Tips for Proposing Without A Ring + 10 Alternatives

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 (AKA your soon-to-be fiance!) want to spend the rest of your lives together. That decision does not need to come with a piece of jewelry in a ring box—or anything else, for that matter. 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—whether because you want a low maintenance proposal, you want to propose with another piece of jewelry, or rings simply aren’t your partners style? 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

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. If you propose without a ring—but want to show your partner that a ring is on the way—you can buy a temporary 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.

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

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

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Take An Adventure

Has there been an adventure you and your partner have been wanting to experience together—like skydiving, rock climbing, or whitewater rafting? If so, plan an excursion for the two of you—and then cap off the adrenaline-filled day with a proposal they’re sure to remember for the rest of their life!

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

4. 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.

5. Offer a Family Heirloom

If you want to give your significant other jewelry to signify your engagement, it doesn’t need to come from the jewelry store. An heirloom from your family (like your mothers’s necklace or a bracelet your grandfather gifted your grandmother when they got engaged) is a meaningful symbol of love—and a great way to propose.

6. Plan The Perfect Surprise Proposal

Not all engagement gifts need to be physical items. If your partner is the kind of person that watches proposal videos on YouTube, planning an over-the-top surprise proposal (like a flash mob!) is the perfect way to begin the rest of your lives together.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Write It In The Sky

If you want to propose in a way your partner will never forget, using a skywriting service to write your proposal in the sky is a fun, memorable way to ask for their hand in marriage.

10. Create Something From Scratch

You don’t have to buy something to propose. If you’re the crafty type, building or creating something handmade (for example, building a table or creating a painting) can be a personal way to commemorate such a special day.

Tips to Propose Without A Ring

Need some more tips popping the question—but without the bling? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be clear. When someone sees an engagement ring, it’s clear what’s happening—and, as such what you say during your proposal isn’t as critical; they’ll get the idea. But if you’re going to propose without a ring, it’s super important that you’re clear—and make sure to distinctly ask “will you marry me?” Otherwise, your partner might not know you’re proposing!

  • Set the mood. Ring or no ring, you want your proposal to be special—so make sure to set the mood and create a memorable backdrop for your engagement (for example, by choosing the perfect song, filling the space with flowers, or lighting candles).

  • Consider involving friends and family. If you really want your proposal to be a celebration, consider inviting friends and family to witness the big moment and/or celebrate with you immediately afterwards. Who needs an engagement ring when you’re surrounded by the people you love most?

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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