It used to be far more common for women to wear wedding band rings than it was for men and probably had more to do with economics than anything else. This situation changed markedly after the Second World War and in the vast majority of marriages today both partners exchange rings during the wedding ceremony.
Clever marketing today also means that wedding rings are often seen as just one in a series of rings which starts with a promise ring given at the beginning of serious courtship and is followed by the gift of an engagement ring on betrothal. The wedding ring which follows next is then sometimes followed by an eternity ring, often given after the birth of a couple's first child, to symbolize the ongoing nature of the marriage. The series concludes with a trilogy ring, usually set with three diamonds, as a symbol of the past, present and future of the marriage.
While the jewelry trade has had some success in bolstering its sale of rings, most couples will choose to stick with the age old tradition of an engagement ring for the bride-to-be followed by wedding rings for both the bride and groom and, as we will see, it is the choice of engagement ring which often dictates the couple's choice of wedding band rings.
There is a great deal of custom associated with the wearing on engagement and wedding rings. For example, in some countries the wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, along which the vein of love (vena amortis) is said to run, while in other countries the wedding ring is worn on the forth finger of the right hand. This is said to stem from the fact that the Latin word for left is sinistra which is also the root of the English word sinister, therefore endowing the left hand with negative qualities.
Customs also vary in respect of the wearing of engagement rings. In some cases the engagement ring doubles as the wedding ring with a change of hand and often the addition of an engraving changing its role from that of an engagement ring to a wedding ring. In other cases the engagement ring is removed on marriage and either worn on another finger or on a chain around the neck. In most cases however the engagement ring is worn on the same finger as the wedding ring and the wedding ring is either placed inside the engagement ring so that it is nearer to the heart, or worn outside the engagement ring sealing the engagement into the marriage.
In the majority of cases couples will choose to have matching wedding bands and the bride will wear her wedding and engagement rings together so that she will want a wedding band that matches here engagement ring.
If things seem to be getting a bit complicated you'll remember that we started by saying that a couples' choice of wedding band rings will often come down to the choice of engagement ring and, hopefully, we can now see just why this is.
In the past it has often been thought that the choice of engagement ring should be left entirely to the man who should purchase the ring and then spring it on his bride-to-be as something of a surprise. However, this practice is changing and, as engagement and wedding band rings will be worn hopefully for the remainder of your lives, it is important that time and care are taken in the choice of both and that the couple do this together.