When a couple chooses to call off their wedding, there are many practical as well as emotional implications. Today, we address the engagement ring: who keeps it?
My fiancé and I have decided to call off our wedding by mutual agreement. Am I now expected to return my engagement ring? Please advise.
-Samantha in Florida
Thank you for writing. I’m sorry to hear about your wedding. I know this must have been a difficult decision, and I wish you all the best going forward.
Depending on your circumstances, this question can be viewed as either a legal question or a question of propriety and etiquette.
From a legal point of view, some states consider an engagement ring to be like any gift — the property of the person who receives it — so the bride is under no obligation to return it. However, many states consider the engagement ring a conditional gift, meaning that when the promise of the wedding does not take place, the ring should be returned to the person that purchased it. I believe Florida law considers the engagement ring a conditional gift, but I am not a legal expert.
From an etiquette point of view, the circumstances of a broken engagement will determine if an engagement ring is returned. When the gentleman purchases the ring, he traditionally relinquishes it if he ends the engagement, though the woman many choose to return it to him. If the woman cancels the engagement, it is considered correct for her to give back the ring. If a couple shared the cost of the ring, then the one who keeps the ring should refund the other person’s money, or they might sell the ring and split the proceeds.
Engagements end for many different reasons, so this is a situation where you must let reason and your conscience be your guide. Since the decision was mutual, my opinion is that the bride should return the ring, assuming it was purchased by the ex-groom. Would she really want to keep a ring that was given to symbolize a pledge to marry?
Personally, I feel it’s usually best to return the ring, no matter the circumstances — best to start with a clean slate and move forward with a clear conscience.
Please let me know what you think.
If you have questions or comments about this post, or about gift giving, bridal shower, baby shower, or wedding etiquette, please comment below or email AskCheryl@RegistryFinder.com.
Questions in this column are received from readers. They may be edited for spelling, length and grammar, or to remove sensitive information. However, we are careful not to alter the intent or content of the question.
Cheryl Seidel is an etiquette writer and the founder of RegistryFinder.com, an intuitive search engine that helps gift givers quickly and easily find online registries for weddings, baby showers, graduations and more.