Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. In this special edition, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share some of the best letters we’ve received about weddings. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns—your first month is only $1.
My sister got married recently. Some weeks before the big day, she pulled me aside and asked me to dye my bright blue and purple hair a more innocuous color so that I wouldn’t stand out too much. She wouldn’t listen to reason as to how I love my hair, nor as to how the process of bringing it to a more natural color would be difficult, expensive, and damaging. At the suggestion of a friend, I invested in an excellent honey-brown human hair wig, similar to my actual hair texture and length. Her big day went off without a hitch, and she never even seemed to notice my “innocuous” hair. At the end of the reception, after nearly everyone had left and my family and I were helping tidy up, I removed the wig.
My sister freaked out. She’s still angry, and she says that I violated her trust and that for the rest of her life when she looks at her wedding pictures of the family together or of me in the background, she’ll know that there’s blue-and-purple hair under there, and it will infuriate her. I don’t see any problem with what I did. I didn’t want to change my hair color for ONE day in her life, and I even invested in a hairpiece specifically meant to give her peace of mind. I hadn’t considered telling her about the wig beforehand, simply because she was busy and, as long as I showed up with “normal” hair, it should have been fine. How am I in the wrong here? Did I owe it to my sister to actually color my hair for her wedding? I wasn’t even a bridesmaid.
I shouldn’t be laughing at this, but I can’t help myself. The idea of your sister, years from now, surrounded by her loving husband, children, and grandchildren, staring sadly at her wedding photo album, a wizened figure pointing at a picture of you as she whispers, “But underneath … underneath it was all blue and purple,” just tickles me to death. Imagine how ridiculous your apology would have to sound: “Sorry the brown hair I wore to your wedding wasn’t permanent enough.” Refuse to let your sister’s temper tantrum affect you. You did a very nice thing by changing your appearance to suit her mood in the first place. The fact that she got married does not entitle her to dictate the color of your hair. If she brings it up again, tell her the photos were lovely. And if she commands you not just to wear contacts but to get laser eye surgery for the birth of her first child, stand your ground. —Danny M. Lavery
From: “Help! My Sister Demanded That I Dye My Hair for Her Wedding. So I Wore a Wig.” (March 17, 2016)
I am getting married to the love of my life next summer, and my parents have graciously offered to pay for our wedding. But if I ask my brother’s fiancée to be one of my bridesmaids, I’m worried that my parents may refuse to pay. My parents and brother are estranged, and have had very limited contact for several years. Their relationship is tumultuous, and I’ve done my best to stay out of it, but frequently I do something that makes my parents think I’ve formed some sort of alliance with my brother. These “infractions” have included attending their daughter’s birthday party, taking photos with her and posting them on Facebook, and going out to dinner with them. This has caused me to also have a somewhat strained relationship with my parents for the past year or so. I want my brother’s fiancée to be a bridesmaid and their daughter to be a flower girl, but that also has the potential to cause a big problem. How much say do my parents have about our wedding? I love them all very much, but I’m at a loss as to how to move forward.
As you will likely see, the people who control the purse strings have the power to tie you in knots. Maybe there’s a justifiable reason for the parental estrangement from your brother. But your parents come off in a very poor light if the problems with their son have them cutting their grandchild out of their lives—and wanting you to shun her, too. Yes, you are in an “alliance” with your brother—it’s called being siblings. and you are entitled to have a good relationship apart from whatever craziness affects his interactions with your parents. You may discover that having both the wedding of your dreams and control of the guest list are incompatible because the checkbook will snap shut if you brother and his family are included. So address this early on. Tell your parents you appreciate their offer and want to make clear that your brother and his family will not only be at the ceremony, they’ll be in the wedding party. If your parents balk, I hope you decide that the perfect dress and filet mignon are less important than the people you love. Tell your parents that if their money comes with the condition that your brother’s family be blackballed, you will put on the wedding you can afford by yourself. I hope you discover that being able to start your new life without being manipulated by your parents means that, if need be, a trip to City Hall and a barbeque is preferable to a fancy affair. Do invite your parents and tell them you hope they’ll be able to put aside their differences with their son and attend your happy day. —Emily Yoffe
From “Help! If I Invite My Brother, My Parents Won’t Pay—and Other Wedding-Season Conundrums.” (June 11, 2013)
I am 27 years old and engaged to an amazing guy. When I was a little girl, my dad was involved in a really bad accident and was burned over a large portion of his body. He lost part of one limb and has some serious disfigurement. He has been a great dad and I never think about it. A few weeks ago, my fiancé started acting strange when we talked about the wedding. I asked him what was up and he avoided the question. Then his mom called me out of the blue and told me that she didn’t think that my dad should come to the wedding. She thinks that he will upset the guests and “traumatize” any children who might be there. She is suggesting that we have a private family ceremony before the big blowout. I got upset and my mom asked why. When I told her, she said that she and my dad understand, which only makes me feel worse. Maybe my future MIL has a point, but I would really rather disinvite HER than my dad.
