So, you’ve made the decision to propose to your partner. Congratulations! This is wonderfully exciting. As the iconic quote from When Harry Met Sally goes, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." Traditionally, that means getting down on one knee with a diamond ring in hand to mark your engagement. But plenty of items other than rings will work for a proposal, and they can capture the magnitude of your love in a unique and authentic way.
There are many reasons why someone may choose not to propose with a traditional engagement ring. First of all, diamonds are expensive. Brides magazine’s 2018 American Wedding Survey found that the average cost of an engagement ring was $7,829 — a number that has steadily increased year after year. Not to mention, some couples just don't love jewelry or aren’t into prescribed cultural norms. If you’re not feeling a ring for whatever reason, you can still make your proposal incredibly personal and special. Choose an item that represents your relationship in some way, whether it conjures a memory or sets the stage for your future together.
Here are some ideas that might work for your proposal.
1. A Charm Bracelet
Pick out a few charms that represent specific moments in your relationship. Then, the two of you can add to the bracelet in the years to come as you experience more milestones together.
2. A Memento From Your Relationship
Do you still have the first note you slipped each other across the classroom table? Or the sweater your partner lent you on your very first date? Give the item back to your partner as you describe how your relationship has grown.
3. A Ring On A Necklace
If you still want to get your partner a ring, but you want to present it in a non-traditional way, thread it onto a necklace they can wear around their neck.
4. A Family Heirloom
Ask around in your family to see if someone has an old item, like a piece of jewelry or a keepsake you can gift your partner. Since they'll be joining your family now, this heirloom will hold a special significance.
You can never go wrong with a bouquet of your sweetheart's favorite flowers. If you want to make them last, press and dry them in a journal to keep and remember the moment.
6. Birthstone Jewelry
Birthstone gems are often less expensive than diamonds, while still very personal. Pick out a necklace or earrings with your partner’s specific stone. You can even find a spot on whatever item you buy to engrave their birthday, or the date of your proposal.
7. Plane Tickets
Been dreaming about taking a big vacation together? Skip the expense of a ring and splurge on plane tickets for the two of you.
8. A Charity Donation
If your partner really cherishes a certain cause, your proposal is the ideal occasion to donate whatever you can in their name.
9. A Piece Of Art
If you’re an artist, or you know someone who is, consider designing a customized painting, sculpture, or photograph to celebrate your love. You can hang it up in your home and bring it with you as you move into future homes throughout your life together.
10. A Photo Album
Get crafty by organizing photographs of time you and your partner have spent together during your relationship. You can write sweet captions beside each one about the memories you made that day. Don’t forget to leave a section of the scrapbook open so you can use it for wedding photos.
11. Handwritten Letters
If you start planning this proposal several months in advance, start writing letters to your partner every time you make a special memory together. Write about specific reasons you love your SO (you can even pen one letter for every favorite quality about them), then save the letters to give them during the proposal.
12. A Ring Tattoo
If you and your partner have thought about getting matching tattoos, consider getting one on your ring fingers in place of actual wedding and engagement rings. For the proposal, bring a note that invites your partner to a tattoo appointment you've already made.
13. A Down Payment Or Rent
Investing in your future shows how serious you are about building a life together. Put a sum of money down toward a new home to signify your commitment — either a down payment on a house, or first month's rent and a deposit on a new apartment. If you've already chosen a place, take your partner there to surprise them for the proposal. If you want to choose your home together, write a note about your planned gift and an invitation to go house hunting together.
14. A Pet
Obviously, you shouldn’t surprise your partner with a pet unless you’ve discussed that you’re both ready for one. But if you have, this could be a sweet way to mark the start of this new phase of life together.
15. A Ring Box
Maybe you’re planning on getting a ring one day, but now just isn’t the right time. In that case, a ring box represents the jewelry you’ll buy when you're ready, once you can put more time and resources toward that investment. Inside the box, you can put a more affordable ring, a paper or string ring, or even a ring pop for a sweet surprise.
Regardless of the item you choose to propose with, what matters most is that the two of you want to spend your lives together. Money (or flashy rings) can’t buy happiness or true love. What you've already got is worth more than gold.