As I sit here looking over many of my blog post wondering how I can improve them for my readers, I realized that I have many different posts about different topics on promise rings. It occurred to me that there doesn’t seem to be one definitive guide on promise rings but rather many different guides on various topics. With this guide, I have set out to give a full explanation of each critical topic and lay them out so that you can find all you need to know in one place.
I will break down various meanings, explanations, and ideas of “The promise ring.”
The different meanings for boyfriends and girlfriends.
Promise rings vs. engagement rings and their differences.
The etiquette of promise rings.
The different styles of promise rings on the market.
Quotes and sayings for promise
I will sum up with what to expect at different price points.
This guide will be a culmination of many hours of research, personal experience and feedback in the industry. Are you ready to get started, then let’s get to it.
So what exactly is a promise ring and what does this promise mean?
The Meriam Webster dictionary defines the word promise as “ : a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified.”
This very definition is a perfect summary of a promise ring but instead of just words, the ring is a physical symbol of this declaration. A promise simply feels much more tangible and real if there is a physical representation of it.
As I have looked through droves of information, it has become clear to me that a ring can be a promise of much more than my general idea of a declaration of love to a partner. While this may be the mainstream belief, I have come to find and respect that the promise itself can be completely different depending on the intent of the promise.
With that said, let’s take a looks at various uses of a promise ring and what they mean.
Let’s start with the most used form of a promise ring. Most of us have been there, you have found the love of your life, and want to show your love and intent in a physical form.
This is the most common and familiar use of a promise ring. When given for this reason, the standard meaning seems to be one of the promise to marry, but this is a somewhat limited view. This “promise” could be of many things. It could be a promise to love someone forever, to always be there no matter what happens or to be faithful etc.
Although I cannot remember the source of the story, I recently came across a post about one couple who had promised always to stay friends even if their relationship faltered. Their relationship as a couple didn’t work but the promise was taken seriously and carried on, and now they have been friends for over 20 years. That’s actually some pretty powerful stuff!
The truth is whatever the promise; the definition of that "promise" is set by the couple making it. This commitment can be serious or light-hearted, the choice is not set by a definition or society. The decision on what the promise means is for you and the one with who you make this promise with.
When you are bursting with feelings of love, there is nothing wrong with showing it and having a physical representation of that.
A long time but less used purpose for a promise ring is of a promise made to one’s self. This is a great physical representation of a commitment that you have made to yourself. This can include many things but a few of the most common is a promise of sobriety, and I have seen many cases of this being used as a promise to god to remain faithful to the lord. These are often prayer rings as well. Often friends or siblings will exchange promise rings as a sign of their bond.
All forms of this type of promise ring can be powerful and truly give strength to a person committed to these promises.
One last use for a promise ring is one that has been less used, but I feel absolutely deserves a place in this article. I recently read an article about a married couple. The husband was about to go to Afghanistan and shortly before going they exchanged promise rings. The ring he gave to her was his promise to return to her, and her promise ring to him was the promise to be here for him when he returned. Each night they both got strength from these rings and what they meant to them. If this doesn’t speak to the power of a promise and it’s physical representation, then I don’t know what does.
So what are the different meanings of promise rings for a girlfriend?
Often guys are overflowing with love and emotions but generally, we are not great at expressing what we feel. For many different reasons a guy may not be in a position to propose but feel they need an outlet for what they feel.
So as I discussed previously, the meaning of a promise ring from a boyfriend can stand for just about anything the couple decides, however there a generally accepted meaning for promise rings.
The generally accepted rule is that it is a promise to propose. I feel this definition lacks expression and in general it is much more than this, don't you.
Can a girlfriend give a promise ring for a guy to wear?
If you don’t mind I would like to start this off with a little imagination and remembering the past. So it’s 20-40 years ago and a young man approaches his mom to show her the promise ring his girlfriend just gave him…. Can you hear the gasp? Well luckily times have changed!
Not only is it acceptable for men to wear rings, that aren’t wedding bands, in general but women are more empowered than ever. If you want to be a traditionalist then that’s fine but you don’t have to be!
We tracked 100 orders from our customers and found that about 40% were from women to men. A 4 to 6 ratio is very impressive and shows not only can a woman give a man a promise ring but it has become a pretty common practice to do so.
