Oh, promise me!

I\'ll promise you if you promise me

Apparently, where proposals of marriage are concerned, engagement rings are out and promise rings are in. At least, less hopeful men are opting to present their sweeties with gigantic diamond solitaire rings when they propose and instead buying the big bling later when they can choose something that they know their future brides will love.

“It used to be the case that a man would buy an engagement ring to offer to his fiancé when he proposed to her,” said one jewelry retailer. “But that tradition is starting to die out as women prefer to choose their engagement ring themselves.

He continued. “Now, men are just as likely to buy a promise ring to propose with. This is a less expensive ring which is used symbolically during the proposal. The couple can then go shopping together to purchase the ‘real’ engagement ring, allowing the bride-to-be to have a say in the type of ring she wears.”

Um. Okay. So now men are supposed to buy two rings? Promise rings have traditionally been worn by women who were going steady, betrothed or “engaged to be engaged,” or committed to men they might or might not marry at some point in the future. The promise rings I’ve seen in stores tend to look a lot like scaled down engagement rings. According to Google Answers:

It wasn’t until betrothal ceremonies became passé in the late 18th and 19th centuries that an engagement ring finally became *the* thing to wear. The name “promise ring” (and the idea behind it) didn’t come about until recent years (in the 1990s). It is a custom mostly (but not entirely) followed by Christians, and is a way for young couples to promise that someday (usually at no set date), they will marry. A promise ring usually assumes the marriage will take place over a year from the time of giving. The promise ring comes before the engagement ring, which is given when the couple is ready to begin planning their wedding.

It’s sort of like a hierarchy of jewelry. The promise ring is trumped by the engagement ring which is trumped by the wedding band.

Personally, I think some of the promise rings out there are so lovely (like the white gold and princess cut diamond ring above), I wouldn’t mind getting one as an engagement gift.

18 Responses to “Oh, promise me!”

  1. Twistie April 28, 2006 at 2:39 pm #

    (scratches head) So…the answer to not knowing how to pick out the perfect diamond ring is…to buy two diamond rings knowing that one will probably go into a drawer the day the second is picked out never to be seen again? Not getting it.

    At least I can see the point of the original version of the promise ring. That’s a placekeeper the girl/woman might wear for several years, depending on the situation. Also, they are usually less expensive and not diamonds at all. The idea of purposely buying an expensive ring to propose with that isn’t going to be the engagement ring, though, just seems like retail grabbiness. If you want something purely symbolic, you could just as easily use anything ring-shaped. Heck, when my beloved popped the question, there was no ring in sight, and I felt just as engaged as any woman I know!

    Oh, and yes, that’s a very pretty ring. I could see it as either an engagement ring or a wedding ring, but it seems a bit much for a promise ring.

  2. Never teh Bride April 28, 2006 at 3:13 pm #

    In high school, I remember promise rings being school rings or shabby but sweet silver rings from the flea market. Now they all look like starter diamonds!

  3. Bria April 28, 2006 at 5:28 pm #

    A starter diamond for a starter husband? ;)

  4. Never teh Bride April 28, 2006 at 6:39 pm #

    You just made me giggle, Bria!

    I’m so hungry, right now I think I’d accept a proposal from a man offering me an onion ring.

  5. Twistie April 28, 2006 at 9:01 pm #

    Hee! I wouldn’t say no to an onion ring right now, either!

  6. Motormouth April 29, 2006 at 9:54 am #

    When Monstro (my hubby) proposed, he did so sans ring — it was being designed from the diamonds in his mother’s wedding set. But he wanted me to have some sort of token, so after I said yes, we drove to K-Mart (the only store in town that was open that late) and purchased a hollow gold band. So, I got a ring, and later came the engagement ring, and then we designed matching wedding bands — his with no diamonds, and mine with two of his mother’s diamonds plus the center stone from my mother’s engagement ring. Lovely.

  7. enygma April 30, 2006 at 12:40 am #

    Poor guys! I already feel sorry for them since there is this societal expectation that they must spend at least two months’ salary in order to pay for an engagement; but to have to buy a promise ring, plus an engagement ring, PLUS a wedding ring is just too much.

  8. Twistie April 30, 2006 at 10:35 am #

    So with you, enygma! Not to mention he has to buy not only her wedding band, but his as well.

    That’s one area where my beloved and I saved a lot of cold, hard cash by not being terribly conventional people. He didn’t want a wedding ring, I already wanted to wear my late mother’s wedding ring as my own, and the engagement ring ended up costing less than $100 because I fell madly in love with a silver frog prince ring. At the time, I couldn’t believe the number of people who kept insisting my engagement ring wasn’t ‘really’ an engagement ring because it didn’t have a diamond in it, and how many people told me I ‘had to’ make sure my beloved bought a wedding ring for himself to use for the ceremony even if he never wore it again. Why spend money on something he would wear uncomfortably for a couple hours, then get rid of as fast as he could? He loves me. He just hates wearing jewelry.

