Millennials Aren’t Wearing Their Wedding Rings. Is That a Bad Thing?

Cue the generational shift

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I’ll admit that my wedding ring wearing habits have changed since the pandemic. These days, I only wear mine for a handful hours at a time and only for certain events—when I go into the office (about once a week) or for dinner with a friend or date night with my spouse.

Maybe it’s the fact that I now largely work from home. Maybe it’s the fact that my engagement band has gotten just a tiny bit too snug, especially on humid days. But whatever the cause, when my parents—who are nearing 50 years of marriage—recently shared that they had to have their rings cut off their fingers to be resized, I felt the smallest bit of shame: Is it odd that I often don’t even have mine on?

I was also curious: Is my ringless habit indicative of a larger trend? Do other couples need a special occasion to parade their rings around town? Or are they wearing their bands 24/7, and I’m the weirdo?

And so, I polled 1,000 PureWow readers to find out. A whopping 65 percent (nearly 650 respondents, all married women) shared that their ring-wearing habits have been impacted by the pandemic, with many reporting that they’re wearing their rings based on occasion instead of setting-and-forgetting.

The reasons were varied, ranging from, “I don’t put any jewelry on when I work from home,” to, “it gets in the way of daily tasks like cooking, doing dishes and laundry,” which women are presumably doing more of now that they’re home more often. Another explanation seemed particularly of the moment: “Wearing my wedding ring is part of getting dressed. If I’m not getting dressed to go out, then I won’t put it on.”

PureWow readers aside, this trend is clearly becoming more mainstream among my millennial and gen x counterparts. Take Meghan Markle, who recently made headlines for bopping around the Invictus Games sans engagement ring. Beyoncé also chooses to go without. (As an alternative, she has the Roman numeral “IV” tattooed on her ring finger.) Even Gwen Stefani—who is happily married to Blake Shelton—recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and remarked that she accidentally left her wedding ring at home. Oops.

But is this shift away from wearing a ring bad? Does it make me any less married if I leave mine on my nightstand?

Elaine Swann, the founder of the Swann School of Protocol, says absolutely not. Today’s rings are more elaborate than what previous generations chose to wear, she maintains, which makes it harder to pair them with everyday attire or even justify sporting them ‘round the clock. “Folks are approaching life from a more casual perspective than previous generations,” she adds. “If a woman trades her wedding ring for a cocktail ring for a night out, no one thinks anything of it.”

There’s also no evidence that non-ring-wearers see their romantic commitments as any less secure. "A ring finger absent of a wedding band still symbolizes singleness; however, there are some nuances to consider,” Dr. Jacquie Del Rosario, a marriage coach, says. “It’s a red flag and an indication of trouble if a partner intentionally chooses not to wear their ring in public spaces, but as our virtual worlds increase and routines become more varied, what matters is that you consider the context of your decision to wear—or not to wear—your ring.”

In other words, it may be a problem if you take your ring off to go to a bar, but it’s probably fine if your husband takes his off for two days while working on a house painting project.

More than anything, Swann says it’s important not to make any assumptions. “Sure, people might get caught up in gossip at the sight of a ringless finger—certainly this happens for celebs—but in most cases, it isn’t cause for judgment or something unacceptable; it’s a reflection of a modern society and its flexibility.”

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...