Wedding rings are used in a marriage ceremony to symbolize eternal love and commitment, an unbreakable bond.
Typically, an engagement ring is given as a promise of a commitment to work together, in relationship, toward marriage.
During the wedding ceremony, the wedding band is slipped on the ring finger (aptly named), and afterward, most people get the two rings soldered together.
For those of us who plan to save ourselves for marriage, the engagement ring also serves as a promise to remain sexually pure until the marriage night. The addition of the wedding band cues the music, “Let’s get it on.”
So, what happens when the engagement ring is already soldered to the wedding ring at the point of engagement?
And, why are they already soldered together?
What does it mean?
Thanks for asking.
In December of 1998, I met a man I’ll call First Husband. (Spoiler alert: we end up getting married. Another spoiler alert: we end up getting divorced. Final spoiler: I get married again. To someone else.)
I was nineteen, a virgin, and had every intention of staying that way until I was married.
First Husband was new in town and only had one friend. He was born and raised in Branson, Missouri. Entertainment capital of the midwest. He’d had a complicated childhood, barely graduated high school, left home without telling his parents, and moved into a drug house, selling and using.
However, he’d decided to clean up his life, so he and his best friend moved to Oklahoma, where I met him, to have a clean slate.
We talked on the phone and started hanging out. I initially had friendly intentions, not romantic ones. I had my eyes set on college and a move to NYC.
It didn’t take long for the friendship vibe to turn into “more”. Who doesn’t love an underdog story? He’d overcome so much. It was admirable. Within six months of dating, we were talking about marriage.
We lived in Oklahoma. His parents still lived in Missouri.
We went to Missouri for a weekend so I could meet his family. Father, mother, and brother.
Technically, it was his step-father, but it was the man who raised him.
His parents lived in a double-wide trailer.
I’d never been in a trailer before. In Oklahoma, there is a stigma about trailers, trailer parks, and trailer park trash. This double-wide was really nice. It was just a house. It didn’t look like a “trailer” at all.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
On the way to his parent’s house, we stopped by Golden Corral where his mom was a waitress. We chatted briefly and then headed off to what I can only describe as a permanent fairground — or a miniature Missouri equivalent of the strip in Las Vegas, though I’ve never been to Las Vegas.
There was a strip of paved land that had rides and flashing lights just like the temporary fairgrounds of my youth where I would ride the Tilt-a-Whirl, eat funnel cakes, and shake my groove thang to the popular music of the day.
We parked, got out of the car, and started walking toward a ride called Sky Shot.
No communication. Just follow along.
From what I remember, First Husband paid the ride operator who asked me to sit in the contraption where he strapped me in.
I am afraid of heights and like my feet firmly planted on solid ground.
I don’t remember being asked if this was something I wanted to do. Apparently, I was more afraid of disappointing First Husband than I was of using my voice to avoid being shot through the air like David’s rock headed for Goliath.
Once strapped in, First Husband got down on one knee.
I literally couldn’t move. I was strapped in within an inch of my life.
The ride operator now had a video camera and was videoing what I was coming to realize was a marriage proposal.
First Husband asked if I would marry him, I muttered something like, “Yes, you idiot”, and he put a ring on my finger. I couldn’t even really see it because I was strapped to a metal slingshot. The next thing I know, he takes the ring back and gives it to the ride operator. He didn’t want it to fly off my hand as we were catapulted toward the heavens.
The ride operator strapped in First Husband and shot us into the atmosphere.
I hated it.
I did not feel loved.
Once we were safely back on the ground, I put the ring on and went to the bathroom … to use it but also to get a look at my engagement ring.
The ring was gold. Yellow gold.
I hate yellow gold jewelry. I’m a white gold girl.
The ring wasn’t just one ring. It was two. The engagement ring was already soldered to the wedding band.
I stared at that ring and tried so hard to love it. It was the symbol of our love. Of our commitment. It was the ring I would see on my hand for the rest of my life.
The rest of my life.
It was too big to wear on my ring finger, so I wore it on my middle finger until we could get it sized.
Come to find out, the reason we stopped by the Golden Corral to see his mom was so he could get the ring from her.
Maybe it was a family heirloom. That’s why it was already soldered together.
