Previously this month I featured a post about Flower Girls and this week I will discuss the role of the Ring Bearer. The ring bearer is traditionally a young boy between the ages of four and eight that carries the wedding rings during the ceremony. In other parts of the world a young boy can have another duty as part of the wedding party; a page boy would traditionally carry the train of the bride’s wedding dress. Today the role of page boys is basically symbolic and most common in European weddings, such as the British Royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. Most recently the couple’s son, Prince George, was one of the page boys at his Aunt Pippa’s wedding in 2017, as shown in the photo below.
Prince George (second from the right) with the other page boys and flower girls
In this post I will discuss the origin and history behind the role of the ring bearer. I will also give some ideas and suggestions for classic ring pillows for a ring bearer to carry on a wedding day. In a future post, Unusual Ring Presentations, I will offer ideas for some very different items for the ring bearer to hold the wedding rings.
The origin and history of the ring bearer / page boy
To find the origin of the ring bearer / page boy we need to look back centuries ago. But first, let’s clarify the difference between a ring bearer and a page boy. In general a ring bearer is a young boy that carries the rings in an American wedding. A page boy is a young boy that is part a European weddings, usually multiple page boys will walk down the aisle together with several young girls.
The tradition of a ring bearer dates back centuries ago to the time of the Ancient Egypt when the jewels of the pharaohs would be carried on luxurious pillows during ceremonies. Throughout the decades, the custom spread to parts of Europe and the royal crowns or scepters would be carried for the King or Queen in royal processions. In the Renaissance period of Northern Europe during a wedding ceremony of a knight and his lady, the ring bearer would present the wedding ring on the tip of a sword which sounds like a very grand gesture! Eventually the custom of a ring bearer changed and would be incorporated into the weddings of the upper and middle classes and a young boy would be chosen to carrying the wedding rings, this became very popular in Victorian England and later in the United States.
In regards to the origin of a page boy it can be traced back to medieval times when young boys were servants of noblemen. One of the many duties of a page boy would be to carry the train of the nobleman during a procession so that it would not be soiled or damaged. Today, page boys still hold important roles in royal ceremonies, such as the State Opening of Parliament in England every year when several page boys will hold the train of Queen Elizabeth II in the procession through the chambers.
Queen Elizabeth accompanied by Prince Philip during the State Opening of Parliament
The role of a ring bearer in today’s modern weddings
- Ring bearers are generally related to either the bride or the groom and it is best if they are between the ages of four to eight years old. In the wedding procession, the ring bearer follows the bridesmaids and is positioned just in front of the flower girl, maid/matron of honor and the bride.
- Traditionally, the ring bearer will carry a small pillow with the wedding rings securely attached by a ribbon. If concerned about the expensive rings being lost, an alternative is to attached inexpensive fake rings to the pillow instead.
- If the ring bearer is too shy or nervous to walk alone in the wedding ceremony procession they can walk with the flower girl.
- Another idea to make the ring bearer feel more comfortable is to position their parents near the front of the ceremony to “rescue” him if he get anxious or upset. If the wedding ceremony is too long, the ring bearer can sit with his parents after walking down the aisle.
- If problems happen (like dropping the pillow, being fussy or crying) just stay calm and hopefully the ring bearer’s parents can step in to handle the situation.
- It is a nice idea for the ring bearer and his parents to be invited to the rehearsal and the dinner that usually follows. This would allow the ring bearer to meet the other people in the bridal party and it would make him feel more comfortable.
The ring pillow used at the wedding of Prince George and Princess May of Teck
(later known as King George VI & Queen Mary) which took place on July 6, 1893
photo from the royalcollection.org.uk
Ideas for traditional ring bearer pillows
In general, a ring bearer will carry the wedding rings securely attached to a pillow with ribbons during the wedding procession. Most often the ring pillow is purchased specifically for the wedding and there are numerous styles available through bridal shops, retail stores or the internet. Occasionally the bride or a relative will make a special ring pillow for the wedding. The ring pillow selected should coordinate with the style, color or theme of the wedding.
So, here are some ideas for ring bearer pillows …
Two examples of classic ring pillows –
embellished square pillow (left) and round pillow (right)
An example of a lace fabric ring pillow with rhinestone initial pin attached
(I would suggest taking a look in the fabric section of a craft store for more ideas using bridal or other specialty material)
square pillow (left) and a romantic heart-shaped pillow (right)
Two examples of monogrammed ring pillow – machine embroidery (left) and needlepoint (right)
Another example of a needlepoint ring pillow
An example of a ring pillow used for “something blue”
An example of a ring pillow using a vintage cashmere sweater for “something old”
two examples using organic material for spring or summer ring pillows –
roses (left) and moss (right)
A ring pillow embellished with seashells for a beach wedding
Ideas for classic ring boxes
Instead of using a traditional ring pillow, might I suggested a classic ring box for the ring bearer to carry. Some of the ring box examples are available in silver in a variety of shapes or unique vintage ones found in antique stores.
Two examples of vintage celluloid ring boxes
For more ideas for Unusual Ring Presentation, please click on the link.