A ring bearer, or page, is a participant in a wedding charged with presenting the bride and groom with their wedding rings. Often, this part is played by a young boy who is a relative of the bride or groom, but it can also fall to the best man to carry the rings. If using a child, the rings are usually carried on a large, ornamental pillow as a symbolic gesture.
The history of using a ring bearing pillow dates back to ancient Egyptian weddings, when jewels were displayed on rare ornamental pillows during a wedding. As it became common in Europe to exchange wedding rings, the ring bearer became an important part of the ceremony. The two traditions merged, leading to the pillow being used as the carrying vessel for the rings.
If you wish to have a ring bearer in your wedding, it is common to ask a young male member of the family. Generally, ring bearers are between 6-10 years old, with older boys being made ushers or groomsmen. Ring bearers are generally paired with flower girls, who are around the same age. Often they walk down the aisle together as part of the entrance ceremony.
Some couples who choose to have a ring bearer make the job a ritual rather than functional task. Instead of entrusting their actual wedding rings to a young child, they instead sew fake rings onto the pillow for the bearer to carry. In these cases, the actual rings are usually carried by the best man or maid of honor. If the real rings are placed on the pillow, they are often tacked on or secured in some way, to prevent them from being lost.
Most couples choose to outfit ring bearers in an outfit similar to that worn by the groomsmen. If it is impractical or impossible to find similar outfits in small sizes, letting the boy wear a tie, cummerbund or armband that matches the groomsmen outfits can suffice. In some cases, ring bearers will be formally attired as a page, wearing a traditional period costume. This variation is often seen at Renaissance-themed or extremely formal weddings. If you choose to dress up your ring bearer for the ceremony, you may wish to make sure they have a comfortable change of clothes for the reception.
Having a ring bearer is an excellent way to involve young family members in the wedding ceremony and to teach them about the importance of a wedding. If either the bride or groom has a son from a previous relationship, or a much younger sibling, this gives the child a chance to feel involved in the process. It can also help ward off jealousy over young girls getting to be flower girls or junior bridesmaids.
Etiquette suggests that the ring bearer should be involved in the rehearsal process. This chance to practice may help the young child feel comfortable in the role and familiarize them with wedding procedures. The bride or groom may wish to give the ring bearer a small gift as thanks for their help.