How can I craft a ring-free wedding ceremony?

By on Feb. 20th
Photo by jesse schafer photography

Photo by jesse schafer photography

We don't want wedding bands…ever.

So we decided on wedding tattoos, but this leaves us "finger-naked" for the ceremony.

I thought I hit a home run with the idea of using ribbon and "tying the knot" to symbolize the damn thing, but he wasn't too thrilled about that.

Got any ideas?


To help me answer this question, I decided to pull on the expertise of two wedding officiants — my parents! They're both Internet-ordained ministers, and between the two of them they've married dozens of people, often helping couple craft their ceremonies from scratch. They have different styles of officiating, though, so may I present to you the first edition of DUELING OFFICIANTS!

In one corner, we have my father, the Reverend Dr. David Stallings. With a background in Zen Buddhism and Tibetan philosophy, he's a poet, and a former University professor. In the other corner, we have my mother, Reverend Therese Yakshi Charvet. She's comes from more of a Pagan/Wiccan perspective, with a focus on Earth-based religions and ceremonies. I presented them both with Roan's question, and here were their answers:

Reverend Stallings:

I think it would be desirable to create and exchange alternative pieces of jewelry, e.g. a necklace or amulet or even lighters, as mentioned in Offbeat Bride.

Another possibility would be to create short term rings that after the wedding could then be, for example, removed, opened by the jeweler, then closed on each other (like an infinity symbol) and put in a special box. Or deposited in a lake. Or buried somewhere. An alternative idea is a twist on the ribbon idea: distribute a long ribbon among the guests (using a helper or two, depending on the number of attendees), with each person winding the ribbon around their wrist, and passing it on. This creates some humorous situations, which is fine. Presumably no one has to go anywhere for the next 10 minutes. Once distributed and brought back to the couple, they tie it around their wrists as well, effectively joining all present. This is part of the essence of a wedding — sharing of selves in front of/with your community. A few appropriate words to this effect can be spoken by officiant or bride and groom. A fine touch is to subsequently cut the ribbon into individual pieces and distribute to each person attending the wedding, with the request that they tie it on a wrist and wear it for, say, a day or a week, along with the couple. This could serve as a fine surrogate for a ring exchange.

Reverend Charvet:

First off, talk it over between the two of you and find out what it is about the ring-exchange that you DO want—a symbol of some sort, right?? Find out what resonates with both of you about the underlying symbology of wedding rings.

Once you have a handle on what you want it to mean, then look for another symbol to express it. At my own offbeat wedding, a hula hoop was used as the substitute for the ring exchange — it was dropped over us, encircling us on the ground. Be creative! The important thing is that you both understand and feel connected to the symbol, whatever it is! Good Luck!