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A Traditional Catholic Wedding - III

The Wedding Ring: An Ancient Tradition

Marian T. Horvat & Elizabeth A. Lozowski
Having addressed the wedding processional, bridal veil and the involvement of the father, we deem it worthwhile to explain the traditional Catholic marriage ceremony and symbolism of the wedding ring. So, let us begin.

After the bride and groom have entered the Church, the marriage ceremony commences. It is fitting in its simplicity and sacrality. In some places, the words differ slightly, although the general formula is kept the same.

The traditional Catholic ceremony is the following: (1) :


The exchange of rings in the traditional ceremony

Priest: (to the groom): N. Wilt thou take N. here present for thy lawful wife, according to the rite of our Holy Mother the Church?

Groom: I will.

Priest: (to the bride) Wilt thou take N. here present for thy lawful husband according to the rite of our Holy Mother the Church?

Bride: I will.

The bridegroom and bride then join their right hands, and whilst so doing usually recite the following formula after the priest, first the bridegroom and then the bride.

Groom: I, N. N., take thee N. N. for my lawful wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

Bride: I, N. N., take thee N. N. for my lawful husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

After these words the right hands are still kept joined until the priest has made the Sign of the Cross over the bridal couple and has sprinkled them with Holy Water. (2)

The blessing of the ring

The marriage now being completed, no further ceremony is legally required. However, the Church has traditionally followed the marriage vows with the blessing of the ring.

blessing of the rings

The blessing of the rings

Modern readers may be surprised to read "the ring" instead of "rings." This is due to the blessing of two rings in modern wedding ceremonies, in which both husband and wife place the rings on the other’s fingers. The traditional Catholic ceremony includes the blessing of one ring which the bridegroom bestows upon the bride, as is described below.

The bridegroom places the ring on the plate for the priest to bless. The priest does it with the following prayer.

Bless, O Lord! this ring, which we bless in Thy name, that she that shall wear it keeping inviolable fidelity to her spouse may ever remain in peace and in Thy will, and always live in mutual charity. Through Christ our Lord.

Then the priest sprinkles the ring with Holy Water; and the bridegroom taking it, puts it on the fourth finger of the left hand of the bride, saying, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


The father ‘gives away’ his daughter to the groom; below, the groom places the ring on the bride’s finger, an action filled with symbolism

Another alternative way to place the ring on the bride’s finger begins with the bridegroom first placing the ring on the thumb of the bride’s left hand, saying: In the Name of the Father: then on the second finger, saying, and of the Son: then on the third finger, saying, and of the Holy Ghost: lastly, on the fourth finger, saying, Amen.

The next words the bridegroom says to his bride vary according to place, though the most common form is this: “With this ring I thee wed and plight unto thee my troth.” At times, these are the only words spoken, instead of the above prayer invoking the Trinity.

In parts of England and Ireland, it was a custom for the bridegroom to place some gold and silver into the hand of the bride, saying: "With this ring I thee wed, this gold and silver I give thee, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow."

After this the priest says a few prayers and concludes with the sacred prayer that follows:

Look down, O Lord! we beseech Thee, upon these Thy servants, and afford Thy favorable assistance to Thy own institution, by which Thou hast ordained the propagation of mankind; and that they, who are joined together by Thy authority, may be preserved by Thy aid. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen. (3)

The introduction of the male wedding ring

When did this custom change? The ancient custom of the Roman Catholic Church included the subarrhatio, or the bridegroom’s giving of the ring to the bride, a Roman wedding custom retained after Rome’s conversion to Christianity. Since the bride, in her turn, offered her dowry for the marriage, it was not seen necessary for the bride to bestow a ring upon the bridegroom. (4)

advertisement wedding rings

Advertising played a large role in making the men's ring popular

The reason behind the bride being given a ring is described well in The Catholic Book of Marriage by P.C.M. Kelly (1951 - Great Britain):

“The husband confers the blessed ring upon his bride to show to the world that henceforth she belongs exclusively to him, even as his very body. She is not to be his servant in any dishonorable sense; for she is his heart, he is her head.

