The Guests' Blessing of the Rings
Guests Blessing of the Rings
The idea of a “blessing” is very ancient – the word comes the Old English bledsian, which meant to consecrate with blood, a reminder of the pagan customs, and was the word chosen when translating the Biblical term eulogein, a Greek term for praise or worship. A blessing therefore is an invocation to a higher power.
In contemporary terms we might think of a blessing as an acknowledgement of what gives us a sense of hope, of strength, of purpose. The theologian Paul Tillich suggested that we broaden the idea of “God” to be “the ground of ultimate concern” – whatever that may be for you. I like that inclusivity as well as the psychological acuity in that definition of the sacred.
In traditional weddings it is the minister, priest or rabbi who blesses the rings that the couple will exchange. The idea is to bring additional meaning and focus to the symbolism of the rings as a reminder of the vows being taken by the two individuals getting married.
But there is no reason that you have to keep this special task relegated to the clergy. For many people nowadays it is their friends and family who represent the “ground of ultimate concern” – to use Tillich’s phrase – so why not let those people take on that sacred task?
It is a very simple and yet very powerful way to let your family and guests know how much you value them and their influence in your lives. To have the guests bless the rings gives them a meaningful way to participate at a depth level with your ceremony.
And then you also have the happy reminder of their love and support whenever you glance down at the ring on your finger!
How to do the Ritual
Important Note: The rings should be placed into either one or two separate containers. These might be small boxes or mesh bags or velvet bags, all of which are readily available at craft stores, or something handmade to make it even more special. It is highly recommended that if the rings are in a box, that the box be sealed or locked, and if in bags, that the bags be double-tied. Although it is has never happened to me at a ceremony there is always the chance that someone might decide to take a peak and let the ring fall out into the grass or sand or on to a floor where it could roll away! If there are a lot of guests or it is a rather short ceremony, I suggest passing the rings separately – half of the guests bless one ring and the other half bless the second ring – that allows things to move more quickly. If you have the time or it is a smaller group, then the rings could go together and be blessed by everyone. If either of the rings has a stone embedded, you may wish to wrap it in a separate cloth before placing it in the container to give it some protection.
Near the beginning of the ceremony Rev. Rebecca explains to the guests that in many weddings it is the priest or minister who blesses the rings, but at this ceremony it is the guests themselves who will play that important role, demonstrating how important their presence is to the couple.
She asks that the rings be brought forward by a member of the wedding party – often the Ring Bearer - and shows how the ring bag (or box) should be held to the heart and a silent wish or blessing for the couple placed on the ring.
The Best Man and Maid of Honor (or Ring Bearer and other designated person) take the rings all the way to the back row of guests and hand them to the person on the aisle. They may need to whisper the instructions again if they sense any confusion. Then the wedding party members return to the front and the ceremony proceeds.
During this time the rings make their way by passing from hand to hand and heart to heart until they reach the mothers or other family members in the front row. There they are held until it is time for the Exchange of Rings, when Rev. Rebecca asks for the rings to be brought forward.
Then the Best Man and Maid of Honor usually assist in taking the rings out of their container and handing them either to the officiant, or directly to the couple.
And there you have it – a beautiful way to include your guests that is easy but very memorable. Whenever I include this ritual in a wedding I always get positive feedback from the guests who tell me how honored they felt to be included in this very special way.
Want more ideas for your wedding? Check out my next blog post!