If a wedding is called off, must the engagement ring be returned?

Asked on July 31, 2015 under Family Law, Illinois


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

In most jurisdictions, an engagement ring is considered to be a "conditional gift". This means it is a gift given on condition that a future event occur (in this case one given in contemplation of marriage). If the event fails to occur, then the donor has the right to get the gift back. Therefore, if the wedding is called off, the would-be-bride must return the ring.  This is true no matter whose "fault" it was that the marriage did not take place.

That all having been said, in the minority of jurisdictions, fault does matter. The rationale is that it isn't fair that the donor should always get the ring back, especially if the donee was ready, willing and able to go ahead with the wedding and it was who the donor broke it off.


For further information, you can put a call into a local attorney or goggle the issue to find out the law in your state.

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