On Not Wearing a Wedding Ring

I got married on August 15, 1980, which means I’ll be celebrating my 27th wedding anniversary in less than a couple of months. And in all that time, I have never owned nor worn a wedding ring.

When we got married, we were poor as dirt. We did the customary BYU-thing; I was 21 years old, less than a year off my mission, and had just finished my sophomore year of college. (It seems insane now that I think about it, but that was the culture then and it seemed perfectly normal at the time.)

Exchanging rings was not an integral part of the (Provo) temple sealing. If you wanted to, you could step aside from the altar and exchange your rings in the sealing room, but it wasn’t necessary. And we were so poor, we didn’t have money for anything extra. (I’m not sure how much the wedding and two receptions cost; maybe $200. Very Mormon.)

Eventually when I started working as a lawyer I had enough money where I could have bought us rings. But my wife had no interest in a wedding ring (even after repeated offers); she’s not that into jewelry, unless it’s artsy in nature. (I later gave her a ring for Xmas that has a Hebrew inscription taken from the Song of Songs, and although it’s not actually a wedding ring she wears it on her ring finger.) I’m not into jewelry either. (I don’t understand the appeal of a Rolex watch, for example; the Timex I bought at Target with the velcro wrist band works just fine for me.)

I was pretty clueless about the role a wedding ring plays as a social cue that someone is married. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but that just never occurred to me. The first time I realized that might be an issue was when I was clerking at a law firm after my second year of law school, and apparently the other clerk, a woman, was crushin’ on me a little bit, just assuming that I wasn’t married since I didn’t wear a ring. When she asked me out and found out I was married, she told me I really ought to wear a ring.

Perhaps she had a point. Occasionally women have shown an interest in me over the years (it seems to happen on the train from time to time for some reason), but I still have never bought a wedding ring.

Part of the reason I suppose is that I just don’t like jewelry. (I thought about wearing one of those prairie diamonds you get at the blacksmith shop at Nauvoo, but way too awkward.) Part is that I think I have a bit of a phobia about wearing rings, from watching too many episodes of the Lucy Show or other sitcoms where people get them stuck on their fingers and spend a half an hour trying to pry them off somehow.

I think most of it is that I like the old-time Mormonness of doing something (or not doing something) so countercultural.

Comments

  1. I didn’t wear a ring until we moved to Russia and people kept urging me to have an affair. Then it became my protest. I still don’t even wear a watch, I hate jewelry so much, but my wife likes the memory of that protest, so I continue to wear the ring.

  2. I have a friend that works with machinery and consequently often can’t wear a ring during business hours. He got one tattooed on.

    When I went from a 29″ waist pre-marriage to my current 32″, my ring became to small so I didn’t where one for a year or two. No big deal. My wife thought it wasn’t a good idea, so we bought a new one (Titanium, with comfort fit – comfortable and a bargain). On the male-jewelry front, I’m still grateful for cellphones, because I hate watches.

  3. My wife and I have rings. But the way we did our marriage is to be sealed in the Manhattan Temple and then the next day have a ring ceremony for all our non-member friends and family. We would still have done the rings, however, because I got her a really nice engagement ring seven months previous.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t remember whether ring ceremonies outside the temple were as common back then as they are today. I don’t remember such an option ever coming up.

    The tat idea is pretty good, if a tad permanent. But I think I’d rather have a tattoo than wear a ring.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Now that I am on ring #4 (having lost rings 1, 2 and 3 via various golf mishaps), the ring itself seems less important. I share the distaste for jewelry you express, but at the same time the ring is a source of pride for me — I’m happy to be married and I like a constant reminder of the relationship.

  6. Without the tradition associated with wedding rings, I wouldn’t wear one – because it wouldn’t mean as much to my wife. I also hate having things on my arms, wrists or fingers. (One of my wife’s least fond memories is buying me a nice wrist watch – at least for our budgets – for my 17th birthday and finding out later I only wore it when I was with her. We don’t talk about that one much.) I buy a cheap pocket watch, remove the chain and carry it in my pocket – even though I also carry two cell phones. (Yes, I feel stupid and pretentious, but my employer pays for one with limited minutes, and my kids like to text their dad, so I rationalize it quite easily.)

    I really do like the symbolism of the wedding ring, and I understand the social signal it sends to otherwise attracted members of the other gender, but I still wouldn’t wear it if it wasn’t so important to my wife. It’s important to me, because it’s important to her.

