By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Features

Have you often taken time to look at  married men and women around you? Check. How many are wearing their wedding rings? You would notice that in about 20 married men, only about two or three are wearing wedding rings. If you are a single lady often being ‘toasted’ by guys, you might have noticed that the ones who wear their wedding rings appear to womanise the more. Or could it be that women prefer men who are wearing wedding rings?

In a ladies’ gathering, Linda, a single mum of two, said her latest squeeze is a married man and she deliberately went for him because she too doesn’t want any commitment either.

“People see us and think we are a couple. I met his wife a couple of times. Nice woman and she thinks I’m her husband’s account officer. The man I dated before him was equally married and brandished his wedding ring like a rare award but the truth, from my experience, is that men who wear wedding rings are the worst kind of womanisers.”

So, where is your wedding ring? You don’t have to feel guilty about not putting on yours even though you could be misconstrued as deliberately not wearing yours to deceive innocent young women.

Of course, married people who don’t wear wedding rings are often frowned at. Some wives would not tolerate their husbands moving around without theirs and that has been an issue in many marriages.

“Yes,” agreed Alex, an engineer.”My wife ranted about it when I removed my ring the next day after our  marriage. I don’t wear rings and I don’t need to advertise the fact that I’m married. It’s my personal life and I don’t have to be a slave to it.”

Emeka, a communications expert, doesn’t wear his wedding ring even though he got married not long ago.

“I don’t wear ornaments. And wedding ring? I don’t like wearing ‘twin-twin’  things. I cannot wear uniform with my wife to depict we are a couple. I’m proud of my wife and she knows it but I don’t like wearing anything ‘aso-ebi’ or anything ‘twin-twin’. There’s no big deal about a man not wearing his wedding ring. It only raises an eyebrow when a woman is not putting on hers because culture demands that a woman   establishes   her status. What if a man has two or three wives, is he going to wear how many wedding rings?”

“What is even the essence of a wedding ring,” asked Hugo? Though he is wearing his own wedding ring to fulfill all righteousness or please his wife, he said wedding ring is not African and not our culture.

“It is in one of Shakespearean plays,  Merchant of Venice, that the character, Portia, used a ring to ensnare Bassanio. Portia slips a ring on his finger and makes a big speech about how she and everything she owns is now his property.  The ring is a symbol of Portia’s love and commitment, and if Bassanio doesn’t keep it on his finger, he’s in big trouble. Bassanio says he’s fine with this and promises that ‘when this ring parts from this finger, then parts life from hence’. No surprise here. Couples have been exchanging rings for centuries.”

Tales about the wedding ring

ringWearing a ring in the fourth left finger is an indication that the wearer is married. The ring is used to seal the ‘till death do you part’ vow. The practice of wedding ring is predominant in civil and church marriages. But, nowadays, it is often used in traditional marriages to add colour to the ceremony. The type of ring to use always depends on the fortune of the couple. Wedding rings are often made of gold and the affluent sometimes use diamonds.

The custom of wearing such a ring has spread widely beyond its origin in Europe. In the United States, wedding rings were originally worn only by wives, but during the 20th century, they became customary for both husbands and wives.

Wedding rings are a tradition that goes back many centuries, having been manifested in the wedding customs of many nations and religious groups. They come in many forms. Many people wear their wedding rings day and night, causing an indentation in the skin that remains visible even when the ring is taken off.

Explaining his reasons for  wearing his wedding ring occasionally, Gabriel, 46, said he lives alone because his wife and children live in the United Kingdom.

“Women are drawn to me a lot and when they don’t see my wife, they think I’m single. Women perch around me   and wearing my ring is the only way to keep them off even though some of them don’t really care whether I’m wearing a wedding ring or not. Besides, I like jewelry and have a piece of gold necklace which I stopped wearing because women misconstrue it to mean I womanize. So, the only jewelry I wear now is my wedding ring.”

