I got engaged about 6 weeks ago but we only exchanged rings ten days ago in Riga. When we posted photographs of our plain gold bands on Facebook, almost everyone thought we had married – probably because they knew we had been engaged since about September. That made me think of engagement and marriage traditions around the world.
- Some countries in Europe have a custom of wearing wedding rings on their right hand. Do you come from one of those countries and want to tell us about it?
- In the UK, men from the upper classes traditionally do not wear wedding rings. This became quite a big discussion when Prince Harry recently married. He is the first man in the royal family to wear a wedding ring – his is in platinum – on his left ring finger. Prince Charles does, however, wear a thin gold band under the pinkie ring on his left hand.
- I think the size of the engagement diamond is of more importance in the US than other countries in which I have lived (Ireland, England, Sweden, South Africa). There seems to be an element of ring shaming if the stone is not large. What do you think?
- When I was in Germany some years ago, I asked someone why they had two identical gold wedding bands on their left hand ring finger. They told me it was the tradition for widows and widowers to wear their late spouse’s rings together with their own. Could anyone tell me if this is still true?
- When I first came to Sweden, both men and women wore a single plain gold band on their left ring finger if engaged, and two if they were married. This later changed more to plain bands if engaged and a second, diamond ring for the woman if married. Of late though, I notice more traditional diamond engagement rings. In fact, there was a discussion when the royals marrying now all chose to have ‘American-style’ diamond engagement rings for the women only, and matching gold rings for the couple when married.
- An Irish Claddagh is worn on the left or right hand with the crown towards the heart or the heart towards the heart depending on whether you are friends, single, in a relationship, engaged, or married.
- Some countries in Europe seem to go for more coloured stones (sapphires, rubies, emeralds) in their engagement rings than in the UK and US.
- The trend seems to be moving away from white gold to yellow or rose gold for wedding rings.
Do any of my readers come from a country with special engagement traditions? I would love to learn all about them! I have had a traditional diamond engagement ring in the past but I have always liked the simple functionality of a plain gold band. I was always worried about banging and losing the stone and used to hate leaving it in for 10 days every few years to have the setting checked and tightened. My partner asked if I would prefer a diamond but I wanted something plain, so we had matching gold bands custom-made from ethically sourced recovered gold. They have inscriptions inside.
Riga was lovely. The Baltic capital cities (Tallin (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), and Vilnius (Lithuania)) are pretty and still relatively quiet countries (as in they have not been invaded by tourists yet) and their old parts of town all look similar to each other.
Riga has the most amazing food market I have ever come across – held inside 5 huge Zeppelin hangars. I have never in my life seen such a big market. Each hangar had a different specialty: fish in one, meat in another, and fruit and vegetables in yet another. It was overwhelming but in a nice way. Outside the big hangars there were locally made handicrafts available. I bought an intricately knitted black hat because it was a bit cold. It cost €5.