Turns out, several years prior, his mom and dad worked at a hotel, cleaning rooms. His mom was putting new sheets on a bed and found the ring between the mattresses. She turned it in, no one claimed it, and the hotel let her have it.
That’s the story I was told.
Not the most romantic story. But it explained why the rings were already soldered.
Every time I looked at my hand, the rings seemed to indicate we were already married. I found it unsettling and mentioned having them taken apart and soldered back once we were married.
This idea was not well received.
That night, we spent the night in his parent’s home. He tried to have sex with me. I pushed him off and reminded him that we weren’t married yet. Just engaged. Regardless of what the rings seemed to indicate. He pushed back that we were promised to be married. Wasn’t that good enough?
The next night, we got in his car and ended up at a hotel.
He wanted privacy.
That night, he took my virginity. Just like the rings, I wasn’t asked, and it didn’t matter what I wanted.
By this time, I was twenty. Unfortunately, I was too immature and too filled with shame to tell anyone what happened. For me, this act sealed my fate. If I was to only have sex with the man I married, First Husband now had to become my husband.
After we were engaged, I heard him proudly tell someone that I loved him, not jewelry. It wouldn’t have mattered if he bought be a ring from a gumball machine, I would have said yes. I wanted him, not a ring.
While I wanted that to be true, something about the ring I had been given felt a little like it was from a gumball machine. It wasn’t a symbol of our love any more than a tiny plastic gumball ring would be. He didn’t pick out a ring based on knowing me. He didn’t pass down a ring from his family.
He gave me a ring that my friends think his mom stole from a hotel room.
When it came time to get his ring, we went to the local mall where we could shop at a few different jewelry stores, but we only went to one.
We were looking at men’s wedding bands when a young saleswoman offered to help us. I had been looking at one band that had both white gold and yellow gold. As it turned out, the ring he gave me did have a little white gold woven into it. I thought this ring would match mine nicely, having both types of gold.
I asked if he liked the ring or if he preferred a solid yellow gold one.
“It’s fine,” he said curtly.
I was caught off guard. “I don’t want it to be fine. I want you to love it.”
“This is the ring that will symbolize our marriage. You’ll be wearing it for the rest of your life. I don’t want it to just be fine.”
He doubled down on his silence and shut down right before my eyes.
Eyes cast toward the floor, he muttered, “It’s fine. Let’s just get it.”
Exasperated, I paid for the ring, and we headed to the car.
“What is going on?” I asked. “Why are you being like this?”
“I’m not going to fight in front of another person.”
“Fight?! I asked if you liked the ring. That isn’t fighting.”
If he thought I was heated before, he better brace himself for what was to come.
“And, you care more about what some random salesgirl thinks of you than if you like your wedding ring?”
From my vantage point, we hadn’t been fighting in the jewelry store. But, in the car on the way home, we successfully achieved fighting status. Round and round, we had the same conversation over and over. I couldn’t understand what I had experienced, and he couldn’t explain it.
By the time we got back to my parent’s house, we were both boiling. First Husband got out of my car, slammed the door, and headed toward the front door of the house. There, he opened the door and slammed it in my face. I entered my parent’s house in time to hear him slam the door to my bedroom.
Oh, hell no!
My parents stood, rooted in place in the living room, deer in headlights.
I’d love to say that giving me a busted ring, taking my virginity, and slamming all the doors in my face were enough to make me reconsider my response to his proposal.
Unfortunately, my commitment to only have sex with my husband was very strong, and the shame I felt for having “lost” my virginity was too great.
Many fights and a few months later, we married.
I never did fall in love with the ring. I did come to see it as a symbol of our marriage and commitment though.
The wedding ring is the symbol of marriage. An infinite circle that goes round and round. Just like our arguments.
In one of my less stellar moments, in the middle of a heated yelling match (our poor neighbors), I took my ring and launched it at his head.
My aim sucked. My intent landed.
Sadly, and thankfully, the marriage only lasted nine months.
Nine long, painful, hard, awful months.
The man I was married to was not the man I dated.
When all was said and done, he told me, “I pretended to be someone else because I knew you’d never marry who I really am.”
I will never forget those words.
He was right.
When the veiled threats of divorce became a real talking point and eventually a mutually agreed-upon decision, he asked for the ring back.
As if I would want to keep it.
He gave me his.
As if I had a use for it.
The final act. The closing of the loop. The exchange of rings.