3 April 2011


I gather that the eldest grandson of the Head of State is to be married in the Octave of Easter; and that he has favoured the public sheets with the intelligence that he will not be wearing a wedding ring. There was a little debate on the Home Service a day or two ago between two opposing 'celebrities' (of neither of whom I had heard); the one who deplored the young man's decision and who upheld the desireability of husbands wearing wedding rings was introduced as "holding the traditionalist view"!

When I got married in 1967, for a husband to wear a ring was the innovation of a small minority. I had one colleague at Lancing who wore one; my suspicion was that this was something to do with the fact that he was a Francophile.

I am not particularly interested in joining a debate about the goodness of each partner in a marriage wearing a wedding ring, or even about the evolution of different customs in different regions. What absolutely fascinated me was the apparent fact that what was in England a little known innovation in 1967 is now regarded as the 'Tradition' which holds sway! So brief a period, apparently, now suffices to establish a 'tradition'!

There is a yawn-making old joke that, however unfashionable one is, if one waits long enough one will be in forefront of fashion. I now know that the prescribed period of time for this process is 44 years.


Victor said...

Dear Father, would you care to tell us about the symbolism of a wedding ring and how it came to be an unknown tradition in England 44 years ago? I would be most interested, and who could give a thorough answer but you?

UKViewer said...

I know that I married in 1970 and both partners having a wedding ring was then well established.

The more cynical among us might think that it is just for show, however, I believe it is a symbol of shared love and commitment within marriage and like the Sacrament of marriage and outward sign of the inward grace which flows from a Christian marriage.

Little Black Sambo said...

It's even worse than you say. According to the Daily Mail, "there is still divided opinion on whether wearing one [i.e. a wedding band, as reporters will call it] is obligatory or not."
So, from being till recently unknown, it is about to become obligatory.

Unknown said...

Father, I must state that Prince William is not the Queen's eldest grandson - it is Mr Peter Phillips, who is already married. I see you fondly refer to Radio 4 as the "Home Service", however it changed it's identity in very year of your marriage 1967.

peregrinusto said...

In the colonies (Canada) the practice is well established i.e. men wearing wedding rings. My father and I have maintained the older tradition, that of giving a wedding ring to our bride. In my case, it was on our tenth anniversary. I just wanted to be sure . . . and then had some money to purchase one. I am not often asked why I do not wear one. I suppose many suppose me to be a celibate Roman priest. The latter part of that sentence will change soon, I trust.

Sue Sims said...

Victor: Fr H isn't suggesting that a wedding ring was an 'unknown tradition' 44 years ago, but that it was unusual for the husband to wear one.

My husband and I married in 1975 and exchanged rings. I'd partly agree with UKViewer in that it was established - but only in the sense of being one of the options: some of our (male) married friends wore one, but more didn't. We were conscious of making a decision that Paul should wear one, whereas we took it for granted that I should.

It's sad but true that these days, wedding rings are gradually disappearing as marriage among the 20-somethings is being replaced by cohabition without benefit of clergy or registry office. I still remember the first couple I met who were living together, and who first told me that marriage was 'just a bit of paper' - it was in 1970, and I was outraged, despite having grown up in a Jewish atheist home: so much was marriage the accepted thing even among those who rejected all religion.

B flat said...

Regarding the changes of fashion, I remember my own father gently mocking my elder brother in 1966 or thereabouts, when he came home with a pair of then very fashionable Chelsea boots.
"I laughed at my own father for wearing such old fashioned things when I was your age "(ie. in 1923) said my Parent.
I see Chelsea boots in my current shoe catalogue. So, for these at least, 44 years seems quite accurate for fashions to come around.

RichardT said...

I had not thought of this before, but there might be a good reason why 44 years makes a 'tradition'.

If that is the typical working life (from graduating at 21 to retiring at 65) then after 44 years there will be no-one working (and so writing about or making such things) who remembers anything different.

RichardT said...

By the time I married (1994 or thereabouts) it was the norm for the groom to wear a wedding ring, but not doing so was still regarded as the 'traditional' option.

Of course the bride promising to obey her husband has gone in the opposite direction, from being the norm to something that attracts unfavourable comment.

Matthew M said...

Don't know about wedding rings and such having never been blessed with a bride, but was more interested in the "TRADITION" aspect of 40+ years.
About then the so-called Anglo-Catholic, Church of Englanders started messing with that horrendous NOVUS ORDO liturgy by Pope Paul VI of sad memory.
Now they think it part of 'Anglican Patrimony' to haul into the Ordinariate. Hogwash and balderdash!
Yes, it only takes 40+ years to make a "Tradition" in the Church.

Woody said...

My wife and I exchanged wedding rings at our wedding in 1973; I had thought mine was affixed to my ring finger forever until I had to have an operation under general anesthetic last Fall; after I was "out" the anesthesiologists took it off somehow without breaking my finger, gave to my wife and I have not seen it again. As to the meaning of this, one can only speculate.