For many, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to pop the question: Will you marry me? And for others, it’s the time when they say yes. But what happens if they change their minds?
Engagement and the law
Accepting a marriage proposal indicates an intention to marry. But an engagement doesn’t change the civil status of the future spouses. There are no laws on marriage proposals as there are for getting married.
So, people who accept a marriage proposal can always change their minds before the wedding.
Arranging a wedding takes time and is expensive. Cancelling a wedding, especially at the last minute, can also be expensive.
In theory, people can sue their former partners for the cost of cancelling the wedding, such as cancellation fees for the reception hall. But they must prove that the last-minute change of mind is a fault. This means they must prove that a reasonable person in the same situation would have acted differently, and that’s not easy! Cases like this rarely reach the courts.
Who gets the ring?
A marriage proposal often comes with an engagement ring. Must the ring be returned if there’s a change of mind?
In principle, the person who gets the ring becomes the owner as soon as they receive it. The law usually treats it as a gift. Nothing says it must be returned. But nothing prevents a person from giving it back either, if it eases the person’s conscience.
Did you know . . . Home insurance doesn’t necessarily cover the full value of expensive jewellery. So, it’s a good idea to insure the engagement ring separately!