Ring Exchange 101 {Expert Tip}

EXPERT TIP BY SOMETHING NEW OFFICIANT (www.somethingnewofficiant.ca) London, ON

“The ring exchange moment in a ceremony is so commonplace that many people believe that it’s a legal requirement. However, it’s not – it is customary, and within North America a relatively newer tradition and component of a wedding ceremony. It wasn’t until World War II that men began to wear wedding bands at all, said to be a reminder of their spouse at home. And why the left finger of the left hand? A tradition believed to originate with the Romans based on the thought a vein, the Vena Amoris (“vein of love”), runs from this finger leading directly to the heart. This belief has since been debunked by modern science.

Regardless of where we pick up the story of how and why exchanging wedding bands became a central feature of wedding ceremonies, the practice is not going away soon. Most of the time my clients have spent more time determining who will have the honour of holding the rings, than thinking about why they are exchanging the rings in the first place.

So how do you take this common tradition and mold it into one that’s uniquely yours?

I suggest starting the conversation between you and your partner prompted by the following set of questions:
• What does the ring exchange element of the ceremony mean to me?
• What will wearing my ring mean to me?
• What would I like the ring my spouse will wear, to represent to them?

Like anything ceremony related, please carve out time for each of you to answer the questions before you share your answers with each other. With all the shared decision-making moments that happen during wedding planning, the ceremony too needs collaboration and communication.

If you’re lost for words, and beyond it being tradition, are not actually quite sure what exchanging rings mean to you, let me give you some guidance.

Generally speaking, my clients will say the ring exchange represents the symbol of the promises (aka vows) they will have made to one another. Clients have shared how the rings will serve as a public declaration that one loves, and one is loved. A ring is a visible sign that love shared between a couple is invaluable and something to be displayed. Or in the words of one of my clients, “the ring will say to others, ‘I got dibs on this one, move along’”.

Once you have come to some shared understanding of WHY you’d like to exchange rings, and what the rings mean to you after the ceremonial aspect, there are different possibilities for how the ring exchange component of your ceremony is performed. Here are just a few suggestions:

  1. Your officiant would ask each of you in turn if you will receive the ring from your partner. This sounds like: “Tom, will you wear this ring as a symbol of Jerry’s love, and as a reminder of the vows you have spoken today, your wedding day”? and Tom would say “I will”.
  2. Your officiant would ask each of you in turn if you will offer the ring to your partner. This sounds like: “Tom, do you offer this ring to Jerry as a symbol of your never-ending love for him, and as a reminder of the vows you have spoken this day, your wedding day? and Tom would say “I will”
  3. You would choose to repeat a sentence or phrase after your officiant. This sounds like: Tom repeating, “Jerry, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love. May it remind you always of my commitment to you, and our life together and that each day I promised to choose you, for all the days of my life.

Of course, there are endless possibilities in terms of the language and meaning you might ascribe to this moment. So free your mind, and have a little fun here. Draw on your answers to the above questions to inform your wording, and ask your officiant for suggestions as well. Oftentimes what couples choose to say and how they will say it, boils down to comfort level with public speaking, how traditional or modern you’d like this component to be, and what just makes sense according to what’s uniquely you.

Featured in the Spring/Summer 2022 edition of The Wedding Ring Magazine

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Something New Officiant, The Wedding Ring Magazine Spring/Summer 2022