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Make intentions clear this leap day

28 February 2024

On this year’s leap day, many women may pluck up the courage to get down on one knee, rather than wait to be proposed to (although in today’s gender-neutral world, a reverse proposal is not such an unusual event!).

This age-old leap year tradition, also known as “Bachelor’s Day” or “Ladies’ Privilege”, is believed to have originated in Ireland in the fifth century when Saint Brigid persuaded Saint Patrick to allow females a “right to propose”. Saint Patrick allowed for this to happen but only on a leap day, so on one day, every four years.

Another story claims that in 1288, Queen Margaret of Scotland passed a law imposing a fine – in the form of cash or a silk gown – upon any man who turned down a marriage proposal made by a woman on 29th February.

Further afield in Europe, any man who refused his woman’s proposal of marriage on a leap day was required to buy her 12 pairs of gloves – and so save the potential embarrassment of there being no engagement ring.

Whoever ends up doing the proposing, if the answer is a resounding “yes!” then the exciting journey of wedding planning begins.

While it may not be the most romantic topic, pre-nuptial agreements are now higher on the agenda of pre-wedding matters than ever, especially where there is an imbalance of wealth, often courtesy of the good old bank of mum and dad, a family inheritance or self-funded pre-owned property.

A carefully considered and crafted pre-nuptial agreement can serve to ensure that the needs of the financially weaker party are met in the face of a marriage breakdown – should the worst happen – and can save the significant cost of legal arguments arising where intentions about wealth from the outset are not made clear.

In fact, pre-nuptial agreements are no longer reserved for the extremely wealthy and can be used to ringfence the most modest of sums where there is sufficient justification to do so. While not completely bound to adhere to pre-nuptial agreement terms, the family courts in England and Wales will seek to respect the parties’ express wishes as to what should or should not be considered when looking to share out marital property in a divorce.

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Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
Kristie Silsby LLB (Hons)
Associate, solicitor
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