Wedding Ideas

Who Should Keep the Ring From a Broken Engagement?

Posted on February 08, 2015 by Denise Potter

Who Should Keep the Ring From a Broken Engagement? - New Jersey Bride

Sometimes, it doesn’t all go to plan.

In the event that you must break off an engagement, it’s important to know exactly what you’re entitled to. That’s why, when the folks at FindLaw provided us with these interesting survey results, we felt compelled to share them with you. They surveyed 1,000 adults in the U.S. and yielded some surprising statistics:

Left at the altar. Runaway brides. Grooms with cold feet. When a wedding engagement is broken off, it often leaves both with hurt feelings and a leftover engagement ring. A big legal question then becomes: who should get to keep the ring? A new survey from, the most popular legal information website, says both men and women agree – the person who gave the ring should get the ring back.

Seventy-eight percent of Americans feel the person who gave the engagement ring is entitled to keep it, if they want it.

    •    The person who gave the ring should get it back:  78%
    •    The person who received the ring should keep it:  22%

Men and women are mostly in agreement, although women lean slightly more towards the receiver keeping the ring, while men lean slightly more towards the person who gave the ring. Somewhat surprisingly, there is also little difference in opinion between people who are single, married or divorced.

The law is slightly less clear on the matter. Court rulings have varied on whether an engagement ring is considered a conditional or unconditional gift.  Several states, including Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, have adopted a “no-fault” approach and require rings to be returned to the giver in a broken engagement. But other states, such as Montana, classify the engagement ring as an unconditional gift and award the ring to the recipient.  

“For something as seemingly simple as an engagement ring, legal fights over a broken engagement can involve several different areas of the law,” said Stephanie Rahlfs, attorney-editor at “Depending on the circumstances of the engagement and the breaking off of the engagement,  it can bring into play aspects of property law, contract law, and whether the ring is considered as a gift with conditions attached, or even as compensation for a broken engagement. Laws and court rulings have historically varied considerably by state. If a prospective bride or groom has any concerns before they slip that ring on the finger, it pays to check the laws where you live.”

For more information, visit the FindLaw Marriage, Money and Property page.