History of wedding rings

The first examples of wedding rings were found in ancient Egypt. Relics dating back as far as 6,000 years ago, including papyrus scrolls, showed evidence of braided rings of hemp or reeds   being exchanged among a wedded couple. Egypt viewed the circle as a symbol of eternity, and the ring served to signify the never-ending love between the couple. This was also the origin of the practice of wearing the wedding ring on the ring finger of the left hand, which the Egyptians believe to house a special vein    that was connected directly to the heart.

Wedding rings in Islam

A wedding ring is not permissible under any circumstances in Islamic marriage because the Prophet Muhammad forbade it especially gold for the males . He saw a man wearing a ring of gold and took if from his hand and said, “Would any one of you take a coal from the fire and hold it in his hand?” (Narrated by Muslim,  al-Libaas wa’l-Zeenah, 3897). So it is not permissible for the Muslim male to wear a gold ring. But with regard to rings of silver or any other kind of metal, it is permissible for men to wear them even if they are precious metals.

Rings worn on the occasion of marriage is not one of the customs of Muslims. If it is believed that it generates love between the spouses and that taking it off and not wearing it will have an effect on marital relationship, then this is regarded as a form of shirk or a kind of  jaahili belief. Based on this, it is not permissible to wear a wedding ring under any circumstances.

It is perceived to be an imitation of those who are non-muslims.

Wedding rings in Christianity

The Bible gives no indication that finger rings were used as betrothal or nuptial rings. The signet ring is the earliest type of ring mentioned in the Bible. In fact, when Abraham’s servant found Rebekah, he gave her a nose ring to claim her as Isaac’s bride (Genesis 24:22)! When Tamar disguised herself as a harlot to entice her father-in-law, Judah, she asked him for his signet, cord, and staff as a pledge of his promise to send her “a kid from the flock” (Genesis 38:17-19). Jeremiah informs us that the Israelites wore the signet ring on the right hand (Jeremiah 22:24). The signet ring was used to seal various contracts. It was a symbol of authority, dignity, and social status (James 2:2). Pharaoh gave his signet ring to Joseph as a symbol of authority (Genesis 41:42). Likewise, Ahasuerus gave his signet to Haman to seal a royal decree (Esther 3:10,12). Upon his return, the prodigal son received a ring from his father as a symbol of dignity and restored position (Luke 15:22).

The finger rings mentioned in the Bible are signet rings used as symbols of authority and dignity. The Romans are credited for pioneering the use of the signet ring as a betrothal ring. The Jews and the Christians borrowed the practice from the Romans. Since the betrothal ceremony usually involved the groom giving a sum of money or a valuable object to the bride, it was a natural transition to make this object a ring.

The wedding or marriage ring came into use in Christian ceremonies in the 9th century AD. The custom of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand is based upon a romantic, although unscientific, Greek fable that the artery from that finger flows directly to the heart. However and whenever the custom of the wedding band developed, it is seen today as a symbol of an unending commitment to the marriage relationship. As such, it certainly has a biblical basis in that marriage is to be a lifetime commitment (Romans 7:2). This is not to say that wearing a wedding ring is a requirement for married Christians. But wedding rings are a beautiful reminder of the marriage covenant and, by extension, the covenant of Christ with His bride—the redeemed for whom He died.

Wedding rings perceived as pagan

A school of thought however believes that wearing of  wedding ring comes from paganism since it cannot be found in the Old or New Testaments.

Pastor Richie of Glory Christian Centre, said there was no practice among early Christians to wear finger rings as a sign of marriage or an engagement.

“Going back to Christian history, Pope Gregory 1, in 860AD decreed that as a required statement of nuptial intent, the groom to-be had to give his intended an engagement ring. He further decreed the ring be of gold to signify financial sacrifice.

“Wedding rings can be traced to idols and heathen religions. It is not just the image of the idol we are commanded not to possess, but rather any part of the idol itself.   Thus, to make ones self after the image of the idol is to practice idolatry.

