Blessing and Exchange of Rings

The blessing and exchange of rings as a sign of marital commitment has very ancient roots in Western history and many meanings associated with it: unending love, fidelity, and enormous value.

Saint Isidore of Seville, writing around the year A.D. 600, explained what the ring meant to the people of his time:

The fact that the man gives his fiancé a ring means that it is a sign of mutual faithfulness or, rather, that their hearts are bound by a single pledge. Hence it is placed on the fourth finger, for in that finger, it is said, there is a vein, which carries the blood to the heart.

For much of history, there was only one wedding ring, given by the groom to the bride. The current rite, however, calls for two rings exchanged between the bride and groom, witnessing the mutuality of the marriage relationship.

The Order of Celebrating Matrimony offers three options for the blessing and exchange of the rings by the presider. After each one, you will offer your new spouse a ring, asking him or her to accept it as a sign of your commitment. The simple, time-honored phrase, “take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity” (now “receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity”) is based on one of the earliest marriage texts known in Western history from the wedding ceremony of King Edilwulf of East Anglia, to Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald in A.D. 856.

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