Whoops. One of the many mishaps that can befall a ring before engagement or marriage (or sometimes after).
A guy proposes to his girl. She accepts. The music swells. It's all very sweet. He produces the ring, and puts it on her left ring finger. It should be that simple. It never is. This trope is about the wacky mishaps that can happen to a ring, the guy planning to offer it, or the woman who may be accepting it.
The trope is often suspended or blown off in animation because of recycling shots and budget considerations. So engaged and/or married characters don't tend to have visible rings. On the occasions when someone in an animated show has a ring they bothered to draw, it's usually a clue that the ring is a MacGuffin or an Artifact of Doom or that the engagement is going to fail for one reason or another.
Engagement ring tropes:
The guy worries that he cannot find or afford the ring of his girl's dreams.
The ring is hidden and somebody else finds it, believing it's for them, and the hapless guy has to get it back without upsetting the woman who has found it.
The ring is an heirloom.
The ring is a fake.
The ring is part of a big presentation over dinner. It'll be at the bottom of a champagne flute or on the dessert plate. Nine times out of ten, this results in the unsuspecting woman swallowing the ring whole.
The ring is part of a big presentation at a sporting event, and the popped question shows up on the lighted jumbotron, to the delight or dismay of the person being asked.
The guy doesn't have a ring, but he wants to propose anyway. He improvises with a cigar band or a ring that's not meant for that purpose, or anything that will fit on her finger. (For added humor, sometimes this ersatz ring won't come off afterward).
The Rich Bitch or Gold Digger will announce outright she won't settle for anything less than a huge diamond.
The wedding ring, in many western countries, is worn on the left hand due to an archaic belief that the ring finger of the left hand has a vein that leads directly to the heart. Some old folk tales say that if a woman wears any ring on that finger while a maiden, she will never marry.
See also Old, New, Borrowed and Blue for when the engagement ring does make it all the way to the wedding. At which point then we get wedding ring tropes:
Wedding ring tropes:
Did the best man remember the rings?
He did, all is well.
He didn't, we'll have to improvise!
A woman knows the gorgeous, sweet man she's falling for is married because she can see the tan line around where he took off his wedding ring so he could go cruising for women.
A frightened wife or nervous person will twirl their wedding ring around and around. (Sometimes it happens with a ring that isn't marriage related.)
The Discredited Trope version: a woman is washing the dishes without her yellow rubber gloves on, and the wedding ring goes down the drain. Cue panicked call to the plumber.
Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle when bride and groom come from different cultures wherein the ring is not worn on the hand each expects it to be worn upon.
The ring is fake.
The ring is stolen.
The claddagh, known colloquially as the Irish Wedding Ring, is worn with the heart pointing toward the wearer if they are married (crown pointing away); and with the heart pointing away from the wearer if they are available. Similarly, Hawaiian tradition indicates a woman is spoken for if she wears a flower behind her left ear, rather than a ring.
The widow finger is the opposite finger. A woman or man whose spouse has died switches the ring to the opposite hand. Hilarity Ensues in situations where wearing a wedding ring on the "wrong" hand is considered a tell for being gay and on the make. Widows also occasionally wear their wedding ring around their neck on a chain.
Damaged relationship ring tropes:
Cuckolded spouses may destroy the ring, pawn it, or give it away as if it were a worthless trinket. Usually in this case, it's a female destroying the ring.
Divorcees may, to celebrate the final dissolution of the marriage, smash their wedding ring with a sledgehammer.
An engaged woman may toss the ring down a sewer or the drain or the toilet if she believes she's been cheated on.
On rare occasions, the engaged woman will put the ring back in the box and give it back, as is appropriate etiquette-wise for when an engagement is broken.
The woman will also just hand back the ring when the engagement breaks, etiquette-wise, if it's an "at the altar" thing.
There are of course, ring tropes that don't revolve around the wedding and marriage, which may also fit under this catch-all trope involving rings.
See also Lost Wedding Ring.
The Young Justice Fanfic "With This Ring" is found here.
There's a commercial where the best man loses the ring just before the ceremony, and he and the groom rack their brains over it and start searching themselves, leading to the best man having to strip near naked before the thing is found. He and the groom whoop for joy, and celebrate with a hug, and then the bride and everyone sees them...
An Air New Zealand commercial from the mid-2000's had a guy, after three failed proposal attempts, fly his girlfriend to Sydney and propose to her in a hot air balloon. When he gets down on one knee, he accidentally flings the engagement ring overboard and into the Sydney Harbour below.
