The ring bearer's parents should do the following prior to the wedding ceremony:
- Parents should expect to pay for their child's attire. If allowed to select the ring bearer's attire, they should get approval from the bride and groom; otherwise, they should have the child fitted at the same rental shop as the rest of the bridal party.
- Ring bearers and their parents should expect to attend the rehearsal (and be invited to the rehearsal dinner). This is so he (or she) can practice walking down the aisle with the pillow and/or flower girl.
- If photographs are held prior to the ceremony, the ring bearer should arrive at the assigned time so he can take part. This may be after the rest of the photos have been taken to keep things manageable for him.
During the wedding ceremony, the ring bearer is expected to:
- Get in the processional line and walk down the aisle.
- Carry a ceremonial pillow or other accessory (such as a fun sign). Faux rings are attached to the pillow rather than real ones.
- Stand at the front for the initial words from the officiant; then he may be allowed to sit in the front pew with parents.
- Walk to the back of the location in the recessional with the rest of the bridal party.
The receiving line after the ceremony does not usually include the ring bearer.
If the day has been long for the child, he may not want to be announced at the reception. All parties should understand and accommodate this.
The ring bearer usually sits with his parents or grandparents in assigned spots at the front of the reception hall. However, if he is a little older or the child of one of the other attendants or couple, he may be seated at the head table.
During the dance, the ring bearer may want to cut a rug on his own or skip it entirely. Children aren't expected to participate, but let him know he's welcome to join.
Parents of young ring bearers may want to leave a reception before it is over. The couple and parents should discuss this before the wedding so everyone is on the same page. However, parents should make an effort offer a final congratulations before leaving.
How to Choose a Ring Bearer
A number of factors come into play when selecting a ring bearer, both traditional and modern.
Generally, etiquette expert Emily Post recommends ages 3 to 7 while Martha Stewart goes with ages 5 to 10. Of course, the couple can still decide to ask a child older or younger to serve as a ring bearer; they just may need to make certain accommodations. For example:
- Babies, infants, and toddlers may need to be carried or escorted down the aisle by an adult attendant.
- Older children can take on more responsibility, like standing for the entire service, rather than sitting with their parents.
Traditionally the ring bearer role was filled by a boy. This is not set in stone, however. If you would rather select a special young lady to serve in this role, that is perfectly fine. She could wear a dress with black accents (to resemble a tuxedo) or a similar dress to a flower girl's but just carry the ring cushion.
Consider the relationship you have with the child's parents and the child. Children of the couple are usually given priority if they are not serving in other roles. Nephews, godchildren, and close personal friends are also options.
If your child was a ring bearer in a friend or family member's wedding, they may expect their children to serve the same role in your wedding. Don't feel obligated to ask, but if you won't be reciprocating, do consider asking the child to help in another important way (such as manning the guest book table).
While the ring bearer is a traditional role, you may encounter a few special circumstances. For example:
- When there's more than one ring bearer, children can walk down the aisle in pairs. However, more than four total may be excessive depending on your wedding size.
- Babies can be given an honorary ring bearer title in the program but not be expected to be held at the front of the church during the ceremony.
- A beloved pet might be your dream choice. Make sure you clear this with the venue and only if the pet is well trained. A dog who follows commands and is used to a crowd is a good choice; a cat who hides from all visitors is probably going to be a problem.
- Skipping the ring bearer is not unheard of and can eliminate hurt feelings if you simply cannot make the right choice.
An Important Role
The ring bearer should understand his important place in the wedding party. Parents and the couple should help him feel comfortable and his part will be successful.