There are no strict formalities when it comes to proving the existence of a valid engagement. All that is required is for the proposal of marriage to be accepted. Getting engaged demonstrates to the world, a couple's intention to marry each other at some stage in their life. Often this is a time when all the planning and preparation for the 'Big Day' is done. There may also be significant expenses, which are incurred.
After all this build up and preparation towards the Big Day, what happens if one of the parties gets cold feet and does not want to get married. Apart from the actual wedding expenses which may have been already been paid for what about the humiliation or embarrassment that the other person may now be subjected to.
Can the person who was dumped sue In the past the aggrieved person would have been entitled to have a claim for breach of promise based on delict and contract. A delictual claim is where a person sues for the damages and all the hurt suffered and the contractual claim is compensation for the actual financial expenses incurred towards the wedding.
Breach of promise claims are not found in any legislation and has been used through the common law Our common law therefore evolves with the changing mores and norms of the society in which we live. This is exactly how the Supreme Court of Appeal viewed the case of Van Jaarsveld v Bridges in 2010 when it dismissed a woman's claim for sentimental damages based on a breach of promise to marry.
This leading case saw a significant shift in how our courts now view these breach of promise actions. The Supreme Court of Appeal said that the time has come for our common law to be developed to take into account that the changing values of our society. Harms J said "I do believe the time has arrived to recognize that engagements are outdated and do not recognize the mores of our time, and that public policy considerations require that our courts must reassess the law relating to breach of promise".
In 2013, in the case of Cloete v Maritz where a woman sued her fiancÈ for breach of promise, the judge confirmed the Van Jaarsveld decision and said that whilst there would be a valid claim for actual expenses incurred due to the preparation for a wedding, no delictual claim was allowed for sentimental damages suffered.
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