Considered the most important symbol of marriage, most cultures treat the wedding ring with honor during the ceremony. In American and many European Christian weddings, the rings are reverently carried down the aisle by a young male family member, who is honored as the ring bearer.
Although including this dapper young gentleman in the ceremony is optional, most couples embrace the tradition as an elegant way to deliver their rings to the altar. Dressed charmingly as a miniature version of the groom, the child’s presence is meant to bless the couple with good luck in starting a family.
Traditional Role of the Ring Bearer
Some historians believe the custom of delivering treasured jewels on ornamental pillows to the bride originated among wealthy families in ancient Egypt.
Later stories from the Middle Ages report Northern European soldiers presenting brides with their wedding rings on the tip of a sword.
The modern notion of a young boy transporting the sacred rings down the aisle and presenting them to the couple was introduced by Queen Victoria. Amongst the romantic Victorian Europeans, the role quickly became a trend. The custom is still honored today at British royal weddings, including the nuptials of Prince William and Princess Kate, where two attending pageboys were dressed in the red tunics of Foot Guards officers.
The ring bearer is only one of the many roles pageboys assume in weddings. Boys ages four to eight can be invited to participate in the ceremony to carry a prayer book, candle, coins or the bridal train as well. Older boys are assigned more complicated pageboy duties, such as ushers.
Although the tradition has largely been centered in the U.S. and England, modern couples around the world are using ring bearers as a way to honor the young members of their families.
Couples typically choose a child they are close to, such as a sibling, nephew, cousin, godchild or son.
During the processional, the ring bearer either walks ahead of or next to the flower girl. Both enter after the bridesmaids, groomsmen and other page boys, just before the bride and groom. The boy traditionally carries the rings on a plush white satin pillow to bless the marriage with good fortune, comfort and wealth. When the couple reaches the altar, the boy presents them with the rings. Together, they untie the ribbon, opening the first present of their new lives together.
Contemporary Ring Bearer Alternatives
Finding a unique way to carry the rings down the aisle has become a favorite way for modern couples to express their personalities. Fortunately, there are an infinite number of creative ways for your handsome little guy to carry your rings down the aisle. Pinterest abounds with ideas for ring carrying vessels, from bird nests to porcelain bowls to hollowed books. The rings can be tied around the necks of teddy bears, nestled inside the petals of a flower or securely tucked inside a jewel-encrusted egg.
Choose a ring holder that not only matches your wedding theme and colors but that can also become a keepsake after the wedding. This could include a small birdcage for a Victorian wedding, a decorative shell for a beach ceremony, a horseshoe for an Irish celebration or an ornament for a Christmas event. Look for ways to personalize the holder, such as an engraved heirloom ceramic bowl or a shared favorite book.
How ring bearers march down the aisle is also changing. While most are dressed in miniature tuxedos and boutonnieres, others don cowboy boots and hats, suspenders and caps or favorite superhero costumes. He can walk side by side with another boy, each boy carrying one ring, or he can hold a scroll or chalkboard declaring, “Here Comes the Bride!”
Less traditional couples are increasingly including their furry family members in their big day by tying the rings onto their dogs. The attire is varied, ranging from top hats with tuxedos or diamond-studded collars to satin pillows or flower bouquets tied on their backs. Bridal Guide offers some important tips for involving your pooch in your wedding.