Ring Bearer and Page Costumes









Figure 1.--Formal weddings in the early part of the 20th Century used a wide variety of costumes for the boys who participated as ring bearers or pages and ushers. One of the boys here is Randolph Churchill which helps us date the image to about 1915. Click on the image for more information..

Ring Bearer Costumes

The ring bearer in the wedding ceremony is the young boy who brings the ring to altar--traditionally on a pillow rimmed with lace and ribbons. The ring bearer brings the pillow down the aisle before the wedding ceremony. He is usually attired formally, although the actual costume he wears varies greatly from wedding to wedding. Many believe that the ring bearer and other children serving as attendants can add a nice touch to a wedding. The ring bearer is often accompanied by the flower girl or girls. He and the flower girls usually walk before the bride and her escort but behind the rest of the bridal party. Flower girls usually lay a bed of rose pedals for the bride to walk on. Trainbearers walk in pairs following the bride and her escort, holding the bride’s train.

Age

Children are important additions to weddings and they help make the event a true family event. The younger children may not understand just what is happening, but they do understand it is an important family event. There are a variety of roles the children can play. There are specific roles for children in formal weddings, depending in large measure on their gender and age. . Older boys and girls can be train bearers. The youngest children can be ring bearers and flower girls. Thereis no precice age for these roles. The children have to be old enough to follow basic instructins which leaves out really young children. There are no set ages for a ring bearer, but he usually is a boy from about 3 or 4 years of age to about 6 or 7 years. Some times a boy of 9 or 10 years is chosen. The boy is usually a close relatives or good friends of the couple. Most commonly he is often the bride's or groom's brother or a favorite nephew or cousin. Te older children are usually chosen because of a strong family relationship. The maturity of the child is a factor afecting the age range. Some children sare more msature at a given age than others. These roles give the smaller children in the bride's and groom's family a formal role in the wedding.


Figure 2.--This photograph from a Croatian medevil pagent shows two boys serving as pages. The modern ring bearer is based on the concept of a medevil page.

Victorian Traditions

Many of the traditions associated with modern weddings were established during the Victorian era when the modern concept of family began to take form. Choosing a young boy to serve as a ring bearer was one of those traditions set in Victorian England and which spread to America and other European countries. Of course each country in Europe has added its own rich traditions to the modern wedding ceremony. The Victorians choose to dress ring boys as pages harkening back to previous centuries. A page was a originally youth of nobel birth employed in the service of a royal or nobel. He would have been much older than the small boys who now serve as wedding ring bearers. Pages were employed in early times among many early civilizations, such as the Persians and Romans. More recently pages were a special feature of feudal chivalry in the Middle Ages. These are the pages that seved as a model for the Victorian ring bearer. The degree of the page was preparatory to the further degrees of esquire and knight. The Victorian ring boy and page costumes tended to draw on contemporary or 17th Century Caveler dress.


Figure 3.--The ring bearer will have to be measured for a formal costume. In this day of casual clothes, it may be his first formal outfit.

The Experience

The boy chosen as a ring bearer will likely know little about what needs to be done, about wedding costumes, or even about weddings in general. For many boys it will be the first wedding they attend. Some boy may be enthusiastic. Others may be a bit concerned about what he has to do. One boy reportedly protested, "But I don't know how to bear rings." Being fitted for his costume may be a major event, especially for the modern boy who rarely wears formal clothes. Some boys may not like the formal clothes, so used as they are now to jeans and sneakers. The boy has to be carefully rehersed for the big day, especially younger boys who may concerned when he sees the church full of people on the big day.

Chronology

Ring bearer costumes have changed over time, just as other clothing styles. HBC has no information on 19th century ring bearer outfits. Boys in the early 20th century often wore a variety of fancy short pants suits with long shite stockings and strap shoes. At mid-century white short pants Eton suits were popular, but formal wedings might have fancy outfits. In the late 19th century, a variety of fancy outfits with knicker pants. The Eton suit remained a standard for many weddings.


Figure 4.--Some of the most destinctive costumes used as ring bearer costumes are elaborate blouses. The boy pictured here wears a delicate ecru pure silk blouse fashioned with vertucal tucks and rows of rose-colored French knots. Tiny buttons fasten beneath a front closure panel. The blouse buttons on to rose-colored short pants.

Modern Wedding Conventions

The costumes for boys serving as ring bearers and ushers at formal weddings are often based on historic styles which have remained remarkably consistent over time. Some imaginative costumes were seen in the early 20th century, but have since become more standard. Many of our modern customs, practices, and conventions concerning the wedding ceremony developed during the Victorian era. The ring bearer at a Victorian wedding could be dressed in contemporary clothes or dressed in period costume.

Costume Types

Boys ring bearer costumes cime in two basic types. The first are fancy costumes made specifically for the ring bearer in a wedding. These costumes are unlikely to be worn again for any other event. The second type of costume is a boy's suit. It may be purchased especially for a wedding, but the boy will be able to wear it for other events as well.

Costume Garments

Formal weddings in the first half of the 20th century used a great variety of costumes and garments for the boys who participated as ring bearers and pages. Some weddings had the ring bearer in a costume harkening back to Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, although the wedding suits often are white, unlike actual Fauntleroy suits. Other popular ring bearer costumes for a formal wedding include sailor suits, kilts, or military styled uniforms. The destinctive lace or ruffled collar are often the most important stylistic feature incorporated from the Fauntleroy style. Other garments and styles in a variety of materials including velvet and satin were used. In most cases the outfits were especially designed for the wedding. Styles in addition to Fauntleroy suits and kilts included classic page boy costumes, dressy romper suits, and a wide variety of other imaginative styles.

Modern trends

In more recent years, the ring bearer often wears a white velvet or satin suit with short pants or knickers with white knee socks and black patent strap or buckle shoes. In the 1990s when formal dress is selected, knickers or rather long shorts are usually selected instead of the fairly short length velvet or satin shorts once common. Sometimes instead of a suit a white blouse with lace collar is worn with short pants.

Contemporary Weddings

Ring bearers at modern American weddings generally feature the ring bearer in Eton suit or junior tuxedo. Only the most formal wedding may have te ring bearer in Fauntleroy-style knickers or shorts. British weddings are somewhat more varied with a variety of costumes for the ring bearer from Fauntleroy styles to kilts and military uniforms. I have less information on other foreign styles.


Figure 5.--Kilts have since Victorian days been a popular ring bearer costume, especially in the United Kingdom. Notice the white ankle socks and buckle shoes the boys are wearing.

Specific Weddings

Some images are available at actual weddings from various eras. HBC has just begun to collect information on these weddings. In some cases only the image is available. In other instances some information is avaialble on the wedding. Some HBC readers have provided infprmation about weddinggs that they or their parents have participated in and we this have more details about these weddings. There are also some famous society weddings which we also eventually hope to add to this section. Currently we only have information on American weddings, but we hope to eventually add information on foreign weddings as well. We are oprganizing this section chronlogically.

Country Trends

Most of the information HBC has acquired about ring bearers is from the United States where choosing the youngest family member ring bearer to serve as the ring bearer. I believe that the United States has primarily inherited this traditin from Victorian England, but this we need to confirm. We also believe that there are ring bearers at Scottish weddings. We have very little information on other countries. Many other countries use pages in weddings, but not ring bearers. A French reader, for example, tells us, "In France we do not have a ring bearer, even at formal weddings. In French weddings some little boys and girls do have a role. They follow the wedding couple holding the train of the bride's dress, if it is long enough, in the church and in city hall. They are always dressed in an adorable style, wich can be very different--ranging from standard modern fashion to Middle Ages style. In the past, these children were often dressed like little angels."

Boys' Attitudes

Often such small boys are selected to serve as ring bearers or pages that they do not complain about their costumes. Many are quite pleased to have an imortant role in such an important ceremony. Other boys are less eager. Other times, often older boys may serve and they may have decided ideas about their costumes. One fashion expert pointed out why flower girls, dressed in picture-book style, are more often seen in formal weddings than page boys and ring bearers. Little girls are more amenable to "dressing up" and often enjoy doing so just for fun, Little boys are much less likely to amuse themselves in this way. In addition, Little boys, she points out, tend to think their manhood impugned by frilly blouses, velvet short pants, knickers, kilts, and other traditional ring bearer costumes. Apparently John F. Kennedy objected toa fanshionable outfit he was dressed in for one wedding.


Figure 6.--This ring bear wears an all-white knicker suit.

Additional Information

Information on ring bearer costumes , experiences and specific weddings are available on these pages:

Etiquette review

Here is what a couple of generations of etiquette books have said about the "proper" "traditional" ring-bearer's costume:

Boyhood memories

Adults looking back on their boyhood remember the ring bearer costumes they wore and the weddings they participted in.

Opinions

The costume for the ring bearer appears to often engender some discussion in the preparation for the wedding. Here are some of the opinions offered.

Confusion

Boys are sometimes confused about weddings and the roles they play in them. One aunt reported a conversation with her nephew, Drew.

Personal experiences

Various individuals have decribed the ring bearers at weddings they attended.

Purchase Inquiries

HBC has received numerous inquiries from couples planning their weddings about where the fashions described here or the patterns can be purchased. One sych inquiry reads, "I am very expressed with your webpage and would be interested in purchasing a pattern or if you have any suggestions on the place or source that I may be able to obtain these ring bearers suits with the lace colllar shirts and the knickers. The one I love is Fiqure # 10 indicating that it is a all-white knicker suit and it is under the heading "Boys Attitudes". Our wedding is scheduled for April and we would like to have the two young males dresses in the similar suits. -- Perry" HBC is not a retailer, our focus is collecting information on history and fashion. Because of the level of inquiries, however, we have established a Retail Page for the classic fashions, such as ring bearer suits and other fashions described here. HBC Retail Page.

Companies

Many companies offer a huge amount of merchandice for weddings. Few companies specialize in children's wedding clothes, especially ring bearer outfits. Some information is available at:








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Created: October 15, 1998
Last updated: 5:49 PM 9/23/2008