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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Russian Wedding Rings and the meaning of Love

This is a story that my mother told me when I was a very little boy, a story that mothers weave for their children. The symbolism of the 3 gold bands resonates across the years. At the end are some links you might find handy.

My father used to manage small hotels in the Free State when I was a little boy.
It was not common for people to stay there for any length of time, people just passed through going from one place to another: overnighting for at most a night or two.
Mostly they were travelling salesman, or people migrating from the big city to the coast, or vice versa.

I remember one couple very clearly, though. They were foreigners, and spoke in a rather strange tongue. And although she was a remarkably beautiful woman (I could see that, even though I was a very young boy) it was the strange ring that she had on her wedding finger that struck me the most.
It was actually 3 interlocking rings, a sort of a puzzle ring, and each ring a different colour of gold.
I asked my mother what it was. She told me it was a Russian wedding ring. "Oh", I said. "What's that?"
Well, in those far-off days, mothers never had the Internet to go to, and trekking off to the library to look things up in the Encyclopaedia was not going to answer the question for a persistent little boy!

So she did the next best thing, which was to tell me a story.
Years later, I looked up Russian wedding rings on the Internet. I learnt that the Russian wedding ring is a Christian symbol, representing the holy Trinity. And while that is true, I still prefer my mother's story. Here it is, maybe you will enjoy it too.

My mother's story

She told me that marriage was about two people who loved each other.
She told me that the ring was a symbol of this love, as all wedding rings are.
But, she told me, this ring brought together the three most important things of a loving relationship.

The white gold ring, she told me, is softer than the other golds. Being softer, it will take the shape of the finger. "Love is like that", she said. "In the journey through life, two people in love have to change their shape. They have to give some things up, and take other things on. To become a family each one has to move towards the other". So that's what the white gold represents: bending towards each other.

Yellow gold, on the other hand, is very hard. You can bump it and knock it, and afterwards, all you had to do is to give it a hard rub, and there it would be: all bright and shining again. "Life is like that" she said. "It's not easy. Sometimes things are really difficult. Then you have to support each other. Sometimes love has to be hard". So this is what the Yellow Gold represents: the strength to get through life, and then come out on the other side all bright and shiny and new.

Then she was silent for a time. So I asked her "what about the red gold mommy?"

It took her a moment before she answered.
"Have you ever seen red gold before?" she asked softly.
"No", I replied.
"Well," she said, "Red Gold is rare". "And love", she said "is just as rare. When you find it, when you finally have it, you must look after it. You have to protect it. If you lose it it might never come back to you again". And that is what the Red Gold represents: that Love must be cherished, because life is short and every moment spent without love is a moment lost forever.

Related links

Origins of the wedding ring
This site was built to search out and explain the history of the wedding ring. You will find information on the evolution of the wedding ring and its history through the Christian faith.
Professionally researched answer from the AnswerBag
Reviews the various kinds of three-ring wedding bands
A brief history of the wedding ring
An article from the blog "Sex, Love, and Marriage"
Russian Wedding Customs
From Wikipedia
Symbolism Of Wedding Rings
A nice little article on the symbolism of wedding rings in general-ignore the Russian cyber brides!
Russian Weddings
The full paraphernalia, courtesy Wikipedia
Traditional Wedding Rings
A history of some of the most popular traditional wedding rings, courtesy the Wedding Channel
Wedding Ring Traditions Around the World
From Ancient Egyptian Culture to Modern Irish Claddagh Rings, courtesy Suite101
On Russian Wedding Traditions of the Past
Some background on wedding traditions and rituals in old Russia



  1. I have heard another story about the meaning of the Russian Wedding Ring that also differed from it's Christian symbolic history.

    Quite simply the 3 gold bands meant:
    - For then
    - For now
    - Forever

  2. oh my goodness =)
    that was so inspiring.

    I loved the story your mom told you when you were so young. It's remarkable how it has stuck with you for so long.

  3. Hi all! I'm from London but am living in Berlin at the moment.
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  4. Yes...I love the fact it represents the Holy Trinity,the past, present & future & the story from the mum...all very beautiful & adding more meaning for I am getting one for our 30th ring per 10 years...which really embodies the mum's tale.The first 10 years-gold.. bumps & knocks & coming through 10 years...white..moulding together learning the changes...last 10 years...Rose...a lasting love that is blooming better than ever...with many thanks to the Trinity who has helped us to withstand the bumpiness.. mould to one another & the staying power to see it throught & tell the tale.....Yesterday is History, tomorrow's a's a gift..which is why it is called the present.......

  5. 30 years of family life! Such a journey you have had, all bound up with memories, always growing into an ever richer present. I'm so pleased that this little story has been able to give you an insight into the blessings of your own life: thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story about the rings.
    I used it as a reading for my wedding and it brought tears to many.

  7. I'm so pleased that it made a difference to your special day. Here's my wishes to a long, happy, and ultimately fulfilling relationship :)

    Here is another note I wrote on a wedding I attended,

    ... and some thoughts at my Son's wedding, which maybe you can carry with you too.

  8. I just read this, and the story from your childhood is just beautiful. I wear one to symbolize the unity of our family - the gold band has my son's name engraved inside, the white gold has my husband's and the rose gold has mind. We are just a family of three and I found this to be more meaningful than the typical mother's ring.

    1. I love to see how families create their own traditions and synbols!
      Its so important to have these (really personal) traditions in the family, especially when they speak to the matters of the heart and continuity of generations. I hope it will carry forward, a steady reminder of your commitment to each other!

  9. and here i am, all teary about the beauty of it all - everything from a mother's wisdom, the reality of love and life, the simple stunning beauty of free state grasslands and koppies and the ring of my dreams that simply unified with my left fourth finger when i fitted it today...

  10. and I hope it is a message that will endure for you, too ... and you can pass it on through your life. I know those koppies well, from child to man: its a good place to come from, and an even better place to grow up in

  11. Oh my....I have tears.
    That was truly a lovely story from your mother.
    I knew I liked the Russian wedding band for a reason, and that explanation is why.
    Thank you so much for sharing....

  12. That really is a delightful and heartwarming story from your mother

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