What Is A Promise Ring? How It Differs From An Engagement Ring

Understand when to use which ring to make it memorable for your partner.

Reviewed by Nathalie Maggio, LMFT Nathalie Maggio Nathalie MaggioLMFT
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Experience: 4 years
Edited by , BSc Shatabdi Bhattacharya BSc linkedin_icon Experience: 2.5 years
Fact-checked by , BSc Reshma Latif BSc linkedin_icon Experience: 5 years
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Wondering what a promise ring is and why it is exchanged? It is a way of affirming your commitment and loyalty to your partner. You are expected to abide by your promise at all costs. So, how and when has this tradition come into existence? It dates back to hundreds of years ago in Victorian England, where women used to gift engraved gold bands to men affirming their love and affection.

However, the age-old tradition has evolved and become a common practice for both sexes to exchange these rings. So, how do you give a promise ring? In this article, we will explore how a promise ring looks like, who should wear it, what does a promise ring mean, and how it differs from an engagement ring. Let us get started.

protip_icon Did You Know?
A promise ring is also known as a posy or poesy ring since it is often engraved with beautiful and romantic poems or short messages.

What Is A Promise Ring?

What is a promise ring
Image: Shutterstock

A promise ring is given by an individual to their partner, promising them the intention of a future engagement. The two most popular metals for these rings are gold and platinum. The ring size is usually one-quarter or less than the size of the fiancée’s ring finger. This proposal may be either followed by a wedding ceremony or ‘ring warming’.

Promise rings are usually offered months or even years before an engagement, depending on the couple’s preferences. A promise ring is usually worn on the ring or middle finger of the right hand, but there is no hard and fast rule. It is gifted by a person when they ask their partner to spend the rest of their life with them and make a formal promise. This is perceived as the next step toward an engagement ring.

protip_icon Trivia
Some celebrity couples/friends who wear promise rings to flaunt their commitment are – Dean Unglert – Caelynn Miller-Keyes, Charli D’Amelio – Chase Hudson, and Robert Pattinson – Kristen Stewart.

A promise ring signifies commitment and is sometimes considered an engagement proposal. However, couples can also use a promise ring to show their loyalty, trust, dedication, and devotion. Keep reading to find out the real purpose of a promise ring.

What Is The Purpose Of A Promise Ring?

The purpose of a promise ring
Image: Shutterstock

A promise ring symbolizes a couple’s commitment to each other. It is also a reminder that they will stay committed even if the relationship goes through hard times. Some couples wear matching rings to signify they belong to each other no matter what may come between. Promise rings are mostly worn by couples in a serious relationship but have not taken the next step to get engaged. They serve as a reminder of the promise between each other.

A promise ring is a symbol of commitment and is considered a pre-engagement ring. So, if you want to present a promise ring to your significant other, it is important to clarify what you are promising. Here are some tips to present the promise ring with elegance, courtesy, and pride.

How Do You Give A Promise Ring?

Best way to gift promise ring to your partner
Image: Shutterstock

Nathalie Maggio, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, says, “I recommend communicating the purpose of the ring clearly before you present the ring to your partner. This helps manage their expectations and emotions. If you present the ring before explaining its purpose your partner may believe you are proposing to get married which can significantly affect their emotional state.”

Here are some ways to give your partner a promise ring:

  1. You can catch your partner off-guard by surprising them with this gift in a romantic setting. It is best to gift a promise ring when you are alone without any witness to the moment.
  2. Take your partner for a walk in the woods or sit by the fire on a cozy night. This intimate setting will perfectly match the ring proposal and memorable event.
  3. Take a day off from work and go out on a date with your partner somewhere they have always wanted to visit or something they wanted to explore.
  4. Plan for a memorable weekend getaway and arrange a romantic setting with wine, flowers, and music before popping the question and presenting the promise ring.
  5. Plan this moment to coincide with your anniversary or their birthday, making it all the more meaningful. You can also choose Valentine’s Day as the perfect occasion for exchanging promise rings with your soulmate.

Grace Bianco, a blogger, described her experience with promise rings and how the 3rd one changed her life. Her husband had gifted her a promise ring one month into dating when they decided to have an early Valentine’s Day celebration. She wrote, “He took the ring out of his pocket. He gave this perfect speech about how he promised to be loyal and committed to only me. He wanted to give me a constant reminder to wear on my finger while he was away (i).”

Which finger you wear your promise ring depends on personal preference, rather than on any hard and fast rule. Check out below a few options you can consider.

What Finger Is A Promise Ring Worn On?

