Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 4 – The Exchange of Rings

The exchange of wedding rings between a man and a woman is still a comparatively new idea.

Once upon a time, there was only one ring; the best man gave it to the groom, who gave it to the bride who wore it to her grave.

The groom didn’t wear a ring at all, and the whole arrangement was rather one-sided, and redolent of ownership, possession and control.

As those ideas went out of fashion during the latter half of the 20th century, men and women began to exchange rings, but for some reason, the best man remained the custodian of both, which gave rise to the strange sight of a bride getting a ring from the groom’s best pal only to give it straight back to the groom.

It took me a little while to see what was wrong with that picture, but now I have a solution, and most couples seem to agree it’s a good one.

Rather than making the best man responsible for both rings, I usually suggest that while he has the bride’s ring to give to the groom, the chief bridesmaid should be given the groom’s wedding ring to give to the bride.

That way the exchange is truly equal.

I generally suggest the bridesmaid simply wears the groom’s wedding ring on one of her thumbs. As both thumbs tend to be pointing upwards (because they’re carrying a bouquet), there’s no risk of it falling off, and  it’s a simple matter for the bridesmaid to slip the ring off her thumb, and pass it to the bride at the appropriate moment, just as Elise did at the wedding of Victoria and David on Sunday. It’s taken me a long time to get a photo of this, so thanks again to Elise for giving me the ‘thumb’s up’!

it’s taken me even longer to find a matching photo. It’s now May of 2023, and yesterday I married my old friend Ian to Bridget. Ian’s Best Man Malcolm decided to adapt the idea, and he wore her ring on his pinkie finger, which I thought was really rather brilliant as well as downright cute!

  1. Sophie & Callum's Humanist Wedding at Archerfield House - Tim Maguire left a comment on October 23, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    […] easy when you’re planning your wedding to forget that there are many ways in which to manage ‘The Exchange of Rings’. Traditionally the Best Man had the one that the groom gave the bride, but the world has moved on […]

  2. Ali & Elaine's Humanist Wedding at Orocco Pier - Tim Maguire left a comment on May 7, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    […] Ali’s brother in law Chris gave him the ring he put on Elaine’s finger. We call this moment ‘the exchange of rings’ for a reason, and I liked how Ali and Elaine thought about that aspect […]

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