Rabbi Lev Herrnson
Jewish Wedding Rings--What and Why?
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Lots of questions typically arise concerning wedding rings. Let’s be clear: only in traditional Jewish circles must your ring must be made of gold, be unadorned, round and simple. You see, the wedding ring is viewed in the traditional Jewish context as a form of “consideration.” Consideration is something of value given by one or both parties that induces them to enter into an agreement, in this case an agreement to marry. So in a traditional Jewish context the value of the ring must be easily discernable as the groom gives it the bride to induce her to “seal the deal.”
Progressive rabbis may also require couples to choose a ring for its relative simplicity, but adherence to the traditional parameters discussed above is not obligatory. Of course, the tradition does inspire wisdom as the ring is concerned: A ring that is perfectly round and smooth symbolizes the hope for every marriage, namely that there be no hard turns or rough times. A round ring also symbolizes continuity in a world where everything else can change rapidly.
Some couples will use an heirloom wedding ring used time and time again in their family and the bride will, after the ceremony, switch to her regular wedding ring. Others will buy new, establishing their own tradition. And these days many couples ask for a “double ring” ceremony, where the bride and groom exchange rings. Sometimes couples purchase or commission matching rings. Couples may also inscribe their ring(s) with the date of their ceremony or some loving and inspiring phrase.
During the ceremony, it’s customary for the groom to place a ring on the bride’s right index finger. While the ring may not fit on her forefinger completely, tradition teaches that the right forefinger is closest to the heart. (Science informs us to the contrary, but sentimentality wins the day as far as weddings are concerned!) And after the ceremony the bride moves her wedding band to her ring finger.
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