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A New (Old) Approach To The Wedding Ring

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The wedding ring is perhaps one of the most symbolic parts of an entire marriage — from the engagement to the couple’s 450th anniversary. But as our culture adapts more modern attitudes toward weddings and marriage, should we put an end to, or tweak, the ritual of that shiny ring?

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A History Of The Bands

Wedding bands are thought to have originated with the ancient Egyptians, who would style rings and bracelets from twisted papyrus. The ring, as you know, is a sign of eternity, and even the space in the middle symbolizes a passageway into a new life. It was originally worn on the third finger of the left hand, because it was believed the vein of that finger directly traveled from the heart. I’m not just throwing facts at you (though, aren’t they neat-o?) — I want to stress how embedded in our culture is in this whole idea of the ring. If you liked it you should have put a ring on it!, we tell men. We take rings off if we are angry with our spouses. It’s a terrible omen to lose one. We brag about how much they cost. Taking them off is the moral equivalent to sleeping with your secretary. They are so major.

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Some Stats About Rings Today

But now we have so many options about our love — we can marry whoever we want, we can live with our boyfriends first (even if we are a boy), we don’t have to have kids. We are getting less traditional. Diamond trading is super shady — diamonds mined in war zones often can be credited with financing insurgencies or invading army’s war efforts. (I don’t want to think that the ring I wore on my finger every day costed people their lives!) And rings are expensive. The average engagement ring costs $5,200, and luxury engagement rings cost an average of $13,500. Luxury wedding rings run an average of $1,560 for brides.

Despite this, according to a 2011 survey from The Knot, couples are getting more traditional when it comes to engagements, not less. And more of them are proposing to their brides on bended knee (77% — up from 70% in 2009) and asking the bride’s parents for permission (71% — up from 62% in 2008.) Men are starting to get “man-gagement” rings — an act that’s getting away from tradition and embracing it more at the same time.

And brides today are involved in the ring purchase more than they ever were before. The study states that:

The majority of brides are at least somewhat involved in the ring selection (65%), with nearly a third (31%) ‘very involved’ — that is, they shopped for and/or purchased the ring with their groom. Additionally, 21% of brides will actually visit a retailer in-person without her fiancé, a decrease from 30% for brides engaged in 2008.

I wonder if that takes a little of the romance away. It sounds to me like those women just want a really expensive ring. Which is awesome! If you can afford it.

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What People Really Think In 2012

I talked to many of my friends about their ring preferences — whether or not their parents wore them, or if they wanted to or did already. Most of them thought it was pretty important. “It symbolizes that you’re ‘taken’ and want everyone to be able to see that. It’s also a very old tradition. I think we need to hold on to tradition, a little bit,” said my friend, Alex. “Cool to think people have been doing the same ritual for centuries.”

“I wear one because I dated my dang hubs for 7 years and earned it,” said Whitney Collins.

Some of my friends were open to the idea of an alternative symbol to their eternal love for their partner. “I like the idea of something symbolic to celebrate and indicate a bond,” Yehua said. “But I don’t feel it necessarily needs to be a ring.”

Taking it a step further, Dave K. said, ” It could be a genital piercing or a novelty belt buckle or a prosthetic limb. Actually, that last thing sounds great. Why settle for something you wear on your finger when you could get an entire extra arm?”

“Whether a couple chooses to wear them or not, I think both parties should adhere to the same ring-wearing status.” Eric, who admitted that as a gay man, he would “absolutely” want to wear one. “I love the tradition of exchanging and wearing rings, especially since I am locked out of so many marriage traditions,” he said.

In jest, I also asked a bunch of friend if they would get ring tattoos. (My exact words were: “WHICH OF  Y’ALL IS JUST GON GETCHERSELF A WEDDING RING TATTOOED RIGHT ON COME ON FESS UP.”) Surprisingly, some of them said yes or maybe. Although Walker admitted, “I’m not dumb enough to trust the supposed perpetuity of a marriage in an irreversible way.” (Don’t tell your fiance that, Walker. That hurts MORE than a finger tattoo!) Eric said “IMMA GET A TATTOO OF MY HUBBIES BUTT CHEEKS TATTOOED ON MY RING FINGER SO ALL THE FELLAS KNOW THAT PIECE IS MINE”, a fact I am publishing only to warn his boyfriend, Alan.

It seems that the symbol of a ring is still quite important, but finding something more creative than a ring could be the new black. We should all do exactly what we want to do because we want to, not because our parents did it or it is traditional or it comes with the whole wedding thing.

Enough about what these people think, what do you think?

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