In Catalyst Wedding Co., editor Liz Susong's weekly column devoted to the feminist bride, she dives headfirst into the crazy history behind common wedding traditions we may take for granted. Liz investigates here.
I remember when my brother was a tiny page boy—er, ring bearer—and my family sat in rapt attention as he performed his noble duty of walking steadily down the long aisle, pretending to balance a thousand dollars worth of gold that symbolized eternal love on a slippery pillow. It's no wonder he soon upchucked all over his rented child's tux—the nerves must have gotten to him.
The closest ancestor of the rather recent American invention of the ring bearer is the page boy, who was required to carry the queen’s train when she walked down the aisle since it was “too heavy for the bride to walk with on her own,” according to wedding historian Susan Waggoner. Thank goodness my brother only had to carry the imaginary rings; if he had to haul 20 feet of the finest imported satin and then hurled all over it, the laundering bill would have consumed his college savings.
I asked my brother to recall the events of that fateful day. He begins by nonchalantly saying he doesn’t remember much because it was 19 years ago and he was only six, then dives into the specifics. “I thought it was exciting to dress up and wear the tux and felt bad I ruined it,” he says. “I was supposed to dance with someone—I can’t remember if it was the flower girl, bride, mom, or someone in the bridal party—and I was excited about it. But I didn’t get to do it because I was in the basement during the whole reception, just in my white undershirt laying on the couch.” No Macarena, no chicken dance, nothing. Then he even dares to get a bit petty (but who among us wouldn’t in his circumstance?). “Also pretty sure I was called the ‘ring bear,’ not ‘bearer,’ and thought it was kind of strange.”
Now, the unfortunate details leading up to the actual upchuck episode could have happened to any single one of us. After all that pressure to deliver as a mere first grader who could barely count to ten, he needed something to take the edge off. He sat down for the reception, and what was before him but two truffles packaged so delightfully with the phrase, “love is sweet.” Love is sweet, he thought, stuffing both chocolates into his mouth at once. And in mere minutes love spewed out all over the place settings and table cloth, which my dad quickly disposed of.
I personally recall my dad trying to conceal the state of the tux upon returning it to the rental company and asked him if that was true. “I don’t recall,” he says.
Waggoner writes that ring bearers’ “function has become largely decorative” and they “are not essential elements of weddings.” Say that to the sad little boy laying in the basement, Ms. Waggoner. What I want to say to my brother is: You are not alone. Just listen to these accounts from other brides!
Myca says she asked her two nephews to be ring bearers, carrying vintage books with ribbon, and she was later informed that her oldest nephew was disappointed when he learned he had carried a fake ring down the aisle. “A few months later I let him hold my wedding ring, and he was so happy. I had no idea he felt like that. I guess he really wanted that responsibility.” Hope experienced something similar with her nephew, who was "upset and embarrassed because he didn’t carry an actual ring down the aisle in my sister’s wedding.” So when Hope asked him to be her ring bearer, she assured him he would certainly carry her rings. “He made it all the way to the best man, dropped the box on the ground when he was handing it over and left it.” Talk about a mastermind of revenge; I need to meet this kid.
Laura’s nephew carried a Poké Ball ring holder down the aisle: “After the ceremony, he freaked out when he opened it and it was empty. We had to reassure him that the rings were safe and he had done his job well.” Jenn’s ring bearers “forgot to sit down and stayed standing with all the groomsmen being very alert in their ‘roles.’”
All these kids are taking their jobs super seriously, and they are totally being punk’d. It’s like they think they are competing in the Olympics, but all the viewers know it’s just little league. The transaction is clear for flower girls, who pretty well know that they’re there to look cute. Meanwhile, the boys are under the impression that they are basically being entrusted to manage our investment portfolios, but our accounts are filled with Monopoly money. Imagine thinking you’re the wolf on Wall Street and finding out you’re just trading paper money for plastic houses; you might just toss your cookies, too.