Your fiancé is not so amazing if in response to his mother’s outrageous, sickening request he didn’t immediately say to her, “Mom, Elise’s dad is a great person. That he has overcome a terrible trauma makes me admire him even more. You need to permanently drop this. He’ll not only be there, he’ll walk her down the aisle, and I don’t want to hear another negative word about him.” Instead, he has weaseled around, and presumably didn’t tell his mother not to make her despicable request to you—he surely knew what she was up to and didn’t even have the courage to warn you. Instead of responding to his mother, you need to talk this through with you fiancé. He should be the one to respond to his mother about this, and it’s not too late for him to make clear she is totally out of line. How he handles this will tell you if he’s worthy of becoming a member of your family. And I hope you tell your parents that if they are not both at the wedding and treated as guests of honor, you won’t be there, either. —E.Y.
From: “Help! My Fiancé’s Mother Doesn’t Want My Burn-Victim Father at the Wedding.” (Aug. 6, 2013)
Before he met me, my husband was engaged to another woman who passed away only weeks before their wedding. Her mother contacted my husband with an upsetting story of her daughter appearing in her dreams repeatedly. The mother believes the spirit of her daughter is tormented and unable to “pass over” because she has unfulfilled business, namely the wedding which never occurred. The mother has asked my husband to take part in some creepy spiritual wedding ceremony so that her daughter can find peace and enter the afterworld. After he said no in the nicest possible way, she has continued to pester and plead with him. Now he thinks he should just do it for the sake of putting an elderly grieving woman at peace. While I don’t believe in such superstition I find it weird and plain wrong for my husband to “marry” another woman, even if she has been dead for years. We have been fighting over this insane issue. Am I being stubborn or am I right in thinking this is twisted and inappropriate?
You can have all the compassion in the world for this grieving mother, but I agree with you that having your husband engage in a spectral wedding is not the answer. Of course, this woman will always mourn her daughter, but it sounds as if she may be experiencing complicated grief. That is she is stuck in the rawness of her loss and it’s not her daughter who is unable to move on, it’s her. Since your husband is in touch with his late fiancée’s mother, I think he should gently suggest she find a therapist who deals specifically with this issue. He needs to say that he understands her wish for a ghostly ceremony, but it is not healthy for anyone to go along with it. —E.Y.
From: “Help! My Husband Wants to Marry His Dead Fiancée in a ‘Spirit Wedding.’” (Aug. 5, 2014)
I was a bridezilla, and I’m sorry about it. I laughed at those women who wanted the “perfect fairy tale wedding” that was all about them. And then I got engaged and became one of them. I spent hours poring over bridal magazines, dragging friends to bridal shops, and telling them they were ignorant or worse when they disagreed with me over silly things like the exact shade of ivory I needed for napkins. I told one of my bridesmaids to cover her tattoos. I told another to lose weight. I drove my maid of honor to tears with my constant demands and emails. I made my fiancé drop his brother as best man when I heard him tell my fiancé to end our relationship because I was crazy.
I was crazy. I was wrong. But I don’t know what to do. When I look at the perfect pictures of our wedding, I just feel ashamed of myself. Only one of my bridesmaids will speak to me. My husband’s relationship with his brother is strained because of my behavior. And our marriage is not the greatest. I own it all. I did this terrible stuff. But how do I fix it?
You’ve recognized your wrongdoing, which is the first step; you have a desire to make things right with the people you’ve harmed, which is all to the good. The last thing you want to do is hide and avoid the truth. You should instead openly acknowledge your past behavior and how it’s hurt the people you love. Start with your husband. Tell him that, as you think back at how you were leading up to the wedding, you’re deeply ashamed and sorry and that you want to make things right. Be specific about what you did to him that you think hurt him and ask honestly if there’s anything you’ve left out. He’s already stood by you when you were at your worst, so I think this conversation is likely to help your marriage rather than weaken it.
