Proposing Without a Ring? A Wedding Expert Shares Everything You Need To Know Beforehand

We low-key think proposing sans ring is totally romantic.
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Elizabeth Ayoola
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Elizabeth Ayoola
The Knot Contributor
  • Elizabeth contributes a range of lifestyle content to The Knot.
  • She also works as a full-time writer at NerdWallet and contributing writer at ESSENCE and POPSUGAR.
  • Elizabeth has a degree in Environment, Politics, and Globalization from King's College London.
Updated Jul 24, 2023

One of the most exciting parts of a proposal for many people is the ring. So, what happens when you do a proposal without a ring? While it is standard to propose with one, asking someone to marry you without one can be just as special—and just as romantic. It's simply down to the personal preference of the person proposing and the person being proposed to.

There are many reasons someone may want to propose without a ring. Perhaps they can't afford to get one right now or are saving to buy a pricey ring. Another reason could be related to spontaneity and living in the moment. For some couples, it could be down to wanting to get the proposal out of the way and then letting the person you propose to choose their own ring.

Jessica Renee Cain, owner of J. Renee Services, a business that specializes in wedding and event planning, gives us the A to Z of proposing without a ring if you're considering it.

Can You Propose Without A Ring?

Yes! It is possible to propose without a ring, says Cain. "You do not need to give your partner a ring as the only way to express your desire to spend the rest of your lives together," she says. "There are various creative alternatives to consider, and as long as you know what your partner expects, a proposal without a ring can still be an incredible experience."

How To Propose Without A Ring

Proposing without a ring can seem like an awkward thing to do, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few pieces of advice before you make the plunge and ask the big question.

Understand your partner's expectations.

Understand your partner's expectations about an engagement ring before proposing. This way they aren't blindsided or disappointed when you propose without one. What happens if you don't know what their expectations are? Ask.

"If you're unsure, it's best to have an open and honest conversation to clarify any doubts. You could also consider seeking advice from their closest friend to get a better understanding of their wishes," says Cain.

Prepare your speech.

When you're proposing without a ring, the focus will often be more on your words or the message. Within that message, it's a good idea to communicate your plans for a ring, Cain suggests.

"For example, you could share that you'd like to shop for the perfect ring together at a later time," she says. "No matter the reason, it is important to be ready to explain why you don't have a ring to reassure your partner."

If you've already had discussions prior and your partner isn't expecting a ring, you can leave that part out.

Personalize the experience.

There is no one-size-fits all proposal and there shouldn't be. Everyone has different ideas of romance and fantasies about how they'd like their proposal to go.

"As you make decisions on the execution of the proposal, always keep your partner's expectations in mind," says Cain. "Use the information you learn about your partner's expectations to execute the proposal of their dreams."

For instance, think about whether they're more a PDA type of person or don't like crowds and attention. Are they often put off by grand gestures? Do they prefer simple and intimate things? The answers to these questions should help you whip up a proposal that's perfect for them.

10 Unique Ways To Propose Without A Ring

There are endless ways to propose without a ring. The fun part about planning a ringless proposal is in how creative you can get. Here are ten ideas you can consider for inspiration.

Propose with a unique placeholder.

Not having a ring to propose with doesn't mean you can't include a placeholder in the proposal. For instance, you could propose with another piece of jewelry like a necklace, watch or pair of earrings as a symbol of your love. Remember that rings are a tradition but they don't have to define your experience or proposal. Feel free to shake things up and do it your way.

Include a proposal gift.

Just because you don't bring a ring to a proposal, doesn't mean you have to show up empty-handed. Consider buying your partner a gift they've been dying to have and including a proposal with the gift. You could ask them to marry you as you hand them the gift, include a proposal message inside the gift, or ask once they receive the gift.

By doing this, that gift will hopefully always hold sentimental value because it will be attached to a proposal.

Get matching tattoos.

If you and your partner appreciate ink, consider getting matching tattoos as a proposal. Plan a date with a tattoo artist when you get there, get down on one knee and propose if that's your style. You can then decide on a sentimental tattoo be it initials on wedding band fingers, your favorite quote or your anniversary date.

Pop the question at a concert.

A concert proposal can be a way to take the focus off the ring and tie the proposal to an enjoyable experience. If your partner enjoys concerts, plan to attend one where their favorite artist is playing. You can then plan to bring a "will you marry me" sign to propose. Another alternative if you have the patience is to contact the performing artist on social media or through their PR team to see if they'll announce your proposal on stage. A Beyonce fan recently did the former at a concert and got the proposal of their dreams because of it.

Go on a vacation.

Vacations are a great time for couples to reconnect with one another and create new memories. Proposing while on vacation will make it one to remember and gives you intimate moments to spend together post-proposal. That is assuming you plan the proposal during the early days of the vacation and not right before you head home.

You may also collaborate with a restaurant or resort if you're staying in one to help plan the proposal.

Give them something sentimental.

Think about something that holds great significance and consider proposing with it. For instance, you may have a family heirloom like your great-grandmother's wedding veil or a pendant from your great aunt. You can lead into the proposal by explaining the significance of that item and why you want them to have it.

Create a handwritten proposal letter.

Handwritten letters still hold value and can be special to people who appreciate sentimental gestures. Handwrite a heartfelt love letter to your partner and ask if they'll marry you at the end of it. To add an extra hint of creativity and romance, consider putting the letter in a bottle. You could also have a professional poet write a personalized poem.

Plan a scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts can be lots of fun for couples and build anticipation. Plan a scavenger hunt and leave clues that lead up to the proposal. If you need help doing this, consider hiring a professional event planner to do the heavy lifting for you. Otherwise, TikTok, PinTerest, YouTube and search engines are your friends.

Hire entertainment.

To create a scene out of a romcom, consider hiring entertainment for your lover as part of a proposal without a ring. For instance, you could hire a live band, harpist or piano player to play a special rendition. To make it more personal, get them to sing one of your partner's favorite songs or a classic love song you both love. It could help to set the tone for the proposal before it happens. At the end of the performance when your partner is in their feelings, you can pop the questions.

Create a photo album.

Gather your favorite images of you and your partner over the course of your relationship and put them in a photo album. Although physical pictures aren't as pervasive due to things like phones and i-cloud storage, there is nothing like a tangible reminder of love. To use a photo album in the context of a proposal, surprise your partner with the album and then flip through it with them. On the last page, you could have the question "will you marry me?" written on a blank piece of photo paper.

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