Your Cart

What Is a Pre-Engagement Ring

Relationships can be confusing. That’s why humans have given each other meaningful symbols like rings as a way to show what they feel. But what happens when the ring itself can be a bit confusing? In case it wasn’t clear, we are talking about the pre-engagement ring, which seems to blur the line between wedding jewelry and other promise rings for couples. Let’s see if we can provide a truly clear picture of what a pre-engagement ring means.

What Is a Pre-Engagement Ring?

A pre-engagement ring is given as a token of commitment to another person, usually as a signal that the relationship is pointed in the direction of marriage. 

Wait, So What’s the Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Pre-Engagement Ring?

An engagement ring represents a specific commitment: marriage. 

A pre-engagement ring might be a precursor to a proposal, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Think about the difference between a wedding ring, which declares “I am married to someone” and an engagement ring, which announces “I have agreed to marry someone.” A pre-engagement ring states “I am planning my future with someone, and those plans most likely include marriage.”

what is a pre-engagement ring

And What About Commitment Rings?

Since it is a ring that is a “token of commitment,” a pre-engagement ring certainly qualifies as a commitment ring. But a commitment ring is a broader category. Just as there are tons of certificates that aren’t marriage certificates, there are tons of rings committing to a lifelong partnership that doesn’t include marriage. The commitment doesn’t even have to be romantic in nature. It could embody devotion to a family member or even to an idea, whether that is a personal resolution or a matter of religious conviction. 

On the other hand, pre-engagement has “engagement” in the word. Honestly, “engagement” is most of the word. So it should be pretty obvious marriage is at least on the table even if it isn’t officially pending. Pre-engagement rings are connected to marriage without being bound to it.

Is It Safe to Say That Same Logic Applies to Promise Rings?

A promise is a commitment. Consult a thesaurus or a dictionary for one of those words, and you’re likely to see the other. When you accuse someone of breaking a promise, you remind them that they made a commitment. The only slight difference might be that “promise” implies a little more specificity. Like “I promise to mow the lawn every week” as opposed to “I commit to yard maintenance.” But since spelling out the terms of the promise or commitment is up to the people making it, don’t worry too much about whether a promise ring will do a job that a commitment ring would do better.

What Are Promise Rings Meant for?

What About Friendship Rings?

A friendship ring is a commitment ring. A pre-engagement ring is a commitment ring. And here’s where the similarities end. A pre-engagement ring is emphatically not a friendship ring! In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite! To be clear, if you accept a pre-engagement ring from someone, you are not “just friends” with them. Which brings us to our next point.

Why Give a Pre-Engagement Ring

Why Give/Accept a Pre-Engagement Ring?

Marriage proposals are often designed to be surprise events, but the first time that marriage comes up shouldn’t be when someone gets down on one knee. A couple could be Olympic level sentence-finishers. They might be able to carry on a whole conversation through eye contact at a party. But they still need to say serious things out loud to each other to make sure they are on the same page. 

That’s why we have define-the-relationship talks. However, even those can leave things a bit murky. If someone says “I love you” and “I want to get married someday,” but there was also a lot of other stuff in between (including several glasses of wine), what does that mean? A pre-engagement ring is a way to get that conversation on the record without the pressure of a proposal. 

Or think of it this way. Someone’s caught off guard by a proposal. They aren’t sure they are ready to get married, but they definitely don’t have any plans to break up with the person that is proposing to them. They can tell that their long pause is hurting the one they love. They just wish they had time to talk this over with them in a situation where an entire restaurant isn’t awkwardly watching. 

How Soon Is Too Soon to Propose?

Who Gives a Pre-Engagement Ring?

A couple might want to be more deliberate about each stage of their relationship’s progression. Or they might be very serious about their long-term future together but recognize that a wedding doesn’t make sense for their immediate future — maybe they are finishing school in different states or don’t feel financially secure. They aren’t asking anybody to save the date three years hence, but they’re a safe bet to get a joint invitation to the family reunion this coming summer. 

