Prince William and Kate

Prince William Wedding Ringless?

The following article was published in the New York TImes April 14th, 2011

New York TImes article

Of the many issues facing Prince William and Kate Middleton as they approach their April 29 union, controversy has not been among them.

Or so it seemed with the prince’s recent announcement that he has chosen not to wear a wedding band. But when I casually mentioned it last weekend to a female friend as we walked the Lower East Side, she shot back, “Why not?”

I wasn’t sure what to make of her visceral response. She’s single, 23, intellectually adventurous and sure of herself. I expected her to laugh it off. Instead, for several blocks she wrestled with the unexpected emotions set off by the idea of married men going ringless. It seemed to me to be a repudiation of the young future king and his choice.

Choosing to go without a wedding band is hardly new, nor seemingly worth an argument — for men, that is.

But among some women there’s an undercurrent of displeasure, and the prince’s decision has pushed it to the surface.

Megan Finley, 29, is the managing editor of OffbeatBride.com, a blog aimed at readers seeking untraditional approaches to marriage. When she wrote in March 2010 about her own husband’s decision to forgo a wedding band, it generated more reader responses than nearly any other posting in the blog’s four-year history.

She had expected most would say, “My husband doesn’t wear a ring, either, and I’m totally cool with it.” Instead, about half replied with, “Oh, man, I would not be O.K. with that.”

On Weddingbee.com, another blog, Ohheavenlyday posted that her fiancé “tried to tell me the same thing. ‘I don’t like rings!’ ”

“Partner, I don’t either,” she continued, “but I’m wearing them out of respect!”

On that same site, Totheislands posted, “I can understand if you have a job that limits you being able to wear it, but just choosing not to would bother me.”

Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco psychologist and a chairman of the Council on Contemporary Families, said, “Many women, when they see he is not wearing a ring, worry that he is broadcasting a kind of availability.” Some women, he said, read it as “he has capitulated for some reason, but that he actually doesn’t even really want to do it.”

For all the chatter about Prince William’s decision (palace officials reportedly said that he has never worn jewelry), double ring ceremonies are a relatively recent phenomenon. At the end of the Great Depression, only 15 percent of marriages were double ring ceremonies, said Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University and the author of “It’s Our Day: America’s Love Affair With the White Wedding, 1945-2005.” After World War II, she said, the number rose to 80 percent. This explosion was fueled, Dr. Jellison said, by postwar prosperity that allowed couples to afford three rings: an engagement ring, and two wedding bands.

Ms. Finley, of OffbeatBride.com, who lives with her husband in Los Angeles, said that at first she was “bummed” to hear her then-fiancé, Aaron Finley, expressing doubts about wearing the wedding band they had bought, in part because as a musician and recording engineer he worked a lot with his hands.

She began asking herself, “Why would I make the man I love do something that makes him uncomfortable?” When it dawned on her that her husband and his ring had permanently parted company, she said, she remembered thinking, “ ‘Aww, really?’ ”

“But then you take a step back and ask, ‘Why is this important to me?’ ” she continued. “It’s a symbol that shows he is devoted to me.”

Stepping even further back, she concluded: “He stood up in front of family and friends and a priest on a beach and exchanged vows with me. So, do I need the ring?”

Ruth Graham, 30, a freelance writer in Brooklyn, knows what it is to be without a ring. Although her wedding this June will be a double ring ceremony, her fiancé, Michael Jauchen, a 32-year-old assistant professor of humanities at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, decided for philosophical reasons that he would not buy an engagement ring.

She noted that while diamonds are not her best friend, “this gave me pause.” Without a ring, she reasoned, isn’t an engagement “just a conversation?” And when sharing news of her marriage plans with friends, she wondered, “What would I squeal over?”

 

But when Ms. Graham realized he was coming from a “sweet, feminist perspective,” she said she quickly came around to his view on what engagement rings, given only to women, represent. “Just the symbolism of it is uncomfortable, because it’s almost like a down payment,” she said. “Or I guess it’s a way of proving that a man can be a provider.”

Once news of their engagement spread, she said, her ringlessness stirred mostly awkward conversations. “They’d say: ‘Oh, my God, congratulations! Let’s see the ring’ And I’d have to go through my boring spiel, ‘Oh, we’re not doing one, and here’s why.’ It’s a little bit of a buzz kill.”

She and Mr. Jauchen have no such hang-ups about wedding bands, she said, because “we both wear them,” and it’s a symbol of their commitment.

 Sarah and Cosimo Cavallaro were married five years ago in what amounted to a no-ring ceremony. She could not find a band she liked, and Mr. Cavallaro, an artist, could not afford one.

Since then, he has bought her several rings, but only three months ago did they buy the ring she wanted to symbolize their bond.  He remains without a ring.

“I don’t like things on my hands,” said Mr. Cavallaro, 48, who lives in Brooklyn with his 56-year-old wife, who manages his business. “I don’t like watches, I don’t like bracelets. I don’t like feelings of being choked or chained.”

“I think you make a commitment in your heart, and you live with that,” he added. “That’s the strongest commitment you can make.”