Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Suzanne Ostlund
English 101
Essay 1: Possessions
November 2006

Wedding Ring Bondage

When I think of marriage I automatically think of a wedding ring set.  Of course, in this culture, people traditionally are first given a ring when asked to join another’s hand in marriage.  On bended knee, we are asked to marry another with the gift of a breathtaking diamond ring.  The ring has an outer package of a curiously small, decorated box.  The stipulation is that this beautiful ring is only ours if we respond with the correct answer, “YES.”  But what, exactly, are we saying with this yes?  Yes, do I take this ring, or yes do I take this person? 

The wedding ring has two packages.  The outer package is the object that it is displayed in, and the inner package which is the actual ring.  The wedding ring packages the relationship into a permanent structure.  In the essay titled “What’s in a Package,” Thomas Hine says, “Packaging is temptation” (93).  What better example of this statement than the wedding ring.  The engagement ring holds the largest solitaire diamond of the wedding set.  Right up front we are surprised and taken off guard.  In the heat of the embarrassing breathtaking moment that all women dream of we are shown a sparkling diamond ring that could be all ours if we just give the answer yes!  The temptation of this big huge package is sinfully inviting!  If the answer is no that breathtaking diamond ring will not be placed on our lonely finger.  It will only go into the possession of our hand if we accept.  But what we you accepting?  A commitment of a set of two people: man and woman, woman and woman, man and man?  Are we saying yes, we want a person, or are we saying yes, I want that ring to be mine?

Using the opportunity to use packaging as temptation, some proposers sell the ring rather than the vows.  As Thomas Hine states, “The visual intensity that overwhelms shoppers is precisely the thing that makes the design of the packages so crucial" (94).  The package--in this case the ring that is offered as a symbol of a kind of relationship--is very important in the moment when the "buyer" first sees it and, according to Hine, "recognizes it either as an old friend or a new temptation” (94).  This makes me think that the visual intensity that overwhelms women (and  in some cases men) is precisely the thing that makes the characteristics of the engagement ring so crucial.  If the one proposing can get a breathtaking WOW, of pure astonishment, the chance of the one being proposed to shouting out, in pure delight, a solid yes! is greater.  Remember this when you are planning a proposal.  The bigger the wow, the better the odds are to get a yes.

The acceptance of that ring contains so much promise.  Like Thomas Hines writes, “packages in the end are wasteful as empty vessels that once carried so much promise” (95).  How much promise does one ring hold?  Is it enough to promise commitment until “death do us part?”   My wedding ring tells me that my husband will be faithful and honest to me “forever & always.”

Thomas Hine writes, ”people package themselves in order to survive” 98).  Nurses are often packaged in an outfit known as a scrub; a personal package would be a resume.  One instantly loud way to shout out to others is to put on a wedding ring.  All those around you will see loud and clear that you are in a committed relationship.  I myself was married without any ring.  At the time that we were married, I happened to have an agate ring in my car that was too big for my ring finger, but we used it for the ceremony, in Reno.  (We eloped to Reno without telling anyone, after dating for only 8 days!)  I instantly wanted a ring to yell out, he committed to me!!!  After being married for four days, we went out and bought a wedding ring set.  I used my own money to buy myself, and him, “markers.”  After five days of marriage we were then marked with a package to say we did.

Have you ever thought to yourself, what is the price of my yes?  Are you looking for a one carat solitaire or is it something different?  Is there a price, and if so why is there one?  What does your engagement dream consist of?  Do you dream of a romantic proposal on bended knee?  Are you satisfied with a devoted partner, or do you dream more of the proposal and the fancy wedding?  I, myself, am completely content with a devoted partner.  The wedding ring is highly over-rated in my eyes.  Does it really put up a barricade between you and others seeking romance?  In my experience the answer has unfortunately been no.  I do wear my ring to show my spouse respect.  I respect him and us forever and always.  With this ring I say a lot, and I say it very loudly.

In researching the history of the wedding ring, I found that the ring is the most famous and instantly recognizable symbol of the hopefully perpetual joining of a man and woman.  The circle is the symbol of eternity; it has no beginning and no end, like time.  It returned to itself, like life; and the shape was worshipped in the form of the sun and moon (Charlton).  The hole in the center of the ring is not just space either, it is important in its own right as the symbol of the gateway, or door; leading to the things both known and unknown.  It is traditionally worn on the third finger of the left hand, because of a belief that the vein on that finger directly traveled from the heart (Charlton).

Ask yourself; what kind of package do I want my love and devotion wrapped up in?  Do I wish to wear a little piece of bondage on my finger, tying me into society’s description of a married person?  If you are already married, ask yourself how much security do you get from your wedding ring?  I get tremendous security from mine, and my husbands.  It shows me that we are committed, and willing to show everyone.  It ties our family together.  But what is “it”?  Is “it” a little piece of bondage better known as the wedding band, or is it a committed marriage? 


Works Cited

Charlton, Reno. "The History of Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands." EzineArticles 31 Mar. 2005. 1 Nov. 2006

Hine, Thomas, “What's In a Package.” Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. Eds. Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon. 5th Edition. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2006. 91-100.


Copyright 2006
Suzanne Ostlund


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA