Q: My husband and I are divorcing after 11 months of marriage, and I’ll be seeking an annulment (it was a Roman Catholic wedding). I researched and saw that Emily Post has a (now dated) opinion of returning case gifts if a marriage lasts less than a year. I am finding that “modern” opinions vary widely. What is current etiquette?
A: I am sure that this is a sad and difficult time for you both and that you don’t need to add more worry or stress. From a practical point of view, it is not necessary to return your wedding gifts, cash or otherwise. Since you and your husband lived together for 11 months, you have probably used most of your wedding gifts. It doesn’t make any sense to return used gifts or, after this much time, to go to the trouble and expense to send back unused gifts, either. You and your husband should consider your wedding gifts, including the cash, as part of your household effects and divide them as you would your other marital assets. The time when wedding gifts should be returned is when a wedding is canceled, the couple never lives together or the couple separates and seeks to end the marriage almost immediately (say, within two or three months). In such cases, including cash are returned (presumably they haven’t been used or spent) with a short note of explanation. Another difficult question is what to do with the engagement ring. It can also be considered a gift and part of the couple’s assets and treated accordingly — “You keep the ring, I’ll take the piano” — or sold and the proceeds shared. Others believe the ring is a gift and belongs solely to the bride. But, in the case of an heirloom — whether jewelry, furniture or artwork — it ideally goes back to the family it came from.
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