Battle of the Bands

He liked it so he went and put a ring on it. Mazel tov.

Now that the engagement ring is taking up coveted finger real estate, it’s time to tackle one of the items on your To Do list: purchasing wedding bands. Naturally, this is a fun and important activity, and most brides daydream about adding some extra bling to the fourth digit or complementing the glory of the engagement ring.

Hold your horses! Don’t rush off to the jewelry store yet! There are some traditions that you may want to know about first so you know how to plan the big ring exchange on your wedding day.

According to tradition, you should probably swap out this

for this.

I can hear your whining from here: “But Yentaaaaaaas! I’ve always wanted an intricate, pave-set, 2 carat, eternity diamond wedding band in white gold!!” Wipe the worry from your little punims. I have a solution, but first a little story, just like all good Yentas tell.

Jewish law says that a marriage becomes official when the groom gives his bride something valuable and that’s typically a ring. The rabbis say that it should be made of plain gold, with no blemishes, ornaments, or breaks in the ring. The continuity of the ring promotes the hope for an everlasting marriage and the lack of ornaments (read: diamonds. Yes, diamonds) signifies the simple beauty that comes from marriage.

During the wedding ceremony, the groom declares to the bride, “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” Don’t worry. The rabbi will cue the lines. No memorization necessary. Jewish law requires that only the groom gives a ring to the bride, but many modern couples choose to exchange rings.

Okay, now brace yourselves. This may be news to you. Raise both your hands. Put your left hand down. Your wedding ring finger is now your right pointer finger, according to Jewish tradition. While Christianity says the left finger is closest to the heart, the Talmud says that it’s the right forefinger that is closest to the heart. The next time a priest and a rabbi are in a bar, they can duke that one out.

So now you know the details of the ring’s appearance and important fingers according to Jewish law. But, wait, let me guess: you’re a modern bride and you already bought your icy wedding band and you’ve perfectly manicured your left fourth finger. Borrow a solid gold band from a family member or friend and use it in the ceremony. Have your best man (who, most likely, was already carrying the ceremony rings) hold onto the “real life” wedding band and you can slip that on after the ceremony so you can party in it. I actually borrowed my grandma’s solid gold band to use in our ceremony and it served double duty as my something borrowed (and I suppose my something old?). It was special looking out at her during the ceremony, knowing I was carrying on a Jewish tradition, using her family heirloom.

The beautiful custom that takes place during the ceremony is meaningful and important. It’s great to honor this tradition, but it’s also reasonable to live your modern, American Jewish life. After all, what happens in the chuppah, stays in the chuppah.

  • Jessica says:

    I also borrowed my grandmother’s gold band for our (very traditional) ceremony. My cousin had used it 10 years before for her wedding, and I hope that the other granddaughters are planning on carrying on the tradition. Funny part is that I assumed it didn’t have any markings on it because my cousin had used it for her Orthodox wedding. Turns out, it had the type of gold inscribed on the inside. During the Groom’s Tish, the rabbis had to conference to determine that it was acceptable to be used for our wedding. Thank goodness this was all unbeknown to me, I had enough things to stress over!

  • Becca says:

    Another option is to have two wedding bands – a simple, slim, tradition-approved band and the band you’ve always wanted. For me, my engagement ring is beautiful but impractical and I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable wearing it when we have children (don’t want to poke an eye out.) So I like the idea of an adorned band and a simple band that I can wear together instead. On special occasions and when the kids get older, I plan to wear the engagement ring.

    Another option is to use the plain band as your wedding band and to get a fancier anniversary band the next year (maybe when wedding costs are finally out of the way?)

    The need or desire to follow religious tradition doesn’t need to limit our aesthetics at all. We just need to get creative if a non-plain band is a priority.

  • Mervyn says:

    A ring (usually plain gold) given to the bride (and sometimes one is also given to the groom) at the wedding. The Hebrew wedding ring,also known as the wedding band, is simple with no carvings or designs or stones. It is so simple that one cannot make out the beginning or end. The jewish tradition forbids the use of carvings or any kind of decorations on the ring. The ring emphasizes the importance of attachment and commitment in the relationship. It throws light to a simple and pure beauty of the marriage. The ring should be the grooms sole property at the time of the wedding. Even though the ceremony signifies the use of one ring to be exchanged, there are occasions where both the couples exchange rings. The rings solid nature emphasizes the commitment and eternal nature of the ceremony. Most of the Jewish wedding rings are just a band of gold.
    My understanding of the plain ring is that under the chupah everyone is equal for richer or poorer everyone is equal.