Wedding rings form such a symbolic part of a Wedding Ceremony. But do you know why we use a specific finger for the wedding band? It dates back to Roman times! Mark Fenn shares his unique insights in this fun wedding planning chat.
Listen to Mark on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…
James [00:00:05] Mark welcome back to Wedding Espresso it’s been too long my friend.
Mark [00:00:09] It has. Yeah well thank you. Thanks for the invite. And yes let’s sort of continue the story of weddings and the excitement that goes around them.
James [00:00:22] So yes if anybody watching doesn’t know, this is Mark Fenn, he is a Jeweller and Silversmith and he specialises in bespoke create your own wedding ring days. So that’s Mark and what he’s famous for. But before we get into that,
something I want to discuss with you Mark, it’s a recent discovery. It’s the Vena Amoris. Now this is a legend – get this – that rings true!
So before we get into the bespoke building of wedding rings. What is the Vena amoris? if I’ve even said that right because I don’t really speak Latin.
Mark [00:01:03] Well your Latin is better than mine. I wouldn’t even actually try to say it. What it is, the Romans actually thought that by what we call the wedding ring finger, that the vein from there went from the finger to the heart.
James [00:01:24] All right. Like a direct line.
Mark [00:01:26] Yeah. Yeah. So it’s like a way of connecting the heart with the ceremony. So you both wear rings on your wedding finger. That’s like the simplistic view of the story and the legend. That’s why we wear a wedding ring on that particular finger. Let’s say the Romans believed that the vein from that finger led to the heart. So yeah.
James [00:02:02] It’s quite a romantic notion. I like it.
Mark [00:02:04] Yes. Yes it is.
And getting married is very romantic.
I’m lucky enough to meet many couples. And they come to me to make each other’s wedding rings. So that’s the day, that’s my involvement in the wedding industry, the wedding day. I see them mostly when they’re about to get married. I have had couples come and make each other’s wedding rings, and this is the thing I have to stipulate, they make each other’s wedding rings as opposed to…
James [00:02:50] They don’t make their own.
Mark [00:02:50] They don’t make their own. But yeah I’ve had some couples who’ve come who are already married. Which is a strange thing but this has happened a few times this year. The couples have come to me, they’ve got married already, in secret more or less. Only a couple of people know. And then what they do is they make each other’s wedding bands. They have a big day. But at the date it’s not the ceremony, it’s a reveal. “Oh by the way…”.
James [00:03:26] “We’re married – Yay”.
Mark [00:03:28] And it’s a big occasion. I think sometimes it maybe takes some of the stress away from the wedding day. But they have just big parties. They’ve done the romantic thing.
James [00:03:44] Yes. In private.
Mark [00:03:46] They’ve gone away. And I’ve had couples that they’ve purchased…. well
I’ve got one couple who had brass washers for their wedding ceremony in the registry office.
And then they come to me and they’ve either made them out of silver or gold. Mainly I’d say the trend is gold, but I’ve had people who do it in silver, white gold again is not my favourite metal, but that’s another matter.
James [00:04:23] That’s a totally different discussion that one. A very deep topic.
Mark [00:04:28] Yeah. So that’s how I get involved with these couples. Like I say, they’re really lovely, I have a fab day with them. And I presume everybody in this industry who helps the couple along their journey to make the couple’s memories the best that they can, I think that they’ve got the best job in the world.
And I have the best job in the world.
They come to me. We have a really good time. All the days are filled with laughter and joy. The rings are very symbolic. It doesn’t matter what the rings are made from. They can come and make them out of Copper if they wanted to. It’s not about the value of the metal. It’s about the symbolism of them making each other’s rings.
James [00:05:32] The value of the experience.
Mark [00:05:34] It’s the experience. And what we do is we help them make memories. And there are certain life stages like birthdays, 21st or 18th (I’m showing my age there), going to university, first dates, etc, etc. So these are sort of like memories and experiences. And the wedding experience should be… the highlight for me, of my life, I met the most beautiful woman (Jane) and got married. And it was one of the most special days. The children coming along is another thing altogether.
James [00:06:22] Special in a different way.
