Promise Ring vs Engagement Ring: The Key Differences

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Are you ready to take your relationship to the next level? Both a promise ring and an engagement ring are wonderful symbols for your commitment, except there’s quite a few differences you should know. In this guide, we’ll uncover the different meanings behind a promise ring and an engagement ring, when they’re given, and how they’re given. Also be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, we promise you’ll love it!

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide
The Main Differences Between Promise Rings and Engagement Rings
The Meaning Behind Promise Rings
The Meaning Behind Engagement Rings
Promise Rings vs Engagement Rings: When are they given?
Promise Rings vs Engagement Rings: How are they given?
Promise Rings vs Engagement Rings: What do they look like?
Frequently Asked Questions

The Main Differences Between Promise Rings and Engagement Rings

While both a promise ring and an engagement ring signify that you’re ready to take the next step in your relationship, a promise ring and an engagement ring serve two distinct purposes.

promise ring

A promise ring is a symbol for commitment between two people that can be given before or after a marriage.

It represents a promise to remain faithful – whether to remain exclusive or to symbolize an eventual proposal.

Read also: Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring: Do You Need Both?

engagement ring

On the other hand, an engagement ring promises marriage. It typically will cost more as they have an elaborate design and a diamond or gemstone center.

At the end of the day, what matters most is the pledge you make between you and your loved one(s) during the exchange of these rings.

The Meaning Behind Promise Rings

The part we’ve all been waiting for – what does a promise ring mean?


Promise rings have become a popular way for couples to commemorate a special moment or occasion in their lives. Moments such as anniversaries, engagements, or even abstinence until marriage.

Promise rings are not typically flashy, but are a way for couples to display what they stand for and as a reminder of their core values.

Related: 3 Ways You’re Damaging Your Engagement Ring This Winter

There is no definitive meaning behind promise rings but they are typically associated with faithfulness, loyalty, and love.


The key with promise rings is to not forget the sentiment and the important emotions behind the ring.

The Meaning Behind Engagement Rings

Similar to promise rings, engagement rings symbolize commitment. The difference however is that engagement rings are given prior to marriage proposals.

proposal 2

The idea behind an engagement ring is that two lives are officially joining together – literally and figuratively.

In some cultures, the circular shape of an engagement ring represents endless love and enduring companionship together.

Related: Can you use a wedding band as an engagement ring?

But regardless of how you choose to view an engagement ring, they are only given if you plan on eventually marrying your partner.

Promise ring vs Engagement ring: When are they given?

Both engagement rings and promise rings are symbols of commitment. But the time at which they’re given makes a huge difference.

ring exchange

A promise ring typically comes early in the relationship to let your partner know that you want to keep things exclusive.

Here’s where engagement rings differ…

An engagement ring comes much later in the relationship, typically as an agreement by both sides that they agree to marriage.

Related: Types of engagement rings

Promise ring vs Engagement ring: How are they given?

We’re all quite familiar with how engagement rings are given. People typically go to special locations, they get down on one knee, ask for their hand in marriage, and put the engagement ring on their ring finger.

proposal 3

On the other hand, you can definitely go to a special location to give a promise ring, but it’s very unlikely you would be getting down on one knee at this moment.

Fun fact: A promise ring can go on any finger, there’s no rule against it. Some even put the promise ring on a chain and wear it as a necklace.

Promise ring vs Engagement ring: What do they look like?

A promise ring can have any design you’d like. There is no hard and fast rule here.

promise ring

Some popular designs have hearts or an infinity symbol to represent everlasting love and commitment. But most promise rings look plain and are encrusted with stones.

proposal 4

Engagement rings typically have a center diamond stone and will cost much more as a result.

Depending on your preferences, they are a lot more bold and flashier. After all, a stunning engagement ring is there to let the world know you’re soon-to-be married!

Related: How many carats your diamond engagement ring should be

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a promise ring be an engagement ring?

Technically, yes. Both promise rings and engagement rings are symbols of love and commitment. But since each serve their own unique purpose, we’d recommend separately sticking to a promise ring or an engagement ring depending on the scenario.

What finger should a promise ring be worn on?

A promise ring can be worn on any finger, there’s no rule against it. Some even wear their promise ring around a chain as a necklace.

What finger should an engagement ring be worn on?

Engagement rings are typically worn on the left hand ring finger.

Photo of author
Amy Lee
Amy began her journey over 7 years ago when a friend asked her to be their wedding photographer. Fast forward to today, and Amy has helped planned numerous weddings. She's taken care of everything including vendor selection, budget management, design and decor, timeline creation, event coordination, and more. Her goal is to ensure couples that she is with them every step of the way during their wedding journey to help create an unforgettable experience. Amy resides in Toronto, Canada.