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Wedding Essentials

Banded for life

For many couples, wearing their wedding rings is significant because it reminds them of their marriage vows
The Sunday Times - March 4, 2012
By: Huang Huifen
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Banded for life Chef Wayne Loo, with his wife, Li Jiatang, wears his wedding ring on a chain around his neck at work. --ST PHOTOS: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Retired jewellery craftsman Goh Seok Hiong, 71, made the wedding bands for his three children and their spouses.

But he and his wife of 47 years do not wear - or have - wedding bands themselves.

'Ours was an arranged marriage and it never crossed our minds to exchange rings to signify that we were married. The traditional Chinese ceremony witnessed by our family and the marriage certificate were good enough,' says Mr Goh, who used to have a jewellery workshop in River Valley Road.

While the wedding band has for centuries symbolised eternal love and commitment to one's spouse, he never felt that he needed one to remind him of his duties as a husband.

'When I first met my wife through the matchmaker, she asked me if I was sincere about making the marriage last. So I made the promise to her, which I have kept till today,' he says.

His extended family now includes three children in their 30s and five grandchildren aged four to 14.

The mostly Western origins of the wedding ring do not mean it has no significance for Asian couples, even those of an older generation who might be less Westernised than their children.

Earlier this week, former Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong, 62, recounted how he was heartbroken when his wedding ring was confiscated when the Chinese authorities detained him in 2005 on charges of espionage.

He wrote in the new book about his experience, My 1,000-day Ordeal: Without Regrets: 'I felt a heartbreaking pain having to take off my ring. When we got married in 1983, my wife had put the band on my finger, where it had stayed since. I asked for permission to keep it... But the wardens said no.'

While it is optional in Singapore to exchange wedding bands when couples register their marriage here, LifeStyle found that there are many couples of all ages who do it.

Marriage counsellor Karen Louis of charity organisation Hope Worldwide Singapore explains: 'People wear the band to show that they have pledged eternity with someone. So if you take it off, it kind of gives the impression that you are not serious about your vows.'

Retiree Francis Yam, 67, believes that the ring was a promise he made to his spouse and should not be taken off - ever. That is why he wears two wedding bands: one from his first marriage with his late wife who died of liver cancer in 1997 on his left hand and the other for his current marriage to his wife of 12 years, Madam Nancy Ng, 64, on his right.

'The first ring symbolises my promise and the relationship with my late wife, so when Nancy and I got married, I told her that I wished to keep it. The ring with Nancy also symbolises that she is part of me,' says Mr Yam, who has two children aged 33 and 37 from his first marriage.

Madam Ng does not mind that her husband still wears the old ring. She says: 'I join him and wear my ring on my right hand, too. It is a reminder that I have a husband who loves and cares for me and that makes me happy.'

Chef Wayne Loo, 29, thinks his wedding ring is important even though he does not wear it at work to prevent his ring from getting caught in kitchen appliances. Instead, he wears it on a chain around his neck. After work, the ring returns to his finger.

'One of my colleagues has asked me why I bother. I said that it symbolises the commitment I have made to my wife,' he says, adding that looking at the ring during his breaks brings fond memories of times spent with his wife of about one year, financial analyst Li Jiatang, 27.

Sometimes, practicality crowds out sentimentality.

Nine years of marriage and three children later, housewife Ng Yi Ling, 34, and quality manager Raymond Ghin, 41, find it a hassle to wear their wedding bands.

'After I had kids, it was not convenient to wear the ring because I had to do more housework and washing, which also aggravated my sensitive skin. I developed rashes and swelling around my ring finger. So I stopped wearing it. Now I may have some problems finding it,' Ms Ng says sheepishly.

'I don't find it very significant to wear the ring because it is just an object. What is more important is that we trust each other. Anyway, the kids are enough to remind us of our commitment to the marriage.'

Family sociologist Paulin Straughan warns that a flippant attitude some married couples have towards the wedding band may hint that they have stopped investing in their marriage.

She says: 'When we get married and have children, we tend to invest our time in raising good kids and providing economic security for the family, and forget to invest time in each other.

'If celebrating couplehood is overtaken by other things in life and the ring becomes just an accessory instead of a necessity, it may be a wake-up call to couples to start re-engaging each other.'

That is why, in addition to her marriage vows, freelance events planner Marie Goh, 34, made a pact with her husband, lecturer Fritz Lim, 36, to never take off the wedding band.

'I have seen other colleagues who have been married for many years get complacent. Their fingers either get too fat for the ring or they find it inconvenient to wear a ring when they are doing household chores. They take it off for a day or two and start getting used to not wearing it.

'I don't want that to happen to us. The ring reminds me that there is always someone there for me,' says Ms Goh, who got married in late 2010.

Age has made his fingers fleshier, but retiree Alfred Foong, 72, refuses to remove the wedding band that he has worn for 45 years, even though his wife, Madam Rosalind Cheong, 71, has asked him to do so if it hurt him.

'I'm a sentimental person and will always treasure this ring because it is a reminder of how the Lord has joined us together. Even though the ring is too small for my finger now, I do not feel any pain so I will not take it off yet,' he says.

There are other benefits to wearing the band too, as programme support executive Elaine Ho will have you know.

'It is a good tool to ward off 'predators'. If some guy hits on me, I can just wave my hand with the wedding band to get rid of him,' she says.

"i'm a sentimental person and will always treasure this ring. Even though the ring is too small for my finger now, i do not feel any pain so i will not take it off yet."



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