Should People Sue Their Ex-Fiances for Calling off the Wedding?


A Chicago-area woman has filed suit against her husband-would-have-been, who called off their nuptials four days before the ceremony. She’s seeking damages totaling $100K—the amount she says she spent on the wedding. Is litigation the way to go?

Before we get into pro’s and con’s, let’s consult our decreasingly sexist(?) Chicago Tribune, which has this report:

The jilted bride, Dominique A. Buttitta, claims that she and her former intended Vito V. Salerno had dated since March 2004 until he proposed marriage on Dec. 7, 2007 in Chicago and presented her with an engagement ring, according to the suit filed Friday.
Buttitta, 32, claims Salerno, 31, breached his promise to marry and intentionally inflicted emotional distress on her when he told her on Sept. 27, days before their Oct. 2 wedding date, that “he would not marry her.”

Salerno couldn’t be reached for comment, which is unfortunate because the details here are hazy and kind of confusing. Supposedly, he told Buttitta that he didn’t want to get married because he’d “returned to his home in Barrington,” a municipality in Illinois. (And you can’t be married in Barrington, because it’s a man-only village that enforces some sort of “no brides allowed” policy? Doubt it.) Salerno allegedly received lap dances at his bachelor party, which is somehow important to the story, and he also told other people the wedding was off before informing his bride-to-be (which seems a bit more relevant). Buttitta got stuck with tons of expensive crap she didn’t need, like her $5,400 wedding dress and $12,000 of flowers. And probably a broken heart to boot, though this letter she wrote to Salerno indicates she’s way over him:

“It was agreed by you and me that the marriage ceremony was to be performed on October 2, 2010. I was on that date, ready and willing to marry you,” Buttitta wrote before adding, “Further, please be advised that I am not still willing to marry you.”

Buttitta isn’t the first-ever bride to take legal action against a guy for reneging on his matrimonial promises. In 2008, Lilibeth Gaviola of the Philippines sued her groom-to-be for literally leaving her at the altar while we walked off with another woman. In 2007, Floridian bride-to-be RoseMary Shell sued her ex and won her case plus $150,000 in damages. And in 2004, Norlida Abdul Rahman of Malaysia sued her groom for text-messaging his renouncement less than 24 hours before the show was to go on. Rahman said “fuck that guy” and had a party anyway, even though she told media she was hurt and embarrassed.

One one level, suing your ex seems like punishing someone for feeling differently about the relationship. When are these guys supposed to inform their brides-to-be that they’re just not ready and willing to go through with the ceremony? It’s one thing if you’re like Gaviola’s groom and have an extra gal on the side; that guy clearly had no intention of committing. But in the case of Shell, who left her job and moved to a different state to be with her fiance, the issue gets both easier and harder to assess. Shell obviously suffered negative financial consequences as a result of leaving her job and moving, and it sucks that she had to endure those losses. But she reportedly didn’t inform her fiance about all the debt she owed, which apparently was a factor in his ending the relationship. Though I’m totally not in favor of people breaking up with each other over money, debt does factor into a marriage, and people need to be upfront with each other about how much they owe. It’s just a courtesy! (FWIW, I show all of my fiances my student loan statements every month. Makes for a fun date.)

On the other hand, people who make sacrifices to get married shouldn’t be left high and dry when their partner reneges on the deal. Spending six figures on a wedding, though totally crazy-sounding to me, is a huge investment, made in good faith, and that commitment should be respected. Though we don’t know how much money any of the jilting grooms in these cases invested in the ceremonies, it sounds like they might not have spent as much? And they certainly could have stopped the spending by making their doubts known in advance. Why didn’t they? Were they that confused about what they wanted? Did they exist in some state of suspended disbelief? Whatever the case, they were irresponsible, and making them pay up some cash-money seems fair.

It’s interesting that the articles cited here focus more on the brides and don’t provide much detail about the grooms—their motivations, financial situations, or otherwise. How the brides are portrayed varies among the reports—Rahman’s presented as a survivor-type, while the Trib‘s article on Buttitta really plays up the “jilted” angle. But FWIW, she doesn’t help matters—her suit states that she relied on Salvano’s promise that he’d married her, and as a result of “[she] has remained ever since and still is unmarried.” Her singlehood isn’t the guy’s fault! No need to exaggerate the damage to prove her case has merit—$100,000 in losses is more than enough.

Jilted bride sues ex-fiance for $95K for canceling wedding [Chicago Tribune]
Bride sues Groom for ditching her at the altar [Blisstree]
Jilted bride sues runaway groom [ABC News]

Image Samantha Lauren Photographie /via Flickr

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