Wedding Ring and Veil

Its significance for Christian Marriage
Introduction: Our society is becoming a ‘thought-squeezed-society’ where there is very little or no space given for thinking to live a reasonable life. We see what is happening in our society but do not perceive it. We know what’s happening but do not understand it.   Our mind is so squeezed that we hardly take time to think what we are doing is right or wrong. We hardly take time to think whether what we are doing is meaningful or of no use. Majority of us does thing because other people are doing, without even knowing what we are doing by doing that. Since we do not think how to live our life of our own, we compete each other through imitation of others. We have no innovative idea of our own. We try to gain fame and good name through these imitated habits of others. While trying to live a ‘borrowed or imitated life’ of others we lost ‘simple life’ and hence peace of mind.  We do not enjoy our life anymore because we have lost the art of living a simple life, which our fore-parents enjoyed. We are like a deer in the desert that misunderstood mirage as water and chase after it but never, never hit upon. We develop a kind of ‘imaginary life’ and struggle to find the meaning of life through it.  We became victims of Western culture. Blinded by modernization and consumerist culture, our churches (Christians) misunderstood ‘western culture’ as ‘Christian culture’ and imposed on its members to follow. This makes life very confused, complicated and insecure.  Today ‘we are afraid to live a simple life’ thinking that it might lower our standard or respect in the church/society.   
Well friends, this is happening even in our wedding day celebration. We all know that ‘marriage act’ is ‘sacred’ and hence it is honourable by all. However, today, its sacredness is almost surpassed by marriage rites and lavish feast. A huge expense on wedding day is a cause of great worry especially for poor church members. This discourages many people to have proper marriage ceremony in the church.  Therefore, our Executive Secretaries, Church Pastors and Leaders encourage their members to have small wedding party. However, contrary to what they preach, for their children or for themselves a big programme is often organized. Wedding day became a day of showing one’s greatness and richness. Big celebration became a pride of family members and relatives. Wedding day is supposed to be a joyous day – but it became a day of fear and tension due to huge expenditure involvement. The huge expenditure is due to the expensive use of wedding card, ring, veil, cake, feast and other decoration. Ring boy and flower girl are also employed– which all added to making marriage ceremony a very complicated affair. Human labour involved for the entire wedding program is usually not considered as cost. We do all these but without really knowing what we are doing. What is wedding cake for? What for is wedding 0ring. What is wedding gown/veil for? How many of us are aware of the origin and significance of wedding ring, veil, cake and so on? Are we wearing all these dresses simply because others are wearing? Are these practices biblical? Are they our culture? How many Reverends or ordained Christian ministers really know about the origin of wedding ring and veil? If they put ring on the bride and bridegroom’s finger without knowing its history, is it not a mockery? Is the wedding ring signifies commitment to one another or suspicion of each other’s commitment?   

