The ultimate guide to ring bearers: Who, what, how?
21st January 2022
by Tara W.
The ring bearer is one of the most important jobs on your big day. They present the symbolic rings to you and your partner that signify the marriage promise. But where did the tradition come from and who can be your ring bearer? Here’s our handy guide to everything about ring bearers:
What does a ring bearer do?
A ring bearer is someone who you entrust to deliver your rings to you down the aisle. Usually, the rings are tied to a small pillow and presented at the appropriate time during the vows.
Traditionally, the ring bearer is a young boy. But the ring bearer is a distinct role from the page boy (although they can be combined) as the ring bearer delivers the rings and the page boy holds the train of your wedding gown.
In the wedding ceremony, it’s not compulsory to have a ring bearer or for your ring bearer to follow the traditions that began long ago. In the procession, the ring bearer normally comes after the last bridesmaid but before the flower girl or girls and so before the bride.
What is the history of ring bearers?
Ring bearers go back to mediaeval times, when marriage traditionally took place in a church. A young servant boy would stand outside the church, waiting for the bride to arrive and hold a prayer book, just in case she wanted to pray before committing to her husband. The ring itself was presented on a sword to the couple by the person marrying them.
Eventually, the tradition evolved into the role that a ring bearer still takes: bringing in the rings on a pillow. A pillow was used to indicate wealth and luxury, as small pillows were hard to come by in mediaeval times.
Who can be a ring bearer?
The truth is that what a ring bearer does and who can be a ring bearer has changed over time. From the use of swords until today ring bearers have been all kinds of people – and things!
Best man or maid of honour
Choosing your best man or maid of honour to be your ring bearer is a popular option nowadays. It avoids putting a lot of responsibility on a child at your wedding and also gives the couple’s best friends a big part in the ceremony itself.
Make sure that you actually ask your friends though, looking after such an integral part of the wedding ceremony can be stressful and adding that on top of their list of duties could make them overly stressed – so make sure to be nice to them and say thank you afterwards!
Page boy or flower girl
If you want to keep the number of children at your ceremony to a minimum, you can double up on the duties of your page boys and girls. The child themselves doesn’t have to be your own or a relative, but the child of a close friend whom you trust makes great ring bearers too and helps them feel more involved in the wedding.
It’s important that when you’re choosing a younger person to be your ring bearer that you don’t stress them out, so dealing with their parents as a communiqué is probably best. That way, the parent can also help to ensure that your rings themselves don’t get lost (you can also hand the ring bearer the rings just before the ceremony if you don’t want them carrying them around for hours).
Lots of people want ways for their pet to be involved in their wedding ceremony – after all, they’re a part of the family! Dog ring bearers are by far the easiest to work with on your big day. You can tie the rings to their collar or put them in a box attached to it.
It would probably be pertinent to use fake rings for this part of the ceremony, as well trained as your pet may be, they still have a mind of their own – and your grandmother unravelling some boiled sweets in the aisle might distract them from their marriage duties!
You should also ask your venue ahead of time, some places are ok with animals being a part of the ceremony and some think it is too complicated or won’t allow pets inside for other reasons, so check with the venue before you turn up with your cat or dog (or bird).
How to choose a ring bearer?
Choosing a ring bearer is all about what you want. There can be a lot of pressure from people with children and family members who want your big day to go a certain way, but you need to have the wedding day you choose as a couple.
The most important factor is to pick someone you trust and someone you want to be an integral part of your marriage ceremony. Ring bearers can be adults, children, pets or even yourselves and that’s if you want to have one at all.
If you pick a younger person to be a ring bearer, it is best to make sure that they are entertained for the reception part of your wedding. Make them a little children’s menu or give them a colouring book so they aren’t running around and upsetting any guests.
If you have a ring bearer who is a little older or a teenager (eleven years is definitely not too old to be a ring bearer) and doesn’t have any family members or other invitees around their age, then perhaps ask if they’d like to invite a very close friend to the reception. No one likes being the only person their age at an event and they are taking on a lot of responsibility for you, so be kind to them.
What do ring bearers wear?
You can dress your ring bearer in anything you’d like, but it’s best if they coordinate with the rest of the wedding party. Usually, young ring bearers wear the same outfit as a page boy (white shirt, a tie or bowtie and neutral coloured trousers), if they’re not already the same person, that is.
To mix it up from the other page boys, the ring bearer can wear a miniature version of the groom’s suit. This adds extra cute points and looks great in wedding photos.
Dressing a flower girl as a ring bearer might require a couple of adjustments, as they won’t be able to carry the normal bouquet of flowers down the aisle. Replacing the floral arrangement with a flower crown is a cute way of keeping the look of a flower girl and allowing them to carry the rings safely without having to juggle.
If you’ve chosen a maid of honour or best man to be the ring bearer, they can wear what they would wear as their role dictates. For pets, adding some floral or sparkle to their collar is a sweet and subtle way of dressing them for your wedding without making them uncomfortable in an outfit for hours – but make sure there are lots of treats and plenty of water available if your pet is presenting your rings.
How do you prepare a ring bearer?
Preparing a ring bearer is a matter of sitting down and discussing their role with them. Set out what you want them to do and ask them if they are comfortable with it and if they completely understand.
Talking to a child ring bearer should always be done under the supervision of their parent, so that you’re reassured there is an adult there who knows what the child is supposed to do and when and can calm any last minute nerves if it’s a big ceremony. Be careful to consider the young person’s feelings and let them know that you are trusting them with a big part of your ceremony, but don’t make it stressful for them or chastise them.
A rehearsal dinner can be a great time to practise with your ring bearer and is especially good for children and pets to practise their walk down the aisle before the pressure of the big day itself.
On the day, make sure that your rings are tied securely to the ring bearer pillow (or collar) before your ceremony and say a quick reassurance to your ring bearer, as well as thanking them for being a part of your wedding ceremony.
That is the entire role of a ring bearer, explained. As for the wedding rings themselves, they are yours to choose with your partner! Whether you go for your pet or a trusted friend, ring bearers can be an important part of your ceremony and it’s always important to be nice to them and perhaps even buy them a gift afterwards to say thanks for looking after your new wedding rings.
Read our wedding ring guide for inspiration.