Hayate the Combat Butler takes a full swing at this trope in The End Of The World flashback arc. While he was a kid, Hayate worked hard and finally was able to buy a ring for Athena. Unfortunately, it's a ring for an adult, so their six-year-old forms can't wear them yet. Athena responds by offering Hayate a similar ring, and the vows and rings are exchanged and they promise to marry when they get older. Hayate then goes and gives the ring he got to his parents, who take and sell it to a pawn shop. Athena gets angry at Hayate when he returns later, presumably having seen what happened.
The ring is later seen by Yukiji, given how it's priced, it seems possible that the ring is a fake.
The ring that Athena kept a hold of returns to the story when the group makes a trip out to Athens during their Golden Week vacation. First it's admired, and then left out in the open, by her when she's seen Hayate again, not having known where he was for the intervening years. Then Hayate notices it and picks it up. She also gave the ring-box (empty) to Nagi, his current master before she disappears at the end of the arc.
It's not seen when he gives it back, but Athena later shows it as proof that it is her when he's questioning his sight.
In Define Normal, for their mock marriage, Skylar proposes to Emily with the amethyst ring that Emily wears all the time.
Rurouni Kenshin: One episode of the anime featured a man who bought a ring to propose to his loved one but then he saw her with another man, misunderstood and threw it away. When he learned the other man was just an old friend, he tried to kill himself and that's when Sanosuke saw him. Fortunately, Sasuke recognized the ring as the one Kenshin found inside a fish he caught. Unfortunately, Megumi saw Kenshin with the ring and thought he intended to propose to kaoru and then pushed him into giving it to her (it was the proper Japanese Holiday for this kind of thing). Until being told the story, Kenshin thought Kaoru took it as a birthday gift. When he learned the truth, he was too scared to resemble the legendary man-slayer.
Back before the One More Day nightmare in Spider-Man, when Mary Jane was missing and presumed dead, Peter Parker switched his wedding band to the widower finger. This resulted in an amusing misunderstanding when a guy hit on him, mistaking him for being gay.
Pre-crisis Superman squeezed a lump of coal into a diamond so he could propose to Lois. No ring, but, that's impressive enough.
Post-crisis Superman had a message to Lois and an S-shield engraved on the inside of the diamond.
Clark: You'll need an electron microscope to see it though.
Lois: I was wondering what we'd do for fun on our honeymoon.
Kyle Rayner, however, did it anyway, since he had a spare ring to hand.
He sort of tacked the proposal on at the end of an invitation for Jade to become another Green Lantern (her natural powers had been lost several dozen issues previous), though. And she did turn down the marriage proposal, although she kept the ring.
The Corps rules don't apply to Alan Scott, since he's not an official member. And he did (temporarily) give his ring to Molly Maynne when he (finally - and impulsively) married her. (Presumably it was promptly replaced by an ordinary wedding band.)
In the New 52 reboot of Earth 2, Alan got engaged just before the horrific train accident where his lover was killed and he was given his powers. The engagement ring, now a Tragic Keepsake, became his power ring.
In the Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continuity, Casey Jones starts to propose to April with a ring his grandmother gave him...which the Foot promptly shows up and steals, because it's a magical artifact. Casey panics, but April makes a ring out of a flower and gives it to him, telling him to please continue.
The Batman Adventures #16, a comic book based on Batman: The Animated Series, had a story in which Harley Quinn convinces the Joker to marry her by claiming she has inherited a fortune. When he proposes, without any ring, she snaps, "What kind of a floozy do you think I am? After all these years, you better have a ring!" He improvises by pulling the ring out of a hand grenade and putting it on her finger, leading to 'fireworks' behind them as they kiss. In a deranged sort of way, as you might expect from that pair, it was actually kind of heartwarming.
In Batman and the Outsiders, Sapphire Stagg was abducted from her wedding to Metamorpho. After she was rescued, best man Geo-Force admitted he had lost the rings during the battle. Metamorpho used his powers to form two gold rings out of his body so the wedding could go ahead.
Nightwing (2011) finds Nightwing rescuing an old circus acquaintance from his crazed, demon summoning ex fiancee Zohna, who was using the ring Jimmy had proposed with to fuel an unholy soul binding ceremony. Once Nightwing rescued him, Jimmy tossed the ring down a sewer grate.
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan: In the reality where Jon never became Dr. Manhattan, he proposes to Janey by hiding a ring inside a stuffed bear he arranges for her to win at a carnival sideshow.