Mark [00:06:24] A different way. Yeah and also
the wedding rings are a marker of their narrative. It’s a marker of their story.
And you get couples who are worried about making the perfect wedding ring. And that’s what we strive for. Sometimes it doesn’t always happen. But what I say is, it’s not about it being perfect, it’s about that you’ve made it. You’ve made your partner’s wedding ring with love. And after they wear the rings, they get marked, they get knocked, they get polished, whatever, so it’s a marker. It’s a stage in their own personal story and their own personal history.
James [00:07:14] Do you know what Mark. There is a beauty in imperfection isn’t there? It’s less processed, it’s less artificial and more real in a way.
Mark [00:07:24] I think what happens is rings will get marked and bent and broken and whatever. But it’s just what’s happening now is with this narrative, with the story part of it, is I’m getting couples asking me because they’ve been given heirlooms. Their Grandmother’s wedding ring that has been passed on, their father’s whatever. And what they’re asking is can they incorporate those within their wedding bands?
Mark [00:07:57] It can be done. It’s a different process from what I normally do where we get new metals. But it is something that I can offer couples
if they’ve got some heirloom jewellery that they want to incorporate within their wedding bands.
It can be done and I discuss…there’s a different timing. I have to get those rings to me before the day because I have to get them ready. Because if they try to do it all in a day…
James [00:08:28] Too much, too complicated.
Mark [00:08:31] It’s not so much complicated, it’s the timing. If it’s brand new metal, it’s a day, if they want to incorporate heirloom jewellery as I term it, we have to allow a day before, or a day for me to get the metals ready for them. I’ve had a few this year with that, and that seems to be a thing now. And I think that’s a knock on within the trade that people are upcycling old jewellery. I’ve got a couple of friends and they upcycle old jewellery into new engagement rings. So if they’ve got some stones or they’ve got Nanny’s old engagement ring or an Aunt’s old engagement ring that’s been bequested or left to them, they’re using that as an engagement ring. So that is leading on to
“well if we can do that with an engagement ring, can we do that with our wedding bands?”.
James [00:09:36] Sure yeah.
Mark [00:09:37] The answer is yes.
James [00:09:39] It’s funny actually because Rachel and I are kind of caught between two worlds. And recently (in terms of our wedding rings) we did a quick study with wedding suppliers to see what areas of their weddings they would change if they could go back and do it again. And so obviously I assessed ours and I thought up and down, I thought you know, our wedding I think was pretty much bang on and there wasn’t really much I’d change except for this (points to Wedding Ring).
James [00:10:07] This is custom, this was bespoke obviously, it wasn’t shop bought. But I didn’t make it. Well in your case, Rachel didn’t make it.
And how much more special would it have been if we had made each other’s rings.
Obviously we didn’t know you back then. I don’t even think it was an option. But that is a fantastic opportunity. But whilst I think mine could be made, Rachel’s ring was then shaped around my Grandmother’s wedding ring which she inherited. And there’s the rub, I know that’s a complication.
Mark [00:10:46] Yeah. That’s a complication. And like I say to your viewers out there, I get asked for that. Can we make the wedding band to go round an unusual shaped engagement ring? And I’m not blunt, I just say “no, it’s not an option”. I’ve done it in the past and it doesn’t work within the day and it becomes a stressful day (not for me). It becomes a stressful day for the clients because they booked it for a day. I go back and initially I say no. In a couple of instances I’ve said “Okay you’re the client. This is what you want. Let’s go for it”. And they’re still here at 8 o’clock at night.
James [00:11:39] I imagine it’s a little bit beyond their skill really. It’s asking for something a bit special isn’t it.
Mark [00:11:48] The experience is,
they come and make each other’s wedding rings. They don’t come here to watch me make their wedding rings.
I stand back. I’m there to help and guide. And if need be step in where I think they need just a little help, but they make the rings. I love it! It’s a lovely day. I just stand there drinking tea all day and say “You need to do this, you need to do that”. I’m there to guide them. It’s their day, it’s their wedding bands. They make them. I don’t. I’m just a facilitator. I have the kit, I have the site. I help when help is needed.
