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Wedding Rings - Pagan, but Allowed

Watchtower 1952 June 15 pp.361-2 The Marriage Ceremony


In marriage services performed by and for Jehovah's witnesses, the exchange of rings between the bride and the bridegroom is left entirely optional with those being married. In the selection of the bride for Isaac it is recognized that Rebecca accepted a hand adornment. (Gen. 24:22, 30, 53, Mo; AT) Similarly in Luke 15:22, a ring was given to the prodigal by his father on his home-coming.

We, of course, recognize that rings are used extensively in many pagan rituals. This fact, however, in no wise prohibits their use in any Christian service, particularly when the Bible mentions their use with approval. It is certainly more reasonable to expect that Satan, the mimic god, copied their use from Jehovah, rather than to accept the untenable position that Jehovah copied their use from demonic heathen practices. However, if some prefer to dispense with them in their marriage service, it is their right to do so. On this point let each one feel quite free to do that which is proper and right in his own mind. A bridegroom does not wed his bride by putting a ring on her finger.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1956 September 15 p.571 Marriage Ceremony and Requirements

13 The wearing of rich clothes is not necessary for a civil marriage. The main thing is to be dressed neatly, becomingly, and, as a Christian, to be spiritually well-clothed with love, humility, obedience and faithfulness. A wedding ring may not be customary or may be beyond one's means. The marriage estate is not everywhere symbolized by a wedding ring. It is no essential part of a marriage ceremony. Failure to give a wedding ring is not to one's discredit. Even where the wedding ring is recognized as marking a married woman and serves notice upon anyone with passionate desires, some may conscientiously object to featuring a ring in the ceremony, having in mind the pagan origin of the customary wedding ring in Christendom. In some places the marriage estate of a woman is indicated by the style of dress that she wears or the new piece that she adds to her garments. Locally this is just as effective as a finger ring, in fact more noticeable. A wedding ring amounts to nothing if there is no real tie or if the marriage tie is not respected. A passionate woman will not let a ring keep her from committing adultery. The use of a ring in a marriage ceremony should therefore be left to each one's decision according to conscience and local custom.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1969 January 15 pp.58-9 Christian Weddings Should Reflect Reasonableness


Since there are so many traditional practices, should a Christian try to avoid all the wedding customs of his area? Not necessarily. He can be selective. Sometimes marriage customs have a practical basis, such as marrying on the day when most people are off from secular work, or in the cooler part of the day, after "siesta." Or a tradition may be a touch of local color; one would hardly expect that persons in their hometown in Korea would dress as do natives of Lebanon, Finland or Fiji.

Of course, some customs are unscriptural and so they are objectionable to Christians. In many lands odd customs are followed so that the bride and groom or their guests will have "good luck." Jehovah's witnesses do not worship the god of Good Luck. (Isa. 65:11) Nor do they follow traditions that would lead observers to think that they do. Other customs are plainly acts of false worship. So one planning a wedding does well to examine practices common in his area and analyze how people view them locally. If it is acknowledged that a custom is connected with false religion or "good luck," then the Christian will shun it.-2 Cor. 6:14-18.

Other traditions are unreasonable or unloving. In many lands it is common to throw rice at the bride and groom. What is the point of the custom? "Some peoples believe the rice is food to keep evil influences away from the bride and groom. Some say it assures the couple fertility." (Science News Letter, June 8, 1963, p. 357) This illustrates that there are often a number of opinions as to the origin of a certain custom. But whatever the background of this one, do Christians normally take food and throw it at their friends, dirtying up the street in the process? Also, consider the matter of loving your neighbor as yourself. Would Christian love move one to play "practical jokes" to the embarrassment of a bride and groom? Jesus said: "Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them."-Luke 6:31; 10:27.

