In western culture, the wedding ring symbolises a commitment to one's spouse. When a woman loses her spouse, the wedding ring can serve as a reminder of the relationship. Learning more about the wedding ring etiquette associated with widows can help a woman decide her own course after the death of a spouse.
According to jewellery retailer Samara James, it was once traditional for a widow to place her wedding ring in the casket with her husband, but this practice is no longer common. Judith Martin, who writes the syndicated "Miss Manners" column, notes that the Victorians' only rule for wedding rings worn by widows was that the ring should not be worn on the morning of a wedding to another man.
Wearing a wedding ring after the death of a spouse can allow a widow to maintain a sense of closeness with the deceased, and it can allow her to remember the good times in the relationship. It can also help prevent unwanted advances if the widow is simply not ready to be approached romantically for a time. Continuing to wear a wedding ring can provide a sense of normalcy in the time after the death, but it should be removed if wearing it is causing emotional pain through its presence.
According to the Finding Our Way website, there is no specific etiquette as to whether a widow should wear her ring or stop wearing it or when it is appropriate to do so. However, there are several common options. A widow may choose to wear her own wedding ring and to wear her spouse's ring on a chain around her neck. She might choose to wear her wedding ring on the right hand. Some women choose to have the ring melted down and made into a new piece of jewellery, which keeps the memento close, but symbolises a new phase in her life.
Passing the Ring On
Wedding rings can also be passed on to someone who is important to the widow. Giving her ring to a child or to someone that she feels close to who is getting married can be an important part of moving on without forgetting the deceased. Wedding rings can become family heirlooms that are passed on to subsequent generations.
Wearing a wedding ring on anything but the ring finger of the left hand can prompt questions. Plain gold wedding bands are a common sight, and people will notice them if they are displayed in an uncommon way. A widow who wears her wedding ring on a different finger or on her right hand should be prepared to face questions. Having an answer prepped can prevent the question from feeling like a shock or an ambush.