Love is not totally alien to law. The Supreme Court once quoted the truism that “the heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know.” Now, what if someone you love promises to marry you but then refuses to honor that promise?
This, of course, is a breach of promise to marry. However, a breach of promise to marry does not automatically entitle the offended party to an award of damages. This is the issue in the 1964 case of Wassmer vs. Velez (G.R. No. L-20089). Let’s briefly discuss the case.
In the words of the Supreme Court, the facts that culminated in that case started with dreams and hopes, followed by appropriate planning and serious endeavors, but terminated in frustration and, what is worse, complete public humiliation.
A couple, following their mutual promise of love, decided to get married and set a date for the wedding. They applied for and was issued a marriage license. Invitations were printed and distributed to relatives, friends and acquaintances. The bride-to-be’s trousseau, party dresses and other apparel for the important occasion were purchased. Dresses for the maid of honor and the flower girl were prepared. A matrimonial bed, with accessories, was bought. Bridal showers were given and gifts received. And then, with but two days before the wedding, defendant, who was then 28 years old,: simply left a note for plaintiff stating: “Will have to postpone wedding. My mother opposes it…” He enplaned to his home city in Mindanao, and the next day, the day before the wedding, he wired plaintiff: “Nothing changed rest assured returning soon.” But he never returned and was never heard from again. The would-be bride sued the runaway groom.
The case is not merely for a breach of promise to marry, which is not an actionable wrong. In fact, Congress deliberately eliminated from the draft of the new Civil Code the provisions that would have it so. It must not be overlooked, however, that the extent to which acts not contrary to law may be perpetrated with impunity, is not limitless for Article 21 of said Code provides that any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.
To formally set a wedding and go through all the preparations and publicity, only to walk out of it when the matrimony is about to be solemnized, is quite different. This is palpably and unjustifiably contrary to good customs for which defendant must be held answerable in damages.