Like diamonds, tattoos are forever—which is why more and more couples are choosing wedding ring tattoos over expensive bands and bling. The concept is so simple it barely requires explanation, but here we go anyway: Instead of expressing their love with extremely expensive and easy-to-lose wedding bands, husband and wife demonstrates their eternal devotion — and staunch individuality! — by permanently inking their ring fingers instead. This lets the world know a.) you’re both taken; and b.) you’re both badass.
Wedding ink is appealing for a number of reasons, with convenience at the top of the list. “My husband and I are terrible at wearing our wedding rings,” says Tristi Barlow, one of several wedding ring tattoo aficionados who proudly flaunted her new ink on Instagram, to the virtual “oohs” and “aahs” of her many followers. (She decided on a compass rose, her husband went for a ship wheel.) “They are just perfect for us,” she gushed. “We absolutely love them.”
Pamela Anderson: Ahead Of The Curve
Despite British tabloid The Sun calling wedding ring tattoos “a bizarre new trend” in 2017, they’ve actually been around for quite some time. Pamela Anderson not only brought the modern-day sex tape into existence, she was also one of the first celebs to introduce wedding ring tattoos to the mainstream — whether the mainstream wanted them or not. As The New York Times diligently reported in 2008, Anderson had “Tommy” tattooed to her ring finger shortly after marrying Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee in 1995. She subsequently had that tattoo tweaked to read “Mommy” after the relationship imploded for the 4,203th time. (Lee, meanwhile, went ahead and had “Pamela” tattooed onto his penis, but that’s a different article altogether.)
Considering A Wedding Ring Tat? You’re In Very Fine Company
If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, look no further than the handful of male celebs who have committed to wedding ring tattoos. Instead of a traditional wedding band, actor Dax Shepard decided to celebrate his marriage to Kristen Bell by tattooing — yes — a bell on his finger. “I don’t feel like wearing jewelry,” he joked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (as per People), “but I felt obliged to warn all the men that I’m taken.”
In 2015, ubiquitous handsome person David Beckham took to Instagram to show off a brand-new, very simple wedding ring tattoo featuring the number “99”—which, not coincidentally, is the same year that he married Victoria, and the year his son Brooklyn was born. “99 was a good year for me,” he boasted, sharing the new ink to his various oglers on social media.
Are you warming up to the idea? Well, before you make your move, let us weigh in on some important pros and cons.
Upside: A Wedding Ring Tattoo Minimizes Drama
Just try misplacing a wedding wing tattoo – we dare you. There’s simply no way to unwittingly drop a wedding ring tattoo on the locker-room floor or accidentally send it twirling into the garbage disposal. You can’t leave a wedding ring tattoo on a bar top or pool table (unless you wind up losing your entire hand that night … in which case, you may need to consider your life choices.)
Downside: Wedding Ring Tattoos Can Fade Over Time
Just like love, right? Consider yourself warned: Your wedding ring tattoo will very likely need to be touched up down the line. Blame this unfortunate reality on sweat, sunshine, and the skin of your fingers ultimately being far thinner than on other parts of your body. Unless you’re some kind of card-carrying dirtbag, you’ll spend a lot of time washing your hands, and that will inevitably contribute to fading, too. (However, we still very much approve of washing hands with some regularity, particularly if you handle our food.)
Upside: Your Wallet Will Thank You
According to The Huffington Post, Americans spent roughly $5,871 on engagement rings. What’s more, the average price of a customized wedding band will likely run you anywhere between $2,500 to $6,000, unless you know a guy. (Do you know a guy?) Meanwhile, a wedding ring tattoo will only cost around $50-$300, which is basically chump change, right?
Downside: Blurred Lines Are A Concern
Depending on how well your skin reacts to the ink, there’s a decent chance your tattoo will blur during the healing process, or even while you’re sitting there passively getting the tattoo and screaming bloody murder. (Yes, it’s very painful, but we’ll get to that.) Potentially, the end result could be a far more impressionistic design than you signed up for; one with significantly less oomph than what you hoped. However, there are a few pro tricks that can help minimize the risk (which we’ll also get to in a moment.)
Upside: A Wedding Ring Tattoo Won’t Get in the Way of Your Work or Hobbies
Depending on your lifestyle and profession, a wedding ring can become a serious nuisance, particularly if you’re big on water sports like kayaking. Water can temporarily shrink your hands and fingers, making it very easy for wedding rings to get lost to the fathoms, resulting in the kinds of terrible and clichéd domestic spats we want you to avoid.
Also: Though plenty of men do it, it’s unwise to play sports like basketball and baseball while wearing an actual wedding ring. “Ring avulsion” is a rare although justifiable concern; an unnerving condition that affects roughly 150,000 people per year.
On the other hand, a wedding ring tattoo won’t get in the way of anything. Or will it?!
Downside! They Can Potentially Harm Your Career
She won’t admit it until you’re out of the office, but that snooty recruiter will probably have a very negative response to your Pacman-themed wedding ring tattoo. If you’re a lawyer, you probably don’t want to go down this road (unless you get a tattoo that can be easily concealed beneath a real ring). However, if you’re an artist, digital nomad, or certified bounty hunter, a wedding ring tattoo might be just the thing.