Mark [00:12:43] But yeah these different shaped engagement rings or wedding bands do cause me a problem. I keep saying to my friends who make engagement rings “Can you just lift the stones up a bit so the band goes underneath”. Because that’s what it is.
It’s what the ladies want, they want a wedding band to go around an engagement ring.
What’s going to happen and what does happen is they’re forever moving it back in.
James [00:13:13] Yes, it moves around.
Mark [00:13:16] It just keeps going around. It’s easier just to have a classic wedding band.
James [00:13:24] The thing is, the reason I brought it up actually was because the story of my Grandmother’s wedding ring is quite interesting. My Grandma and Grandpa were very, very good friends, and then my Grandpa recounts it and says there was just a day he realised that they were more than friends. And they went to a jewellery shop when they were spending the day together. And they went in and Grandpa says that he
points out the rings, and then stands in front of the expensive ones, to direct her attention to the more affordable range,
and she chooses a ring and they pay for it.
James [00:14:03] And then my Grandma turns to my Grandpa and she says “which finger should I put it on?” And Grandpa just sort of said casually “well you know, this one”. And then they were engaged from that moment. And I just think it’s such a precious story about that physical object. And like you said, it’s not the physical object, it’s the story. And imagine in a few, maybe 50, 60, 100 years time, children of people who had been married and Grandchildren, they’ve got the story of “yeah Great Grandpa or Great Grandma made this ring in Mark’s workshop”. That’s incredible. That’s a fantastic story to pass along.
Mark [00:14:48] Yeah it is. I’m finding I’m lucky enough to now be getting recommendations. So at either the reveal (if it is a reveal) or during the wedding. Their experience with the day with me becomes a part of their story, and it becomes a part of the speeches. They did this together. They had that commitment.
These rings are imbued with a symbolic meaning.
So what’s happening is they’re saying this at their wedding reception. And there’s people sitting in the audience thinking “Now that’s a good idea”. I’m getting some business by the couples, but I’m also getting people who are just interested in making jewellery.
Mark [00:15:49] So what I’ve also had this year which is a first, I had a couple who made their wedding rings. They came to me, they did their wedding, at the wedding they said “We made each other’s wedding bands”. The bride’s parents are into jewellery. So what the bride did was as a thank you, she purchased half a day in my workshop for her parents to make something. So we made some studs and we made a quick silver ring in an afternoon, not for the gentleman, but for the bride’s mother which is really nice. So you never know where this wedding thing, this ring making will actually lead me or people to me. So yeah I’m quite surprised what happens from when couples leave me, what comes back.
It’s because you are creating that legacy. You’re creating those stories.
Mark [00:16:59] This is a good memory. As I say I’m very lucky. And you might argue, but I have the best job in the world with these couples. And it’s really lovely to continue. And like you said right at the beginning of the segment, this is becoming more prevalent because people are thinking “well okay, what’s important? What do I need to do within the wedding? what can I…?” Weddings are becoming more personal. There’s more input, the couples are really controlling what they want. So you’ve got this year. I’ve had about five couples who are what I call a DIY wedding. They’ve done more or less everything. Cakes, dress, the whole lot. So yeah it’s becoming a newer thing for me, what I would call these DIY weddings. That’s what I’m getting from my end. I don’t know with who you’re talking to if that is becoming a trend, or if it was a trend already I’m just only picking it up.
James [00:18:21] Power to them. I think personalisation, putting your own stamp on things. It’s all getting easier, it’s all getting better, it’s all getting more personal, we’re making more stories.
Everybody’s got more legacy to pass on to future generations and it’s incredible.
But Mark I’m really sorry we are almost out of time. We could talk for hours.
Mark [00:18:44] I know we can.
James [00:18:45] We could very easily. But listen I really, really appreciate it. Thank you so much for sparing the time and sharing with us today.
Mark [00:18:53] Thanks for inviting me as always.
James [00:18:56] It’s always a pleasure with you Mark. Always a pleasure. Thanks again Mark. Appreciate it. We’ll see you next time. Take care.
Mark [00:19:06] Thanks very much.