Warming of the Rings - a Powerfully Inclusive Ritual

 
by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (28/02/2021)
Categories: | Wedding Ceremony | Wedding Rituals
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Guest holding wedding rings in a red bagThe Warming of the Rings ritual is one of my favourite inclusions in a wedding ceremony. I love it for the joy it adds, for the way it conveys a powerful message about the importance of support from the community of family and friends that surround you, and especially for the way it highlights the connection between you, the couple getting married, and those who take part in it.

I particularly love that it is not only inclusive of your friends and loved ones, but that it can also be inclusive of their beliefs because it can be entirely secular, entirely spiritual or religious, or simultaneously both secular and spiritual or religious, allowing respectful acknowledgement and expression of differing personal beliefs without imposing your beliefs on others, or the beliefs of others on you, the marrying couple.

In a religious ceremony, non-believer guests can make a wish for your wedding, and guests with a different belief system can say a silent prayer according to their own beliefs. While in a secular or humanist ceremony, guests who are believers can privately say a prayer. This can be particularly important where close family members are believers and you are not, or you are believers and some of those important to you are not.

What is the Warming of the Rings ritual?

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In the Warming of the Rings ritual your wedding rings are passed around those you choose to involve, and these people are asked to infuse the rings with their love, energy, strength, and commitment to ongoing support for the marriage. It is usually carried out while the ceremony proceeds.

But then, COVID

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The customary way in which the ritual has been carried out has always been passing from hand to hand. But social distancing and hygiene considerations have meant that we have had to take a step back and consider alternatives.

One alternative, occasionally used when a couple want everyone present to be involved, but larger numbers, is to have the rings on display where the guests enter the ceremony space with a sign asking them to hold their hands over the rings without touching them while making a wish for the marriage.

I'm told that some are suggesting that the rings be passed around with hand sanitiser passed at the same time (just ahead of the rings). I have two problems with this.

To be effective, hand sanitiser needs to be massaged all over your hands just as if you were using soap and water. And then it needs to dry. This means the ritual becomes protracted and awkward, taking attention away from the ceremony.

My second concern is that if hand sanitiser is dripped on certain fabrics, it can act like bleach, taking the colour out. Something I have bitter experience of. No one wants the wedding ceremony remembered for ruining anyone's expensive garment.

Decisions, decisions, decisions


The Warming of the Rings ritual is both flexible and scalable, while also being powerfully intimate. You can involve selected people or all of the guests. So the decisions you need to make at the outset are who are you going to involve and when the ritual will be carried out.
  • The First Decision: Who
    The one decision that will impact both the timing of your Ring Warming and how it is carried out is how many people you wish to participate, and who they are. Trying to pass something hand-to-hand round a large crowd will, at best, fall short of reaching everyone or, at worst, descend into a ridiculous exercise resembling a game of pass-the-parcel, allowing no-one any time to actually warm or bless the rings. So your decision as to who to involve will depend on the number of guests who will be present together with whether you want to involve all of them, or selected individuals only
  • The Second Decision. When
    Warming of the Rings can be incorporated into the ceremony, or can take place before the ceremony, either in private, or as guests arrive. Practicalities, however, related to numbers, will largely dictate whether or not it will be logistically possible to incorporate Warming of the Rings during the ceremony. 
    • Many guests
      Before the ceremony, OR during the ceremony, with the ceremony continuing while the rings are being passed around,
    • Fewer guests
       Before the Ceremony, OR during the ceremony, with the ceremony continuing while the rings are being passed around OR, where you have a very small number of people present, each person speaks directly to you while holding your rings.
    • Selected individuals
      Warming and blessing the rings can be carried out in private either before or during the ceremony. I have had couples choose pretty well every possible variation -  mothers, their parents, their parents and close family members, or the wedding party. Where a beloved relative is unable to attend your wedding because of frailty or ill health, it is a beautiful gesture to take your rings to them prior to your wedding day and ask them to warm and bless them. In such a case, even with COVID, I would urge you to sanitise all hands and have them actually hold the rings. It will mean so much to all of you.

Is your venue suitable?


Not every ceremony space is suitable. You need to do a risk assessment – taking into account the ramifications of the rings being dropped. Think twice before including a warming of the rings in a beach ceremony, or one held on a jetty or pontoon where they might bounce into the water if dropped.


The all-important logistics


The logistics are extremely important in ensuring that the Warming of the Rings is carried out efficiently in order to ensure that the rings have made their way round the guests in time to be available for your exchange of rings.
  • Appoint a Guardian of the Rings
    Task a trusted individual to keep an eye on the rings if you are scheduling the ritual for before the ceremony, or with handing the rings to the first person if incorporating it in the ceremony.  This person can either have the rings, or can step forward to accept them from the Best Man.
  • Put the rings in a bag.
    The safest place for the rings is in a bag, and the most practical choice is an organza bag where guests can see the rings is, in my opinion,  also the most intimate one, as the guests can see and feel the rings, and easily hold the bag between their hands, or, as I’ve seen on a numerous occasions, hold it against their heart. An alternative to a bag is to tie the rings together with ribbon, tie onto a ring cushion, or place in a ring box. If using a box it would be wise to glue a piece of ribbon into the box and firmly tie the rings to secure them. You can also buy ring cushions with a clear, plastic box inserted. This allows everyone to see the rings, but not touch them. The down side is that the rings may rattle if the cushion is carelessly handled.
  • Alert the guests
    Where you are incorporating a warming of your rings in the ceremony, the explanation of the ritual, and the invitation to participate, usually done by the celebrant (officiant), should be placed early in the ceremony. However, there is no practical or legal reason why it cannot be done by the couple themselves, or by someone else they delegate. This is particularly touching where either of the rings is a family heirloom. Where you are inviting your guests to warm and bless your rings as they arrive at the ceremony, a prominent ring-warming station at the entrance to your ceremony space where the rings are displayed together with an explanatory sign, is an effective way of ensuring participation on the day. Adding a line to your invitation, however, increases not only participation but also anticipation, and has the added benefit of signaling how important the guests are to you. Keep the explanation as brief and simple as possible, for example.
    Our wedding rings will be displayed at the entrance to the ceremony space. It will mean a great deal to us if you will warm and bless them before the ceremony commences. OR
    It will mean a great deal to us if you will warm and bless our wedding rings when invited to do so during the ceremony.
  • Style your display
    Where you are inviting your guests to warm your rings before the ceremony starts, both the sign and the ring needs to be prominently displayed near the entrance to the ceremony space. For security sake it would be best to have your Guardian of the Rings or someone else discreetly keep and eye on the rings, and to tie them individually to a length of ribbon and attach the ribbon in some way. Having the rings hanging down off a strategically placed branch or rod is particularly effective. if you don't want anyone to touch the rings. You could also put the rings in a clear box
  • The Logistics of Warming of the Rings by selected people during the ceremony
    If you are asking only selected people to warm and bless your rings during your ceremony, your celebrant will usually explain the ritual, share who will be participating, and why it is being done this way. This usually occurs immediately before the presentation of the rings to the couple. 
  • Schedule Warming of your Rings after your First Look
    Having selected people assemble before the ceremony so that they can warm and bless your rings while you are both present makes for a very special, intimate moment. Schedule it to happen immediately after your First Look, and then all proceed on to the ceremony
Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you can
                    have the best ceremony ever
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