A promise to marry is thus defined as a “betrothal”, an “engagement to be married” also termed “agreement to marry”.

9/23/20222 min read



A “promise” is defined as the manifestation of an intention to act or refrain from acting in a specified manner conveyed in such a way that another is justified in understanding that a commitment has been made; a person’s assurance that a person will or will not do something. A promise to marry is thus defined as a “betrothal”, an “engagement to be married” also termed “agreement to marry”. The promise to marry contract comes into existence by the mutual exchange of promises by the parties to marry each other. A mere convivial or romantic relationship is not enough for a court to found an agreement to marry.

A love relationship with marriage in view, comes with lots of investment in terms of emotions, passion, time and resources. It is for these reasons that it becomes extremely painful or impossible to let go when separation is consensual, especially by a party who seemed to have invested more. This paper focuses strictly on the “breach of promise to marry” which shall be considered within the context of Nigeria.

There can be no action for breach of promise unless a contract to marry has been made. There are no formal requirements regarding the contract. It need not to be evidenced by writing and the law prescribes no particular form of words. A promise by one person to marry another is not binding unless and until that other also promises to marry the first person. Mutual promises to marry may be implied from the conduct of the parties. A declaration of intention to marry another made to a third person will not constitute a promise unless communicated to the other person on the authority of the person making the declaration. While it is not necessary that the mutual promises should be concurrent, both should be made within a reasonable time of one another. An action for breach of promise to marry may be taken by a man as well as a woman. In modern times there have been instances of successful actions by men.

Promise by a married man or woman to marry another person is actionable where the plaintiff had no knowledge of the defendant's married state. Where, however, the other person is aware of the defendant's position, a promise by the defendant to marry that person after the death of his or her spouse will be unenforceable on the grounds of public policy. Similarly, a promise by the defendant to marry the other person after he or she has obtained an annulment of a voidable marriage will be unenforceable. On the other hand a promise to marry made by a party to a void marriage would be enforceable.


Marriage is not only a family, traditional, cultural, moral or religious issue. It is also a legal issue and should never be taken lightly as a breach of promise of marriage is actionable in law. When there is a breach of promise of marriage, an aggrieved party, whether male or female, may institute an action for damages. Such an aggrieved party does not have to suffer in silence, and should never resort to self – help.

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact



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