Even though Catholic nuns are forbidden from marrying, some wear wedding rings. Not every order or community of nuns wears wedding bands, but those that do have rings of varying styles, which all hold the same sacred significance.
Nuns wear wedding bands to signify their status as brides of Christ. They commit their lives to Christ and hence "marry" him. The ring is a symbol of their lifelong commitment, devotion and fidelity to Jesus. A secondary function of the nun's wedding band may be to indicate the order or community to which she belongs.
Nun's wedding rings are often simple bands, but they can feature engraving. Materials can be gold, silver or other metas,l and the engraving is often a religious symbol or Latin phrase. The more than 900 nuns of the Immaculate Heart of Mary--which is based in Pennsylvania and follows the Redemptorist rule of St. Alphonsus--wear engraved gold bands. The inside of the ring features the Latin phrase "Ego te sponsabo," meaning "I will wed thee," while the outside of the ring features an engraving of two hearts pierced by a sword.
A nun usually receives her wedding band when she professes her vows. The marriage ceremony follows a Mass and comes complete with nuns wearing white garb and veils, and holding wreaths. The nun receives her ring either during the actual marriage ceremony or when she professes her vows, depending on the traditions of her community.
The history of nun's wedding bands reaches as far back as the 300s, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. St. Ambrose, who lived from 374 to 397, mentions the custom, saying it reminds the nuns of their heavenly marriage. Medieval bishops in the 12th century also spoke of the nuns' rings, and they continued to make references to the ritual thereafter.
Nuns are traditionally buried wearing their wedding rings, according to a Black Veil article on the Global Oneness website, but not in all orders. At Immaculate Heart of Mary, wedding bands are instead passed down from one nun to another after a nun's death.