The Wedding is Off: Now What?

As we approach the end of February, we also approach the end of engagement season. According to WeddingWire, nearly 40% of engagements will happen between the months of November and February. In fact, Valentine’s Day ranks as one of the Top 10 most popular days to get engaged. In spite of best intentions, however, not all engagements (including those on Valentine’s Day) will lead to marriage.

So then the questions include-, what happens if the ring is sized, the reception hall booked, the flowers ordered, the dress purchased, and the wedding is ultimately called off? Who pays what? Who keeps the ring? Can you get your money back?

The average length of engagement in the United States is between 12 and 13 months. During this time couples are eagerly planning every detail of their big day from the center-pieces to the three-tiered wedding cake. With this exciting planning also comes the payment of many deposits and wedding vendor contracts.

The first practical thing that couples who end their engagement should do is try to stop the financial bleeding. Promptly contact the vendors, suppliers, and venues to notify them of the cancelled wedding. The sooner you notify, the more likely you are to recoup any refunds or credits available.

Prior to 2016, Illinois had a “Breach of Promise Act” which addressed who should be responsible for what costs if the wedding did not make it down the aisle. Under this Act, Illinois treated marriage like a contract in which two persons promise to hold up their end of the bargain. As of January 1, 2016, however, Illinois abolished the Breach of Promise Act. Therefore, if you and your ex-fiancé currently live in Illinois, you are out of luck, unless you and your fiancé have devised your own plan to handle engagement expenses.

While many engaged couples enter into a Premarital Agreement, this contract is only valid if the wedding occurs. As such, it will not govern how to deal with engagement expenses when the wedding does not occur. Therefore, engaged couples in Illinois should consider drawing up a written agreement that addresses how to handle the wedding expenditures if the wedding never comes to fruition.

What about the engagement ring? Diamonds may be forever, but sometimes engagements are not. What happens to the bling after the wedding bells are called off? Generally, in Illinois a ring is considered a gift. However, an engagement ring also comes with the condition of the promise to get married. Thus, when a person does not perform on their promise, they are not entitled to keep the consideration for said promise, i.e. the ring. Therefore, under current law in Illinois, if the wedding is called off the engagement ring should be returned to its purchaser.

While everyone hopes that their fairytale will last forever, when your plan to say “I do” becomes “I don’t,” we hope this blog will help you navigate through your broken engagement.


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Mackenzie A. Ditch

About Mackenzie A. Ditch

Mackenzie A. Ditch is an Associate at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP. Using her educational background in tax, business, and family law, Ms. Ditch focuses her practice on complex financial matters, intricate legal issues, and child custody disputes. She works with her clients to create goals and objectives, discuss available options, and form efficient and effective plans for representation. Ms. Ditch believes that mutual trust and effective communication is the key to a productive attorney-client relationship, and prides herself on being an approachable resource to all clients.

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