Why we don’t wear our wedding rings
•Marital symbol necessary for marriage preservation, clerics say
By Cosmas Omegoh
The wedding ring has its origines way back in the history of human civilisation, and not many can tell exactly how it evolved. However, for those who believe in it, it is a clear sign that a man and woman are husband and wife.
Irrespective of when the wedding ring culture began, it has stuck, having become customary to see couples wearing their rings on their fourth finger. They begin to do this after getting the nod to become couples. Exchange of rings therefore, is one of the conjugal rites in marriage registries and church auditoriums. Newlyweds show off their rings as they head off to begin life together, their rings reminding them of their vows to live their lives as one, loving and cherishing each other.
Two clergymen, Rev. Fr. Peter Puotege, a Catholic priest working in the Diocese of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, and Lawrence Osagie, the presiding Bishop of Powerline Bible Church, Lagos, provided an insight into the essence of the wedding ring. Both clerics affirmed that the wedding ring represented the love between a couple, noting that it represented an outward sign of a bond between a man and woman.
“The wedding ring signifies love and unity between a couple,” Fr. Puotege stated. “It is a symbol of the unbroken love that ought to exist between them. That is why marriage is a sacrament, which means an outward sign of inward grace, that is, grace that is not seen but has been given to their souls.
“The wedding ring is round and unbroken. It means that the love between husband and wife has no end. The ring has no breakage; it has no boundary. It represents the kind of love that should exist between two married people. What that tells us is that one shouldn’t rush into marriage and rush out; it has no limit.”
For Bishop Osagie, “Marriage is a covenant between two people, a strong vow, which two people have made, to live the rest of their lives together.
“The wedding ring is symbolic; it represents the sealing of that covenant between husband and wife.
“The ring is made of a precious metal. It signifies God’s love for humanity. It means that when people go into marriage, they assure each other of their love. Marriage is the gift they give to each other. It is a binding force between them for the rest of their lives. It is a true reflection of the love of God for us, which He wants married people to have for one another.
“If you look at the ring, you find out that it is circular, that signifies the unending love of God for us. He wants married people to love each other. God does not love today and hate tomorrow. He loves forever and wants us to do the same. And so the wedding ring is a constant reminder that marriage should subsists as long as the couple lives.”
Fr. Puotege, the vice principal of Holy Ghost Model College, Ijebu-Ode, further noted that: “The wedding ring helps people to communicate who they are. When someone is wearing the wedding ring, he or she is saying, ‘I’m legally married to someone.’ It keeps them constantly aware that they have someone they are accountable to.
“Therefore, the wedding ring helps people to set boundaries and tell some other persons that they are married. It helps married people to be faithful to their spouses.”
Similarly, Bishop Osagie said: “Exchange of wedding rings brings about the security of the marriage. In clear terms, you tell people, ‘I’m not available anymore.’ That secures the marriage and keeps the other person at peace.”
Both men were not specific about how the wedding ring became popular but tried to answer the question people often ask: “Is it in the Bible.”
Said Fr. Puotege: “People naturally ask, ‘Is the wedding ring in the Bible?’ But they fail to understand that the Bible was written based on the tradition of some people. It has an origin; nothing happens without an origin. The wedding ring too has a spiritual origin.”
“It is not everything that is in the Bible,” bellowed Bishop Osagie. “There are certain practices, which are the creation of man and the church, that were intended to save the marriage institution. It is God who saves, but the ring is one of those creations that serve as a gift to show that every married person is in for the long haul.”
But why have some married people abandoned their wedding rings? Investigation shows that some people, over the years, have not cared much about it. They cast it off soon after consummating their marriage and setting off on their conjugal journey, thus sparking questions whether they really understand what the ring means.
For instance, a man who strictly requested to remain anonymous told the reporter that he simply threw away his wedding ring within an hour after he emerged from the registry.
“When we arrived at the Kosofe Local Government registry in Lagos State, that fateful morning, it was someone who reminded my wife that we needed to get a pair of wedding rings. So I asked her to get one if she so wished.
