Four Alternatives to a Traditional Wedding Ring Exchange

Further personalize your ceremony with one of these unique ideas.

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Photo: Zosia Zacharia

There are so many reasons why a bride and groom might want to do something different than the classic exchange of wedding bands that commonly takes place during the ceremony. Fortunately, there are plenty of ideas that are a little outside of the ring box-but not so much that they cannot be added beautifully, and seamlessly, to most wedding ceremonies. Whether you're looking for an idea that supplements a traditional exchange or something entirely different, these four options will help you get inspired.

Handfasting Ceremony

A tradition that has its roots in ancient Celtic culture, handfasting is believed to have once served as the beginning of a type of an engagement period. The tradition went that a bride and groom would gently tie their hands together during a ceremony, and this act served to bond them together for a length of exactly a year and one day. After that time had passed they would either decide to get married or they would choose to go their separate ways without being subject to any legal or spiritual repercussions. Now, couples see a handfasting ceremony as a way to finalize their commitment during the wedding-the bride and groom join hands and chords are gently knotted around them, signifying their bond. A handfasting ceremony could take place either before or after your exchange rings, depending on your preferences. If you don't intend to exchange rings at all, this would be a nice alternative as the symbolism is quite similar.

Blessing of the Rings

Some couples have their officiant pass the rings around to the wedding guests during the ceremony, and each attendee takes a moment to "bless" the jewelry, or offer a silent prayer for the couple. If you're not religious, your officiant can instruct guests to think good of wishes for the couple or to hope for a happy, healthy future that the newlyweds will share. The structure of this should be loose: While the bride and groom continue to recite their vows, the bands will be passed around the ceremony and guests can hold them for as little or as much time as they deem necessary before passing them along to the next person. The point is for everyone you love to have some sort of interaction with your rings before they get to you.

Knot Ceremony

You have probably heard the act of getting married referred to as "tying the knot." Let that be your inspiration for this next alternative, which involves two ropes being tied together during the ceremony. A fisherman's knot is the most popular choice, as it is known as the strongest and most reliable type of knot. The types of ropes you use can be as varied and personalized as any other aspect of your wedding. This can be done at any point during or after the vows have been exchanged, and the act symbolizes the joining together of your lives. As an added bonus, the resulting knot can be used as a prop during wedding photos and kept as a keepsake of your special day.

Red Thread Ceremony

A ceremony that comes from the East Asian belief that the gods tie a red ribbon around the ankles of two people whose lives are meant to be intertwined. When used during a wedding ceremony, one end of a red thread or string is tied to one person's finger and the other end is tied to their spouse's finger. This tether is meant to show a physical manifestation of their relationship, a bond that can be stretched and tangled but never broken. It's a nice addition the ring exchange, and can take place either before or after you and your partner exchange bands.

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