The Fantastic Four movie ends with Reed proposing to Sue with a washer from their space station, because he's too poor to afford anything else, and it's a symbol of him trying not to be so absorbed in his big brain science. In the sequel, Reed has made good financially, and Sue is wearing one heck of a giant, shiny rock.
In Dead Again, Mike Church tries to ascertain whether Grace is spoken for by asking her how she wears her Claddagh. She puts it on in the "married" position, much to his dismay.
In Armageddon, Rockhound puts the mack on a beautiful blonde by informing her the big diamond wedding ring she's wearing isn't the real thing.
In Spider-Man 3, Peter gets an heirloom ring from Aunt May so he can propose to Mary Jane. Then the ring gets knocked out of his hands in an attack, multiple stories above the city, and he has to chase it before it hits the ground and is lost forever. Later, he arranges for the ring to turn up at the bottom of a champagne glass, but he's been Mr. Oblivious, and MJ gives up on him before he can propose.
Hannah gives back Colin's engagement ring when Tom nearly concusses himself to be honest with her and tell her he loves her in Made Of Honor.
Four Weddings and a Funeral: Not only is Charles late to the wedding where he is the best man, but he's also forgotten the rings. His friends quickly supply him with replacements: a ring with a huge, brightly coloured heart for the bride and a silver skull ring for the groom.
In Disney's Robin Hood, Robin gives Marian a flower twisted into the shape of a ring.
In the film version of Rent, Maureen proposes to Joanne using one of many rings she wears on her fingers.
In the original Dawn of the Dead Stephen proposes to Francine in the classic over dinner way. She simply hands back the ring saying "It wouldn't be real."
In Corpse Bride, this trope kickstarts the entire plot. Victor has the ring he's going to give to Victoria at their wedding, but he has a nervous breakdown at the rehearsal and runs into the woods to practice his wedding vows. Unfortunately, the "branch" he hung the ring on while reciting his vows turned out to be a dead girl's finger and, well, see the film's title.
In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ulysses's goal is to reconcile with his estranged wife, who tells him he needs to find her old engagement ring if he wants her back. After passing through near-literal hell and entirely literal high water to find it, he is told that it's the wrong one.
In Apollo 13, Jim Lovell's wife Marilyn loses her wedding ring down the shower drain on the morning of his launch and understandably panics.
Invoked twice in Everyone Says I Love You- Holden first proposes to Schuyler by getting the waiter to put the engagement ring in her favourite dessert during a romantic dinner at a restaurant. She tucks into dessert so enthusiastically, she swallows the ring before Holden can propose. Later in the film when they get back together at Halloween, he puts the ring in a box of crackerjacks and she swallows it again.
In True Lies Helen Tasker moved her wedding set from her left hand to her right. She did it at first because she was pretending to be a prostitute. She left it there after finding out the hard way her husband is a spy who's been lying to her their entire marriage. Once he rescues her, though, he remarks that her ring is on the wrong finger. He replaces it on her finger as they make up.
In Muppets Most Wanted an impostor pretending to be Kermit proposes to Piggy with a huge black diamond ring. It turns out to be a bomb with a countdown display when the fake is found out and then the Muppets have trouble getting the ring off Piggy's plump fingers.
In a classic scene from The Bob Newhart Show (season 4), Howard proposes to Ellen in a restaurant with friends and family present. The seating arrangement at the semi-circular table is so awkward that Howard must pass the ring to Carol's dull as dishwater blind date from hell. It is he who then slips the ring on Ellen's finger. Ellen accepts and says the ring is lovely, to which Carol's date responds with an emphatic "Thank you!".
In the The 10th Kingdom, conflict arises when Wolf spends all his money on a magic engagement ring with a sentient, singing pearl on top. Virginia is upset that he didn't use the money to buy the mirror they've been chasing the entire series.
Chuck: Chuck manages to lose the engagement ring Awesome planned to give to Ellie.
Technically, he didn't lose it, it was stolen...along with literally everything else in the Buy More.
On Just Shoot Me!, Elliot plans to propose to Maya during dinner, but the ring gets stuck on Dennis' toe. (He was in the tub pretending that his feet were getting married.)
Friends: Any time a wedding ring enters the story, something happens to it.
When Ross proposes to Emily, he doesn't have a ring. He tries to use his hoop earring, but it's too small for her finger.
When Ross gives the ring meant for Emily to Joey during his bachelor party, it goes missing. They hunt down the stripper, thinking she stole it. Turns out the duck had eaten it.
