Dear Prudence

Help! My Stepsister Sold Me Her Dress After Calling Off Her Wedding. Now She’s Throwing a Fit.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A woman touching a wedding dress on a hanger, and a graphic of a scissors.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by kolae/iStock/Getty Images Plus and alla_iatsun/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members. R. Eric Thomas is filling in as Prudie for Jenée Desmond-Harris while she’s on parental leave. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Q. Bride to be: My stepsister and I are not close—our parents married while we were in high school—but we have always been civil. I thought I would be helping her out in this scenario, but then she turned on me.

Over two years ago, COVID canceled her wedding, which was a mixed blessing as her fiancé had been cheating on her with several different women (and he wanted her to quit her job and move across the country with him). She only got partial deposits back and couldn’t return the wedding dress since she bought it on sale. She wanted the dress gone and joked about just setting it on fire, so I offered to buy it from her. I figured that we are similar sizes, and my future mother-in-law is an excellent seamstress and the wedding dress was a classic style that would be easy to alter. My stepsister has always been practical and unsentimental, so I didn’t think the offer would offend her. In the end, she sold it to me and wished me better luck with it.

After the alterations, the dress was dramatically changed, and I posted pictures of me wearing it on social media. My stepsister wrote that it looked good on me, but privately, she threw a fit. She broke down to her mother that she couldn’t bear to see me happy in “her” dress and would not attend my wedding unless I wore a different one. Her mother agreed and said she would boycott my wedding in solidarity. I learned all this from my father, who wants me to get another wedding dress. I can’t afford to and I don’t want to. My fiancé and I are paying for everything ourselves and already over budget as-is.

My stepsister will not return my calls. My wedding is scheduled for June. I don’t know what to do. I am very hurt and confused. I don’t understand why she is acting like this now when back when she broke up with her ex-fiancé she was mad but also rational. And she RSVP’d with a plus one—her new boyfriend!

A: Your sister-in-law is grieving a relationship that, while over, is apparently not done with her yet. It’s not surprising that seeing someone else, let alone her own stepsister, in the dress (or, to be fair, an iteration of the dress) that she’d dreamed of wearing brought up unexpected and very tough feelings for her. It’s possible that you’re getting all the unexploded frustration and anger that, for whatever reason, didn’t come out during her breakup.

But just because her feelings are valid and perhaps understandable doesn’t make her demand fair to you. This is a tricky situation as it sits at the intersection of family stuff, wedding stuff, breakup stuff, and small claims court. But at the end of the day, you and your stepsister made a transaction, and the dress is yours to do with as you please. Additionally, while it may be hard for her to tell you these things to your face, it isn’t fair for you to hear these ultimatums second- and third-hand.

I think you should wear your dress. It may be hurtful not to have her or your stepmother at your wedding, but that’s a harm they’re committing against you, not a fair retaliation against some slight you’ve committed. The only potential compromise I’d suggest—with the caveat that this could really go either way—is that you offer to sell the dress back to your stepsister or perhaps to your father and stepmother, since they’ve involved themselves. If this will get you enough to afford a new dress and you’re willing to go through the hassle, it may be a fair way of side-stepping all of this.

Classic Prudie

I was the maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding a few weeks ago and I gave a toast. My friend and I have known each other for over 20 years. It was a beautiful wedding, but during my toast I apparently said something the groom took great offense to, and he and the bride ended up fighting because of it, which then caused the bride to yell at me in the hallway outside the reception.