Essential Guide to Ring Bearer Etiquette
After getting engaged, you’ve got some big wedding decisions to make about location, time of year, and color palette, but choosing the wedding party is also a critical exercise for your big day. As you plan and prep the details of the wedding, questions about ring bearer etiquette are likely to pop up. Whether you’re planning a traditional or non-traditional event, you’ll need to make a decision about ring bearers, so let’s get into everything about ring bearer etiquette you need to know.
In broad terms, the ring bearer is tasked with getting the rings down the aisle so that the betrothed couple can exchange their rings while taking their vows. In a traditional wedding procession, the ring bearer comes down the aisle after the maid of honor and bridesmaids, directly before the flower girls who precede the bride.
The ring bearer carries something, often a pillow or ring box, that holds the wedding rings the couple is going to exchange. Once they get to the altar, the ring bearer typically hands the rings off to either the officiant or the best man. Then, depending on the ring bearer’s age and length of the ceremony, they can either stand with the rest of the party at the altar or sit down.
As an integral part of the ceremony, the ring bearer will need to attend the rehearsal and should also get an invitation to the reception. Traditional ring bearer etiquette says all wedding party members should also attend the reception. However, if your ring bearer is a child and you're planning a childless event, that is up to you to decide.
The Ring Bearer Tradition
Ring bearers have a long history in the wedding tradition. It’s believed that the practice dates back to ancient Egypt. It was customary for Egyptian wedding ceremonies to entrust an adult with carrying precious gems and jewels to the altar on a decorative pillow. These gems and jewels weren’t necessarily jewelry – sometimes they were dowry gifts or simply presents to bless and provide good fortune to the union.
In the Medieval era, a person would carry the ring down the aisle on a pillow so well-off families could display their wealth. Pillows, especially embroidered or adorned ones, were rare and thus symbols of riches. Before pillows were introduced, the ring would simply be presented on the tip of a familial sword.
Our current ring-bearer tradition is likely adapted from the Victorian-era page boy. At typically aristocratic weddings, the page boy would be placed in charge of helping the bride down the aisle by carrying the back of her train. The page boy was usually closely related to the marrying couple in some way, and eventually, this page boy duty transitioned to the modern ring bearer we know today.
Ring bearers are typically younger boys that are close to the couple. They may be nephews, children of close friends or family members, or the child of the maid of honor or best man. They are usually between the ages of three and eight – old enough to do the job on their own, and young enough to still be considered a child. Just remember that if you are considering asking a young child to be your ring bearer, get permission from the parents first since you’ll be asking them to be responsible for all the prep work.
While young boys are most common, modern weddings have shown us there are no steadfast rules when it comes to ring bearer etiquette of choosing a ring bearer. If there are only female children close to you, ask one of them. If you’d love for your adult cousin or best friend from college to do the honors, that’s perfect.
One trend that has gained quick approval is having beloved family pets be the ring bearer. Whether the rings are tied to their collar, attached to a pillow strapped to their back, or placed with them in a wagon to be pulled down the aisle, everyone loves the inclusion of furry family members in your special day.
What Should a Ring Bearer Wear?
The ring bearer’s outfit should be consistent with the rest of the wedding party. You’ll want to choose an outfit within the same color scheme and match the level of formality. If you’re choosing an outfit for a young child, be sure to consider what they’ll be the most comfortable in – that’s likely to help keep them excited for the role they get to play and not fussing over clothing.
Just as with the rest of the wedding party, the ring bearer pays for their own outfit, or in the case of the ring bearer being a child, their parents will expect to pay. And if you’re doing boutonnieres, it’s completely up to you whether your ring bearer also wears one. It creates a nice, cohesive look for the wedding party, but may be off-putting for young kids.
How Should the Ring Bearer Carry the Rings?
Carrying the rings on a pillow is the most traditional method for the ring bearer to use. Many are custom made with strings attached to tie the rings securely in place. Boxes made of wood or glass are another fairly traditional and popular choice. Both of these can be fun mementos for the couple to keep after the wedding as well.
In many ways, you can get quite creative with how your ring bearer gets the job done. You could go really playful and whimsical and have them walk down the aisle carrying the rings in a briefcase marked “ring security.” If the ring bearer is purely for the ceremony and not for the function (as in the best man has the rings the whole time), you could give your ring bearer a sign that says “Has anyone seen a couple rings laying around?”
Should the Ring Bearer Receive a Gift?
As a member of the wedding party, it’s customary for a ring bearer to receive a gift. If your ring bearer is a child, gifting them something they can wear on the day of the wedding makes the event extra special. Consider a fun pair of sunglasses that helps tie their outfit together or a pair of quirky socks that feature a character or pattern the child loves.
If they’re an older child or an adult, you can go sentimental with a personalized memento like an engraved frame to mark their crucial role in your wedding. Or you can show you appreciate their humor for those who fully embrace their duties and make a personalized “ring security” t-shirt or badge.
However you choose to design the role of the ring bearer for your wedding, ring bearer etiquette leaves a lot of room to make sure that you’re honoring the tradition while incorporating exactly what feels right for your special day.