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The engagement ring: a sparkling symbol of everlasting love and mutual devotion, right? Well, not exactly. If the engagement ring is a symbol for an equal loving partnership, then why do women only wear it? And why are some couples subverting this tradition and having engagement rings for everyone involved? These days, male engagement rings and non-traditional engagement rings are stealing the show.
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For some historical context, let’s look back to ancient Rome, from which our modern idea of marriage stems. It is during this time that marriage became a legally binding contract like it is today. According to Reader’s Digest, the engagement ring was a public symbol of this contract. It was worn by the woman only to show that her ownership was shifting from her father to her husband.
A little cringy by modern standards, no? Even more so is that in Roman times, the bride had two rings, one gold, and one iron. The first was meant to be worn publicly to show off her husband’s wealth. The second ring, worn at home, was often fashioned into the shape of a key and represented the husband’s permanent and steadfast ownership of his wife.
Fast forward a few centuries, and our world is slightly different. Women make money, own property, and can get married or stay single as they please. Today, Dad attends the wedding to make an embarrassing speech and dance entirely too much, not to make sure he sells his daughter to the highest bidder in exchange for a few of his best goats.
If the entire paradigm of marriage has changed so much, then why is it that women are still the only ones who wear the engagement ring? Now we see that it is becoming increasingly common for men to wear engagement rings, too. How do same-sex couples decide who is the proposer, and who is the proposee?
While weighing all these decisions, remember that the hardest part is over: finding someone you want to say yes to. Take a moment to be grateful for your partner, stay true to yourself and your relationship, and the rest should flow.
The exchanging of rings goes back even further than Roman times. Almost 5,000 years ago, ancient Egypt became the first known society to exchange rings of love. These rings were made of woven reeds or leather fashioned, of course, into a circle.
The circle held powerful symbolism for the Egyptians. The band with no end represented not only love in this life but in eternal realms as well, binding the two lovers for all eternity. The opening represents the opening into other worlds.
These rings were exchanged mutually between lovers and didn’t necessarily represent marriage until Roman times. As time went on in the Roman empire, so did the styles and cuts of rings. Initially, the “fede” ring, which depicted two hands clasping in love or agreement, was widespread.
Later on, the ring trend shifted from depictions of hands to the real couples themselves. The likeness of their faces or full figures were carved into precious metals as a symbol of their betrothal. As Christianity became the empire’s official religion, the depictions of the couple were paired with the cross or Christ himself.
Next came the posy ring, which was a plain band usually made of gold, with tiny, poetic inscriptions. These were commonly worn in the 15th century and challenged the goldsmiths of the day to learn how to engrave on the inside of rings.
This technique kept these messages close to the wearer and private from the outside world. During this time, an increasing number of marriages formed from love, not only an economic agreement between families. These rings were formed from gold coins and bore such inscriptions as “Two bodies, one heart” and “Love me and leave me not.”
With the onset of the Renaissance, wedding and engagement rings became more and more ornate and complicated. The gimmel ring, for instance, sported beautifully cut stones, daintily curved features, and lots of colors. With gimmel rings, the bride and groom would each wear their engagement rings up until their wedding.
On the big day, they would put the rings together to symbolize the joining of two people. This ritual is beautifully symbolic because each band is free yet must remain together to create the whole.
So I know what you’re thinking: enough about the old school rings. Where are the diamonds? After all, more than 80 percent of American brides get diamond engagement rings. How did this trend come to be so dominating?
When DeBeers Mining Company discovered diamonds in South Africa in the late 19th century, they came to control 90 percent of the world’s diamond production. From there, all it took was one great ad campaign to get people to spend spend spend. Following the Great Depression, DeBeers’s ad company N.W. Ayer & Son launched its famous “A diamond is forever” slogan.
The diamond ring continued to be a gendered tradition, the men being expected to purchase and propose, and the women were expected to wear the ring, “claimed” from that moment forward.
Presently, traditions are shifting to reflect our more equal world, according to HuffPost. More and more engaged men want to wear something to symbolize their commitment to their partner on the months leading up to the wedding. Today it’s not uncommon to see couples merely deciding to get married and going shopping for engagement rings together.
Today, we gather at weddings to celebrate love, the joining of two lives, partnership, and (let’s be real) the open bar. Regardless of whether the wedding is for two brides, two grooms, or a bride and a groom, weddings should be joyous. And your rings, or lack thereof, should reflect your personality and your own personal brand of joy.
As your big day approaches, don’t hesitate to contact Adagio Djay Entertainment for a free quote into their extensive music, sound, and video services.
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