Ring The Wed­ding - a cir­cle of his­tory

Wedding Destinations - - PRESENTS -

Of course, we all have multi-faceted per­son­al­i­ties. Any com­bi­na­tion is pos­si­ble - the only pre­req­ui­site is that the bride’s true colours come through.

Sparkling en­gage­ment rings and gleam­ing wed­ding bands are so con­nected with the west­ern ideal of mar­riage to­day that any­one might think rings have al­ways been part of the mar­riage con­tract.

Not so, in­deed, it is a wee bit hard to say ex­actly where the tra­di­tion of the wed­ding ring be­gan.

Could it have started with the an­cient Greeks? Prometheus, a ti­tan of Greek myth wore a metal ring on his fin­ger to sym­bol­ise an eter­nal bond. In Greek sto­ries, Prometheus was re­spon­si­ble for help­ing Zeus to lit­er­ally make the first hu­mans and teach them the skills for life - ex­cept the use of fire. Zeus couldn’t have mere mor­tals gain­ing power over the flame - they might chal­lenge his own supremacy.

But dear old Prometheus did teach peo­ple about fire and the mighty Zeus was livid. He had Prometheus chained on a moun­tain­top and an ea­gle was to fly down and eat Prometheus’ liver. But that wasn’t all. This was to be re­peated ev­ery day for the rest of eternity. Overnight the liver would re-grow, the ea­gle would come back and it would start all over again.

Af­ter years of this, Zeus felt guilty for im­pris­on­ing and tor­tur­ing Prometheus (be­sides he needed his help fight­ing giants) and sent Her­cules to re­lease him. But ever af­ter Prometheus was obliged to wear a metal band on his fin­ger to sym­bol­ise the iron fet­ters and chains of Zeus’ pun­ish­ment.

We know that in later Greek and Ro­man cul­ture, rings were of­ten ex­changed, not through mar­riage, but be­tween males as a to­ken of friend­ship. If the tra­di­tion of a wed­ding ring rises from this myth it brings up rather in­ter­est­ing ideas. Cer­tainly it might sug­gest that mar­riage in­volves hav­ing one’s liver eaten ev­ery day by a screech­ing ea­gle. While some spouses might agree with this as a sym­bolic sum­mary of mar­ried life, seen an­other way, the ring could ac­tu­ally rep­re­sent a re­lease from a life chained on the lonely moun­tain­top of sin­gle­dom.

This an­cient story pro­vides clues to the sym­bolic na­ture of the ring, and although it’s doubt­less that the wed­ding ring has many ori­gins, what’s clear is that it has long rep­re­sented a bond be­tween two peo­ple.

To­day wed­ding and en­gage­ment rings are a bil­lion dol­lar busi­ness, and rings and styles are as in­di­vid­ual as their wear­ers. The mon­e­tary value of the ring it­self is im­por­tant, or unim­por­tant, de­pend­ing on the at­ti­tude of the cou­ple.

Mod­ern west­ern cul­ture has both al­lowed peo­ple to re­ject the con­ven­tion of the ring and yet the cul­ture of wealth wor­ship drives the de­sire for fab­u­lous jew­els ever on­ward. We must ad­mit too, that women - and men - sim­ply love the glit­ter of di­a­monds and the lus­tre of sil­ver and gold.

But why? Is it be­cause the lit­tle mag­pie within swoops with a cry of de­light upon any­thing shiny, not be­cause it’s use­ful, but sim­ply be­cause it sparkles with beauty? The role that mon­e­tary value has played in the mar­riage con­tract since the very ear­li­est times goes hand in hand with the wear­ing of a wed­ding ring. The value of the ring of course was, and still is, not al­ways for the sake of eye candy, but rep­re­sents the wealth and sta­tus of its wearer - and giver.

An­cient Egyp­tians made some of the ear­li­est rings from rushes and reeds grow­ing along­side the Nile. As time went by the Egyp­tians be­gan mak­ing th­ese rings out of more sturdy ma­te­ri­als, leather, bone and ivory, and the more valu­able the ma­te­rial the more love shown to the re­ceiver - and nat­u­rally demon­strated the wealth of the giver. The clas­sic di­a­mond ring seems to have been born from a wildly suc­cess­ful ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign in the late 1940s. The ad­ver­tis­ing agency N.W. Ayer & Sons was hired by DeBeers to boost its di­a­mond sales. The slo­gan they cre­ated has been im­printed on our col­lec­tive con­scious - “A di­a­mond is for­ever.”

The di­a­mond, as we know, is as­so­ci­ated with the en­gage­ment ring, which was used in Ro­man times in the form with which we are fa­mil­iar to­day - the hope­ful man pre­sented one to his prospec­tive bride and her ac­cep­tance marked the for­mal agree­ment to marry. The an­cient Ro­mans also had a hand in in­flu­enc­ing the fin­ger upon which many en­gage­ment and wed­ding rings are worn - the third fin­ger of the left hand. They be­lieved the “Vena Amoris” or vein of love, ran through that fin­ger and con­nected di­rectly to the heart.

Mat­ters of the heart are more closely as­so­ci­ated with mar­riage to­day than they have been in the dis­tant past. There are count­less threads of tra­di­tion and cul­ture from around the world that weave to­gether in the cir­cle of mu­tual prom­ise rep­re­sented by the wed­ding band. The mean­ing of the ring for mod­ern cou­ples is con­nected with their be­liefs and feel­ings and the choice to have and to hold, and to wear a ring, is their own ex­pres­sion of com­mit­ment – and love.

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