Do the same thing with the others, naming and apologizing for your acts of unkindness, listening with an open and nondefensive mind to their perspectives, and acknowledging that you will not be able to make up for everything you did at once but would like to continue to try to make things right with your amended future behavior. It’s possible some of these people will not be interested in hearing your apology. This will be painful, of course, but you must accept it; everyone has the right not to accept an apology, and you cannot force anyone to forgive you. What you can make right, make right; what you cannot fix, let serve as a reminder to you in the future to treat others better, and with more respect, than you have previously. —D.L.
From: “Help! I Was the Worst Bridezilla, and Now I’m Left With Nothing but Regret.” (June 2, 2016)
My girlfriend and I are in law school together and have been dating for six months. Things are getting serious—she is the love of my life. Her best friend is getting married this spring, and my girlfriend is the maid of honor. I was excited to attend this wedding as her date. However, she recently confessed that she had previously made out with three of the groomsmen, including the best man who will walk her down the aisle. I was completely taken aback by this. She said who she made out with in the past isn’t really any of my business, but she wanted to tell me so I wasn’t in the dark at the wedding. I’m pretty upset. She said I should consider how she feels, having to participate in a wedding along with these guys. That makes sense, but those are the repercussions of her actions. Should I go to the wedding and be uncomfortable watching her walk down the aisle with someone she’s kissed before, who is still in love with her? Or should I just skip the whole thing and save myself some emotional trouble?
As I peer back into the mists of time, I remember that as Michael Weinreb’s bar mitzvah was drawing to a close, all of us gathered in some dark room, played spin the bottle, and everyone made out with each other. Yet, when Monday arrived, we managed to face each other in the cafeteria despite our licentiousness. As I recall, make out sessions were a feature of those years, and this was junior high, not high school. You have an old-fashioned, even Victorian concern for everyone’s honor as you consider whether to attend this wedding. You see yourself silently suffering in a pew while the love of your life stands among a group of men with whom she’s had perhaps not carnal knowledge but definitely lingual knowledge. In order to avoid gazing on your beloved’s former make-out partners, you could stay home clutching a tussie-mussie. But if you decline to go, once she explains to her fellow bridesmaids what happened to you, they will take pity on her for dating such a stick in the mud and likely encourage her to have a lot of champagne, then renew lip-locking adventures with the groomsmen. As you know, one still tragically carries a torch. Alternatively, you could view her confession as good news. After she made oral acquaintance with these guys—which, she’s right, is none of your business—she settled on you. When you proudly accompany her, greet the previous suitors with a confident smile on your own lips because you got the girl. —E.Y.
From: “Help! My Girlfriend Made Out With Several Groomsmen in a Wedding.” (Jan. 19, 2012)
My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and just moved in together. We’re both 30 years old and have no plans to marry. My boyfriend’s parents won’t take no for an answer, and after we move in together they asked us when we wanted the wedding. We told them we weren’t getting married, but they complained that we were being ridiculous. This crazy argument went on for a few weeks when his parents upped the crazy by a notch. They’ve booked their church for our “wedding” for next year and have also reserved a ballroom at a large hotel (deposits are due at the end of the week). They want us to decide on a band, flowers, food, etc. We told them that they can hold the wedding, but we won’t be there. My boyfriend’s mom also gave her travel agent my phone number and she’s already left a couple of messages asking when I can come in to plan our honeymoon. This is beyond weird. What else can we do to convince them that we are not getting married? My boyfriend has been as forceful with them about this as I have, so it’s not a case of us sending mixed signals.
I don’t have a subscription to Brides magazine, so I don’t know if they’ve covered the ins and outs of a ghost wedding. There’s probably not a lot that’s been written about the etiquette of the non-bride who is not getting married whose boyfriend’s parents have become (non)in-lawzillas. What your boyfriend does is tell his parents that sadly they will lose all their deposit money if they go ahead with this farce. If they become monomaniacal on the subject of the wedding colors and floral arrangements, your boyfriend might have to tell his parents you two aren’t communicating with them anymore until they come to their senses. If they go ahead without you, let’s hope that at the last minute they can find an engaged but broke couple on Craigslist who would love a wedding extravaganza and can step into your gown and your boyfriend’s tux. —E.Y.
