Do rings have to be part of a Catholic wedding?

Once a couple has been properly prepared for a Catholic marriage, the actual celebration of the sacrament is extremely simple: all that is required is the presence of the couple, a priest or deacon who is the official witness of the Church, and two other witnesses. The couple express consent in the exchange their vows and then the priest or deacon gives them a nuptial blessing. All of the other trappings, from the white dress to the flower petals to the exchange of rings, are cultural. These expressions are important; they help to place the sacrament of marriage in the cultural context of the couple and their community and thus give meaning and joy to the celebration. Because the cultural symbols surrounding marriage help the couple and their guests to understand and celebrate the sacrament, the Church allows their inclusion in the marriage rite. Thus if a couple wish to exchange rings (which are a widely recognized sign of a marriage commitment in many cultures), the witnessing priest or deacon can bless them and recall the way they symbolize the couple’s lifelong commitment to love and fidelity. But an exchange of rings is not required for the Catholic marriage rite.

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.