A proposal leads to a ring and the ring, without a second thought, gets put on the 4th finger of the left hand (or the ring finger). The practice is so long-standing that nobody ever gives it a second thought, it almost comes naturally.
Have you ever wondered why we wear wedding rings on this specific finger? Or has the thought simply never crossed your mind? Well fret not, you won’t have to be in the dark for much longer. Here’s why we do it.
The practice can be traced back to ancient times. Archeologists and researchers found evidence in hieroglyphics that suggests brides wore rings, according to Readers Digest. However, this evidence says nothing of which finger the ring was worn on. In other ancient cultures, including ancient Greeks and Romans, they wore wedding rings on the left ring fingers specifically.
At the time, these cultures believed that the vein in the fourth finger of the left hand (the ring finger) ran directly to one’s heart, according to Brides. As a result, the vein was named “vena amoris” which means “vein of love”.
Therefore, to represent a union that focused on love, a wedding ring was placed on the finger in which the vein of love ran through.
This very sweet reasoning behind the practice is, however, based on false beliefs. Modern science has shown that in fact, all fingers have veins connected to the heart.
In China, a theory developed about ring fingers. According to Mervis Diamond, each finger on the left hand represents either the past, present or future generations of your family. The thumb represents your parents, the index finger represents your siblings, the middle finger is you, the fourth finger is your life-partner and the pinkie is your future children.
The theory goes like this: Place your hands together and allow the middle fingers’ knuckles to touch, at the same time allowing your other fingers to touch. Then pull each finger apart individually. All the fingers, apart from the 4th fingers, will be able to pull apart. This represents the fact that you are not meant to stay with your parents, siblings, or children forever, but your life-partner will stick with you.
Try it out by following this video:
Some people credit the Anglican Church for the ring finger tradition. Insider reports that in around 1549, the Anglican Church’s Book of Common Prayer told members of the church to wear the ring on that finger, so that they would be separated from Catholics and other Christians, who wore wedding rings on the fourth finger of the right hand.
Today, the practice is still widely recognized. However, not everyone practices it in the same way. Some couples in Europe from countries including Austria, Denmark, and Germany, wear their rings on the right hand. Married couples in India wear the ring on the right hand too, as the left hand is considered unclean, according to Readers Digest.