At the end of every service at my Church, all couples planning to get married there soon are announced. During last week’s service, after these announcements, I began thinking of marriage, particularly weddings, and the intricacies involved. My mind centered on the aspect of rings, and I began to ask myself if wedding rings are even biblical. I believe that I and many others out there would like to know; what does a wedding ring symbolize in the Bible?
Biblically, there is no mention of wedding rings. However, it is assumed that marriage is symbolic of the kind of union that Jesus Christ has with the Church. Therefore, wedding rings are a symbol of that union, and a sign of commitment and love between a groom and a bride, just as the one between Jesus Christ and the Church. Its circular shape suggests that the union between a bride and groom is endless, their love is eternal, and only death should separate them.
In this article, invite you to join me in getting an in-depth understanding of not only the biblical symbolism of wedding rings but also the history of wedding rings, their spiritual meaning, whether it is mandatory for Christians to wear wedding rings, and which finger wedding rings should be worn on. If you are curious to know more about these topics, kindly keep reading.
History of wedding rings
The following section elaborates on the origin and history of wedding rings as they progressed at various times in history.
Ancient Egypt and Roman interpretation
It is suggested that the origin of wedding rings can be traced back to about 3000 years ago, around 4000 BC, in ancient Egypt. Archeological evidence suggests that the first ever ring in ancient Egypt may have been made of grass, interwoven together, and shaped like a circle. This type of ring may have been considered weak and would easily break. Therefore, they may have begun to use stronger materials, such as hemp and bone, to make rings.
At this time, the rings may not have been made with metal or engraved with precious gemstones. In ancient Egypt, the people may have held onto the belief that the rings were circular, to signify the unknown. Once a commitment is made between two people, they might never know what the future holds.
Like the ancient Egyptians, it is suggested that the Romans and Greeks continued the tradition of rings as well. It is speculated that they even adopted the fourth finger rule. This rule suggests that a wedding ring should be worn on the fourth finger, as that finger allegedly has a vein that directly goes to the heart. According to the study of the human circulatory system, this has been concluded to be false. However, this fourth finger rule may have been there to add a sentimental and romantic aspect to the significance of wedding rings, which has been adopted to this day.
The Romans may also have begun to use iron to create their rings. They may have believed that rings made from metal signified greater durability than those made from reeds or bones, thus signifying a stronger and more durable union.
The Romans may also have begun engraving their rings. The most popular engraving at the time may have been that of two hands clasped together.
The Middle Ages
Around 900 AD, wedding rings may have begun becoming popular within Christian circles. At the time, many wedding rings may have been known to have elaborate engravings, which the Church might have denounced as being too extravagant and immodest. Due to this, the rings’ design was simplified to simple bands, which are used to this day.
Gimmel rings, or interconnected rings, may have made their debut during this time. Gimmel rings were known to have interlocking hoops, which would allow one to separate them into two rings. When a bride got engaged, she would wear this ring while interwoven. Once married, the rings would be separated, and one would be given to the groom to wear.
Also, at this time, posy rings began becoming popular. These rings were known to feature engraved quotes or excerpts of scripture that have some sort of significance for the couple. They may have evolved from outward engravement to inward-facing inscriptions for a much simpler design.
In today’s modern age
In the past, most of the time, it was the bride who would wear a wedding ring. However, after both the First and Second World Wars, things began to change.
During war times, it is implied that married soldiers would wear wedding rings, too, to remember that their wives were waiting for them to come back from the war. Due to this, the expected standard currently is that both the married man and woman should wear a ring.
Also, the fourth left finger rule may not apply universally. It is suggested that some countries, such as India, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark, and Norway, wear their wedding rings on their right fourth finger. In some European countries such as Germany and Netherlands, some couples may even wear their rings on one hand, then switch them up to the other at a certain point.
Lately, it has been noted that couples have the freedom to either wear or not wear wedding rings since their marriage is personal, and what they agree to do is what works best for them.
What does the Bible say about rings?
In the Bible, various types of rings apart from wedding rings have been mentioned several times. Wedding rings are not mentioned, but signet rings seem to suggest that they are a symbol of honor, power, and high rank.
The first mention of a ring would be in Genesis 24:22. The context suggests that Abraham’s servant gave a gold nose ring to Rebecca as a symbol that she had been claimed as his son Isaac’s bride.
Another mention of a ring can be found in Genesis 41:42. The events within this context suggest that when Joseph was released from prison, the Pharaoh at that time gave him a signet ring, which was a sign of honor and high rank. This was after Joseph had interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams concerning Egypt to him.
A signet ring is also mentioned in Luke 15:22. The context in this passage suggests that there was a prodigal son who fled from home after his father gave him his inheritance. After spending it all and being left with nothing, he returned home, where his father welcomed him. As a symbol of his restoration back to dignity and high rank, his father put a signet ring on his finger.
3 Biblical symbolic meanings of wedding rings
The Infinite bond between a married couple
Wedding rings are typically a circle shape. A circle shape has neither a beginning nor an end. It just keeps going on and on. In terms of marriage, a wedding ring may suggest that a man and woman are bound together for a lifetime.
Their bond is eternal and infinite, and no matter what happens within the marriage, they should never forget to go back to each other.
A Change in Social Status
Biblically, a wedding ring may symbolize the change in status for both the bride and groom, from single to married.
It signifies that they have chosen to forsake all others for each other for the rest of their lives. This will also communicate to their family, friends, and even strangers, that they have chosen to commit to their spouse. With this knowledge, each spouse may be held accountable for their actions by their fellow spouse or the people around them. It also sets the kind of relationship other people outside the marriage can have with either spouse and the kind of boundaries that may be needed to be put in place in honor of their union.
An exchange of resources between a groom and bride
When a groom and a bride exchange their rings, they usually accompany this practice while stating their vows to one another. This may symbolize that for the rest of their lives. They promise to become one and share their resources.
Apart from material resources, they vow to share themselves, totally giving themselves, their lives, time, knowledge, and wealth to one another.
What does a wedding ring symbolize in Christianity?
Even though wedding rings are particularly not mentioned in the Bible, marriage is suggested to be an eternal covenant between a man and a woman. Therefore, wedding rings may be a symbol of that union.
In Romans 7:2, it is suggested that a woman is bound to her husband by law for the rest of her life, as long as he is alive. We can therefore assume that wedding rings symbolize this eternal union. They may also signify the union between Christ and the Church through marriage.
Spiritual meaning of wedding rings
Spiritually, wedding rings may signify eternal love and commitment between a couple.
A wedding ring is circular in shape. Just as a circle has no beginning or end and keeps going on and on, this may signify the kind of love and commitment that should exist between a married couple. It may be a reminder that they should always, over and over again, remember to love and commit to each other, no matter what happens within the marriage.
Spiritually, wedding rings may also mean that that person is married and therefore has vowed to stay faithful to the partner they have married until either of them dies. It may be a message to the world that they are committed to someone and will not have any romantic relationships outside of that commitment.
Also, during the exchange of rings, each person usually says their vows to one another. Spiritually, rings may act as sealing and promise that the married couple will adhere to their vows to the best of their ability.
Should a Christian wear a wedding ring?
They could, but it is not mandatory. Within Christian circles, wedding rings may symbolize the union between a man and a woman. When a Christian is seen with a wedding ring, one can assume that they are bound to another and therefore has chosen to denounce any romantic involvement with any other individual once they are married.
Whether a Christian wears a wedding ring or not, the choice is ultimately up to them. It is one of the areas where we can assume that Christians have complete freedom to choose since it is not stipulated in the Bible whether or not they have to wear wedding rings.
This may also depend on what a Christian couple agrees. Some couples may agree to not wear wedding rings, another may agree that both should wear wedding rings, and another may agree that one partner should wear a wedding ring. It is dependent on what the couple agrees on.
Which Hand Does A Christian Wear A Wedding Ring?
Typically, wedding rings are worn on the fourth left finger.
As mentioned earlier, ancient Greeks suggested that wedding rings be worn on this finger, as they thought that there is a vein from this finger that runs straight to the heart.
Since then, it has been the norm for married couples to wear a wedding ring on their fourth left finger.
Also, the Bible is silent on which finger Christians should wear their wedding rings, so Christian couples may choose to continue with the norm of wearing their wedding ring on the fourth left finger.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.