    If you’ve got something like lucky Motormouth’s family heirloom stones, that’s fantastic. If you adore diamonds and bling and have the cash to spend on them, fantastic. Go for it. If there’s something you’ve dreamed of all your life and you won’t feel married without it, find a way to make it happen. But for Pete’s sake, choose your own way. Don’t let the diamond industry tell you what’s meaningful or beautiful to you.

    Fashions change every week. Your wedding jewelry is meant to be forever. A promise ring is, by definition, temporary. Don’t spend a lot of money on one unless a) the pre-engagement period is going to last at least a year or two, b) you have the cash to spend this way without cutting back on something else more important, AND c) you can wear it on another finger later for special occasions.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents’ worth.

  9. Bria April 30, 2006 at 2:56 pm #

    Not that this means much any more, but “traditionally” the bride pays for the groom’s wedding ring.

  10. Teaqa May 1, 2006 at 8:15 am #

    To Bria: Aww really? I think that’s adorable.
    To Twistie: Totally agree with everything you said. Why does your wedding have to be dictated by so called conventions? Do they have to be real diamonds? Do you even *have* to have a diamond ring? Who says?
    A ring should be symbolic, so if diamonds are your symbol then fair enough. Personally I want something vintagey and opal, but that’s just weird old me. Weird old single me. Addicted to wedding blogs, especially this one.

  11. Never teh Bride May 1, 2006 at 9:33 am #

    I’d love a pearl engagement ring. They’re so lovely and feminine. *Sigh*

  12. Motormouth May 1, 2006 at 12:44 pm #

    Watch out for opals and pearls — they’re *very* soft stones, which means they’re generally not ideal for everyday wear.

  13. Teaqa May 1, 2006 at 3:02 pm #

    So maybe *thats* why diamonds are the stone of choice. Hmm…

  14. Bria May 1, 2006 at 3:03 pm #

    Motormouth is quite right. The jeweler who made me an opal ring for my birthday (whoa, 10 years ago) told me that you can do a lot to protect an opal by putting it in a bezel setting. I was really surprised to see how much more I knock my engagement ring (diamonds, prong setting) into things than I did my opal ring in its bezel.

    That said, I do love my opal ring and always will. I was able to pick the stone from a bunch of loose ones he had, and it’s still very beautiful. If you pick a stone that way, it’s interesting to see how the jeweler presents it to you for looking; many will always place them on black velvet, which doesn’t give you a very accurate view of what the stone will look like when set (unless you paint the back black, which some do). Mine let me find the three or four stones I liked best, then we set each on a piece of white paper. The difference was amazing. I kept the stone that had a lot of good, rich color against the white background–many of the others became really milky and blah when they didn’t have some contrast behind them.

  15. Stacy May 2, 2006 at 9:54 am #

    I never saw the point of a promise ring… much less to propose with before the real ring. My fiance proposed to me on the spur of the moment (he’d been debating how to do it for weeks, and then just decided to go for it) without a ring.

    And I know exactly what you mean, Twistie. When we went to buy a ring, we started out on a budget (and a teacher’s budget, at that) and wanting sapphires in the setting. As we looked, we realized that none of the rings really captured what we wanted.. and further, we realised we didn’t much care for diamonds. So we ended up picking out a gorgeous, very traditional setting with tiny channel-set diamonds… and then ordered a very nice sapphire for the center. The number of people who don’t realize this VERY traditional ring is an engagement ring boggles my mind. Why do I have to have a diamond? And further, if I don’t have a diamond, why do I have to have a huge rock? It doesn’t prove anything other than we want to overbalance a delicate setting…

    Personally, I really like having a ring that nobody else will have with both color and a vintage look. The only thing I wish we’d been able to do was have them find us a violet sapphire… they couldn’t, so we ended up with blue instead.

  16. Ali September 20, 2009 at 10:38 pm #

    i know my man bought me one, he said it was because he loves me and wanted to show me. he didn’t think an actual engagement ring was the right idea at this time in our lifes. we cant afford to start planing a wedding, i thought that it was a really sweet gesture. he promised himself to me, and i the same vy accpting

  17. laxnhunt24.7 November 30, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    where did you find the ring pictured in your article? i want it for my girlfriend.. do you have a link?

  18. Never teh Bride November 30, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    @laxnhunt24.7 It came from the Zales website. I’m not sure if the one pictured is still available, but this one is quite close.