When Phoebe and Chandler locate the ring Chandler wants to give Monica, Chandler has to go back home to get his credit card off Joey. Phoebe is left behind to guard the ring, but unfortunately fails to stop it being sold to another man and Chandler ends up with a pretty ring but one he feels is completely wrong for Monica. Together they hunt down the man and convince him to swap rings so that Chandler ends up with the ring he originally wanted.
Just after the wedding ceremony, Chandler and Monica have a moment alone while the photographer is setting up, and as they pull away from their kiss, Chandler's ring goes flying off his finger. Turns out the ring doesn't fit properly.
When Emma is born, Janice freaks out Rachel into believing she'll have to raise Emma alone. Ross was carrying his grandmother's ring which falls out of his jacket when he leaves the room. Joey notices and drops to one knee to pick up the ring. When Rachel speaks, he spins round, and when she sees him on one knee, ring in hand, she assumes he's proposing and immediately accepts. It takes the entire episode to clean up the confusion.
Cheers: Sam forms A Simple Plan to buy Diane a knockoff ring. He ends up spending thousands of dollars covering for the plan, then ends up buying the real ring anyway, only to have Diane discard it, thinking it's the fake.
ER has one of the women losing her engagement ring in the drain. Romano later retrieves it with an endoscope.
Two and a Half Men: Charlie, planning to propose to Chelsea, puts the engagement ring in her champagne glass. She downs the whole thing in one gulp.
In Mash, Margaret loses her ring and when Klinger is unable to recover it, he gets a replica made. She finds out because the inscription is wrong.
When Max is finally going to propose to Fran on The Nanny, he gets mugged outside the theater and the ring is stolen. They seal the engagement with the pull-tab from a beer can until he can get a replacement. The huge and expensive replacement comes from Cartier. Max didn't want to buy anything cheaper than that.
Roswell: In the series finale, Max steals a trick from Superman and turns coal into diamond so he has a ring to propose to Liz with.
Battlestar Galactica. Bill Adama still wears his wedding ring, even though he's long divorced and his ex-wife was killed in the destruction of the Colonies. But when Laura Roslin dies, he finally takes off the ring and places it on her finger.
The Korean Drama To Marry a Millionaire is about a scam reality show where a bunch of women are supposed to be conned into thinking they are getting a chance to marry a millionaire (a la Joe Millionaire). The guy is actually a delivery guy for a noodle shop. One of the women is someone he knew in high school he is carrying a torch for. She knows who he really is, but she needs the money they offered to do the show, so she stays with it. He is supposed to offer her a fancy diamond ring, but instead he buys the most expensive thing he can personally afford (a very cheap ring) and offers her the ring he bought instead. Much drama ensues, he gets the ring back, makes a ton of money and proposes to her again with the cheap ring at their old high school.
Babylon 5: When John Sheridan proposes to Delenn (by showing her the ring he 'picked up down in the Zocalo', possibly from the crane-grab machine) we get a Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle with a sci-fi twist - being from an alien culture she has no idea what an engagement ring is and stands there looking bemused and stroking the ring box while he explains. Very smooth.
He also describes the ring as a "down payment," which it technically sort of is.
Similarly to the Fantastic Four movie ring example above, when Captain Sisko proposes to Yates on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he uses what appears to be a table-stand-washer from the model house he's building. Though to be honest, he seems to have planned it and it could have been an actual engagement ring that had just been hidden there for convenience.
In Being Human (Remake), Sally is killed when she freaks out about having lost her engagement ring down the drain. Her fiancÚ thinks that she deliberately 'lost' it down the drain.
In The Golden Girls, Stan proposes to Dorothy by hiding the engagement ring in a potato, referring to his baked potato opener invention.
Angel gives Buffy a claddagh ring for her 17th birthday, explaining the different meanings in how you wear it, with obvious romantic overtones. The scene actually caused a boost in popularity for claddagh rings in real life.
The dual purpose of a claddagh ring is used brutally the following season when a boy who fancies Buffy gives her one as a sign of friendship; Buffy naturally freaks out over this sudden reminder of her doomed romance with Angel.
During "Something Blue", Spike gives Buffy his gothic punk ring after Willow's "My Will Be Done Spell" makes them get engaged, since it's the only one he has on hand. Interestingly, she never gives it back when the spell is broken.
When Alice and Hugo get married on The Vicar of Dibley, Jim forgets the rings. They substitute what looks to be a pair of circular corn chips.
In point of fact, they're Hula Hoops. Which, actually, match perfectly with Alice'spersonality.
