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.