What to Do About a Reluctant Ring Bearer

Captured by Edward Olive Fotógrafo de boda Madrid Barcelona

Aren’t kids in weddings just too cute? Admit it. They are, but they’re especially cute when they aren’t pitching a fit at the foot of the aisle because they’ve suddenly found themselves staring out into a sea of strangers. How often does that actually happen? Enough to make it a worthwhile topic to touch on, I think. And with that in mind, here are my very own five tips for dealing with a reluctant ring bearer of your own:

1. Avoid reluctant ring bearers altogether by choosing one that is outgoing yet polite, and old enough to understand what he’s being asked to do. Books like 10 Cool Things About Being a Ring Bearer and The Best Ever Ring Bearer can help you give your prospective ring bearer a taste of the roll. Does he seem interested? Enthusiastic? Unsure? Make sure he knows he can opt out.

2. Don’t expect the moon from any ring bearer – especially if you’ve chosen a really young ring bearer or a shy one or one who’s normally outgoing but hasn’t yet been tested for confidence in a room full of strangers. Walking down an aisle with lots of strangers on either side? Easy for most adults. Utterly terrifying for some children. If your reluctant ring bearer makes it from point A to point B without bawling, flopping down on the aisle runner, or making a break for the door, consider it a job well done.

3. Practice makes perfect. One rehearsal is enough for most adults, but if at all possible, have your reluctant ring bearer’s parents bring him to your ceremony venue and show him where he’ll be and what he’ll be doing during the wedding. A reluctant ring bearer may simply not understand what’s expected of him. Kids don’t have the experience to think, oh yes, a wedding with chairs and an aisle and a ceremony then cake. The wedding itself may be this mysterious thing in your little man’s mind, and nothing is as scary as the unknown.

4. Assign a ring bearer shepherd, preferably one who is close to the child. Walking down an aisle flanked by tall grownups becomes a lot less frightening when you have your tiny hand firmly settled in papa’s big one. If this feels too much like you’re asking the parent to participate in your wedding – which you kind of are no matter what since they have to buy junior’s babytux – you can give your reluctant ring bearer the confidence to go it alone by having him escorted to the foot of the aisle by mama, who sets him on his path, and caught by papa, waiting for him by the couple in the first row.

5. Finally, say “It’s okay, you don’t have to be in the wedding if you don’t want to or are afraid.” Some adults are easily offended by children, but in so many cases, a child’s choices don’t have malicious intent behind them. Maybe your chosen ring bearer started out enthusiastic and has grown increasingly reluctant as the wedding draws nearer. If he says he’d rather not participate, don’t force it. No, his fears or impulses aren’t anything like logical, but children aren’t logical creatures. Better to go ring bearer-less than to have a sulking little boy in all your wedding photos or worse yet, a crying one.

P.S. – If it wasn’t entirely obvious, all of these tips pertain to flower girls as well! Or, hmmm, girls who are carrying rings or even boys who are carrying or sprinkling flowers around. No reason why a girl child can’t carry rings or a boy child can’t be in charge of petals.

10 Responses to “What to Do About a Reluctant Ring Bearer”

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  2. Scraps says:

    At my first wedding the ring bearer was a cousin of the groom and brother of the flower girl. Too young, in my mind, at only 3 years old, he did okay walking down the aisle with his sister but decided, midway through my own walk down the aisle, that he was done and trucked it to the exit, passing me in the process.

    It was certainly memorable!

  3. SarahDances says:

    I think an important one to mention: Have a sense of humor! If the ring bearer refuses at the last second to go down the aisle, or bolts, or whatever, be prepared to laugh it off. Kids are kids, and nobody will think the event has been ruined if you don’t.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post! My little nephew was SO NOT having the idea of walking down the aisle holding a ring (even though we all knew that he would actually enjoy having a job), so we made the best man the keeper of the rings and left it at that. Of course when the big day rolled around, nephew was totally jealous that his sister (flower girl) had a job, and upset that he didn’t have one — so he got to hand out programs, and did a stellar job. No pressure, and everyone was happy.

  5. Sarah says:

    My husband’s 4 year old nephew was our ringbearer and about 3 minutes before he was to walk down the aisle, he got terrified and started crying. His Mom was calming him down and asked our wedding coordinator if she could walk with him down the aisle. Our wedding coordinator, who had been HORRIBLE all day, told her that there was no way she could walk down with him and told the 4 YEAR OLD CHILD that he needed to suck it up, stop crying, and walk down the aisle. His Mom ended up going down to the front of the church and he walked to her, which helped calm his nerves. I gave our coordinator a piece of my mind when I found out later how she had acted. Grr

  6. Katie says:

    We had our 7 nieces and nephews as flowergirls and pageboys (having been to a wedding less than 6 months before where the rings didn’t show up on time, my husband had those!) They ranged in age from 9 to almost 1, with six aged 6 or under. The youngest was pushed up the aisle in a reproduction vintage pram by her mother. The rest we paired up younger boy with older girl and vice versa (9yo w/2 yo, 6yo w/2 yo, 5yo w/almost 5yo)so the older ones helped the younger ones down the aisle. Once they made it to the end, they sat with their parents, and that was all we expected of them, though the 2 oldest girls (9 and 5) did walk back down the aisle after the rest of the wedding party.
    We ended up with fewer photos of them than I would have liked (it was cold and we let them go inside after family photos were taken) but otherwise, I was completely satisfied, and I think they were all pretty pleased with themselves too (The 5yo girl in particular is fascinated by weddings, but can also get stage fright quite easily)

  7. lali says:

    I went to a friend’s wedding where the bridesmaid forgot the props (pillow for the rings, veil, cord, candles, etc) at the hotel 30 minutes away from the church. The priest refused to wait so they started on time, sending the bride’s brother back to the hotel to retrieve things. The ringbearer (five years old) refused to go down the aisle without his pillow — after all, he had rehearsed with it so much — so his mother gave him her purse (a pink, quilted square) and he happily went down the aisle with his mom’s purse held up like a pillow. That’s when the guests noticed that there were no rings! They had been forgotten too. When the ceremony reached the part the blessing of the rings, every married couple in the church took theirs off and offered them as substitutes. Just then the brother ran down the aisle with the rings! Church burst with applause!

  8. Ann says:

    Another important bit of advice: don’t ask a young child to participate in a late evening wedding. Our son was just the ring bearer in a wedding that started at 10 o’clock at night our time. He’s four. It was a family wedding, and we had no idea it was starting so late when we said he could do it. They also wanted him to do three run-throughs of the procession, which was just too many.

  9. Toni says:

    Ours were my husband’s kids from his previous marriage. The FG (7) is normally outgoing and likes to perform, but apparently froze up at the top of the aisle and had to be encouraged down by her father. The RB (5) thought it was all fun and marched right down.

    During the ceremony, apparently the Flower Girl (who was standing behind me with the MOH) realized that she hadn’t used up all her flower petals, and began tossing them at me at regular intervals. It’s probably our favorite anecdote of the ceremony.

  10. Kate says:

    Lali, that’s an awesome story.

    the first time i got married, we had an 8ish yo FG, who was fine. problem: she had a 3 yo brother, who got added to the wedding with about a week to go (so it was “fair”…) He was ultimately coaxed down the aisle by his father, holding out a cell phone, and saying “come call nana!”

    i won’t say that’s why, but there were no kids in the wedding the second time i got married.