  7. It also gives me something to play with when I’m bored. (I love you, dear.)

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, Ray; I’m sure if it mattered at all to my wife (she doesn’t care), I would wear a ring. It really wasn’t much of a conscious decision at first, but after two and a half decades it would be quite a switch to start doing it now.

  9. Kevin, for a post on symbolism, “on the train” amused me no end. Thanks for a chuckle.

  10. I have to say I really like wearing a wedding ring entirely because of the social message it sends. (I’m not a jewelry person, much.) I think wearing a wedding ring actually makes social interactions with men easier for me because they all know I’m married, so we can all relax and know the relationships we’re having are of another order. (Not that I think hordes of men are daily disappointed that I’m already taken–quite the contrary!–but it just makes me more comfortable to have that piece of information public).

    Still, Kevin, I’m sympathetic to the desire to be counter-cultural in a cultish way. I like belonging to a weird and cultish religion. If I didn’t wear a ring I’m sure I would be tempted to make up some extreme story about how we Mormons eschew all jewelry and if we’re caught with wedding rings our fingers are cut off, or how a wedding-ring commitment to a single spouse is seen as violating eternal polygamy, or something, just to see if people would believe me.

  11. Sam Kitterman says:

    Having been married now for nearly 30 years, I too married my Beloved two years after returning from my mission and although we did have rings for our wedding, law school and working three jobs led to the ring being too small for my finger. Though I later lost the weight, felt no need to wear the ring since everyone I dealt with knew I was married.
    The time did come when I could afford a new ring for my wife that I felt she deserved (and needless to say, she really really likes it) but my ring got stolen (from a plumber working in our house, no less) and just have seen no reason to replace it….
    Guess the ring I wear is around my heart (symbolically of course) for my love to my wife….

  12. It’s good your wife buys that, Sam. :-)

  13. I like belonging to a weird and cultish religion.

    Brilliant. Amen.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Lest anyone worry that I might find myself in a situation where I am tempted to have an affair, I have one word for you: garments.

    Which reminds me of when a mature sister in my ward got her endowment. She bears her testimony the falling Fast Sunday, and tells us that her non-LDS husband told her that it was like sleeping with a sack of potatoes. She says this over the pulpit! (She had a great sense of humor.) That is probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard uttered over a pulpit in testimony meeting.

  15. Steve Evans says:

    Kevin, I tip my hat to you, sir. You had me LOLin’ with that one.

  16. Thanks for sharing that, Kevin. I’ll try the sack of potatoes reference on my wife tonight – laughing while I duck and run. If you want recommendations for comment of the year by a non-commenter, I will nominate that one.

    When I first read your post, I immediately thought of the symbolic connection between the wedding ring and garments. I know that is the aspect that is so important to my wife – the public expression of our private commitment.

  17. I agree with Eve that wearing my ring makes my social interaction with men much easier. I get way fewer leers and catcalls from men when I’m in public than before I got married. Of course I’m also 40 pounds heavier from having children, and I do have a few grey hairs now. Anyway, for whatever reason, I love not being specially noticed by other men. It’s such a relief to be seen just as a person and not as a sex object.

  18. Never had that problem, myself, wifey. Maybe it’s the extra 40 pounds without having children.

  19. My husband and I bought our wedding rings at Murray’s Discount Auto Parts in Redford Township, MI. While we were there, we bought a case of motor oil and a package of tube socks.

  20. Ann, I think that’s one of the funniest comments I have ever read on any blog. I laughed the instant I read it, and I was laughing even harder as I called for my wife to run in here and read it. I laughed even harder when my wife burst out laughing – saying incredulously, “a wedding ring at an auto parts store? tube socks? How do you buy tube socks at an auto parts store? etc.”

    I think I just broke a temple covenant. Thanks a lot!

  21. The past few summers I have spent a fair amount of time using a shovel and pickaxe which always ends up giving me a blister if I wear my ring, so I take it off for the three or four months during the year. Honestly I never notice having it on or off other than when I am swinging a pickaxe.

    The reason I put it back on in the fall is so that I don’t have that experience you described in the law firm. You really ought to get a ring, Kevin. Think of all the disappointed women when they learn you are married.

  22. When we first moved to NYC, my wife was wearing a ring but only one ring. I guess the local culture expects a married woman to have an engagement ring and a wedding ring. For awhile we almost bought a second ring because of comments she was hearing – but I guess the comments died down or she stopped caring about them.

    I think a ring does serve a nice purpose of protecting singles from “crushing on” marrieds. But when it gets past the first ring I start thinking it’s a jewelry business conspiracy.

