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Case Study Revisited

Returning to the dilemma faced by the boy and the girl, supra, under United States law today, the girl will be entitled to the return of the gold watch, since it was given to the boy in contemplation of their upcoming marriage. Likewise, the boy will be entitled to the return of the engagement ring under that same theory.

Based upon the facts presented, girl’s parents will not be entitled to recover the deposit monies they paid toward the boy and the girl’s wedding, since these monies were paid directly to third-party contractors, and not directly to the boy and to the girl.  While this distinction appears irrelevant, form, and not substance, is most significant. 

Turning to the rights of those third-parties who gave engagement gifts directly to the boy and the girl, it would appear that they will be entitled to the return of such gifts.  Third parties (e.g., relatives and friends) often send gifts in contemplation of the coming marriage.  When the marriage does not take place, these parties can force a return of the gifts, since courts almost always will conclude that such gifts were conditional.

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