From: “Help! My Boyfriend’s Parents Are Planning a Wedding for Us Against Our Will.” (April 22, 2014)
I am one of four siblings, all in their late 50s/early 60s. I am a gay man who legally married my partner of 28 years earlier this year. Two of my sisters are lesbians with one married to her longtime partner as well. The remaining sister, the youngest, is married with five children and is a devout Catholic. Her daughter is getting married soon and the invitation arrived the other day, addressed only to me. My other married sister’s invitation was addressed only to her. I don’t know what to do. I emailed the niece’s mother and asked if my husband was invited and if my niece was registered anywhere. I did not get a response. I’m pretty sure he and my sister-in-law are not invited as my sister does not approve of the relationships due to religious teachings. Now I’m hurt and unsure how to proceed. My husband has known my niece since she was born. My sister has always treated my husband respectfully, though she has dropped a few hints about how she feels. In the past I have even paid my sister’s mortgage when her husband was unemployed to keep her and her children in their house. I don’t plan to attend without my husband and am not sure if I should just decline the invitation and leave it at that or if I should let them know how hurtful their actions are. What would you do?
If there is anyone who grew up knowing that there’s nothing wrong with being gay, it should be this young bride. So go directly to her. She is an adult and is responsible for her invitations. Tell her, “Maureen, I’m thrilled you’re getting married. However, I just got the invitation and saw that it was addressed only to me. I hope that was an oversight and that my husband, your other uncle, is invited. Your Aunt Cynthia also mentioned that her wife was left of her invitation. So we need to clarify whether our spouses are included.” Then hear what she has to say. If she says she left the spouses off because of her mother’s feelings, you should tell her that she is old enough now to make her own decisions. If her decision is to not invite the spouses of her uncle and aunt, then you need to explain basic etiquette to her. You say that wedding invitations are one of those things that are extended to both parties in a couple. Tell her that if she isn’t including your husband, then you wish her all the best, but you will not be able to attend. And if that’s the case, I wouldn’t worry about where this couple is registered. —E.Y.
From: “Help! My Husband Wasn’t Invited to My Niece’s Wedding (I’m Gay).” (Sept. 9, 2013)
I’ve been seeing a wonderful man for the past few years, and we’ve been discussing getting engaged and married soon. In talking to my mom about this recently, she seemed adamant that I shouldn’t have a traditional wedding—that going to a courthouse gets the job done. When I rebuffed her comments and told her I’m actually looking forward to having a wedding, she gave me a very cold, “Well, don’t expect your Dad and me to pay for it.”
Prudie, I’ve never once asked my parents to pay for my wedding. My intended and I have actually already had conversations about the finances for the kind of wedding we want and are quite happy paying for it ourselves. My brother got married about two-and-a-half years ago, and my parents made a huge fuss about making sure the rehearsal dinner was perfect, paying for their honeymoon, etc.
I don’t understand why my mom would suddenly take a turn on this with me. I haven’t asked her for anything in regard to this, and her comments make me feel like my brother’s wedding was more important than mine.
There are (at least) two conversations to be had here. The first, and simplest, is just this: “Mom, we don’t expect you to pay for our wedding. We have already planned our own budget and are paying for the ceremony ourselves.”
The other conversation you may or may not decide to have, particularly with a stressful event like a wedding coming up: Namely, the manner in which she chose to broach the subject, which was both unclear and unkind. If you do, you can restrict yourself to explaining how it made you feel: “I want to talk about how you brought up the subject of paying for the wedding. I don’t, and never have, expected you to pay for it, but it hurt my feelings when, instead of bringing it up directly, you suggested I just go to the courthouse and seemed angry at me before we even discussed the subject. Can we talk about this?” —E.Y.
From “Help! My Parents Paid for My Brother’s Wedding, so Why Are They Refusing to Pay for Mine?” (Dec. 27, 2016)
More from Dear Prudence
My future mother-in-law would like to wear her wedding dress to our wedding. I’m less concerned about the dress and more concerned about what this says about our future relationship. She is a very kind, considerate person, and I am certain that she knows this is not a very nice thing to do. What could her possible motivations be and what should I do about it? I’m inclined to let her wear whatever she wants, as it doesn’t bother me as much as maybe something else would. Should I pick my battles, as they say? Or will not saying something make me seem like a pushover?