"The husband speaks with authority in the name of the Lord. As his heart, the God-given centre of his life, his wife is to be cared for with deepest respect and love for she is also his queen. The husband may wear a ring to signify his dignity and authority and to remind himself and others that he is the head of a home, that he has the divinely appointed honor and responsibility of a Christian wife.”
(pgs. 11-12)

Towards the middle of the 20th century, the giving of two rings began to be introduced in various places in the Western World and became popular particularly in the United States, largely through the jewelry industry’s advertising schemes.(5)

modern couple wedding

The modern wedding couple,
an egalitarian ceremony & relationship

However, the Roman Catholic marriage rite still included the blessing of one ring, even if the husband chose to wear a ring. By 1964, the dual ring ceremony was introduced into the Latin marriage rite. Let us note here that among the Eastern Schismatics (and possibly some Eastern Catholics) the dual ring ceremony is an old custom, though it was not generally practiced in the West.

Based on the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the dual ring ceremony in the Latin rite, it seems easy to conclude, as one of our readers suggested, that the concept of a male wedding ring is a Vatican II novelty, tendentially promoting equality in marriage. However, its origins seem to be rooted in a new societal custom that demanded a change in the liturgy, rather than a feminist progressivist novelty.

It seems to us that a ring worn by the groom could serve a helpful purpose in our days, when even Catholic women can be brash and flirt openly with men who do not wear a wedding ring. In the past, no honorable lady would make advances toward a man. Sadly this is not the case today. The man’s ring, in such circumstances, would serve as a deterrent to these unwelcome advances from audacious and sinful modern young women (who do not deserve the title of lady).

Nonetheless, counter-revolutionaries may wish to return to the ancient practice of one ring in order to take a stance against the egalitarian tendencies of modern marriages. When the bride receives the ring from her husband, she shows that she is submitting to his authority and rejecting the feminist myths of equality.

fra angelico marriage of the virgin

Marriage of the Our Lady & St. Joseph - Fra Angelico

  1. These words are taken from the chapter “The Marriage Ceremony” in Catholic Practice at Church and at Home.
  2. The blessing of the priest is typically the following: "I join you in matrimony, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
  3. The words of these prayers are taken from The Marriage Service and the Nuptial Mass by the Catholic Truth Society of London (The Marriage Service and The Nuptial Mass : Catholic Truth Society of London : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive) and from Chapter XIX: “Of the Sacrament of Marriage and of the Nuptial Benediction” in Our Church, Her Children, and Institutions, volume 1. Our Church Her Children And Institutions, Volume 1 : Coyle, Henry, 1865- : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive.
  4. Louis Duchesne describes the earliest record of the marriage ceremony in Chapter XIV of his book Christian Worship: Its Origin and Evolution: A Study of the Latin Liturgy up to the Time of Charlemagne:
    “We must come down as far as the time as Pope Nicholas I to find a description with any details of the rites of marriage in the Latin Church. The description occurs in his celebrated conference with the Bulgarians, held in 866. The acts which he mentions are divided into two categories, those which precede and those which accompany the nuptialia foedera.
    The first category contain:
       1. The betrothal, or espousal (sponsalia), the expression of the consent of the couple to be married and of their parents, to the projected marriage.
       2. The subarrhatio, or delivery of the ring by the bridegroom to the bride.
       3. The delivering over of the dowry, by written document, in the presence of witnesses.
    These are the preliminaries. The marriage ceremony itself comprises:
       1. The celebration of Mass in the presence of the newly married, who take part in the offering and are communicated.
       2. The benediction pronounced while a veil is held above their heads.
       3. The coronation on leaving the church.”
  5. For more information on the part played by the jewelry industry in popularizing the male wedding rings, read this article:


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted May 10, 2023

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