The Unspoken Rules of Promise Rings: Etiquette Explained

When you're ready to take your relationship to the next level, a promise ring is beautiful gift to start dreaming up your future together.

Updated January 19, 2024
person holding promise ring box behind their back

If you're ready to take your commitment to the next level, but it isn't quite time to get engaged, a promise ring may be your next step. In a loving partnership, promise rings offer a beautiful way to show your commitment to each other. But before you find the perfect ring and share it with your partner, it's helpful to have a better understanding of promise ring etiquette so you can both go into your new commitment with a shared vision of where your relationship is and where it's going. 

What's a Promise Ring & What Does It Mean?

Historically, people have gifted rings as one of the ultimate symbols of love. Just the thought of gifting or receiving a ring brings up heart-swelling emotions filled with true l-o-v-e!

And a promise ring is exactly that — a symbol of a promise to work toward your future together. It's like the precursor to saying "Yes!" and "'til death do us part." It means you're serious about your relationship and you've moved on to the next level in your relationship.

Need to Know

Anyone can wear a promise ring, and couples can get matching promise rings, too. 

Promise Ring Etiquette

We're not big on hard and fast rules here, but a few promise ring guidelines can help you deliver your gift — and the message it implies — with grace. 

When to Gift

Are you at the "I love you" stage? Is there a boundless amount of love and respect? Does everything about the two of you together feel right, and you want this feeling to last forever?

If you said yes to all, this is the sign that you're in the promise ring stage, and we love that for you. When you know, you know.

Every couple's relationship is different, so there isn't an exact timeframe for when to put a promise ring on it.

Related: From Heart to Hand: Tips & Ideas to Give a Promise Ring

Promise Ring Style Ideas

ring in a box

If you anticipate getting to the engagement ring level of love, it's wise to make the promise ring look very different than what you might give on that occasion. The two shall not be confused! Cool options include:

  • Matching gemstones or birthstones 
  • An engraved ring with names, initials, or a sentiment of the promise
  • Ornate designs with filigree or knotwork 
  • A unique ring with a favorite gemstone  
  • A cluster of diamonds or stones 

How to Present the Ring

A promise ring is a special gift, but it's up to you to make it clear that this isn't a marriage proposal. It's not a good idea to present a promise ring on bended knee or to arrange a tremendously elaborate event to make the promise.

Still, be romantic and share your intentions as you are giving the gift so your significant other doesn't misunderstand the purpose of the ring.

Need to Know

Giving the ring as a birthday or holiday gift or sharing the ring on the anniversary of the day you met are sweet ideas. 

What Finger to Wear It On

While we want to say to wear it wherever you want, if it's on the left-hand ring finger, prepare for nosy folks to ask about it. Your ring, your choice. Wear it on left or right hand on any finger, or even on a chain around your neck.

Related: What Is the Meaning of Each Finger for Rings?

Define Your Promises

Being forthcoming with your feelings is a must in relationships, right? This is particularly true when sharing what this gift means to you. When presented, share that this ring symbolizes your promise of commitment and devotion. Aww, love is beautiful!

Then, spend the rest of the occasion gazing into each other's eyes and dreaming about the future. 

Etiquette for Receiving a Promise Ring

What if the promise ring comes as a total surprise, and you're not sure whether you're in that relationship stage yet? Look — we get it. If you're not ready for that level of commitment, it's okay to turn down the ring. You might say something kind such as, "Thank you for such a thoughtful gesture. I enjoy our time together, and I like you very much. I hope that we will be ready to make promises to each other soon, but I'm not quite there yet." Then you can either tell them you can't accept the ring or that you hope to be able to soon, but now isn't the time. It's a difficult conversation to have, but it's so much better than promising something you're not ready for. Bottom line: if you're not ready, don't accept and wear the ring. 

Promise Ring Etiquette if Things Change ... or Not

Three things could happen in the months/years after you gift a promise ring. You could break up, or you could advance to the next level in relationship status — engagement! Or, things remain the same.

  • If you break up: Try to talk about if the ring should be returned to the person who bought it. Hopefully, even if the breakup is contentious, the two of you can figure this out together.
  • If you get engaged: Keep rocking all the rings! Some like to stack them on the ring finger (if the style works) with the engagement ring. Or you can wear it on the right hand. 
  • If you stay forever in the promise ring stage: Some couples decide that this is the stage where they're happiest. This is where good communication is key. Make sure you are both on the same page in your intentions and hopes for the future. 

Fully Committed

Being in the promise ring stage of a relationship should be full of excitement for your future together. It's a really beautiful way to declare your love and set goals for your life together. It's all about celebrating who you are as a couple.

The Unspoken Rules of Promise Rings: Etiquette Explained