Which Hand Does the Engagement Ring Go On? And Which Finger?
There’s a lot of nerves and emotion wrapped in all that leads up to a wedding day. The last thing you want to worry about is whether you’re wearing your engagement ring and wedding ring on the right hand and finger leading up to and during the actual wedding ceremony. Which finger is the ring finger? Traditionally, the engagement and wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. But there are many traditions about how you wear your engagement ring and your wedding band at different parts of this journey. It’s understandable if juggling the two gets a bit confusing.
Origin of the engagement ring finger
The ancient Romans chose this finger because they (falsely) believed that there was a vein that ran directly to the heart. Because of this connection to the heart, they called it the Vena Amoris, or ‘Vein of Love.’ Although this idea has since been proven false, the tradition still remains. Rings were also significant in ancient Rome. Unlike a necklace or bracelet, the circle of the band symbolizes a certain completeness, meaning that the love of the couple wearing the ring is complete and true. But there are exceptions to the left hand rule. In other countries such as Russia and Greece, for example, the engagement ring is more commonly worn on the right hand. For Catholic couples, although the vein of love is not actually there, most believe that the fourth finger carries a symbolic meaning and connection to the heart. Therefore, Catholic couples (even those in Russia and Greece) usually abide by the tradition of wearing their engagement and weddings rings on the fourth finger of the left hand.
What exactly does an engagement mean anyways? Across the world, the term of engagement means a formal promise to marry someone. The ring itself represents the agreement to get married; think of it as the signature at the bottom of a contract. The tradition of wedding rings has been around for nearly five thousand years, whereas the engagement ring came about much later. In the fifteenth century, the Archduke of Austria introduced the engagement ring when he proposed to his future wife. The diamond engagement ring states a promise of sorts of forever love between two people. Women are traditionally the ones who wear the engagement ring as a symbol of acceptance of the man’s love; however, there are no explicit rules against men wearing engagement rings. With celebrities such as Ed Sheeran advocating for them and the legalization of same-sex marriage, engagement rings for men have surged in popularity.
How the engagement ring and wedding band are worn
Which finger is the wedding ring worn on? Typically, it can be found on the same finger as the engagement ring. But it gets a little complicated. The rings do some shifting, depending on the circumstances. Here’s a quick and easy guide to which hand and finger your engagement ring should be on:
After the engagement, but before the wedding
When a couple gets engaged, the ring presented is like a promise of marriage. That’s why it goes on the same hand and finger as the wedding ring. So people who are engagement — remember that men can wear engagement rings, too — wear those rings on the fourth finger of their left hand.
During the wedding ceremony
Although the engagement ring is typically worn on the left hand, the tradition is mixed up a bit during the actual wedding ceremony. Since the wedding band is usually worn closer to the heart (on the inside of the engagement ring), some brides choose to wear the engagement ring on the right hand on the day of their ceremony. That way, the groom can easily slip the wedding band on the bride’s finger without having to move the engagement ring.
After the wedding ceremony
Once the actual ceremony is over, most brides then switch their engagement ring back over to the fourth finger of their left hand. For many women it stays there, slipped on after the wedding ring each morning. (Friendly reminder that you shouldn’t sleep in your rings, no matter how much you love them, because your fingers can swell and change sizes at night.)
But that’s only the tradition. Modern couples are redefining old customs to suit their relationships. Likewise, women are mixing up these traditions about the engagement ring and wedding ring. Finding a new way to wear your rings can be an expression of your unique love as a couple. It’s not uncommon to see women putting their own style on how they wear their rings in a couple different ways:
- Keeping the engagement ring on their right hand
- Wearing the engagement ring closer to their heart
- Welding the engagement and wedding rings together into one piece of jewelry
- Wearing their engagement ring only on special occasions
But wait — which finger is a promise ring worn on?
Engagement rings are not to be confused with promise rings. Long ago, promise rings used to symbolize that an engagement was to follow, but nowadays, that notion may not necessarily be true. The promise ring from the sixteenth century has a much different connotation today as many people choose to wear one to symbolize love or an exclusive relationship. Which finger does the promise ring go on? Just as a promise ring is a personal choice with its own personal meaning, the placement is also a personal choice. Some couples choose the fourth finger on the left hand to keep the placement consistent with that of an engagement ring. However, couples wishing to avoid questions about an upcoming marriage which may or may not occur might choose to wear the promise ring on a different finger to avoid the engagement connotation.
Once again, while all of these traditions are typically followed in the United States, the traditions are not rules. Couples who wish to make their engagement or marriage more unique to their love may switch up which rings they choose to buy or where they choose to wear them. Some couples may only buy a wedding band, while others may buy a whole set of a promise ring, engagement ring, and wedding band. Right hand or left hand, where the ring is placed depends solely on the couple at hand. Some may choose separate hands for each ring, while some may not wear the engagement ring at all. Who would have thought that something as simple as ring placement could add so much uniqueness?