Significance of Wedding Ring:  Samuel Johnson brusquely defines ring as “a circular instrument placed upon the noses of hogs and the fingers of women to restrain them and bring them into subjection.” He thus sees ‘Ring’ as a sign of subjection and forced submission. Here, the meaning of ‘Wedding Ring’ perfectly fits into the Reverend’s marriage sermon of wife’s submission to husband. Is Wedding Day then a day of crucifixion of woman’s freedom and her humble submission to a man? In ancient Egypt, there was “a custom of placing ring by husband on the finger of his wife, as a sign that he had confidence in her ability to care for his house.” Ouch! what again? Ability to care for his house? Did she became servant or adopted woman through marriage? The Greek and Roman bridegroom often gave a ring to the bride’s father-a practice that was probably a survival of primitive bride purchase. Here we see woman as commodity/property that can be sold (by father) and bought (by bridegroom). Ring was used a medium of that exchange. In some Naga societies, paying of bride’s price still continues although we claim to be Christian. In the second century B. C., the Roman bride was presented with a gold ring. But this she wore only in public. Such a ring was much too precious to wear while tending to household duties; and so the groom gave the bride a second ring - for use in the home. Probably the most imposing ring of all time was that used at the Hebrew wedding. This curious ring was shaped like the roof of a Jewish temple, and was so large and clumsy that it could not be worn in the ordinary manner. Many times it was the property of the synagogue and was borrowed for the event, for it was needed during only a portion of the ritual and was then removed.  
It was not until about 860 that the Christians used the ring in marriage ceremonies, and then it was not the plain circlet that we now use, but a highly decorated device, engraved with symbolical figures of doves, lyres and even of two linked hands. Such a “heathenish” gadget was not given a hearty reception by the Church, and for a long time its use was discouraged, though never completely abandoned. This is how the use of Wedding Ring comes to us. We cannot be sure exactly how the custom of placing the marriage or betrothal ring on the third finger of the left hand arose. The habit of wearing the wedding symbol on the fourth finger of the left hand is based upon a Grecian fable that the artery from that finger flows directly to the heart. Science discredits this theory. Another explanation centers around the idea of the left hand denoting subjection of wife to husband. In recent times, an artistically combined wedding ring of gold and iron has come to the front. By the blending of these two metals, the ring becomes a symbol of the union of strength and beauty.  

Significance of Bride’s Veil: There are many stories of the origin of a bride’s veil.  Some say that the veil was introduced in ancient Rome. People of that era believed that evil spirits would be attracted to the bride, so they covered her face with a veil in order to conceal her features and confuse them. The veil became a protection against evil spirits. It’s also said that in medieval times, the veil was used to protect her from “the evil eye” and was a symbol of purity, chastity, and modesty. It was also used to serve as protection against the wind and desert sun as well as to preserve the modesty of women in a time when the use of force was the rule of law. A woman covered her face so her husband wouldn’t be killed for her beauty (Remember Sarah and Abraham in Egypt). This was also a time of arranged marriages, with the groom rarely seeing his bride before the wedding day.  
Others say that the origin of the bridal veil was due to the circumstances of an arranged marriage.  In days past, men bargained with an eligible young lady’s father for their hand in marriage. After the ceremony, the veil was lifted to reveal the brides features.  This was to keep a groom from backing out of the deal if he didn’t like what he saw (Remember Jacob and Laban’s deal for Rachel and Leah?). It became popular in medieval Europe through the influence Arab culture and came to symbolize modesty and purity. The flowing white veil became a sign of virginity. Thus, only first-time brides wear a veil. It is believed that the veil was used in days past as a symbol of a bride’s submission and willingness to obey her husband. The groom’s lifting of the veil signifies his acceptance of the bride. He unwraps his bride as he takes possession of her (this is what exactly we are practicing during marriage ceremony). Hence, a bride traditionally was given away while a man took a wife. A bride is given away like a doll to be played with by bridegroom.  
Brides of our day are making their own wedding veil history! Star Jones of the popular Television show “The View” wore a 27’ Foot long Veil – the longest known in history. It’s dubbed the “Star Cathedral Veil.” Her veil was two feet longer than Princess Diana’s Bridal Veil. However, according to a poll, Princess Diana’s wedding dress had topped all those worn by other royal and celebrity bride. Although her wedding dress was voted the best ever so far in history, the way Princess Diana ended up her life and the rumours of her pregnancy by another man shows that the best and expensive wedding dress did not provide happy marital life. Should we not ask ourselves then that whether the ‘self’ or the ‘costly dress’ of our marriage is more important?   