What finger is a promise ring worn on
Image: Shutterstock

Promise rings can be worn on any finger, but they are most commonly worn on the right hand’s ring finger. This spot is a less formal alternative to an engagement ring, often worn on the left hand.

However, there is no hard and fast rule. One can wear a promise ring on either hand as per their choice, but the most popular places are the right hand’s ring or middle finger (for women) and the pinky or ring finger (for men).

The next sections explain what a promise ring looks like, the differences between a promise ring and an engagement ring, and what happens to the ring after break up. Read on for more information.

What Does A Promise Ring Look Like?

What does a promise ring look like
Image: Shutterstock

A promise ring can appear like an engagement ring, or it can be simple like any other piece of jewelry. It is up to you and your partner what kind of design you want, but remember, the simpler the design, the less formal it will look (unless that is something you are interested in).

While an engagement ring is seen as a piece of fine jewelry, a promise ring is worn casually. It is often more symbolic than the engagement ring and represents an unspoken commitment between two people.

Promise rings are usually made of metals plated with silver or gold, wood, or leather. They can be decorated with gemstones, engravings, ornate detailing, or even non-jewelry pieces like bracelets or necklaces.

You can decide to keep it simple or extravagant, depending on your budget and preferences. It is entirely up to you what you want to make the ring look like. The only constant factor behind the efforts should be the intent and commitment.

Promise Rings Vs. Engagement Rings

  • Most engagement rings are worn on the left hand, while promise rings are usually worn on the right.
  • Some choose promise rings because they believe their relationship isn’t mature enough to handle the commitment of an engagement ring. Also, engagement rings are for couples about to get married and not committing for the future unofficially.
  • A promise ring signifies an unspoken promise between two people, while an engagement ring symbolizes the intention to get married. Couples present each other with promise rings before gifting an engagement ring.

What Happens To The Ring If You Break Up?

What usually happens is both parties keep the rings as a sign of respect for each other. But there are no promises or obligations to do so. If you have given someone a ring, you shouldn’t feel they are obliged to wear it if the relationship ends. Similarly, if you have received a promise ring, you can do whatever you want after breaking up.

It is entirely up to the couple what happens to the ring when things aren’t working out. Sometimes, people salvage their relationship or decide to return the ring. If the relationship breaks up due to a lack of fidelity, people may want the ring returned as they see it as a symbol of their failed relationship and don’t want to keep hurtful memories.

Infographic: Tips To Choose The Perfect Promise Ring

A promise ring symbolizes your commitment to your partner and the desire to propose marriage eventually. Now that you know its importance and how to wear it, let’s move on to how to find the perfect ring. Check out the infographic below to make sure you choose the best ring for your partner. Keep scrolling.

tips to choose the perfect promise ring (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Promising to spend the rest of your life with someone is a big deal, and it should be done after careful consideration. Once you promise and commit to your partner forever, it will always be that way, no matter what life throws at you. So while promise rings may or may not necessarily mean marriage, it is a serious step in your relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a promise ring the same as a purity ring?

No. A purity ring is put on the fourth finger of the left hand with the promise to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. Purity rings are usually given by parents or religious figures and not exchanged privately by couples.

Are promise rings bad?

No. The choice to get a promise ring depends entirely on the couple. If you both think it is an appropriate step in your relationship, go for it! However, if both parties aren’t ready for the commitment or feel pressured, do not move forward with the venture.

Do you kneel for a promise ring?

No, kneeling is for an engagement ring proposal.

What happens to a promise ring after engagement?

It completely depends on your personal preference and mutual decisions. You may choose to replace it with your engagement ring, wear both together, or move it to another finger as you feel comfortable.

Is 6 months too early for a promise ring?

If you are already discussing your future plans and plan to get married in the near future, then 4-6 months is a good time to express your commitment with a promise ring.

Key Takeaways

  • A promise ring is considered an engagement proposal. Couples give it to express loyalty and love towards their partner.
  • A promise ring can be given on Valentine’s day, on your dinner night, or even on a peaceful evening walk.
  • This ring is generally worn on the right hand’s ring finger, but you can wear it as per your choice.
  • It can be made with any metal like silver, gold, or even wood or leather.


A promise ring is a symbol of commitment. Are you confused about which finger to wear it on? Click on the video below to find out!

Personal Experience: Source

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Nathalie Maggio is a licensed marriage and family therapist and EMDR-trained and certified clinical trauma specialist with 5 years of experience. She pursued her Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, and MS in Counseling from California State University, Long Beach. Nathalie is the founder and CEO of Coastal Therapy and Wellness, a psychotherapy practice in California that...read full bio

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