Who keeps the engagement ring if one of the biggest events of your life — your wedding day — is suddenly called off? It can be an extremely emotional time. There are a lot of feelings swirling around, not the least of which have to do with that expensive little piece of jewelry that was given to the bride-to-be to solidify the engagement. Now that there is to be no wedding, who gets to keep the ring?
What is the Engagement Ring Worth?
In terms of dollars and cents, the typical engagement ring costs more than $5,000. For some couples, the number goes much higher. In addition to the fiscal note, the ring doubtlessly has some serious feelings associated with it. Originally a symbol of love and promise, in may now signify anger, resentment, and pain. A jilted bride may wish to keep it, not for sentimental reasons, but as a final jab at her former love. Likewise, a groom who is no longer going to be heading for church bells may want to steal away with the symbol of his affections in order to ensure the finality of the break. Fighting over possession of the ring could cost you, both in terms of legal fees and in terms of further emotional damage. You need to think about just how far you are willing to push the issue if you are considering going to battle over the ring.
Who Cancelled the Wedding?
When it comes to the legal wrangling, understand that the matter of who gets the ring is a civil matter. The court will have to make a determination as to the nature of the gift.
Normally, recipients of a gift are entitled to keep it if the relationship ends. In the case of an engagement ring, however, we move into new territory. That is because an engagement ring is usually considered a conditional gift. The ring was given, the court might reason, with the understanding that the giver expected marriage in return. In the event that there is no wedding, the giver should be entitled to take possession of the ring.
In fact, California Civil Code 1590 states clearly that if the person receiving the ring backs out before the wedding day, the giver of the ring may recover it.
On the other hand, if the giver of the ring gets cold feet, the recipient may be able to keep it. This is based on Simonian v. Donoian, a 1950 case in which a couple became engaged and the man presented his fiancé with an engagement ring. In addition to the ring, the prospective groom’s mother gave his fiancé a diamond watch. When the gentleman called off the wedding indefinitely, the rejected bride felt she should be able to keep the “gifts.” The court agreed, finding that the promise of marriage was breached through no fault of hers. Continue reading →