If you are planning to propose in the traditional way (getting down on one knee, pulling out the engagement ring, etc.), you will want to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch. You will likely choose a romantic environment where you can pop the question and put the ring on your significant other’s finger when they (hopefully) say yes. But, which finger is the engagement ring supposed to go on? And which hand? The last thing you want to do when proposing is ruin the moment by getting confused and making an embarrassing faux pas!
Fortunately, if you live in the United States, the “rules” for putting on an engagement ring are pretty easy to remember once you learn them. Traditionally, engagement rings and wedding bands are placed on the fourth finger on the left hand (i.e. the finger between the pinky finger and middle finger). So, whether you are placing the ring on your fiancé’s finger for the first time or you are putting on your own engagement ring, now you know where it is supposed to go!
However, this doesn’t fully explain why we use the fourth finger on the left hand as the “ring finger” today. Moreover, if you live outside of the U.S. or use different cultural practices, there may be different rules for where you are supposed to wear the engagement ring. So, in today’s guide, we will cover all of the potential nuances related to wearing engagement rings correctly!
How The Fourth Finger Became The "Ring Finger"
Some of the most common reasons that the fourth ringer is still known in modern times as the “ring finger” date back to the 17th century. Many doctors of the time believed that a primary artery led directly from the ring finger to the heart, making it a symbolic place of love and an obvious choice for engagement rings. Some of these same doctors also believed that wearing gold on this finger could help cure a variety of ailments, though there is little evidence to show that this is valid using modern research methods.
Additionally, doctors from centuries past believed that applying pressure to the ring finger could help alleviate pain and cure illnesses. For this reason, the ring finger was also known as the “leech finger,” because doctors would use leeches on this finger for bloodletting. Consequently, the connections between old health remedies, romance, and human anatomy have contributed to the modern practice of using the fourth finger as the finger for engagement rings.
However, many historians believe that the use of the ring finger dates back much further. As far back as the 11th century, many Christian Europeans would use different fingers sequentially for the engagement ring. First, it would be worn on the thumb, then the pointer finger, then the middle finger, and finally the ring finger. Once this sequence was finished, the ring would remain on the fourth finger for the remainder of the marriage.
So, why did 11th-century Christians decide to use the fourth finger? To answer this question, we have to look all the way back to the Egyptian and Roman Empires. Though documentation is limited, historians think the belief about the vein running between the fourth finger and the heart originated in Ancient Egypt and Rome. Consequently, two of history’s most influential civilizations began wearing engagement and wedding rings on the fourth finger, a tradition that was passed on through the generations and continues throughout many parts of the world today.
When The Engagement Ring Goes On The Right Hand
If you live in the United States and wear your engagement ring or wedding ring on your left hand, you might assume that the rest of the world follows the same tradition. However, many people are surprised to learn that citizens in dozens of different countries around the world actually wear engagement rings on the right hand. Some of these countries include:
Each of these countries has its own reasons for wearing the engagement ring or wedding bands on the right hand. Some of them are related to religious practices, while others are more practical reasons. In some cases, the practice simply started for unknown reasons and became a long-standing tradition! So, if you plan to get married or live in any of the countries listed above, you may have to actively remember to put your ring on the fourth finger of your right hand.
Some of the most common reasons for wearing the engagement and wedding ring on the right hand come down to culture and religion. For example, in India, the left hand is considered unclean. It is used for bathroom and hygiene purposes, while the right hand is used for shaking hands, eating, and (of course) wearing wedding rings.
Though Orthodox Christianity is not limited to one country, it also has a significant influence on where the engagement ring is placed. This is due to translations from Latin that associate the left hand with the word “sinister.” Consequently, many Orthodox Christians wear engagement and wedding rings on the right hand.
Finally, it is important to remember that wearing engagement rings on the left hand is practical for the vast majority of people around the world. Why? Because roughly 90% of the population is right-handed. Therefore, doing everyday tasks with the right hand is easier without any jewelry. However, many left-handed people choose to wear their rings on the right hand for the same reason — to make life just a little bit easier!
Wearing The Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring On Different Hands
Ultimately, where you or your spouse wear your engagement and wedding rings comes down to personal choice. Unless you feel obligated by familial, cultural, or religious influences, you are free to wear your engagement and wedding bands on whichever hand (or finger) you like. Many people even choose to wear the engagement ring on one hand and the wedding ring on the other hand. This is especially common if the rings are of very different designs or don’t fit comfortably together on one finger.
In any case, many young married couples are increasingly choosing to wear their rings as they see fit, turning away from the traditions of the past. Though the traditional “ring finger” is still the most popular option, the choice of hand is now far less important. You can wear your engagement ring on the left hand and your wedding band on the right hand (or vice versa) or wear both rings on the same hand. No matter how you choose to wear your rings, just remember that you can either opt for more traditional practices or wear your ring(s) in a way that is most comfortable and stylish for you!
We hope you found this guide on where to wear an engagement ring both useful and informative! Are you in the market for diamond jewelry? Do you want beautiful, certified lab diamond engagement rings at competitive prices? If so, be sure to check out the luxurious products available at Liori Diamonds today!