Also, we have found that it is very common for a couple to wear matching promise rings. We have seen rings of the same style but different colors as well as two different styles with the same color. Whatever is a good look for you if perfectly ok. Often a man will wear an 8mm while a woman wears a 6mm but this is by no means a rule.
What's the difference in a promise ring and an engagement ring?
I have seen this question time again and to tell the truth, the answer is actually very simple. It all boils down to intent. In most cases, both and engagement and promise ring represent many of the same things. The actual difference is a promise ring can be a promise of generally anything but an engagement ring is pretty much a “will you marry me”. Basically the promise ring is an intent to get married at some point and an engagement ring is a “let’s set the date”.
This brings me to another question that I am often asked.
Can a promise ring be used as an engagement ring?
The simple answer is “yes”. If you think about it, once you are asked the question it’s as simple as the ring means you are to be married. Some people may want to upgrade the ring but many are perfectly happy to use it as an engagement ring until they get that wedding ring on their hand. Again, its all about the meaning and what that means to you.
There used to be a rule that an engagement ring had to be gold and have a diamond but as with most things, this isn’t always the case. These days sterling silver rings for women are common as well as stainless steel bands for men.
I have seen a lot of different arguments on this and keep in mind that wedding rings were once made of things like copper or tin. Don’t listen to what commercialism says but listen to what you feel, after all that’s all the really matters.
Promise ring etiquette
When should a promise ring be given?
You wouldn’t give an engagement ring to someone you just met and it would probably be wise not to do so with a promise ring either. It takes time to get to know someone and although a promise doesn’t carry the same weight as an engagement ring, it’s still a step up in commitment. This being said, we surveyed over 500 of our customers buying promise rings and the general consensus is no earlier than 6 months of dating with the most common answer being at 1 year or more.
Mark Twain said, “No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”
Doctor Goldsmith from Phycology Today says “Many people fail to notice or they simply ignore the red flags, or warning signs. If you see one, it’s supposed to stop you in your tracks. Unfortunately, most of us refuse to stop when it comes to romantic love. “ He further elaborates, “Finding the right person to love is something to take very seriously. Relationships don’t just work themselves out; you have to work on them. When you think you have found someone worth sharing the rest of your life with, you should do your homework before settling down.”
Basically, if you are dating and around someone most of the time, give it about a year and don’t ignore red flags and signs before making the next step in commitment. This may save you some time and heartache in the long run not to mention help out with that American divorce rate.
With that in mind, if you have been with someone for some time, and think you have a pretty good handle on who they are. Then you should definitely take the next step in commitment.
What hand and finger should I wear a promise ring?
First, let’s look at what finger engagement and wedding bands are worn on. According to realmenrealstyle.com an engagement ring is worn on the fourth finger of the right hand and a wedding band worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. When I say the fourth finger that means counting from the thumb.
With that said, it is generally accepted that promise rings can be worn on any finger. I found this tidbit from brides.com interesting – “In that era, the Romans believed that the vein in the ring finger (the fourth finger) on the left hand ran directly to one's heart. Because of this belief, they called that vein the "vena amoris" or vein of love.”
Now that’s pretty cool and if it were me, that’s where I would wear one. The truth is, it’s up to you. Some people even wear promise rings on necklaces but this is also the case with wedding rings. Every site I came across on this topic has said pretty much the same thing, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus that there is a specific hand or finger.
This means, wear it wherever you feel it belongs!
How do I give a promise ring?
So you don’t want to just say “here” and give your girlfriend or boyfriend a promise ring. Promise rings are a special symbol and deserve some thought and preferably a romantic or sweet way in which to give them. You can use a lot of the same methods as you would for giving an engagement ring and I will give you 10 methods I found to do so.
- The first method is to freeze the ring in a cube of ice. (not recommended if the person is an ice cruncher) Slip it into a drink and if she doesn’t notice it will melt and she will find it. I honestly find this one troubling on a few fronts as they could bite into it or even swallow it but this seems to be one of the preferred methods.
- This is one I read about. “While on a romantic walk on the riverwalk, on a clear beautiful night we came to a bridge out over the river walk and I got down like a proposal and made a speech that I had put a lot of thought to promising to always be there and be faithful.” This sounds very sweet and romantic. It can be any setting but outdoors at night seems to be a big hit.
