By Lydia Bonyo

I woke up one morning thinking about wedding rings. I kid you not, I didn’t dream about weddings or proposals or anything wedding related the previous night, I wake up with the most random of thoughts most mornings.

A lot of the western wedding related stuff we practice and hold so dearly on the African continent are actually just that, borrowed traditions that were a by-product of colonial times. For example, exchanging of rings during marriage vows in church for those who practice Christianity. During the officiating of the marriage, whether it is at a registry or church (I will stick with church for this post since that is what I know), the officiant will almost always ask for the wedding rings. Indeed, most couple’s wedding shopping list will have wedding rings as part of the items to be purchased. Which got me thinking what about non-ring people? Non-ring people being people who don’t wear rings as an accessory or who simply don’t just like wearing any form of jewellery on their fingers. I have friends that are staunch ring people who will not leave the house without at least two rings on each hand. Those are not the people we are talking about today, we are talking about those who don’t like rings, but are stuck wearing wedding bands, when they would rather not have anything on their fingers.

So, I ask who says you should wear a wedding band if you don’t want to, or at all for that matter? As an African, my tradition does not call for the wearing of a wedding band. It is neither a religious requirement to the best of my knowledge nor is it a legal requirement so who says you should wear a wedding band when you would rather not have any form of jewellery on your fingers? It is clearly not a measure of fidelity as has been proven time and time again by unfaithful partners. I have aunties well into their sixties who have been legally and traditionally divorced for decades – divorces that they initiated, who still wear their wedding bands and I ask myself why? Is it social conditioning or they just couldn’t be bothered to take it off. I honestly don’t understand why.

We have been so socially conditioned that a married person wears a wedding band that, should one be seen without their ring, comments such as these ones would most likely follow.

“She is married? How come she isn’t she wearing a ring?” …”Hmm, I saw xyz out last night without his wedding ring, he must have been up to no good” …“I don’t see Mr and Mrs wearing their wedding rings nowadays, is everything OK with their marriage” …and so on and so forth.

The wedding band is an ancient man-made tradition, and like most traditions, I must say to all those who want to honour this tradition, by all means do so. Those who do not care for this tradition by all means do you too. All I can say is that a lot of the “traditions “people follow are as a result of social conditioning more than anything else. Personally, I view engagement and wedding rings the same way I view other pieces of jewellery –  as just jewellery. I attach no special meaning to them because quite frankly there is none, at least not for me.