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6 Officiant Tips for a Perfect Wedding Ring Exchange

Published Tuesday, Jun. 13th, 2023

Photo: Désirée Fawn / Unsplash

Follow these suggestions for a picture-perfect wedding ring exchange!



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AMM Audio Articles · 6 Officiant Tips for a Perfect Wedding Ring Exchange




Many couples choose to include a ‘ring exchange’ in their marriage ceremony – placing a ring on their sweetheart’s hand in front of friends and family as a symbol of their unending love and commitment.


This ritual seems commonplace now, but its origins are more mystical than mainstream. The practice is said to have originated over 6,000 years ago, with ancient Romans and Egyptians, who believed the ring finger was connected directly to the heart by the Vena Amoris, or ‘Vein of Love.’ A ring placed on this finger had the power to bind two lovers' hearts forever… at least symbolically. 


In most modern weddings, the couple exchanges rings after they’ve said “I do” (the Declaration of Intent), and before participating in another unity ceremony. After the couple has exchanged their vows and rings, the wedding officiant will declare them officially married (the Pronouncement). 


Make the next ring exchange you officiate one for the ages by keeping these six simple suggestions in mind.



Close up of brides exchanging wedding ring during the marriage ceremony

"With this ring, I thee wed..."



6 Simple Suggestions for a Picture-Perfect Wedding Ring Exchange 


1. Help create a great ring exchange photo


Although wedding officiants aren’t behind the camera on the wedding day, they still have a lot of influence on how a couple’s wedding photos turn out – including the ring exchange shots.

Remind the couple before the ceremony to take their time as they exchange rings. There’s no need to rush as they slip that gorgeous ring on their partner’s finger. They have nowhere else to be! It’s a moment that should be fully enjoyed, and photographed. This calm approach will give the photographer more time to snap a photo, with an added benefit of fewer ring fumbles by nervous newlyweds.



2. Bring a few fake rings


This advice is for aspiring professional officiants: If you officiate enough weddings, you’ll end up at one in which the couple forgets to bring their wedding rings. That’s when a little preparation can make you look like a hero! 


Add a few fake wedding rings to your ‘wedding emergency kit’ for the day disaster strikes. When it comes time for the ring exchange, you’ll have these prop rings ready to go and avoid any delays. Many officiants recommend packing a few silicone rings in different sizes, others swear by candy ‘Ring Pops’ for comic relief. Simple costume jewelry works too, but silicone or plastic will eliminate any worry over metal allergies. You’ll look like a hero and the couple will be less stressed as they take their vows.



3. Keep the Ring Holder close by


The question “May we have the rings?” shouldn’t be followed by a long pause and quiet muttering, as Uncle Reggie squeezes past other guests to make the long walk up the aisle with the rings. Uncle Reggie – or whoever’s holding the rings – should be right up front when it’s time for the ring exchange.


Ask the couple which guest will be in charge of the rings, and where they’ll be standing or seated on the wedding day. (Hint: Put them up front!). If the ring holder is a young child or a furry friend (we love pets in weddings), consider practicing where to stand and how the rings will be passed before the big day so there are fewer mistakes.


An exception: If a long pause after “May we have the rings?” is intentional, to build suspense or to make guests laugh, go for it. Just make sure everyone knows who has the rings and where they’ll be before the ceremony starts. 




Close up of bride and groom exchanging rings during the marriage ceremony while friends and family watch in the background with champagne

Photo: Omar Medina / Pixabay

4. Choose the perfect wording


As the wedding officiant, it’s your job to set the tone and pace of the ceremony by being intentional about what you say and how you say it. 


During the ring exchange, include transitional phrases and small instructions to the couple to keep things on track. For example, you might say, “Now, Sam and Shelly will exchange wedding rings as a symbol of their commitment,” to transition from the Declaration of Intent to the exchange of rings. 


Then, remind the couple who will go first and what they should do: “Sam, as you place this ring on Shelly's finger, please repeat after me. With this ring, I thee wed…”


Simple instructions like these will help nervous couples stay calm and focused, and will help wedding guests understand the meaning behind each part of the ceremony. 


For detailed examples of what to say, check out the article linked below: 



5. Add a ‘We’re still married!’ ring flash to a vow renewal


If the couple is already married and has already exchanged rings during a previous ceremony, ask them to ‘show off’ their rings during the second ceremony. 


This is a common practice for vow renewals, recommitment ceremonies, and sequel weddings, in which couples follow a courthouse ceremony or marriage license signing with a second wedding for friends and family.



6. Leave room for rings during a handfasting 


Handfasting is a very popular wedding tradition that involves tying a ribbon or cord around a couple’s hands to symbolize their union. If a couple asks you to officiate their handfasting, be sure to order the ceremony so that they can easily exchange their rings and tie the knot. 


Most professional officiants recommend that the couple exchange wedding rings before the handfasting ritual. In this case: The couple faces each other, exchanges rings and personal vows, and then clasp hands to begin the handfasting. The ceremony order looks like this: 


  • Welcome & Invocation
  • Declaration of Intent
  • Ring Exchange
  • Handfasting
  • Pronouncement


However, some couples choose to exchange rings while the handfasting cord is tied. In that case, knot the cord in a way that keeps the couple’s ring fingers free (by binding only the opposite hands) or remove the cord before placing the rings.



Read Next: 





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“By the power vested in me…” Creative alternatives for the wedding pronouncement. Read the full article here. 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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