Can You Propose Without a Ring?

Don’t know if it’s okay to propose without a ring? Find out what our experts say by checking out our latest guide.

By Shira Telushkin

Propose Without a Ring
Photo by Arlene Jacobs Photography

Engagement rings — some people love them, some people hate them, but not every couple expects them. You can propose without a ring. Getting engaged is about deciding that you and your partner want to spend the rest of your lives together. That decision does not need to come with a ring, or anything else. Any proposal that ends in a decision to get married is great.

Nonetheless, the engagement ring has become the symbolic object of impending marriages everywhere. So what should you do if you’re planning to propose, but don’t want an engagement ring to be part of the moment? The Zola team is here to walk you through the process.

Make Sure You’re Both on the Same Page

Engagement rings are a big social signifier of being engaged, and some people don’t feel properly engaged unless they have a ring to show for it. You want to make sure your partner is on board with the idea of a marriage proposal without a wedding ring. You don’t want the absence of the ring to be the focus of your proposal. Even if the two of you generally forgo conventional wedding traditions, people can be surprisingly attached to engagement rings. Before you plan your proposal, check-in with your partner to gauge their general feelings about rings.

If you’re more concerned that you won’t buy the right ring, then read on for suggestions on proposing before making your purchase.

Propose Now, Buy the Ring Later

Can You Propose Without a Ring? Photo Credit // Pixabay

Buying an engagement ring is a big deal. Engagement rings are expensive, wildly different from one another, and something that your partner might wear for his or her entire life. A lot of people are hesitant to jump into such a big decision without the direct input of their partner.

If you’re planning to propose now and buy the ring later, you have a few options. You can propose with a heartfelt gift instead of a ring, such as a photo album with pictures that span your relationship or a particularly meaningful poem. You can buy a stand-in ring that’s a placeholder, such as a large candy rock ring or a paper mache ring. Or, you can make a certificate good for one ring-shopping experience together, and present this along with your proposal.

The idea is to convey that the ring will be part of your engagement period, but not part of your marriage proposal.

The Decision to Ditch the Ring Entirely

Increasingly, many couples are foregoing engagement rings entirely. Some feel the tradition is antiquated, overly gendered, or simply an unneeded expense. When both partners agree, the decision to go without a ring is an easy one.

The more difficult part of this decision can be dealing with the negative feedback of family and friends. We’ve all heard the routine: When a woman gets engaged to be married, she’s often asked to show off her ring. (This is way less of an issue with men, who often don’t wear engagement rings.) Social media photos of engagement announcements often feature at least one, if not multiple, close-ups of the ringed finger.

If you decide to propose without a ring, you might want to prepare for the people in your life who will be upset by this decision. Not because you need to pander to them, but because you want to get ahead of those critiques. Plan out your one sentence, the calm and collected explanation that says that you don’t need a diamond ring to decide to get married, and move on.

Alternatives to Engagement Rings

Can You Propose Without a Ring? Photo Credit // Pixabay

For many people, the engagement ring is about the symbolism of the investment. The ring, for all its expense, implies permanence. In other words, the person is putting down some serious investment in the person by investing so seriously in a diamond ring.

Lots of other gifts can achieve these same goals when planning out a romantic proposal, though. When considering alternatives to the engagement ring, you want to consider gifts that come with some symbolic backstory and demonstrate a significant amount of investment, either emotional or financial. The goal is to convey that you are “all in” on this proposal and willing to back that up with some thought and personal investment.

Buy a Watch: In recent years, it’s become more commonplace for women to propose to men to present them with a watch. This can be a beautiful way for a couple to take charge of the too-often gendered reality of proposals and guide the process themselves. Make sure the watch matches the style of your partner.

Book a Vacation: In place of a ring, present your loved one with a planned vacation to a spot you both want to visit. The trip can be a way to spend time together and celebrate your decision to get married. This trip should be a truly exciting and adventurous proposal.

Shop for Jewelry: Who says you need a ring? If you want a gift that will last forever, but your partner isn’t interested in a ring, try another type of jewelry. Diamond earrings, pendant necklaces, or anything that you know your partner will love and adore can be a really beautiful gift for a proposal.

Buy a House: This is a rather dramatic option, but for the right couple, a stunning gesture can be to present your loved one with the home you want to live in, with them, forever.

Go Romantic: Let’s just say again that no proposal needs a big, expensive gift. Sometimes the best proposal is one that comes straight from the heart. A romantic gift, which might be anything from tracking down some beloved childhood toy to putting together a recipe book of her favorite family dishes, can be the absolute right choice. The point is to show that you care and that you’re putting your love on full display. Think of a gift that will make your partner feel overwhelmed with love, and you’ll be on the right track.

Even if your proposal idea doesn’t include a diamond ring to match, that doesn't mean you have to wait until you have one. Sometimes people don't want fancy jewelry. No matter how you choose to propose, just be sure that both individuals are on the same page.

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