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What happens if I break my engagement?

Terminating an engagement amounts to a breach of promise. Claims for breach of promise originated in the common law, which recognised that an aggrieved party had a claim in both the law of contract and the law of delict. Previously, where a person broke off an engagement, the aggrieved party could claim for damages suffered (which described the hurt and humiliation endured by the aggrieved party) and for the financial loss suffered in preparation for the wedding.

 The 2010 Supreme Court of Appeal case of Van Jaarsveld v Bridges shifted the way in which our Courts view breach of promise actions. It is now accepted that a party may not institute a delictual claim for sentimental damages suffered. Instead, a party may only claim for actual expenses incurred in preparation for a wedding. Furthermore, the claim only goes so far as to place the innocent party in the same position that he or she would have been in, had the engagement not been entered into, and not in the position he or she would have been in had the parties gone through with the marriage.

The Courts have indicated that each case must be determined considering the merits of the matter.