What Is the True Meaning Behind a Promise Ring?
The idea of proving your commitment to a romantic partner by giving them jewelry has been around for thousands of years – perhaps even as long as the idea of commitment itself. In fact, the earliest wedding rings date all the way back to the days of majestic Ancient Egypt.
Traditional diamond engagement rings first appeared in 15th-century Austria, so they’ve been around quite a while, as well. However, modern people aren’t limiting themselves to engagement rings anymore when it comes to pre-wedding commitment jewelry. Promise rings are really on the rise lately for a variety of reasons.
But what is the true meaning of a promise ring? How is it different from an engagement ring? Who is wearing them and why? And most importantly, is a promise ring the right choice for your relationship? Here’s a look at everything you need to know about a potential promise ring meaning before choosing to buy or wear one yourself.
What Is a Promise Ring?
A promise ring is more or less exactly what it sounds like – a beautiful piece of jewelry one person gives another as a symbol of their deep love, loyalty, and commitment.
It really does symbolize a promise made by the giver to the recipient – a promise that they’ll continue to love them just as much on an indefinite basis. And when the receiver accepts and wears such a ring, they make a similar promise in return.
Although the details of a promise ring meaning can vary from couple to couple, most see it as a pre-engagement ring. It’s most often given when the relationship has deepened past the point where the couple is simply dating but before they’re ready to actively start planning for marriage.
Why Are Promise Rings So Popular Right Now?
Promise rings have seen the largest resurgence lately in Western countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia. But what’s driving this popularity? Here’s an overview of some of the most commonly cited reasons.
People are waiting longer to get married
A couple of generations ago, it was still common for people to get married relatively early in life. They’d frequently marry one of the first people they ever got serious about, and that possibility was usually on the table from fairly early on in the timeline of the relationship.
According to research, the average age of marriage for people in the United States today is 27 for women and 29 for men, with that average varying slightly from state to state. (In the United Kingdom, those averages are closer to 35 for women and 38 for men.)
This is due to the way social norms have been changing since the 1970s. For example, more women are choosing to cultivate careers outside the home instead of focusing solely on marriage and family. It’s also customary these days for modern couples to live together before they get married if they ever plan on getting married at all.
However, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that people don’t still fall in love, want relationships, or crave ways to express their commitment to their partners – especially when they’re still young. A promise ring helps serve this purpose for those who either aren’t yet ready for marriage or who may not feel traditional marriage is in line with their values.
Promise rings are often more practical
In addition to a promise ring meaning not being quite as binding as that of an engagement ring, promise rings are often more practical, as well.
For starters, they’re typically a lot less expensive, as most aren’t diamond rings. This makes it easier for younger people who are still establishing themselves to afford them. Plus, promise rings don’t carry any pressure to save and pay for an expensive wedding soon afterward.
However, they still very much symbolize a couple who’s in it for the long haul – both to each other and to anyone who happens to see the ring on the recipient’s finger.
Celebrities have helped make promise rings trendy
If you feel as if you first started seeing and hearing about promise rings absolutely everywhere in the early ‘00s, there’s a good reason for that. That’s when young, famous power couples like Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus started opting for promise rings instead of going straight for traditional engagement rings.
Naturally, it was only a matter of time before everyone else started taking a look at the promise ring trend and wanting a taste of it themselves.
Promise Rings, Purity Rings, Eternity Rings, and Engagement Rings: What’s the Real Difference?
Of course, promise rings aren’t the only alternatives to engagement rings that have jewelry lovers talking these days. You may also have heard friends or acquaintances talking about eternity rings, purity rings, and other possibilities.
But are all of these terms just different ways to refer to engagement rings? What’s the true difference between all the possibilities?
- An engagement ring signifies that a couple is actively planning to marry. If they don’t have a wedding date set already, chances are they will soon or otherwise plan to have a wedding in the relatively near future.
- A promise ring really is like a pre-engagement ring – a symbol of serious, ongoing commitment, fidelity, and loyalty between two people. Those two people may also want to marry someday but are likely not ready to actively plan for it.
- An eternity ring is most often given to one partner by another after marriage – a symbol of reassurance that they’re still as committed to the relationship and in love with their partner as ever. They’re an especially popular option to give on a 10th wedding anniversary.
- A purity ring typically represents a commitment to abstain from sex until a person is married. It is most often given to a child by a parent and often carries religious significance, as well.
Are Promise Rings Only for Women to Wear?
Persistent gender norms and social traditions probably have you picturing a promise ring as something a man would give to his female partner. However, while that certainly does happen, know that it’s not a requirement.
Remember Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth? They’re just one example of a famous couple who opted for promise rings over engagement rings, and they both wore the rings as a mutual symbol of commitment to one another.
