Visual markers of marital status

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Visual markers of marital status, as well as social status, may include clothing, hairstyle, accessories, jewelry, tattoos, and other bodily adornments. Visual markers of marital status are particularly important because they indicate that a person should not be approached for flirtation, courtship, or sex. In some cultures, married people enjoy special privileges or are addressed differently by members of the community.

Marital status markers are usually gender-specific.


Male marital status markers are usually less elaborate than female marital status markers. In many cultures, they may not exist.


In many Western nations, some husbands wear a wedding ring on the third or fourth finger of the left hand. In parts of Europe, especially in German-speaking regions, as well as in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, and Ukraine, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand. In the Netherlands, Catholics wear their wedding rings on the left hand, while most other people wear them on the right. Some spouses choose to wear their wedding ring on the left hand in Turkey.

In China, Western influence has resulted in some husbands donning wedding rings. Traditionally, Chinese men did not wear rings, and were expected to have several concubines. A ring symbolizing marriage to only one spouse was not considered necessary.[1]

In modern times, the material of wedding rings is not strictly prescribed; they may be forged of gold, rose gold, white gold, argentium silver, palladium, platinum, titanium, or tungsten carbide.

Manual laborers sometimes wear rings of inexpensive or more durable materials like tungsten while working or bear an ink tattoo to avoid damaging a ring of precious metal or personal injury. Additionally, the use of silicon wedding bands has become more common among men (and women) while in a gym or other environment with potential hazards (firefighter, etc.); these bands have enough flexibility to snap off if caught and are not typically electrically conductive.[2]


Among the Amish, and Hutterite communities of Canada and the United States, only married men are permitted to wear a beard. Unmarried men are required to shave.[3][4]


In some Ashkenazi Jewish communities, men wear a prayer shawl, denominated a "tallit" or "tallis", only upon marriage. It is customary for the father of the bride to present the groom with a tallit as a wedding present. In other Jewish communities, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, all males wear the tallis, but only husbands wear it over their heads.



  • Engagement ring: In many Western cultures, a proposal of marriage is traditionally accompanied by the gift of a ring. The man proposes and offers the ring; if the woman accepts this proposal of marriage, she will wear the ring, showing she is no longer available for courtship. In British-American tradition, diamond rings are the most popular type of engagement ring. The engagement ring is usually worn on the left ring finger (sometimes this ring is switched from the right to the left hand as part of the wedding ceremony).
  • Wedding ring: Many Western wedding ceremonies include the exchange of a wedding ring or rings. A common custom is for the groom to place a ring on the bride's finger and say, "With this ring I thee wed." Sometimes both bride and groom present each other with rings and repeat either these or similar words. After the ceremony, the rings are worn throughout the marriage. In the event of divorce, the couple usually removes their rings; but some widows continue to wear their wedding ring, sometimes switching it to the right hand, while others do not. In Jewish tradition, the wedding ring must be a plain band, without gemstones. China has acquired the custom of wedding rings as late as the era of post-Cultural Revolution economic reforms, when rings were affordable and Western influence was allowed in.[5] As an adopted habit, there are variations on how rings are used, if at all, and when. Some women wear the wedding ring on the left hand, men on the right (representing yin and yang). Some men wear the ring on the right hand.[5][clarification needed] Many Chinese put the ring away to protect it, except for important holidays, such as anniversaries.[5] In Chinese tradition, higher status for men was signified by having several young female partners or concubines. A ring denies that status. For this reason, many modern Chinese men do not wear a wedding ring. Diamonds and two-partner wedding rings are advertised in modern China.[6][7] The Japanese, despite American occupation in the 1950s, only acquired a culture for wedding and engagement rings in the 1960s. In 1959, the importing of diamonds was allowed. In 1967 a U.S. advertising agency created a marketing campaign on behalf of the De Beers diamonds. The campaign equated rings with other symbols of Western culture. The campaign resulted in a sharp increase in demand: From 5% in 1967, to 27% in 1972, to 50% in 1978, to 60% in 1980.[8]
  • Mangalsutra: In Hindu wedding ceremonies, the groom gives the bride a gold pendant or necklace incorporating black beads or black string. This is called a "mangal-sutra". It not only proclaims a woman's marriage, but it is believed by many to exercise a protective influence over the husband. That is, a wife's love and concern, as shown by her donning of the mangal-sutra, is magically helpful to the husband. This resembles the karwa-chauth celebration, in which a wife fasts and prays for her husband's welfare.
  • Bangles: Hindu wives also wear bangles of either white ("sankha") and/or red colour ("pala") on both hands, and do not remove them until they are single. Often made of glass, they are broken when the marriage ends. Bollywood uses this to great dramatic effect in Hindi films, with a woman being informed of the demise of her husband by the messenger, often her son, smashing her glass bangles and wiping the sindoor off her forehead. Bangles made of gold, silver, or other materials are also worn by middle class wives.[citation needed]

The concept of mourning jewelry, which is colored black, is becoming an accepted, visible custom for widows and widowers.[citation needed] Usually a black wedding band is worn on the third finger of the left hand. Usually the ring is a black wedding band, but black eternity bands and black solitaires are also worn. Such jewelry is denominated a "widow's ring" and the mourning ring is added to the marriage ring(s) and worn for the duration of the mourning period.[citation needed]


In Orthodox Judaism, married women cover their hair at all times outside of their home. The kind of hair covering may be determined by local custom or personal preference. Headscarves, snoods, hats, berets, or - sometimes - wigs are used. Turkmen wives wear a special hat similar to a circlet that is denominated a "Alyndaňy".



  • Sindoor, a red powder (vermilion), is put on Hindu wives' foreheads to indicate their marital status.


  • Hindu widows wear white. (See White clothing (religious))
  • Tibetan wives wear aprons.
  • In western and northern Europe, it was previously common for widows to wear black, at least until the first anniversary of the death of their husbands, and some still practice this custom.[when?]


  1. ^ F_100620. "Chinese men find wedding rings cumbersome?". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  2. ^ Platt, Emily. "What are Silicon Wedding Rings?". Martha Stewart Weddings. Meredith Corp. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  3. ^ Kraybill, Donald (2001). The Riddle of Amish Culture. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 68. ISBN 0-8018-6772-X.
  4. ^ Hostetler, John (1997). Hutterite Society. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 174. ISBN 0-8018-5639-6.
  5. ^ a b c "Sealed with ring at Chinese weddings". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "珠宝钻石广告源文件__海报设计_广告设计_源文件图库_昵图网". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Diamonds, De Beers, CSO". Retrieved 26 March 2016.