“To underline my dislike for the stuff, I warned her not to buy any one whose cost exceeded N30 at that time because I knew I would throw it away soon after.
“The wedding rituals over, I slipped the stuff off my finger and threw it into the gutter. I hate wearing rings, wrist watches and chains.”
The duo of Dickson Okafor and Sam Udofia also have similar dislike for chains and rings. Okafor told the reporter: “I wedded about 15 years ago. I only wore my ring in the first five years of our marriage before dumping it. Right now, I don’t know where it is because I don’t see its importance. It is only my wife that wears her own. She does not complain if she doesn’t see it on me. I don’t wear chains and wrist watches because I have no need for them.”
Similarly, Udofia said he does not wear his wedding ring because he is not used to wearing rings: “My wife understands me. A little before I got married, I was wearing a ring until it got so tight on my fingers and I had to cut it off to be free; ever since nothing of such has stayed on my finger.”
A laboratory scientist, Mr. Chris Ewuru, said it could be hazardous wearing anything metalic while at work.
“I don’t wear my wedding ring not because I hate my wife. As a medical scientist, if I’m wearing any metal ring while at work, it might make contact with some chemical and burn my finger. That might be dangerous. I don’t want anything of such and my wife understands. But I wear it to church every Sunday and on other days when I am off duty.”
In the case of Obioma Nwogu, a businessman, if he failed to wear his wedding ring, it didn’t mean he wanted to spite his wife or that he no longer loved her.
He said, “The fact is that I often forget to wear it, just as I also forget to wear my wristwatch. Even my wife forgets wearing her own rings. But we don’t let it spoil anything. It happens like that sometimes.”
Conversely, the wedding ring is everything to Mr. Odion Imade, who claimed to wear it faithfully.
“I wedded in 1996 in the Catholic Church,” he said. “Since then, I have been faithfully wearing my wedding ring. It reminds me of my vow to my wife.
“My wife is not particularly meticulous about wearing her wedding ring. In fact, all those accessories most women are dying to wear do not excite her, including her wedding ring.
“Over the decades, my wedding ring has been a part of me. I see it as a symbol that constantly reminds me that I’m married.”
However, Fr. Puotege said the act of wearing the wedding ring was a mere symbolic expression. He said once a marriage has been celebrated, grace is bestowed on the couple. Therefore, wearing the ring or not doing so does not invalidate the marriage.
“Failing to wear the wedding ring does not take away grace. The grace is always there, no doubt about it,” he said.
“If a partner refuses to wear their wedding ring, it is important to find out why they are doing so. This ought not bring any quarrel in the home.
“If one partner has lost their ring, we usually ask them to buy another one for blessing.
“However, there are some men and women who don’t wear their rings because they do not want people around them to know that they are married.”
His sentiments were shared by Mr. Edem Usanga who claimed that he got married more than 40 years ago.
“My wedding ring is a token of my love for my wife,” he said. “If anyone does not wear their ring, perhaps they have something to hide, their identity.”
Such identity was what Philip Toryue, a broadcast journalist, said he did not want to hide: “I wear my wedding rings not out of compulsion but out of love for my wife. It gives me that identity that I’m married.
“If I don’t wear my ring, the society might begin to look at me as a single person. That might be an open invitation to single ladies out there that I’m still available.”
Bishop Osagie said he could not understand why anyone would chose to be married and yet fail to wear their wedding ring: “Some people have all manner of ideas. Some are involved in occultic practices that prevent them from doing certain things.
“For instance, while officiating at a marriage ceremony sometime ago, I asked a lady whether she was going to take the man standing beside her to be her lawfully married husband but she uttered no word.”
He submitted that it was not the wearing of ring that could make the individual pure but what was in the heart.
“Being a Christian means serving God with reverential fear. One can wear wedding rings and still be promiscuous. Therefore, it is not what the individual wearing the wedding ring is on the outside but what they are inside. To God, externality does not matter; it is the heart that counts,” he said.