Symbols – that’s what we say about wedding rings. But then . . . what is a symbol? Shiny, sparkly pieces of jewelry that all point to something much deeper and profound – love and commitment. The ring exchange is really the peak of the wedding ceremony, in my opinion. It is the ritualistic binding, or the seal on the covenant just spoken. It takes something intangible (words), and makes it physical (rings). That, when you think about it, is pretty profound.
Meaning of symbols within a marriage ceremony
And this would be the point, of course. “Symbol” comes from a Greek word which roughly translates as “to throw together.” Wow, isn’t that the truth? Not only are the wedding bands symbols that seal the vows, but symbols of the people wearing them. Over time, they gather scuffs, dents, scratches, and point to a particular story of a particular marriage. The rings are symbols of the tangible and intangible aspects of intimate relationship. They mark time. They mark those who wear them (even physically!) The wedding rings create boundaries even as they are limitless in their design. They re-member (as in, put back together) the promises that were spoken into space and air. They memorialize fleeting words. So, yes; layers and layers of meaning thrown together into a little band wrapped around a finger.
Wedding bands can be a sacramental symbol
In certain Christian marriage ceremonies, we even suggest that the wedding band is a sort of sacrament. You might have heard someone say, when holding the rings, that they are “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Now, we can (and do) debate within theological circles about whether or not marriage is a sacrament. I don’t know myself, and change my mind all the time. But, without a doubt, there are sacramental pieces to marriage. And those rings? Well, they are part of that sacramental piece. They are no small matter, and far more than a pretty piece of jewelry. As the liturgical scholar Gail Ramshaw says, “A symbol not only is something, it does something.”
Rings symbolize the infinite nature of love’s role in our lives
Yes, marriage does something. It transforms us. It challenges us to move beyond ourselves in every possible way – physically, mentally, spiritually. It stretches us, calls us back, sends us out, bends us, deepens us, and can sometimes even break us. And those little rings with their circular shape invite us into the endless mystery of marriage. Pretty cool, right?
Next week? Those moments after the ring exchange are pretty cool, too. Tune in!
Sarah has been crafting custom weddings for couples of all kinds since 1999. Sarah is a Ravenclaw, and loves mythology, historical fiction, hot tea, and cycling of all sorts. She is an ordained minister who believes in coloring outside the lines. Sarah has been married to her best friend, Joe, since 1994. Together, their greatest treasures are their two children and the marriage they’ve worked hard to cultivate.