When you think of promise rings, you probably envision a young man in college or even high school, giving a ring to the girl of his dreams with a promise that someday they'll get married. That image is still true — but it's quickly becoming outdated. Nowadays, promise rings for men are coming into fashion.
Often called "commitment rings," promise rings are increasingly a symbol that a young couple shares with one another. They symbolize that, whatever the future holds, the couple is committed to one another right now, with hopes of deeper commitment and marriage in the future.
What Are Promise Rings?
Promise rings are often given to commemorate a promise between a couple that they'll get married someday. Often the couple realizes they're not financially prepared for marriage yet, perhaps because they're still in school or starting a new career. Sometimes a couple who want a big wedding want to save for the occasion (and for the engagement ring!).
Some couples opt for promise rings as a sort of "pre-engagement" commitment. They know they're not quite ready to pop the question (or to answer it) — but they also know that this relationship is like none other they've experienced, and they want to make a statement about their commitment to each other and to their friends and families.
In addition, some couples are uncomfortable with the idea of an engagement that lasts for years. They want to find a way to show the world that they're committed to one another, but they don't want to announce their engagement until they've set their wedding date.
Because promise rings can represent any and all of the above levels of commitment, they tend to be fairly simple. Certainly when compared to a woman's engagement ring, a promise ring is typically less elaborate than an engagement ring — and usually more affordable.
Promise Rings for Men
When you think about it, it's only fair that women should be able to give the men they love promise rings — or that male couples should be able to give each other rings to pledge their commitment to one another. As gender roles evolve and grow with each generation, it's no wonder that more and more men are excited about wearing their own rings to show off their relationships.
Promise rings are an ideal way to symbolize exclusivity and faithfulness — or even just eternal friendship or family ties. Promise rings are simple and clear in the message they send, both between the couple and to the rest of the world: There's a true bond here, a commitment that's meant to last.
Giving (and Receiving) a Promise Ring
While the tradition started with young men giving promise rings to their girlfriends, now it's very common to have both partners exchange rings with one another. The giving of a promise ring is usually a simpler, more intimate moment than the elaborate presentation that's usually associated with engagement rings.
Nowadays, an engagement ring is often the highlight of a surprise that takes place in a fabulous, Instagram-worthy location. The young man gets down on one knee to propose to his beloved (who's usually very surprised, typically), as well as posing for photos, which are sometimes taken by a professional photographer. The moment can also involve friends and family arriving to celebrate and party with the newly engaged couple.
In contrast, the giving of promise rings is normally much simpler. There's typically no surprise involved, as both partners tend to talk about this next step of commitment together. They often choose their rings and exchange them privately in a precious and and more intimate moment. The "promise" involved with giving a promise ring is very intentional, with both partners understanding exactly what they're committing to.
Promise rings can be worn on either the left or right hand. Some people choose to wear them on their right hands to indicate that they're not (yet) engaged. Other people wear them on their left hands, but shift them to their right hands once they have engagement or wedding rings on their left hands. For the woman, her promise ring is normally thinner and is often eventually worn stacked with the engagement and wedding rings.
Men are often excited to wear a promise ring for any of several reasons:
- Their partners love the idea of both people wearing rings. In fact, many Generation Z and Millennial couples find it hard to understand why only one person would wear a ring showing their commitment.
- Men want a tangible expression of their commitment, something they can look at every day and let the rest of the world see.
- They want to show that their relationship is modern and equal. If only a woman is wearing a ring, it can denote a sort of "ownership," but if both partners wear a ring, it makes a true and balanced statement of devotion.
- They want to show their commitment. Yes, the couple may not be engaged or married yet, but they still want the world to know they're taken.
- They want to be part of starting a new tradition. So many traditions that have grown up around weddings are inexorably linked to old-school assumptions about gender roles. Many young couples wear promise rings to start something new that fits their own lifestyle.
The History of Promise Rings
Couples began giving each other rings to symbolize commitment as far back as ancient Rome. These rings, which sometimes had the name of their partner on the inside, were often worn during the courting period before a couple was allowed to get married. These promise rings were typically made of iron, since not everyone in ancient Rome was allowed to wear gold.
Another version of promise rings were "posy rings," which were popular in France and English from the 1400s to 1800s. These may sound like rings made of flowers, but actually, the word "posy" here came from "poésie," a French word for poetry. This referred to the fact that they were sometimes engraved with short love poems, either on the inside or the outside of the ring (or both). Posy rings were worn by both men and women.
Many antique posy rings have survived to the 21st century, which shows how popular they were at the time. Posy rings were usually made of gold, a soft metal that's easy to engrave. They weren't engagement rings, but showed a devotion between two people, either as deep friends or as a couple who intended to marry eventually.
Choosing a Promise Ring
Promise rings for men tend to be simpler and more understated then a traditional wedding band. What matters most, though, is finding a ring that suits the couple's personal sense of style, whether it's simple or sophisticated. This is also a great opportunity to get him used to wearing jewelry on his finger that he likely has never worn before.
Men's promise rings are often made of tungsten, titanium, or sterling silver. These materials are friendly to the budget, which is appropriate for a ring that expresses a commitment that hasn't yet progressed to the level of marriage. \
Finding the right promise ring is a personal matter, and couples enjoy embarking on the journey of discovery together. Rings that incorporate exotic elements such as sustainably harvested deer antler or inlays of turquoise set rings apart, while others choose to go with the simplicity inherent in a plain band of tungsten or koa wood.
When men wear a promise ring, they make a statement that they've chosen someone to love — and someone has chosen them in return. Pick out a promise ring for the man in your life to cement your commitment to one another and to tell the world about it.