Faux Pas Finances: Paying for a wedding that’s been called off

Q: My brother just broke off his engagement with his fiance and the problem he faces is financial. His would have been father-in-law is demanding full payment of three things: Her dress, her shoes, and the deposit for the Las Vegas wedding package totaling $2,000.00.

He did not ask for the ring back nor did she give it back. The value of the ring alone would pay for these expenses, but I think everyone’s emotions are clouding everyone’s thought processes.

He is ready to just write a check today, but that is his because he is feeling guilty about hurting her and hurting this family.

What should he do? Request the ring back? Pay for the expenses? Ask for receipts for the expenses?

A: The ring is to be returned, regardless of the circumstances. It is not a gift, but rather a symbol of the engagement. If it ends, it is returned. The responsibility for the costs are his ex-fiancees, but it is always very nice when the former groom-to-be offers to help share the non-refundable costs.  He should request the ring and offer to pay toward the costs, if he is able and willing, once he receives it. And yes, he should ask for receipts before paying a penny. He should not be “guilted” into subsidizing the entire amount or actually any amount, but if he is generously willing to help share the expenses, he needs to be treated honorably in return and be given an accounting of what he is paying toward.

13 Comments

  1. While I agree that returning the ring would be the nice thing to do, EPI is wrong here. Engagement rings are descended from a time when women could only own property in the form of jewelry. The engagement ring was “collateral” – the woman’s to keep, to ensure that, once betrothed, the man would go through with the wedding. In this case, he ended the engagement – and the ring is hers to keep. She is under no etiquette obligation to return it (though if she had ended the engagement I would think she should return it – again, this is descended from a time when a woman would really, really have a lot to lose if a marriage fell through so women didn’t tend to call off weddings).

    I think the brother probably should pay the money the F-I-L is “demanding” (just to get this over with), though I wonder on exactly what grounds this man has any right to demand the brother pay anything? It seems like it is the F-I-L, not the would-be bride, who is behaving badly here.

  2. Jazzgirl205

    This happened to me. It never occured to my family to sue my ex fiance. Why would we? We made the plans and chose the decorations and venue for the wedding ourselves. I did try to return the ring, but he refused.

  3. D

    Emily Post is definitely wrong. An engagement ring is a gift, and it not to be returned because the groom suddenly breaks things off. That’s as if to say, “Here, have this ring, but know the whole time this belongs to me, not you. I own this engagement.” Unbelievable.

  4. Anna

    I was always told the rule is if the man/ giver of ring breaks the engagement, he forfeits the ring. If the woman/ receiver of ring does, she returns it.

  5. alex

    An engagement ring is only a gift if given on a gift giving holiday i.e birthday or christmas if given on a normal day it should be returned and the giver can be granted this demand in court

  6. EvDianne

    Recently, I received a cross necklace from a friend in Bible study. She gave it to me because I had talked about wearing a cross necklace and did not have one. I appreciate her thinking of me and giving me a cross necklace, however, it is a heavy cross and tarnished. She got it at a yard sale as she does not have very much money. I will certainly send her a thank you—but I really do not want to wear it. What do I do? I do not want to hurt her feelings.

    • Alicia

      All you are obligated to do is send a thank you. If she inquires simply say you appreciate it but are saving it for special occasions.

  7. Karen

    Have to agree with EPI here, ESPECIALLY if the cost of the ring would cover these expenses, talk about being able to end this thing simply. If would be FIL wants to be economical about this, he shouldn’t be playing favorites. The ring should be a factor; how are they handling other shared property?

  8. Tiffany

    I Agree that the ring should be returned, as is the law in many US states and Canadian provinces, however I highly disagree that the wedding expenses should fall to the bride and her family.

    Both the bride and groom should be covering the non-refundable costs that have been incurred. The wedding is not solely the brides decisions or responsibility anymore, this is no longer a business arrangement trading the ownership of a person, marriage is a mutual decision and all costs incurred by the dissolution of the engagement.

  9. Danielle

    Legally I thought the engagement ring was to be returned in the event of a broken engagement (regardless of who breaks it) with two exceptions: a proposal on Christmas or a proposal on a birthday.

  10. Betsy

    I agree the ring should be returned unless it was given on Christmas, Valentine’s day, or any other gift giving day. It is just unfair for this to all fall on the groom or the bride. I had this happen to me, I had put the deposits on everything, Hall, caterer, Dj, you name it. I was out over $3k. I lost it all, I had given the ring back cause I was mad, then after a week I called him and said the ring was mine, I wanted it back that it was only fair since I paid for everything else. We even had a joint checking account and he wasn’t working and I would deposit my pay and he would pay his car payment, and insurance, I did not drive at the time. I closed that account because he thought he could keep doing it after we broke up. Good Luck~~

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