You’re Divorced – What’s the Proper Thing to Do with the Ring?

by Claire Valenty on January 1, 2011

in Special Occasion - Weddings, Wedding Etiquette

wedding divorce etiquette

So, happily ever after did not last quite…forever.   Whether you are now divorced or your engagement was called off (or, heavens forbid, you got left at the altar) there are certain rules of etiquette that must be followed in regards to your wedding band and/or engagement ring.  No matter how much you now hate the one you vowed to cherish and love until death do you part (which can’t come soon enough for the other person, in your opinion).  Although a man can now marry a man and woman a woman, to keep the article simple, the example of a man and woman marrying will be used.

Broken Engagement

  • If an engagement is broken up through mutual agreement, the engagement ring should be returned to the man.
  • If an engagement is broken off by the woman, the engagement ring should be returned to the man (as it was given under the condition of marriage, which did not take place).
  • If an engagement is broken off by the man, the engagement ring should be kept by the woman (and she has every right to throw everything else of his still in her possession out on the front lawn).

Not only are the above points proper etiquette, but, they have been proven in a court of law (see Wion v. Henderson, 24 Ohio App. 3d 207, 494 N.E.2d 133 (1985), where the man failed in his attempt to recover the engagement ring after calling off the engagement)!


As an engagement ring is given to a woman as a conditional gift to result in marriage, once the actual wedding has taken place, that ring is hers forever and ever to keep – whether the marriage lasts two days or twenty years.   Looking at it every day might be incredibly painful and throwing it and your wedding band off a cliff might seem like the right thing to do in your heart, but, you are dignified and do what is right; no matter what the circumstances are. Some better options (which, trust me, will make you feel better in the long run and stop some scandalous gossip, as opposed to backing over your rings with your car repeatedly until they’re smashed to oblivion) to follow are:

  • Melt your rings down into some other piece of jewelry you can wear.
  • If you and your ex had an agreement that the ring(s) should be returned in the case of divorce (for instance, if the ring was a family heirloom), regardless of who caused the divorce, you are obligated to keep your end of the bargain and return the ring.  Now is not the time to be petty.
  • If you have children, keep the rings as keepsakes to give them when they are older.
  • Sell your rings to a pawn shop or jeweler and buy something fabulous for yourself.
  • If you so feel, you can even return the ring to your ex.

There are things you can buy called “Wedding Ring Coffins” where you can display your wedding rings in a case on your mantle.  Although this might give you a smug sense of satisfaction, at the end of the day, you just come out looking trifling and mean spirited.  Move on in a positive way!

As for when to remove your wedding ring, there really is no “proper” time frame to do it within. Most state they take their rings off when they feel all chance of the marriage surviving is over.

Further Sources:

Photo: 123rf/Stephen VanHorn - 728x90 banner

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

M. White-Garden November 10, 2015 at 5:06 am

Thank you for the informative article.

I’m left wondering, however, what should the divorcé (male) do with *his* — now superfluous — wedding band?

I ask since this applies to my own situation; I’m stuck with a very inexpensive and quite flexible gold ring.

I’m concerned that it would be bad luck to give it away whether giver’s or receiver’s; perhaps even worse luck to throw it into the ocean (my instinct). As such, I do need some guidance.

I ask so that I might do what’s proper; (not solely in the interests of etiquette-related blog gender-equivalence.)

I thank you in advance.

Yours sincerely,

M. W-G.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: