The exchange of rings is the sealing of all the promises you’ve made up to this point of the ceremony. There are actually two parts to the Exchange of Rings – the Introduction or Blessing, and the physical placing of rings on each other.
Depending on your beliefs, you might want to have your rings blessed, or prayed over, before exchanging them. If you are going for a non-religious ceremony, something simple like explaining why you wear them would be appropriate. Perhaps they are to be a reminder to the wearer of your love. Or perhaps you like the idea of a circle, never ending, representing your Vows.
The second part is placing the Rings on each other’s fingers. Usually, a few words you repeat from the officiant makes this part less awkward. “I give you this ring/ as I give you myself/ with love and affection,” is short and sweet (the “/” is when the officiant stops to allow you to repeat what was just said). As with the I Do’s and Vows, remember to speak those words loudly so all your guests can hear.
Traditionally, in American/Christian ceremonies, the ring is placed and worn on the “ring” finger of the left hand. For a partner who has an engagement ring, it should be placed on the right hand before the ceremony, as the wedding band should be closest to your heart. After the ceremony, the engagement ring can be replaced on the outside of the band on the left hand. A good officiant will remind you to switch engagement ring hands before the ceremony. If you have a “jacket” style ring, the officiant can help you fix those together before the exchange.
In some religions, the ring is placed on the forefinger rather than the ring finger. Again, let your officiant know about your religious traditions and they can easily be incorporated.
Some couples get caught up in attempting to place a ring on their partner, as the largest knuckle can prevent a quick placement. A Ring Exchange is not a duel nor a wrestling match. Just slip the ring as far as it will easily go, and let your partner subtly push it the rest of the way on.
One final thought on Rings, because this comes up regularly – only ADULTS should control your actual, usually expensive, rings. A Ring Bearer is adorable during the Processional, but no guest will know if that young person has your real rings or just a pillow with fake rings. Your official rings should be given to the Best Man, the Maid/Matron of Honor, or the officiant.
We’re on the home stretch of a wedding ceremony! The rest of the ceremony is for celebration and reflection, including the next segment, the Closing Words.
– Reverend Meghan Gurley