Evaluation:  Wedding Veil does not relate to any biblical teaching. It is very clear that this practice came through pagan (heathen) superstitious belief: to hide and confuse the evil spirits and also to avoid ‘bad luck’. It is a symbol of a bride’s complete submission to the subjugation of husband. Therefore, there is no equality of man and woman. Marriage ceremony is supposed to be an event of getting ‘blessings’ and a day of mutual commitment and submission between a man and woman. However, whilst a bridegroom is free to wear any type of dress, a bride has to be decorated like a ‘doll’ in a Veil and be presented to bridegroom. This is simply ridiculous to me. Both man and woman are equal in dignity and status. They ought to be valued and treated equally.  
Exchange of ring shows lack of trust of each other. It is the commitment of heart that matters. Our fore-parents did not exchange wedding ring but they hardly commit adultery and divorce case was very rare. What’s happening today? Wedding ring may be still useful in Western Countries where sexual life is freer than in our society in order to symbolize that one is already married. But for our society we don’t need it. Today, we give much more importance to Ring than to our commitment. Hence, let’s ponder again whether it is necessary to spend huge amount of money for wedding ring and veil – which seems to have no meaning at all.  
What about marriage lavish feast? John 2: 1-11 narrates an interesting wedding party at Cana where Jesus and his disciples were invited to be part of it.  We do not know what the response of Jesus for big celebration was. However, we can be sure that Jesus’ attention was not the bridegroom or the bride, or the special invitees of the wedding. His main interest was the provision of the cooks and workers of the wedding party. These people take all the trouble of preparing delicious food for all the wedding guests/invitees but often do not get their share. Most of the time, the workers ate leftover food. Jesus fed them with ‘the good wine’. Jesus performed two miracles here: 1. Turning water into wine & 2. Feeding the cooks and workers (the most insignificant groups of people) with the good wine (food). Jesus’ miracle shows that everyone is equal in respect and dignity as human beings. We often forget the less unfortunate ones in our celebrations.  Do we treat everyone equally on our wedding feast?              

Dare to think and act differently:
Let’s think for a marriage ceremony differently from that of western-imposed-culture which would be ‘Christian’ in its nature, contextually relevant, simple and yet meaningful. For instance, instead of using ‘ring’ and ‘cake’, it would be more meaningful and less cost if we use ‘water’ as symbolic representation of becoming ‘One’. Administrator of marriage ceremony can pray over a cup of water, after which the bride and bridegroom can drink that water as commitment to one another and also to signify that they will not part from each other until they give up using water in their life (which means death). Water means life.  It is considered as ‘sacred’ in both our traditional and Christian belief. Unlike water, Ring and Cake do not have such deep meaning. Biblically, the creation story of Genesis (first book of the Bible) starts with water and the vision of new heaven and earth of Revelation (the last book of the Bible) mentioned water as life. On wedding day, bride and bridegroom enter into new stage of life to make life possible to continue. Hence, water holds great significance in our life.
Equal treatment has to be given to the bride as well as the bridegroom during marriage ceremony. They can walk down the aisle together for the marriage ceremony and march out together after the programme. Why should the bridegroom come first and wait for the bride as if he is going to receive a ‘gift’ from someone? Is woman a doll? Administrator of Marriage must also be very, very careful with sermon on such grand occasion. The sermon should base on equality, joy, and commitment to each other and certainly not of oppression and subjugation of one by the other. The bride and bridegroom are equal human being with equal dignity and respect. As far as wedding dress is concerned, they can choose the best dress that suits them and are comfortable to wear. Excessive cosmetic make-up may make others suspicious of one’s genuine character. Be yourself. Remember it is neither the expensive and shiny wedding dresses nor the lavish feast that makes your marriage meaningful. But it is the heart of commitment that matters.  
Well friends, any two persons entering into the marriage union should realize that marriage is an institution of God (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:9).The Biblical seal for the marriage union is the promise of lifelong marital love and fidelity on the part of those entering into marriage. Marriage vows that were made, a certificate of marriage signed by witnesses, the approval from church authority, the prayer of administrator of marriage and blessings of parents is all that is needed for marriage union. When God’s standards for a beautiful character and commitment of hearts are upheld, it is not necessary to wear expensive ornamental things for enduring attractiveness and attachment to each other. Marriage ceremony should be a simple and meaningful affair. Do not be deceived by this worldly consumerist culture. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Dare to think differently and act boldly. Be simple. Be happy.