this was the finger that physicians used when they were applying ointments, powders or herbal medicines to their patients. It was felt that if any medicine were applied by way of the left hand then it would be “enhanced by the mystical energy of the physician’s heart.”

It is the tradition in Scandinavia for women to wear three rings, one is for their engagement, the other is for their wedding vows and the third stands for motherhood. In most European countries wedding rings are worn on the right ring finger but there are a few countries in Europe where it is customary to wear it on a person’s left ring finger. Those of the Catholic faith in the Netherlands wear their wedding bands on their left hand while in Austria, Catholics wear their wedding bands on their right ring fingers.

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