Then there is the tradition of the wedding ring. A study of the subject would likely leave you confused as to the origin and meaning of the wedding ring; the claims are many, the facts muddled. Even if the Bible does not directly mention wedding rings, it is plain that Jehovah's servants could wear rings. (Job 42:11, 12; Luke 15:22) But what if people in one's land believe that a wedding ring symbolizes a couple's unbroken faith, love and devotion? Christians do not attach any symbolic meaning to a wedding ring, even though they cultivate these qualities in marriage, and even if many in the world are hypocritical in claiming to manifest such. A wedding ring ensures nothing. It merely serves public notice of married estate. It is not improper for a Christian to give evidence of his or her married status by wearing a wedding ring, be it on the right hand, as in Germany, or on the left. Yet this is not a necessity where it is not a legal requirement. So the couple can decide what to do in accord with their financial situation and personal preferences.

Hence, in regard to wedding customs one can be selective, asking oneself: What is the significance of the custom in this locality at present? Will it offend others? Is it loving? Is it reasonable?

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1972 January 15 p.63 Questions from Readers

Questions from Readers

• Is it proper for a Christian to wear a wedding ring?-Greece.

Many sincere Christians have asked this question out of a desire to avoid any custom of which God might disapprove. Some of the questioners know that Catholic prelate John H. Newman wrote: "The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, . . . sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church." (An Essay on the Development of the Christian Doctrine, 1878)* While the facts prove that many of the current religious practices Newman lists definitely were adopted from pagan worship, is that true of the wedding ring?

Actually there are conflicting ideas as to the origin of the wedding ring. Let us give a few examples: "Originally . . . the ring was a fetter, used to bind the captive bride." (For Richer, for Poorer) "The ring is a relatively modern substitute for the gold coin or other article of value with which a man literally purchased his wife from her father." (The Jewish Wedding Book) "The wedding ring is supposed to be of Roman origin, and to have sprung from the ancient custom of using rings in making agreements." (American Cyclopaedia) "Various explanations have been given of the connection of the ring with marriage. It would appear that wedding-rings were worn by the Jews prior to Christian times."-The International Cyclopaedia.

It is thus seen that the precise origin of the wedding ring is uncertain. Even if it were a fact that pagans first used wedding rings, would that rule such out for Christians? Not necessarily. Many of today's articles of clothing and aspects of life originated in pagan lands. The present time divisions of hours, minutes and seconds are based on an early Babylonian system. Yet, there is no objection to a Christian's using these time divisions, for one's doing so does not involve carrying on false religious practices.

Of course, our concern is greater as regards the use of wedding rings, since this relates, not to minor secular matters, but to the marriage relationship, which the Christian rightly views as sacred before God. Really, the question is not so much whether wedding rings were first used by pagans but whether they were originally used as part of false religious practices and still retain such religious significance. As has been shown, the historical evidence does not allow for any definite conclusion on this. What does the Bible say about the use of rings?

The Bible shows that some of God's servants in the past wore rings, even ones that had special meaning attached to them. Wearing a signet ring could indicate that one had received authority to act in behalf of the ruler who owned it. (Gen. 41:42; Num. 31:50; Esther 8:2, 8; Job 42:11, 12; Luke 15:22) So, while wedding rings are not mentioned, these true worshipers clearly did not scruple against using rings for more than mere adornment.

Some persons say that a wedding ring represents one's unending love and devotion in marriage. The increasing divorce rate in many lands where married persons usually wear a wedding ring proves that this meaning is more imagined than real. Nonetheless, for the majority of persons, including Christians, in lands where wedding rings are common, the ring is an outward indication that the wearer is a married person. In other localities the same point is shown in a different way, such as by a woman's wearing a certain style of clothing.

Of course, a wedding ring is by no means a Christian requirement. One Christian might decide not to wear a wedding ring, because of conscience, personal taste, cost, local custom, or some other reason. Yet another Christian might decide to indicate his married status by means of a wedding ring. Hence, in the final analysis the decision is a personal one, to be made in accord with the conscientious views one holds.

* [Footnotes]

This book was first written while Newman was still an Anglican, and was published in 1845. After converting to Catholicism, Newman published a somewhat revised edition in 1878. The next year he was made a Cardinal in the Catholic church.

[Emphasis Added]

[The follwing is the material ommitted by the ellipses (…) in the Watchtower quote from An Essay on the Development of the Christian Doctrine]

…and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields…

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