Every American girl grows up dreaming of having a big, shiny diamond placed on the ring finger of her left hand someday. She probably won’t ever ask, “Why the left hand?” or “Why a big diamond?” All she knows is that she wants one desperately. At a young age she might twist a shiny silver paperclip around her finger as she dreams of her glorious wedding day, and when she’s older, she might purchase a fake ring that turns her finger green. The feeling of that cold metal on her finger sparks her imagination as she dreams of her Prince Charming.
I was no different than what I consider to be the average American girl, so when my future husband told me that Germans wear their rings on their right hand, I couldn’t hide my twinge of disappointment. To make matters worse, he then told me Germans purchase matching rings. I was crushed! I wanted a big, shiny, beautiful diamond, not a boring, manly wedding band! However, once the custom was explained to me, and my disappointment had time to fade, the idea appealed to me more and more.
So why the right hand? Because the right hand can’t be hidden. Only about 10 percent of the world’s population is thought to be left handed, so we are naturally inclined to use our right hands more often. We shake with our right hands, and if desired, the left hand can be placed in the pocket or twisted behind one’s back in order to conceal a ring, but a ring on the right hand cannot be hidden. In my husband’s words, “When you shake a man’s hand, you immediately feel his ring and know he is married.”
And why, then, must the rings match? Over the course of my 21-month ongoing marriage, this explanation has become near and dear to my heart. Matching rings are an outward symbol that my husband is mine and I am his. In a crowded space, if one were to be observant, they could easily see that my husband and I belong together even if we are standing on opposite sides of the room. Our rings go beyond the simple act of marking us as married. They are an identifier of sorts – Like a marriage licence you wear that would allow someone to look only at my ring and say to my husband, “I found your wife!”
I have no idea why Americans wear their rings on their left hands or how big, expensive diamonds came to be the cultural norm, but I know why my ring is on my right hand and why it is simple, and for this reason, it’s the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen.
This is a picture of our rings taken on our wedding day:
Stay tuned for more on German weddings and cultures. In my next post I will expand on the simplicity of our rings as I compare the Germans’ attitude toward marriage with the Americans’.