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, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, and Ukraine, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand. 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.
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 right 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 left 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. 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. [clarification needed] Many Chinese put the ring away to protect it, except for important holidays, such as anniversaries. 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. Many Chinese marry for economic and social status, not love, and assume that their marriage partnership is not exclusive. The ring, a symbol of exclusivity, is meaningless. Diamonds and two-partner wedding rings are advertised in modern China. 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.
- Mangalsutra: In many 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.
The concept of mourning jewelry, which is colored black, is becoming an accepted, visible custom for widows and widowers. 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.
In Jewish tradition, a wife is expected to cover her head when she enters a synagogue. In Orthodox Jewish communities, women wear head coverings at all times outside of her home, but they sometimes only cover part of her hair, similar to a hat. In some Hasidic communities, women shave their heads after their weddings and wear close fitting black scarves. The kind of head covering may be determined by local custom or personal preference. Some communities permit her hair to be visible, but in others no strand is left uncovered. Hats, headscarves, snoods, wigs, or a combination thereof 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 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?]
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