“The wedding ring is first a circle which is said to mean eternal or unending.   Marriages were never eternal in the Scriptures but rather until death.   Afterward, a spouse could be married again.

“We don’t wed couples in my Church using rings as a symbol of eternal love because marriage is not eternal but ‘till death do you part’. The Pentecostal movement abhors the use of wedding rings. There is not much evidence in the Bible that suggests wedding rings have any religious significance. The Bible is also silent about them.

“  If you ask me, I’d say the use of a ring in a wedding most likely came from an old Roman custom that predates Christianity. At a time when arranged marriages  were quite common, this token was likely a pledge to fulfill the marriage contract.”

Nowadays, people don’t wear wedding rings for many reasons.

Prince, an IT journalist said he didn’t wed with a ring.

“I’m a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, and we don’t use wedding rings in RCCG. We use the Bible in exchanging our marital vows.”

Sola, a father of three said he lost his wedding ring a long time ago.

“Now, my wife and I don’t wear jewelries because our Church, Mountain of Fire and Miracles, MFM, does not permit it. Really, there is nothing to it because it doesn’t really stops a man who wants to philander from doing so. Maybe you must have noticed that even men and women who are not married are wearing rings in their wedding finger”

Churches that don’t use wedding rings

Apart from the RCCG and MFM in Nigeria which don’t use wedding rings, the Methodist followed the teachings of John Wesley that wedding rings were pagan and should not be worn. All early Baptist rejected use of the wedding ring. The original Seventh Day Adventist abstained from use of the wedding ring because of its pagan origin. All the holiness movements, including the more devout Apostolic Pentecostals rejected wedding rings as pagan. There was a time when the majority of Christians did not wear jewelry of any kind including earrings and wedding rings. But this was to change when pastors wanted their Churches to be more world friendly. The theory behind this relaxation was that Christianity was more than holiness and wearing of jewelry.   The emphasis on personal holiness made wedding rings become more and more acceptable.

The Bible reveals that use of jewelry results in spiritual decline and apostasy.

So, what happened to yours?

That’s a million Naira question as most respondents, especially the men don’t know where they kept theirs while others see no big deal in not wearing a ring. To others, a wedding ring is a woman’s thing.

Tony, a journalist, said he stopped wearing his for medical reasons.

“  I don’t wear rings. I have had two wedding rings but my skin reacts to it. It’s not about being gold or not but I don’t wear metals. The only ornament I wear is wrist-watch and it has to be leather. My wife knows”.

In his contribution, Theodore, married for over ten years, said he finds it hard to wear jewelries.

“I don’t like  bling-bling.  I wear wrist-watch once in a while but it has to be leather. My wife knew before we got married that I don’t like jewelries. I feel uncomfortable wearing them.”

In his own contribution, Charles, in his late 30s, said his wedding ring is now tight around his finger and so, he stopped wearing it.

“It got so tight that it had to be cut off my finger. It was my wife who did the cutting but she wanted me to get another one but I didn’t have time for that. She complained initially but later stopped. I feel free without wearing it. I’m not a womanizer and let me also tell you that women are more attracted to men who wear wedding rings than those that don’t.”

Kingsley in his early 40s said he lost his own six months after wedding and didn’t wear a ring ever since.

“I was bathing when the ring dropped from my finger and I didn’t see it. I never wore any ever since. I think jewelry is a woman’s thing because they have time for it. I don’t see any big deal about wearing the wedding ring. Some men wear it and still womanize.”

Asked whether her husband wears his wedding ring, Evelyn, a mother of three said no.

“He doesn’t but anybody who sees him will know he is a married man. I don’t think there’s a big deal about wearing it and I don’t know whether he womanizes or not. He’s my husband and so, I trust him.”

Esther, also happily married said her husband wears his own. “My husband wears his own but do you really think a wedding ring will stop him from chasing after other women if he wants to? He is a man and I know a lot of ladies prefer married men.”

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