My wife and I were recently having dinner at a restaurant. We were dining fairly late for a Thursday night so only two other tables were occupied. To our immediate left was a man and women both a bit older than us. They did not appear to be talking to each other at all. A little farther away, though, a man and a woman, both a bit younger than us, were engaged in a very animated conversation.
They were leaning into each other and both seemed quite happy. Of the six people dining in the restaurant that evening, five wore a ring on the fourth finger of their left hand. Only the younger man was not. That led to my wife to speculate as to whether the younger man was married to his dining companion. As reported in The New York Times, several well-known married men including Donald Trump, Jay Z, and Prince William do not wear wedding bands. What the decision by a married man not to wear a wedding ring means is unclear. To some, it signifies ambivalence about the marriage or even an openness to relationships outside the marriage. To others, a ring is simply a nuisance, an artifact of an earlier age and conventions, or an unnecessary symbol.
Interestingly, it has been customary for women to wear a wedding band for hundreds of years. Before World War II, however, far fewer Western men than women sported wedding bands. One theory for the rapid change in social customs in the mid-20th century is that during World War II men wore a ring as a reminder of their wives or family back home.
Within a very short period of time, it became normal practice in the United States for men to wear a wedding band. In contrast, it was not until the 1990s that it became more expected for men in England to wear a wedding band. It is now so much a part of American and English culture that when Prince William opted not to wear a ring following his marriage, a spokesman for the royal couple felt obligated to explain the Prince’s decision (he does not like to wear jewelry).
As we dined that evening, my wife and I recalled our own wedding many years earlier. We were both quite happy to exchange rings. Now mine seems part of my finger and I remain quite happy to wear my wife’s gift. As for the somewhat younger diners at the restaurant, they seemed very happy. So whether he wore a ring or not, we were glad they were having such an apparently marvelous time together.