Wedding Ring Etiquette After Divorce

Updated April 17, 2017

The motto of Winchester and New Colleges at Oxford University is, "Manners maketh man." Etiquette can make many difficult situations easier and less awkward, including divorce. Wedding rings can be a contentious issue, especially if they are expensive or have sentimental value. Because emotions tend to run high during divorce proceedings, abiding by the rules of etiquette can make the process a little easier.

Returning the Ring

Etiquette, as well as legal precedence, says that wedding rings are a gift from the husband to the wife. Therefore, women do not have to return wedding rings to their ex-husbands if they do not want to. On the other hand, if the woman no longer wants her wedding ring, she can return it to her ex-husband. No sources say whether a man should return his wedding ring to his ex-wife.

Wearing the Ring

After the marriage dissolves, ex-spouses do not wear their wedding rings. Wedding rings are symbols of marriage, and once that marriage ends, it becomes unnecessary as well as deceptive to continue to wear a wedding ring. However, for those who can not bear to part with their wedding rings, solutions exist. Wear the wedding ring on a different finger or even a different hand. British women in the 1920s would cut notches into their rings to symbolise divorce, according to "Popular Mechanics" magazine.

Keeping the Ring

Some people cannot bear to part with their wedding rings, but do not want to wear it. Etiquette allows for the storage of wedding rings after divorce. Keeping your ring in a drawer, buried under mounds of clothes, is considered socially acceptable. Some people need a more concrete form of closure. Jill Testa, a Manhattan divorcee, designed the "Wedding Ring Coffin" to contain wedding rings after divorce, according to the "New York Post." The coffin provides a symbolic reminder that the marriage has ended.

Giving Old Rings New Life

In the age of recycling and reusing, etiquette allows for reshaping a wedding ring into something else entirely. After divorce, some people take their old wedding rings to jewellers to be melted down into another piece of jewellery. The modern ethos of recycling approves this kind of reuse. It is considered bad form to throw items out when they can be given new life.


Under no circumstances should a couple use rings from their previous marriages for a remarriage, even if they are remarrying each other. Wedding rings exemplify the commitment between two people. If you are using your old wedding ring, you bring a small part of an unpleasant period in your past with you into your new marriage. Use new rings to signify the beginning of a new life together. To be environmentally friendly, purchase or make rings from recycled or reused materials.

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About the Author

Rachel Levy Sarfin has been writing professionally since 1998. She has written for the "Yardley News" and the Healthwise Lifewise blog, and served as the Jerusalem correspondent for the Omanoot website. Sarfin completed her Master of Arts in Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.