December 14, 2021 6 min read
When most people think of jewelry that symbolizes lasting love and commitment, engagement rings pop into mind. But you can surprise your significant other with a promise ring, commitment ring, or pre-engagement ring before, in the place of, or after the engagement. Gifting a ring to profess your love isn’t limited to one occasion. Knowing the difference between a promise, commitment, pre-engagement, or engagement ring can be confusing. Although they are all symbols of lasting love and a serious relationship, they each have a unique meaning, so we’ll help you sort out when and what to give the one you love when a wedding isn’t the next step in your relationship.
A promise ring is usually a simple gold or silver ring that may have designs or dainty gemstones. It provides the assurance that you are ready to invest in a long-term relationship and devote yourself to one individual. It does not necessarily hint at a future marriage unless that is something you and your partner have discussed as part of your plans. But a wedding is not the expectation of a promise ring.
There’s some flexibility with the meaning of promise rings. Other than being a symbol of devotion, they can mean whatever is right for your relationship. Just make sure that the meaning is clear to the person receiving the ring to avoid miscommunication. The ring can be a surprise, but there should be conversations prior to a promise ring so you know that your significant other feels the same way that you do.
A promise ring is often given in youthful relationships when neither individual is old enough or independent enough for marriage. Promise rings can also be exchanged by more seasoned and even married couples as a reminder of an original promise or as a sweet gesture of love. The more mature the relationship, the more appropriate an expensive ring is.
You know you’re ready to give a promise ring when you are beyond the “getting to know you” stage and beyond the point of infatuation. It should be given after a significant amount of time, which varies by the couple, but take age, amount of time spent together, and level of connection into account. A promise ring does not lock a person into a relationship; it just signifies your desire to be exclusive. It’s a sweet and significant gesture, but it does not mean as much as an engagement, pre-engagement, or commitment ring.
A commitment ring can be as extravagant as an engagement ring--its meaning is similar, but it doesn’t signal a marriage. Commitment rings express the desire to enter a long-term, exclusive partnership that may or may not lead to marriage, but marriage is not the desired outcome when the ring is given. Like an engagement ring, a commitment ring can be worn for a lifetime. Alternative engagement rings are usually great options when shopping for a commitment ring because you don’t want the ring to be confused with an engagement ring, but it is just as special. Keep in mind that if you and your partner are certain that you want to get married in the foreseeable future, then a promise or pre-engagement ring would be a better choice.
It’s time to give a commitment ring when you know you want to spend forever with someone, but you both know that marriage isn’t what either of you wants, at least for the time being. At this point, you’ve been in the relationship for a while and are fully confident that you love someone to the point that you want to make them a part of your life and stick by their side, even when times are difficult.
A pre-engagement ring is usually pretty but simple and inexpensive because it holds the promise that you plan to propose to someone as soon as you are able. You may give a pre-engagement ring if you’re certain you want to marry someone but have to get things in order first or need more time to save for an engagement ring. You and your partner may decide that you’d prefer to put a downpayment on a house and save for an engagement ring later. It may even be best for your relationship to wait until sometime after marriage to replace the pre-engagement ring with a more lavish engagement ring.
Giving a pre-engagement ring is a great idea when you and your boyfriend or girlfriend want to start planning your lives for marriage but want to save for a ring later. You may have financial commitments like student loans or want to save for other priorities like a car or your first home. A pre-engagement ring serves as a placeholder and signals that an engagement ring is soon to come.
Promise rings, commitment rings, and pre-engagement rings all say, ‘My heart is yours, I value our relationship, and I want to be loyal to you.’ All of them mean that your love for another person is deeper than an infatuation, but they each serve a different purpose. Commitment and pre-engagement rings signifylong-term commitment, whereas a promise ring can signify a long term relationship but might not. Pre-engagement rings do pledge marriage, but commitment rings and promise rings do not.
Of the three types of rings, a pre-engagement ring costs the least because it implies that another ring is coming soon. A commitment ring is the most expensive of the three because it may be given in place of an engagement ring and wedding band. A promise ring has the widest price range, but keeping the cost under $400 is the general recommendation. More expensive promise rings are given by older couples in a mature or even married relationship.
Unlike an engagement ring, a promise ring can go on any finger. Sometimes, people choose to wear a promise ring on the left hand where an engagement ring would go and then move it to the right hand once engaged. Others choose to wear it on the right hand. Which hand or finger you chose to wear your promise ring on is up to you. A promise ring also makes a great replacement for your engagement ring while traveling. It also may look nice worn stacked with your engagement ring.
Pre-engagement rings and promise rings are usually simple with smaller stone or diamond accents. Commitment rings may make more of a statement or be more likely to contain larger, precious, or semi-precious stones. Any of our one-of-a-kind rings make excellent alternatives to engagement rings. Choose from some of our silver, gold, or gemstone favorites below.
Shop all of our unique commitment rings.
Diamond accents can look great on promise rings, but because of the longstanding tradition of diamond engagement rings, it’s usually best to avoid a central diamond on a promise ring unless the ring is given after marriage. You want to avoid the possibility of a miscommunication or a major disappointment.
Learn More: 6 Diamond Alternatives You’ll Love
You can give any piece of jewelry meaning and use it as a declaration of love--you aren’t limited to rings. Below are several great options for alternative commitment jewelry.
If you and your partner decide you’re wedding-ready, shop our collection of unique wedding rings to set your promise in stone.
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