Under Italian Law, the promise of marriage is an act by which a person commits to another person to enter into marriage with him/her.
This old institution of Italian Law is still regulated by the Italian Civil Code (Art. 79), which does not actually provide for any legal obligation to enter into marriage: marriage is an act of a very personal nature that cannot restrict personal freedom.
Under Italian Law, however, there are two types of promise of marriage:
- Simple promise of marriage: it is a simple engagement through which the will to marry is expressed without peculiar forms;
- Solemn promise of marriage: it is an act expressed in the form of a private or a public deed by which future spouses commit to each other to enter into marriage.
Although there is no real obligation, there may be different financial consequences for the parties depending on the type of promise.
If, in fact, the simple promise is violated, the Italian Civil Code (Art. 80) provides that the promisor may request the restitution of gifts made because of the promise.
If the solemn promise is violated, the Italian Civil Code provides not only for the restitution of gifts, but also for the compensation of damages due to the expenses and the obligations incurred as a result of the promise of marriage.
The claim for restitution and the action for damages must be brought within one year from the day of the refusal to celebrate the marriage or from the date of the death of one the promisors.
However, Italian Law also provides for a “just cause” for refusal to enter into a marriage (e.g. infidelity), which may exclude any request for compensation.