Engagement Ring Etiquette

The most recent celebrity dispute over engagement ring ownership stems an old debate: “Who keeps the ring if the engagement is broken off?” Clearly Jesse James and Kat Von D were madly, desperately in love when he popped the question with a $50,ooo  Neil Lane engagement ring. Now, the wedding is off and apparently so are the gloves. He said she needs to return the ring, she said he cheated, he said it was intended for her to keep only if they got married, she said “No way!”  Much like  the Kardashian/ Humphries debacle (although the wedding clearly took place in the latter example) this is another example of bad judgement and bad manners. To Kim K’s credit, she has offered to buy back the $2 million ring from her husband of 2 months…. it turns out she made arrangements for this in the pre-nup.

Etiquette dictates  the rule as follows: If the man breaks off the engagement, the woman keeps the ring. If the woman stops short of the altar, the groom-NOT-to-be keeps the rock.  Size doesn’t matter, whether  it is a 20 carat ring or a diamond chip, the rules still apply. There is only one exception to this rule: family heirlooms. If  he hands you his grandmother’s ring (the one she wore while your grandfather was stationed overseas in WWII, anxiously awaiting his return so they could being their lives together) you are obligated by the laws of morality and kindness to give it back to him.

However, the legal system doesnt always agree with the rules of etiquette. There are a mutitude of cases where the courts have ruled in favor of one party or another, whether they were they were at fault or not. This begs the question, “Why would you want to keep a reminder of a soured relationship?” Because legally, acceptance of the ring represents a binding contract according to legal experts specializing in these type of pre-matrimonial disputes.  Another legal twist occurs when ring was given as a present for a birthday or Christmas. In this case the law in most states declare the ring to be a gift and treated as such.

For me, spending this kind of negative energy and paying lawyers to settle things is a waste of time. However, if I found myself in a relationship where the groom-to-be was  repeater cheater, abuser or basic jackass and it had to be ended (mid-engagement) … I would probably keep the ring and defend myself in court if need be, sans lawyer.

What do you think?

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago