Brides in Ancient Rome II: The Engagement and Wedding Rings

The bride in Ancient Rome wore no adornments that would detract from her engagement ring. The engagement ring signified that the couple and both families had signed a contract, and that upon the marriage, ownership of the bride would pass from her father to her husband. The ring displayed here is a “fede” ring. This most common design associated with Roman marriages shows a pair of clasped hands.

Although engagement and wedding rings had their origin in ancient Egypt or ancient Greece, given the Roman legal requirements for engagements, weddings, and divorce, these rings assumed an express meaning. The engagement ring signified that the individuals were eligible to marry. That is, neither was married, they were outside the boundary of certain blood relationships, and the prospective husband was not a eunuch. In addition, the female was at least 12; the male at least 14.

Roman women received two wedding rings, one of iron to wear at home and one of gold to wear in public. Both the engagement and wedding rings were worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because Romans believed that a nerve connected this finger directly to the heart.