Sometimes single people choose to wear promise rings as a symbol of self-commitment. Family members and friends may also choose to gift promise rings to one another to symbolize the special connection they feel they share.
The point is anyone can give a promise ring. There are no restrictions on gender or on the type of relationship a person should have before such a ring becomes appropriate. If a potential promise ring meaning fits you and your relationship, then you’re within your rights to consider one.
Which Is the Correct Finger for Wearing a Promise Ring?
As with the actual promise ring meaning behind the idea to go this route in the first place, it’s ultimately up to the wearer to decide which finger is best for wearing their ring.
Most people choose to wear it on their ring finger – the same finger they’d likely wear a traditional engagement ring or wedding band. This throws back to the ancient belief that this finger contains a vein that leads straight to the heart. But a promise ring meaning remains the same regardless of where or how the ring is actually worn.
Some people start out wearing their promise ring on their wedding ring finger but move it to the ring finger of their other hand once they’re properly married. Others wear it on an alternate finger or even on a chain around their neck. All of those choices are valid.
How Much Do Most People Spend on a Promise Ring?
By now, you may be noticing a trend as far as the concept of the promise ring goes – that pretty much anything goes as far as how to approach things. This is just as much the case with the cost of a promise ring.
However, promise rings do tend to be quite a bit less expensive than a traditional diamond engagement band. On average, they run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand. It’s completely up to each couple how much to spend, but there are no hard and fast guidelines or expectations to worry about here.
What Do You Do with a Promise Ring If You Break Up?
Like engagement rings, promise rings are meant to symbolize an eternal bond that never breaks. But sometimes life happens, things don’t go as planned, and the couple breaks up. What happens to the ring then?
While it’s often expected that an expensive diamond engagement ring be returned, this isn’t always the case with a promise ring. Many people do simply keep theirs, but whether they want to often depends on the actual nature of the breakup.
What Are the Most Popular Design Options for Promise Rings?
Many people want a standard engagement band to be a bit conspicuous. After all, it’s a symbol of the level of commitment the giver has to their future marriage, and many people do feel that bigger, flashier, or more expensive better.
But while your choice is ultimately up to you, promise rings are traditionally smaller and more low-key to help differentiate them from engagement bands. Here are some especially popular design choices.
Gemstones with Diamonds
Although there are always exceptions, promise rings aren’t usually solitaires. However, designs that combine smaller diamonds with small, tasteful gemstones are incredibly popular. Sometimes you’ll see the chosen stones attractively arranged in a cluster. But channel, tapers, or pave-style designs are also common.
Choosing the right precious or semi-precious gemstone for you can be a wonderful way to personalize your promise ring meaning. Popular choices include morganite and aquamarine, as they’re beautiful in a similar way to a diamond. Many people also like incorporating their birthstone (or their partner’s) into their promise ring design.
To avoid confusion with gemstone engagement rings, most promise ring designs feature the main gemstone choice in a way that’s more understated and less prominent.
Traditional and Vintage Designs
Those with a more classic approach to the idea of a promise ring may opt for a beautiful antique silver ring. Traditional Irish Claddagh rings are also incredibly popular. Claddagh rings are easy to recognize because of their distinctive design – two hands holding a heart with a crown on top. Most are all-metal rings, but some Claddagh rings also feature gemstones.
Designs with Symbolic Imagery
Claddagh rings aren’t the only symbolic promise ring options out there. Unique designs featuring hearts, infinity symbols, and similar imagery make for great ways to enhance a personal promise ring meaning. Engravings are another way to do this tastefully and meaningfully.
What Is the Best Way to Present a Partner with a Promise Ring?
Just as marriage proposals work best when they’re meaningful and uniquely suited to the couple involved, the way you choose to give someone a promise ring should be personal. However, it doesn’t need to be a huge production, as promise rings don’t carry the same monumental expectations engagement rings do.
As with many other details surrounding the giving or wearing of a promise ring, there are no huge social expectations or traditions associated with the presentation. However, many people do like to give them as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, anniversary, or birthday gifts.
And if you’d rather not wait for the next gift-giving occasion to present your beloved with a ring, a classic romantic dinner (or another specially planned date) often sets the right tone.
With promise rings, the magic is less about the moment, as it might be with an engagement ring. It’s more about the deeper meaning behind the entire gesture and the actual promise you’re making, so think about what you’d like to say when you present the ring.
Ultimately, promise rings make a wonderfully meaningful way to show someone how much they matter to you. And the flexibility behind the entire idea of them gives modern couples plenty of room to make their promise ring meaning their own. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a bit and make your choice unique.