What finger is a widowed person supposed to move the wedding ring?

I recall encountering, during my misspent youth, a custom that a widow or widower should, some time after the death of the spouse, change the finger on which the wedding ring is worn. Can anybody give me more information on this custom–which finger, how long before the change over, history of the custom, and so forth?

Thanks in advance.

There is no need to move the ring at all, if the person doesn’t want to. Nobody has any business telling a widow or widower what they “should” do.

I do not have the date of this article but you can Google it:

The question was not whether or not it was proper for a widow/widower to move their wedding ring to a new finger, but whether or not it was customary at some time in the past for spouses of the deceased to do so. I’m curious about this question as well, since I’ve never heard of such a custom.

AFAIK, it has never been customary (at least in American etiquette) for a widow/er to move or remove a wedding ring solely to signify his/her widowed status. The widowed may change their rings if they decide they don’t want to risk being mistaken for married people—because of interest in meeting a potential new spouse, or for any other reason—but etiquette has never decreed that they are supposed to do so just because they’re widowed.

Other societies may do differently; for example, among Hindus it’s traditional for widows to wear only white clothing, stop wearing jewelry, etc. But in traditional American custom it would have been considered really bad taste, if not downright cruel, to force widows to relinquish the symbol of their married state. For one thing, it would have made them superficially indistinguishable from spinsters, which most married women in American history would have considered an unjust “downgrading” in social status. You don’t make them stop using “Mrs.” with their husband’s name, and you don’t make them take off their wedding ring.

My understanding is similar to Miss Manners’, in that when one feels ready to date again, one moves one’s wedding ring to the ring finger of the right hand, from the ring finger of the left. (She’s got me saying ‘one’ all the time, too.) There is no officially defined time to changeover, and the widowed person can do it or not at their discretion.

Wouldn’t that just prevent you from getting dates with the Greek Orthodox folks (who traditionally wear the wedding ring on the right hand)?

i’m with panama jack. there are many who wear wedding rings on the right hand.

i wouldn’t think widowed if a ring was on the right. i would think married orthodox or eastern european.

I vaugely recall reading about switching the ring to the right hand, too. Also, widows would no longer be “Mrs. John Smith” and become “Mrs. Jane Smith.”
I didn’t wear a ring while she was alive (why? So other women would be warned off? Uh, how about I just not fool around, OK?), so I was never bothered with this dilema. Society has moved on since the days of widows weeds and black wreaths on the door for six months.

This practice was also never promoted by recognized etiquette, although it was sometimes adopted (more often by divorcees than by widows, actually).

In fact, it’s only quite recently that etiquette authorities such as Miss Manners have come around to approving the “Mrs. Jane Smith” nomenclature for anybody at all. The traditional rule was that “Mrs.” means “the wife of” and is correctly used with the husband’s name (thus, “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” as a couple, and “Mrs. John Smith” for a woman individually). The correct form didn’t change when a wife became a widow. My grandmother, for instance, remained “Mrs. William B-----” for the rest of her life after my grandfather died.

“Mrs. Jane Smith” was traditionally considered incorrect, but eventually came to be accepted, partly because it was so hard to figure out another way to refer to divorced women. (The traditional “official” nomenclature for a divorced woman was to use “Mrs.” with her maiden name in place of her ex-husband’s first name—as in “Mrs. Robinson Smith” instead of “Mrs. John Smith”—but that just made things even more confusing, so it died out.)

I was widowed August 28, 2011 and I still wear my wedding ring because I still feel married. We were very much in love and he passed one month and one day shy of our 11th anniversary. I have no desire to date, despite what friends and family suggest, as I am relatively young (43 yrs). I wear my husbands wedding ring on a special necklace (like the one seen here: http://www.intimeofsorrow.com/reunion-heart-ring-holder-necklace.html ), and when I go to work, I put my ring next to his - since I’m a nurse and I don’t want to scratch a patient as the engagement ring has a rather high setting. Wearing our rings isn’t for anyone else’s benefit. For me, it’s like emotional armor, helping me get through the day because I can still feel him near me. This is true whether I’m wearing the necklace or not, but wearing it helps because it’s physical, it has weight and meaning to me. I realize this thread is more about custom, tradition, etiquette - but my point is, it’s up to the individual. Thankfully, we - or most of us, no longer live in a society where one is judged as being proper or correct by the jewelry or clothing we chose to wear.

Touching only on the “which finger?” portion of your question, I’ll just note that unless the widowed spouse is planning to have the ring re-sized, there’s only likely to be one finger that the ring CAN be moved to (ring finger of the other hand).

Never mind, old thread

Old thread but appropriate for me now that I am a widower.
I put our rings on a chain that I wore every day as a married man.
I wore it for 6 months and then put it into storage.

My life changed so profoundly that keeping a (to me) meaningless artifact tied me too firmly to the past. I am old enough that without actively striving to move forward, I will likely die a lonely man. I don’t want that.

But, as they say, YMMV.

Note to self: Be wary of dating someone who has several rings on that finger.

My mother; who is in her 80s and has dementia; became very worried that suitors were being put off by her having a wedding ring (said suitors being hallucinations), even though, as a widow, she was now “single”. So she insisted that I buy her a widow’s ring.

AFAIK there is no such thing, so I bought her a silver cladagh to wear on her left hand pinkie and that’s kept her quiet.

She hasn’t managed to find a new beau however.

Christian tradition (Anglophone world aside) is to wear the ring on the right hand while you’re married and unless your marriage gets annulled, there it stays forever.

It could merely be a widow from Spain, where traditionally both spouses wear rings and widow(er)s add the deceased’s ring to their own.

And sorry Soshy but no. My parents were from different parts of Spain and one of the curious little differences between their two cultures was that the rings went in the right in his homeland, but in the left in hers. That one took a bit of wrangling to solve, since having the ring in “the wrong hand” also had different meanings (engagement ring vs doesn’t fit well/bothersome in the “proper” hand). Pamplona/Barcelona, 1964.

There are different traditions about engagement rings, but in the Catholic church (except for anglophones) the ring goes on the right. And in 1964 (when you could still file a complaint with the civil guard saying how your neighbor didn’t go to mass on Sunday) it would be even more unheard of to deviate from that. I’m not saying that you’re mistaken in anyway, but this sounds exceptional.

I was married in Leon, and in Leon and Asturias, left hand is unheard of except from watching American television. Anyone I know from Andalusia, Valencia, etc who wear it on the left are normally married to foreigners.

I recognize this line is more about customized, customized, manners - but my point is, it’s up to the person. Fortunately, we or most of us, no more reside in a community where one is assessed as being appropriate or appropriate by the bracelets or outfits we select to use.

I know this is an ancient thread, but as a data-point, in the SouthEast USA, the “ring on the right” was very well established in my child-and-young-adult-hood (80s-00s) as an indicator of widow/er status.

That’s changing, I think in part due to that advertising campaign noted in this NY Times article that started aiming at women with disposable incomes.

If I see a right-hand ring, I start checking other data-points in my head to see what box I slot the person into - if they’re older, or more conservative, or wearing other religious jewelery, then it’s likely they’re a widow/er. If they’re younger, or more “professional,” or they’re dressed in very natty stylish clothes, then it’s more likely to be an “I am woman hear me roar” ring.

Personally, I don’t wear my rings on my hand. I have them on a chain around my neck, as does my husband. We both work places where rings are either an inconvenience or outright dangerous. Despite that, I do think that the switching hands idea is a sentimental and sweet one. As much as I’m all over empowerment, I do feel a little sad that this tradition (as subtle and spotty as it is) is being co-opted by a movement driven by an ad campaign.