    I like to make fun of these diamond jewelry commercials that tell us “Say you’d marry her all over again” …

  23. My husband has lost three rings working on our house or in the yard… he hasn’t worn one for about 5 years now. We’re coming up on a ‘big’ anniversary so I’ve been thinking of finding something cool in a not obviously cool way. Any ideas?

    Did anyone spend the requisite ‘two month’s salary’ on a wedding ring? It’s funny; when we got engaged, two times what he made wasn’t enough to buy any sort of ring, and now two month’s salary seems like an ENORMOUS amount to spend on a ring. I’d constantly be worried I’d be mugged if I went around with a diamond that cost that much.

  24. I guess I mean engagement ring.

  25. I don’t care for jewelry much, and don’t wear my ring much. My mother-in-law hates that I don’t wear it, and for the first couple of years of our marriage would always make comments–as if she didn’t trust me because I didn’t wear my ring. I don’t think it matters if other people know I am married or not, as long as I know I am.

  26. Ann (#19), I think I just ruptured something. I hope it’s not something too terribly important.

  27. claire, perhaps on your anniversary you could perform a tube-socking recommitment ceremony in your living room. Place Ann’s tube socks on both of each other’s feet. Use motor oil generously to facilitate correct sock placement. This will guarantee that your feet will look like freakishly religious sacks of potatoes–thus discouraging infidelity–for as long as you both shall live.

  28. I personally like sending the message that I’m unavailable — not that I’ve had to worry about that very often. (I usually get the “you don’t look old enough to have that many kids” doubletakes rather than the catcall variety…) LOL (Wow, Steve, I didn’t think that was okay language to use on this blog… Add another LOL)

    This isn’t the main reason I wear a ring, however. For me, wearing a wedding ring has a whole lot more to do with what Ray called the “public expression of our private commitment.” I am an emotional and sentimental fool. I appreciate the fact that my DH wears a ring he’d rather not wear simply because it’s important to me. That is a far more significant acknowledgement of our commitment and love than any piece of jewelry could ever be.

    Any object means absolutely nothing without the love and loyalty and devotion that object is meant to manifest. Conversely, one doesn’t need an object to confirm that love and commitment exist.

  29. My ring was a little tight when my wife bought it for me before our marriage. She had a difficult time getting it onto my finger when the sealer announced we could exchange rings. My wise-cracking aunt immediately observed, “Well, you know, that’s the purpose of a wedding ring–to cut off the circulation.”

  30. When me and my husband got married we were also 21 and went along with the whole marriage tradition thing and had rings (in fact, we didn’t have much of a choice, our parents bought them as part of the ‘wedding’). Diamond and everything. But I never liked it, and my husbands didn’t last a month. I never wanted to wear mine, especially since it had a diamond and I detest diamonds, but I thought my husband would be hurt. Finally I asked him if I could get rid of it and found out he didn’t really like rings either. I cannot stand the symbolism of them either. Why do we need visible markers of marriage? Seriously? Like, I’m going to forget I’m married if I don’t wear the ring? I have found that it makes absolutely zero difference in my interactions with people, except at church. People react as if we are sinning or something. Its bizarre.

  31. i wore my wedding ring out–seriously, it got thin and broke in the back. I love that my husband never cracked that I have an acidic personality–what self control!

    He got me a new one for our 12th anniversary, had it made in a moebius strip design, like we wanted to do when we got married, but didn’t have the money to do.

    My husband’s always playing with his wedding ring, spinning it on the table, losing it udner chairs. But he threatened to deck a couple of geishas who tried to pull it off him one night in Japan, they were refusing to understand him telling them to leave it alone. I guess they were trying to loosen him up.

  32. Thank the Maker for Leo DiCaprio. If your wife piles on the pressure for a “rock”, take the moral high ground and witter on about conflict diamonds, or something. (And spend the money on some sweat-shop-produced gadget instead.)

  33. lamonte says:

    My wife and I were married as children ( had turned 20 the week before the wedding and she turned 20 a month later.) We had wedding rings but I lost mine about two years later. I had a habit of taking it off at night and one day it came up missing. My wife thinks our toddler son got his hands on it and deposited it in a waste basket or some other dark place. For about the next 27 years I didn’t wear a ring. My wife continued to wear the engagement ring and wedding band that I gave her until the setting got loose and she feared losing a diamond. I guess I don’t have the sex appeal of some of you but I never experienced anyone hitting on me during those years without a ring.

    Just a few years ago after one of my sons got married my wife and I were visiting (window shopping) at the store where he bought his wife’s ring and we decided – with some prodding by the sales clerk – to buy two inexpensive gold bands and we have worn them ever since. I almost never take it off except to clean it.

