Why Does the Wedding Ring Go on the 4th Finger?

by Rachel Colorado ; Updated September 28, 2017

The placement of the wedding ring on the fourth finger is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. In Western cultures, the ring is typically placed on the fourth finger of the left hand, but in some cultures, it is traditionally worn on the ring finger of the right hand. The tradition is based on cultural beliefs as well as religious practices.

The Facts

In the modern world, wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger is a cultural norm. Although some cultures favor the left hand and some favor the right hand, the fourth finger is almost always the chosen finger for the wedding ring.

History

Ancient Romans believed the vein in the fourth or “ring” finger of the left hand led directly to the heart. They called this vein the “vena amoris,” meaning the “vein of love.” It is generally accepted that this began the practice of placing the wedding finger on the fourth finger of the left hand. To put this into historical perspective, the Roman Empire began as early as 750 B.C. and collapsed around 476 A.D. In addition, historical Christian wedding ceremonies included a ring exchange where the groom recited, starting at the thumb, “In the name of the Father,” then the first finger, “and the Son,” then the second finger, “and the Holy Ghost,” and finally, placing the ring on the fourth finger, “Amen.”

Significance

The wedding ring’s placement is significant because it is a symbol of marriage. A ring on any other finger does not have the power to evoke the knowledge that a particular person is married. The idea of the “vena amoris” signifies that the marriage is founded on love. The Christian wedding tradition of the blessing of the ring on the fourth finger is religiously significant.

Geography

The wedding ring is commonly placed on the fourth finger of the left hand in most Western traditions, except in some countries, including Austria and Poland, where it is worn on the right hand. In India, the wedding ring is placed on the more auspicious right hand.

Function

Wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger is a cultural norm that allows others to know that the person is married. It is respected as a symbol of people's love and commitment to their spouses and the marriage vows that were made.

Photo Credits

  • Marc Debnam/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Rachel Colorado is a freelance writer, author and English instructor. In order to pursue her passion for literature, she attended the University of Northern Colorado and graduated with a degree in English. She is currently working on her second novel.