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Written by Leanne Smith Last updated: May 25, 2014
Nothing is cuter than seeing your sweet little ring and/or coin bearer toddling up the isle with a large satin cushion clutched tentatively near his chest—or the shy, flushing train bearer staring at the floor as he waddles after the bride with her dress train in hand. So what exactly do pageboys do? And where did these traditions come from?
“Pageboy” is a term often found in Europe that encompasses the duties of ring bearer, coin bearer, and train bearer (but they don’t have to be boys). It’s a fantastic way to include the younger family members and make them look adorable while doing so. At around seven years old, they are sure to extract doting squeals from the wedding congregation as they bounce up the aisle—at the head of the bridal procession—looking like the groom’s personal Mini-Me. They are mostly of some relation, and in the same age range, as the pretty, petal-wielding flower girls, and might even share a dance with them at the reception. Say it with me now: Awww.
Traditionally, ring bearers are put in charge of the white satin pillow on which the wedding rings are kept. Who isn’t familiar with the image of a dimpled angel bobbing his way to the alter in all his cuteness? Usually the rings upon the pillow are only imitation rings, since the real ones are kept in the safe hands of the best man. But if the rings on the cushion are real, they are usually loosely fixed onto the cushion with a bit of thread to avoid them getting lost. Plus kids are like magpies—just try and pry something that shiny away from a child if he decides he wants them for himself.
Train bearers usually come in pairs; they carry and arrange the bride’s dress train. This was far more common years ago when the bride’s dress was long, but with the changing fashion there has been little need for them.
Coin bearers hold the pillow where, on top, are coins of silver and gold. This wedding ceremony is typically found in Roman Catholic weddings, but has expanded into other Christian weddings. There are thirteen coins representing Jesus and his Disciples (which are usually passed down through a generation) decorated in various ways. The priest blesses the coins for prosperity and gives them to the groom, who in turn gives them to his bride to reflect a sharing of responsibility. This is sometimes seen as testament to the past, when the man was the breadwinner of the family while the woman looked after the home and any children. The Wedding coins are usually called “wedding arrhae.” And they are sometimes called “unity coins” because of combined silver and gold—as they unite, so too do the bride and groom.
Ring bearers go back to ancient times—Ancient Egypt, to be precise. Some people believe that young boys carried precious jewels on pillows down the aisle at weddings. Back then, pillows were a luxury. Other people say they go back to medieval times, specifically in Northern Europe, when the ring was presented to the bride on the tip of a sword. This served as a reminder of the great commitment of marriage, and the punishment for infidelity. (These ring bearers were not children.). Many people however tend to look to Victorian England for the root of modern pageboys. The boy, often dressed in the likeness of the groom, would carry the bride’s train and prayer book. But if the bride’s dress train was short he would instead be the ring bearer. The custom of Wedding Coins is believed to have been started by Spanish colonists.
Nowadays, there is far more leeway with pageboys (girls are, a lot of the time, used instead of boys) unless you wish to go all traditional. Some have been known to carry scrolls of “Here Comes the Bride,” so always feel free to make your wedding your own. Your little helpers will always elicit adoring coos, no matter what they do.