Who Gives a Pre-Engagement Ring

But full schedules and empty bank accounts aren’t the only reasons to introduce a pre-engagement ring onto the scene. They can be another way to celebrate a relationship milestone, just like long-time married couples who mark a special anniversary with an additional stackable wedding band. Or they can be ways for people to make a public statement, whether it is a pop star tired of holding press conferences every time they hold hands, or someone done with being hit on every time their significant other is in the restroom.

OK, But Literally Who Gives a Pre-Engagement Ring? Or Is It More of an Exchange?

Ah, right. Well, because this is a couple’s deliberate choice to formalize a more informal stage of the relationship, it’s up to them. (Honestly, the rules for ring giving and exchanging is always in the couple’s court, but this is a situation where the rest of society is less likely to appoint themselves as referee.) Like an engagement ring, it can be a one-way gift. But there is a reason that promise rings for couples come in a matching set — it’s not a question, but mutual consideration.

pre-engagement ring on hand

Is This a New Thing?

It is currently a more popular trend as a reflection of more non-traditional relationships. There was also an upsurge in terms of celebrity adopters in the 2010s. But pre-engagement rings actually have a long tradition. Just check out the romantic poetry inscribed on the “posy” rings that have been circulating in the British Isles for centuries.

Am I Going to Have to Answer Lots of Questions About Pre-Engagement Rings?

Probably! It’s not so bad. We field questions about pre-engagement rings all the time! So long as that helps you remain clear on where you are with your partner and what it means to each other, all the better. That’s what should dictate how you wear the ring, more than other people’s ability to misinterpret the situation, which is endless. But while there isn’t a standard operating manual for pre-engagement rings, there are a few subtle ways to signal the ring’s significance that revolve around the following three questions, which are mostly coming from the same place: how do I tell people this is a pre-engagement ring without telling them this is a pre-engagement ring?

What Finger Should I Wear It on

What Finger Should I Wear A Pre-Engagement Ring on?

Pre-engagement rings can set themselves apart from engagement rings by being worn on a different finger or hand. Or even as a necklace pendant. Their ornamentation is often simpler or less traditional than an engagement ring.

But there are countless permutations to this. There are plenty of unique gemstone engagement rings and right hand wedding bands. Sometimes, instead of looking for an understated ring that feels like a first step towards an engagement ring, couples will choose a bolder, more theatrical ring as a placeholder for the more formal jewelry that is to come. 

Shop All Unique Gemstone Engagement Rings Here

pair ring bands on finger

What Are Some Specific Examples of Suitable Rings Though?

Again, whatever works for you. But we’ve noticed that when couples look for pre-engagement rings, there are three sections of our catalog where they often start (even if they end up elsewhere).

  • The minimalist rings section. This is especially popular when the ring is given as the first step of a proposal.
  • Complementary, understated rings that work well as part of a set, either a his and hers ring set or a future bridal set. Examples include the Excalibur or the aptly named Promise. Pre-engagement rings are all about customization and being intentional about the relationship timeline, so one reason to go with a wider band might be leaving space for a future engraving. 
  • And finally, colored gemstone rings are popular because they can signal that this is a dramatic statement, but maybe not one within a conventional timeline. Opals make a lot of sense here.

What Happens to a Pre-Engagement Ring After the Couple Is Officially Engaged?

Again, that’s up to the couple. Hopefully, you’ve caught on to the trend here. The pre-engagement ring can move over to another hand or onto a necklace. Or into a secure jewelry box as a backup! 

stacks rings on index finger

Moreover, it doesn’t have to go anywhere. Just stack the pre-engagement ring and the engagement ring together and let them work as a complementary set. Or, post-proposal, just drop the “pre” and presto, the pre-engagement ring is straight up an engagement ring!

We know that a pre-engagement ring can be a way of figuring your relationship path out. But we know how important symbols can be in that learning process, so we are committed to getting you the right ring. With Modern Gents, you don’t have to worry where the ring came from or about getting hassled during the exchange process. We know that financial constraints might be a reason to wait on a wedding, which is why our affordable rings make such a good fit. Most of all, we’re honored to have you instill our rings with meaning that is unique to you.

Browse All Affordable Rings from Mod Gents!


Image Credits

Artem Kovalenco/