During the commercial break of your sitcom, a commercial comes on showing a young couple strolling in the park by an older couple. After seeing the glistening diamond on her wedding band, DeBeers Jewelers reminds you that "a diamond lasts forever". You change the channel and witness Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly attempting to solve a supposed murder. A wedding band is separated from a woman and becomes the damning evidence in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film, Rear Window. When you turn off the television and put on the radio, you could possibly hear any one of the seventy-four recorded versions of a song named "Wedding Ring".
In contemporary American society, you'd be hard pressed to find an object imbued with as much moral heft, omnipresence and gravitas as a wedding band. Whether it be in song, theater, film, commercials, advertisements or literature, the wedding ring and its associations recur time and time again in our culture.
The ring worn on the finger has no clear origin and took on a variety of different forms and functions over centuries. It could be form of intellectual or religious rank, currency, a weapon, part of a magic or healing ritual, as a memorial and as a sign of love. Despite all of these uses over time, the engagement or wedding ring is the most popular form in our culture.
In "Rings For the Finger", George Frederick Kunz places the use of rings as part of a wedding ceremony or to signify love in a tradition closest to our contemporary usage in England around the time of the Reformation. Over time there has been a lot a variance in which finger or customs surrounded the ring according to region, time period and religion. It's now exchanged at a wedding ceremony and worn on the base of what's come to be known as the "ring finger" on right hand. Where it once was worn primary by females, the 1920's through 1940's gave rise to the double ring ceremonies for males and females. It was spurred in a large part by marketing of jewelers. It's covered ectensively by Vicki Howard in "A 'Real Man's Ring': Gender and the Invention of the Tradition" and is the practice Carla's ring is a product of.
Some people have come to choose not to wear it for utilitarian or ideological reasons whereas some share in Grace Kelly's characters stance that "the only way anybody could get that ring would be to chop off my finger." The meanings and customs of the ring and more specifically wedding rings are not at any sort of endpoint and part of a continuum, sure to evolve over time. As I typed, a friend posted this link to Facebook indicating a future where a ring may do so much more.