    I never used to be interested in jewelry either but in the meantime I purchased a saphire ring for myself on a trip to southeast Asia. And my wife gave me a shiny gold watch ( it’s a Citizen not a Rolex!) a few years ago that I like wearing. I guess in my old age I like having the bling on my body as the rest of me falls apart.

  34. My wife totally spaced it and forgot to get me a wedding ring. She didn’t realize until the day before the wedding and by then she didn’t have any money to get one. I probably would have been fine without a ring, but my wife felt bad. A friend of hers who was visiting for the wedding found out and took her to Target to get me a simple band which has served me well.

  35. Left Field says:

    On the other side of the coin, I once knew a single woman who wore a ring on her left hand. When she expressed some disappointment in her social life, I suggested that men might find her ring to be a deterrent. She seemed surprised, since it didn’t have a diamond, and she thought it was obviously not an engagement or wedding ring. I pointed out that not everyone’s wedding ring has a diamond, and that men may not be that observant about her gem choice, or they just didn’t want to take any chance of hitting on a possibly married woman.

    For corroboration of Ann’s story, see the reviews here.

  36. John Mansfield says:

    My great-grandfather went to California as a teen and became a gold miner. My grandfather also did some panning. I have a couple of half-ounce nuggets my grandfather fashioned onto hatpins for my grandmother. I am rather fond of them and occassionally wear one on a suit label.

  37. About a week before we were headed to SC to get married, my wife and I went to a jewelry store to getting wedding rings (b/c my FIL isn’t a member, we had a really nice ring exchange at our reception). The store told us they could get the rings to us in 10 days, even after we explained that we would be long-since married, and have long-since exchanged rings by then. So we had my finger measured (I can’t remember the excuse we gave, but I imagine it was pretty clear we weren’t going to buy a ring from that store) and, as we got outside, I called my dad (who is a dentist, and make jewelry as a hobby). I talked him into making temporary rings for the exchange, promising that we’d get real rings as soon as we could (again, although he’s really good, his jewelrymaking is pure hobby). Five years later, we still wear my dad’s rings.

  38. I hate rings. I’m not a very fidgety person but when I have a ring on my finger I fidget. I didn’t want any sort of ring whatsoever but my fiance did so we compromised. No engagement ring but we both are getting small stainless steel bands. They’re cheap which suits me.

  39. Thomas Parkin says:

    For my first marriage, I wore a beautiful many decades old craved rose gold ring that had been given me by my Mom’s father. Around the time divorce became inevitable, I started putting it on my key chain. One evening, I put my key chain on top to the AMC Pacer I sometimes drove. Unable to start the car and not knowing what I’d done with the keys, I borrowed my wife’s keys and went to drive on some errands. We did some searching for the keys and the ring, but it was in vain from the beginning.

    My current wife and I both wear very simple, white gold, kind of square cut bands. Almost like little cut lengths of white pipe. Olivia doesn’t like diamonds, or much else that would make her feel she was drawing attention to herself. So, we have these simple, identical pieces. I like them very much. On one occasion, recently, I scratched the ring off in my sleep. When I woke I instantly knew it was not on my finger, and was quite frantic till it was found.

    ~

  40. Nick Literski says:

    #2 J. Stapley:
    Boy, do I understand the tightening ring. My ring size when I was married was a 12. By the time I divorced, it was closer to 15. I never had the ring enlarged, and I almost never took it off. When it came time to remove it permanently, no amount of dish soap, or any other household trick, would help the ring slip off. An EMT friend even tried a medical lubricant with no luck. Of course, by this time, I wanted the ring gone. We actually had to resort to a pair of bolt cutters, in order to remove it. While my ring finger remained intact, wearing a too-tight ring for so long caused noticeable disfigurement. It took over a year for my finger to return to normal!

  41. Ola Senor says:

    I wanted a simple, manly ring when we got married, something with a simple distinctive design, with no ornamentation.

    My wife surprised me with a manly, strong ring, but had more ormantation than I would have expected. Plus it had, GASP, Diamonds. I have loved it ever since.

    And while I don’t love Rolex, a nice cartier tank watch would be nice. Or perhaps this frank mueller frank mueller watch

    That being said, I would totally be willing to let the tradition of engagement rings die. How much money is spent and pain and suffering caused because of the desire to have a shiny stone.

  42. Now that I am on ring #4 (having lost rings 1, 2 and 3 via various golf mishaps)

    What are your various golf mishaps?

