Breach of Promise to Marry Laws

These laws are admittedly no longer on the books, but when I came across this article, I couldn't resist dredging up the past.

The way that these laws worked, is by essentially creating a right to sue the man who breached his promise to marry a woman. The basis for this rule was that couples might act as though they were married after the engagement, but before the wedding. Thus, if the engagement was broken off, the maid might no longer be considered "suitable" for marriage to another man. Thus, in order to ensure that eligible bachelor's didn't go around promising to marry various young women and then breaking off the engagement after spoiling their chastity, the laws created an enforceable right.

Then, during the 1930s and 1940s, the legal tide shifted, and states began to do away with these "antiquated" laws. At around the same time, according to one legal scholar's studies, the rise in diamond engagement rings skyrocketed. She attributes this increase into the notion that the diamond began to represent a sort of collateral to ensure that the marriage would be carried out with. As the logic goes, a man would be less likely to leave a woman whom he has invested so much of his savings into by purchasing such a token, and conversely that if he did bolt, the woman would be at least in part compensated.

Marriage is one of the types of promises you learn cannot be enforced under Contract Law within the first week of classes. So much for the romantic notion of a diamond being forever!

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