The exchange of the rings
The Orthodox Sacrament of Marriage actually consists of two parts: The Exchange of Rings and The Crowning.
This first part of the wedding service can be equated with the 'civil service'. It takes place in the vestibule (entry) of the church; that area seen by the Church as the closest to the 'outside' world. In this service the Church first prays for the couple. Here the Church recognizes and blesses a union which has begun "in the world" yet awaits fulfillment in the world to come. After being blessed by the priest, the rings are placed on the right hand, the hand with which promises and/or oaths are traditionally made and the hand with which the presence of God is recognized through the sign of the Cross. The rings are the symbol of betrothal, agreement, authority, and stewardship. The exchange of the rings gives expression to the fact that in marriage the spouses will constantly be complementing each other. Each will be enriched by the union. The exchange of rings represents a pledge to share and exchange both their physical and spiritual goods, a pledge of eternal love and devotion.