  43. Adam Greenwood says:

    If you get married at the Y, nowadays, its pretty discourteous not to wear a ring.

    I also think that cultural expectations have some normative force. Wedding rings is one area where I acknowledge that.

  44. Chuck McKinnon says:

    I have a simple, narrow-band silver ring that I bought for $35 two days before our wedding, when I realized that we had my wife’s rings all taken care of but not mine.

    At the time, I really fancied a wider band but couldn’t find one on such short notice — not to mention on such a tight budget). Years later my wife bought me (an inexpensive, silver) one for our anniversary and I discovered to my dismay that I didn’t like it. My original, narrow-band ring is so unobtrusive I hardly notice I’m wearing it. The wider band was impossible to ignore, so after a few weeks of gamely trying to wear it all the time, I apologized to my wife and went back to my original ring.

    My wife huffed about it just a little for a day or two, and then a few months later lost her white gold engagement and wedding bands. She hasn’t bugged me about my new ring since. =)

  45. John Mansfield says:

    Re $#43: Maybe, the rings were lost during golfing due to a failure to have cash on hand to pay up losing bets and an unwillingness of the golf partners to accept a check?

  46. Steve Evans says:

    *sighs*

    Fundamental to understanding how the rings were lost is a knowledge of the basic golf grip. In order to finesse shots and ensure a solid grip on the club, ring removal is a must.

  47. Wow. Parkin drove a Pacer? What combination of cosmic events led to that unthinkable outcome?

  48. Fundamental to understanding how the rings were lost is a knowledge of the basic golf grip. In order to finesse shots and ensure a solid grip on the club, ring removal is a must.

    Did you try that explanation on your wife? Actually, I was thinking you must have lost it fishing for your ball in a lake.

  49. Steve Evans says:

    Justin, I did indeed try that explanation on my wife. All three times. Sigh.

  50. Steve, if you look closely, you’ll notice that your golf bag has things called pockets. With zippers even. You can put stuff in there (like your ring or um, your weed) and it won’t get lost!

    BTW, congrats on the Tribune quote. Is that a first?

  51. Steve Evans says:

    MCQ, nope.

  52. You are a seasoned source then, but it’s the first time I have noticed this bloggy blog cited in the SLTrib.

  53. My father-in-law is a nearly retired BYU stake president/professor, who never used to wear a wedding ring, but had an experience where a single colleague told him that it was disconcerting and some women were wondering if he was available (this is a man who’s been married almost 40 years, not available and also not the young flirtatious kind). I think at BYU it really does send a message and people are noticing.

  54. Kevin: I think you need to unpack that old book of your’s “Dress for Success” As I recall, it recommended a nice Marriage Band at the office.

  55. Naismith says:

    When she asked me out and found out I was married, she told me I really ought to wear a ring.

    So basically you just blew her off.

    Your desire to be a tad rebellious seems to be more important than any angst you may cause to others.

    I think that in society at large it sends a message, and makes it easier to know where everyone stands. Western society is not the only culture to come up with such a visible symbol; in other places it might be a necklace or hairstyle that sets married people apart. And when so many cultures come up with an idea independently, I tend to think it worthwhile.

  56. In the years before “pampers” I had diaper hands and as a consequence the rash on my fingers made it uncomfortable to wear a ring. I had four kids at the time and never thought anything about having nude hands. My husband was the bishop and I was always in the mode of being “nice” to everyone especially anyone new. So one day I spied a “new” gentleman and accosted him with the usual welcome -happy ward spiel. I then went into the pew where my kids were sitting. Of course I was alone because in those days I always sat with no male in evidence. At a later event he lambasted me with behavior unbecoming a priesthood wife and “coming on” to him. I was clueless, however I did try to push my ring over bleeding fingers at ward functions after that.

  57. #56: Hey! I just said that in #55!

  58. I like wedding rings, although I’m no jewelry fiend. No diamonds for me, por favor. I’m glad my husband wears his band, even though he’s not into it either (okay, that’s not entirely true–do cuff links count?) There are too many people who disregard the symbolism, as we’ve both still been hit on. Gross people–can’t you take a hint?!!

  59. #59: That was just mean! Ring or no ring even with $100 bills popping out of my coat pocket, nobody hits on to me!

  60. It's Not Me says:

    About 10 years ago I took my wedding ring off because it kept giving me a rash. A client came in one time (female) with a plate of cookies and wouldn’t leave. I realized that she had noticed no ring. That night I put the ring back on and the funny thing is that I have never had a rash on that finger since then.

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