- I actually used this one to propose- on the occasion when you have reason to already be dressed up nice (our was for couples photos on elegant night on a cruise) Surprise her with the ring. I did this while we were doing photos so we even have photos of the moment not to mention applause from everyone around. Needless to say, this was a huge hit and I got some brownie points for it lol. Getting couples photos is a great set up.
- A great idea I found was personalized fortune cookies. You can actually have them say anything you want. This would be perfect while out eating at a Chinese restaurant.
- If you are musically inclined, make a song for her and use it to present the ring. If you are not good at writing lyrics use some from a song she loves or the songs she has declared as the song belonging to the two of you. (yes she has a song that makes her think of you)
- A good idea would be a scavenger hunt. At the end would be the ring, maybe with a poem or a list of what the ring represents.This is a fun way to go. The thrill of a hunt and surprised is always engaging and exciting.
- You can buy some flowers and put the ring into one of the buds. Tell her there is a surprise and check the flowers closely. Flowers and ring, hard to go wrong here.
- Use a holiday, birthday or any gifting reason to have her unwrap it. Many people use boxes that do not give away that it’s a ring to make sure it’s a surprise.
- Make it a surprise delivery. If you know a local delivery person or you can go directly to a place ahead of time and see if you can arrange something. That pizza just got more interesting.
- You could talk to her or him about getting a promise ring and if they are onboard, pick it out together. The most direct but maybe the most difficult of the choices.
For a little more help you can read 9 tips on what to say when giving a promise ring.
What does a promise look like? What kind of styles are out there?
So now you’re ready to get that special ring but what is it supposed to look like? Promise rings styles can vary widely and this is because there really isn’t a set style. A promise ring for a man is usually some kind of band and for a woman it varies across the board. With that, I’ll give you some examples and links to some of the popular styles. I list some of the more popular styles with links to find them.
The infinity ring- This ring is a favorite as it stands for forever. There are many designs and variations of this ring. There are also options to have the entire ring with gems as well as options for no gems. We have seen these is two tones and all one color.
Birthstone ring- This is yet another popular choice for women as you can have the birthstones of one or both people on this ring
Engraved ring- This is a popular choice for both men and women. You can add poems, lyrics, messages or just about anything you can imagine.
Custom personalized rings- You can choose the birthstones, usually add names and engravings inside the ring.
Traditional- These are standard rings usually with some sort of gem or multiple gems in them.
For men there are many styles as well. They can range from different metals such as stainless steel or tungsten. You can also choose many different colors and color schemes.
All of these are great promise ring gift ideas, pick what you like or think will have the most sentimental value.
Need a little more help with choosing. Try reading How to choose a women’s promise ring.
Promise ring quotes, captions and inscriptions ideas
While not all promise rings have engravings, a majority of them do. This adds more of a personalized touch and usually makes it more endearing. We have a few examples listed below but feel free to check out our blog 41 wedding band and promise ring ideas for every couple here
- Your Wedding Date or Anniversary Date
This is special to the two of you because it signifies the day you became one. For men it gives you a way to always remember that special day and avoid the couch.
Initials are a great way to go. Often we see requests for initials or names with a heart between them.
Does he call you his boo? In some cases, a nickname may be more endearing than the ring itself. Why not combine the two?
- "I love you"
The day he/she first said 'I love you' is one you will never forget and now you make sure he doesn't either.
- A phrase from your 'first dance'
If the first dance song is meaningful to you, this can be a fun and creative line for your wedding band. This is can be very emotional and endearing.
- "Forever and Always" OR "Til death do us part"
These are common phrases found in a ring and they are very sweet words.
How much do I spend on a promise ring?
There are a huge range of prices on promise rings. The salary thing used for wedding rings was made up for commercialism and should never have been used to put a value on something that goes beyond monetary value. I would suggest however that a promise ring not cost over $100. This is the first commitment step and it’s the meaning and not the cost that has value. Of course being in the ring engraving business my personal opinion is to get something affordable but engraved to add a special meaning. No matter what you choose, I wish you good luck and a happy future..
If you would like to take a look at some of our promise rings, you can use the links below. We have a great selection under $60. If you don't see what you are looking for on our site, a quick Google search can yield tons of results.
If there is something specific and you need some help, please contact us and we will help you find what you need even if it's with another company.