In the French and Saunders parody of "November Rain" (see below), Dawn-as-Slash pretends to have lost the ring, then extends her middle finger, rather than pinky. Also, the ring has a skull on it.
Subverted in How I Met Your Mother: Ted and Robin are having dinner at a nice restaurant, and they order champaign. Robin sees the ring at the bottom of the glass and freaks out... while Ted protests that he didn't put the ring there. A man at a nearby table apologizes and explains the ring should have gone in the champaigne meant for him and his soon-to-be-fiancee. Ted and Robin realize that her reaction indicates that they probably aren't meant to be together in the long run.
In Peep Show, Mark was going to propose to Sophie on a romantic weekend. On getting lost at night in the countryside and being afraid he will die of cold, Mark realises that he doesn't have to marry Sophie, he is free, he can do anything he wants. Slight damper when Sophie finds the ring in his luggage and accepts the non-proposal (I'm not getting any younger). Will Mark manage to get out of the engagement before the wedding? See the next series. No.
Midsomer Murders: In "Schooled In Murder", Barnaby buys a ring for his wife for their 15th anniversary. However, while distracted by Jones, he accidentally feeds the ring to his dog Sykes. He then has to fabricate reasons to keep the dog with him till he can, um, retrieve it.
Night Court, "Dan's Escort": A wealthy older widow on a date with Dan Fielding relates how her then-impoverished husband proposed to her with a ring made of gum wrappers. Fifty years later, the husband's anniversary present to her was... a ring made of gum wrappers, that he delayed a board meeting to finish.
Nine Chickweed Lane did a fakeout on the readers by making it appear Amos had bought an engagement ring. It was really a Captain Midnight decoder ring. Whether it turns out to be an engagement ring anyway remains to be seen.
In Hikari's case, when the protagonist will inadvertently take it to use as a selling item for the School's Festival Small Item Shop, he will go to great lengths to get it back and give it back to Hikari once he realizes his blunder, leading to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming ; and in the Drama CD Tokimeki Memorial 2 Blooming Stories : Hikari Hinomoto, we get to discover that the ring was Hikari's support during the time the protagonist was far from her, often talking to it like a confidant of her feelings.
The ending of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, in which Alexander weds Cassima, varies slightly depending on what Alexander's done with his royal insignia ring. To be more specific, did he get it back from the pawn shop, and did he send it to her via the pet nightingale earlier? So there could be no ring, he gives it to her, or she produces it herself.
Dominic Deegan sacrificed his highly crafted artificial leg to get a rare and precious gemstone with which to propose to Luna, which she herself noted was a type typically put into rings. She wears it around her neck rather than on a ring.
Later Lars (who's secretly fallen in love with Agatha) puts a wedding ring on her finger when she has a dinner date with the local prince in case he has lecherous intentions. Agatha misses the symbolism, remarking innocently that "people keep giving me rings".
The ring (as Lars actually says to Abner when he questions Lars's line that it's 'kept him out of trouble') does end up being important, as it folds out into a lockpick, which comes in handy when the Prince's intentions are even less-honorable than anyone in the Circus suspected.
In Captain SNES, Sabin loses the rings for Locke and Celes's wedding. Well, actually, Locke, a very literal Kleptomaniac Hero (that's TREASURE HUNTING hero!), was so nervous that he pocketed them on sheer impulse and promptly forgot that he had done so.
In a flashback episode of The Simpsons Marge's original engagement ring is repossessed, and Homer is so ashamed at being unable to provide for her that he leaves her, but continues to mail her money with no return address. When she finally manages to track him down to the crummy fast food place he's working at he re-proposes with an onion ring. Marge is touched, but then asks if she can take it off, since it's burning her finger. Homer takes it off, but then he eats it.
There was a similar event when Mr. Burns proposed to Marge's mother. He put the ring in her champagne glass, but she swallowed it. Luckily, he had a back-up ring in the fondue.
In Futurama, Bender steals the engagement ring Lars gave Leela and replaces it with an exact duplicate.
Bender: In fact, I think the fake cost more than this ring. Don't get me wrong, this is very nice, but I really went all out. It's sort of my gift to them.
On Gargoyles, Goliath and Demona watch the prince get married, and Goliath comments on the strange human custom of exchanging rings. Demona then decides to imitate the practice by breaking the Phoenix Gate in half, giving him one piece and offering to always keep her own.
In the Disney short Tangled Ever After: Maximus sneezes and sends the wedding rings flying a few minutes before they are needed.