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After all the work the bride and groom put into planning a wedding, the ceremony itself can be a welcome stretch of attentive stillness — unless you are fretting about flubbing the exchange of rings, which is often your final responsibility before the marriage is declared official. We want to make sure you are calmly present for such a special moment, so here’s everything you need to know about the wedding ring exchange.

How Long Have We Been Doing This?

The wedding ring exchange dates back to ancient Egypt. Back then, reeds were the ring material of choice, so you had to worry about the symbolic gesture unraveling during the exchange. If you’ve looked through the titanium ring options in our catalog of men’s wedding bands, you know that’s not something you have to fret about today.

While the modern ring exchange looks different, the basics are still the same. Of course, we use precious metal instead of reeds, and the ring exchange vows are a little different. Also, there’s less mention of property and ownership and more of a nice partnership, unbreakable bond and all that jazz.

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What Part of The Ceremony Does The Exchange Happen?

For weddings that are structured along the Judeo-Christian model, the ring ceremony usually happens right after the wedding vows. Muslim couples may exchange rings at a betrothal rather than at the wedding ceremony. In Hindu wedding ceremonies, garlands are exchanged.  

So, The Ring Exchange and The Vows Aren’t The Same Thing? 

Think of the vows as the declaration of intent of everlasting love, and the exchange of rings as the handshake that seals the deal.

Who Goes First?

In the conventional wedding order, the groom will go first. As is also the case with the wedding vows, the formality and faith tradition of the ceremony will dictate its flexibility. 

But when couples do choose their own order, they often start with the person who is least likely to be nervous about public speaking! Of course, if public speaking is a concern, be sure to practice your vows and ring exchange wording a few times at least beforehand. You want those things dialed in, so all you have to worry about is getting up there on your wedding day and reciting the thing you already know about all your future tomorrows and whatnot. If you want to write it down and have that paper with you just in case, that’s totally fine. Really, that’s more of an aesthetic choice than anything else. In many cases, the wedding officiant will provide wedding ceremony scripts to anyone who will be speaking, so your vows can be included in that copy!

couple wearing wedding rings holding hands

Where Do You Place The Rings During a Traditional Ring Exchange?

In the United States and the United Kingdom, wedding rings are typically worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, though wearing them on the right hand is also common worldwide. 

Learn More About Which Hand the Wedding Ring Goes on

But What About The Engagement Ring?

The wedding ring is usually worn first so it can be closest to your heart. But you can wear wedding ring sets in whatever order works best for you. It’s also a matter of personal preference regarding what you do with the engagement ring during the ceremony. It can be briefly moved over to the right hand, entrusted to a close family member or simply left in place.

This is another aesthetic choice really. You can wear one on top of the other, in whichever order you like, or you can split them and wear one on each hand. You can switch your engagement ring from left to right hand quickly before you get the wedding ring. Alternatively, though, you can just come up wearing it on your right hand. While not the traditional place to wear it, it does simplify the transition of things if you aren’t wearing both rings on the same hand. Up to you.

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Who Is Involved in The Ring Exchange Apart from The Couple?

The best man typically has charge of both rings, though sometimes he will split that duty with the maid of honor, who will hold the groom’s ring. Or they can be entrusted to the officiant or another close (responsible) member of the family or wedding party. As long as it's someone who knows what they’re doing and is going to be up there with you, pick whoever you like. Whoever has the rings should make sure they have a secure place to keep them. 

ring bearer wedding band in box

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What Do You Say During The Exchange?

The language of the ring exchange is more likely to remain standardized than that of the wedding vows, so don’t hesitate to consult a list of the customary phrases. If you’re having a religious ceremony, consider verbiage that includes references to your faith. Some common phrases include “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” or “this ring is a symbol of my eternal love to my faithful partner”.

For any non-religious folks out there, consider phrases that echo your vows, such as “this ring is a symbol of my vow and a token of my love”.

Whatever you decide to say, don’t stress out about the wedding ring exchange. It’s just a matter of waiting for your cue to take the hand of the one you love. 

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