The Fun (but Practically Impossible!) Part: Choosing Your Design
For an idea of what tattoo to get — and thousands of ideas of what not to get — a deep-dive into Instagram’s darkest depths will give you plenty of second thoughts before you have your personal Eureka moment. Take a look and tell us: Which design most speaks to you… ? A thick black band is one of the most popular designs, whereas a lot of people decide to go overly meta, literally tattooing images of diamonds onto their fingers (with decidedly mixed results.)
Ubiquitous Celtic knots are predictably popular choices. Leering skulls are always welcome, along with full-fledged skeletons and some extremely nerdy bats. A set of clever Star Wars-themed wedding tats won the Internet’s brittle heart back in 2013, and honestly, we find that both endearing and cringe-inducing.
What’s most important here: Choosing a motif that speaks to both you and your spouse-to-be.
Ideally, your design will pay tribute to a shared interest or precious memory. If you guys are planning to have kids, better choose a tattoo that you’ll feel comfortable explaining to them. (So, no pornographic tableaux of Popeye and Sailor Moon.)
Simple, Simple, Simple
This is admittedly a dick move on our part, but it’s ultimately for your own good. Although we just treated you to some highly impressive examples of wedding ring tattoos, we’re going to suggest that you keep your design extremely simple.
Hear us out. Though you don’t see it now, one day you may realize we always had your best interests in mind. Despite all those dazzling Instagram snaps, it’s best to choose a tattoo that errs on the side of minimalism. Not to further shatter your world, but most of those Instas were touched up, tweaked, run through filters, or photographed right after the tattoo artist finished her work. In a year’s time, they won’t be looking so factory fresh, we can assure you.
A complicated tattoo runs a higher risk of turning out flawed and looking rather unfortunate. We can’t overestimate this enough: finger tattoos are much more high-maintenance than they look, and keeping them pristine is a chore, regardless of the size of your particular tattoo. That’s one more reason to opt out of an overly elaborate design.
Committed To The Idea? Now Hear This
A few simple steps will help keep your tattoo pristine. For starters, choose an artist suited to the particular kind of tattoo you plan to get– some are more skilled at fonts and lettering, others excel at illustrations. Though it probably goes without saying, don’t cave to temptation and ignore the tattooist’s aftercare instructions once you’ve healed. You’re not out of the woods yet. Oh, and you’d be surprised how many people don’t apply sunscreen to the area before hitting the streets. Don’t make that newbie mistake.
That last point bares repeating to the point of annoyance.
Prepare for Pain
We hear you, scoffing at the screen, wondering how those wimps at The Plunge have the audacity to assume a few puny pricks of a itty-bitty needle — on your finger! — would be any sort of ordeal for the teeming reserve of muscle and steely resolve that is you. Trust us, He-Man: There’s a whole lotta nerves and precious little fat up in them fingers, so the tattoo artist’s needle is going to be jab-jab-jabbing right into bone. Needles. Jabbing into bone. Into flesh and bone. Needles. Hitting bone…
We could say something like “Love hurts,” or stand idly by as you bite your wrist, bottle of tequila at the ready. The fact is, a finger is one of the most excruciating places you can get a tattoo, because there’s so little fat to soften the blow.
Fortunately, since your tattoo is going to be quite small (right?), it’ll likely be finished pretty quickly. You will get through this. You will endure. In times of physical pain, remember any simple mantra that comes to mind: “Son of a f**kwhore!” “Ohh…Kelly Clarkson!” “Thank you sir, may I have another?” etc.
Expect A Few No’s From Gruff Tattooists
Don’t take it personally if a few tattoo artists turn down your request. It’s not because they hate love and it’s (probably) not because they “only give it two weeks.” Many professional tattooists are simply wary of inking fingers because of the amount of sensitivity involved. Plus, after a finger tattoo heals, it’s often to the detriment of the work, which can turn out mildly blurred or blunted, thus making you sad and staining the artist’s good name.
Okay fine, some tattooists really do hate love… but who needs ‘em?
- If you don’t want your design to fade, stick with darker inks and really simple designs.
- Make sure your tattoo artist has a respectable amount of experience, and only use that artist if you feel confident in his or her talent and competency.
- Again: As the tattoo heals, it’s important to give it some extra TLC in those first two weeks. Keep it out of water as much as possible, don’t let it get too much sun exposure, and avoid chemicals like chlorine. This will help the design stay sharper for longer.
- Scared of commitment? Test the waters by getting a henna tattoo so you can get an idea of what you’re signing up for.
- Wondering why so many people have their wedding ring tattoos inked on the top portion of their ring fingers? It’s because the skin on your finger’s underside is quite thin and doesn’t do a particularly good job holding ink.
- Don’t get a wedding ring tattoo on a whim like you’re in Vegas with the boys. It’ll probably hurt like hell (and look like hell) for several weeks after the deed is done, which could make for a thoroughly unpleasant wedding experience if you’re not careful.
- And make sure it’s healed for the honeymoon. Right.
- On second thought, no one will think any less of you if you get your wedding ring tattoo after the wedding and the honeymoon. Just a thought.
- Choose your tattoo (and your wife!) carefully. In a worst-case scenario, you can always get the tattoo removed (you poor bastard), but the procedure might leave some scarring and a few barely perceptible traces of ink.
- Did we say this already? Yes, we did: Always apply sunscreen to your wedding ring tattoo.
- One more time: Sunscreen.