Weddings may be all about love, but people are all about wedding drama. There’s a reason why so many rom-coms are about messy nuptials, and why a very large share of the questions that come in for Dear Prudence are wedding guest list–related. It’s also why bridezilla stories like this weekend’s go viral.
In case you missed it, a woman posted on Facebook that she called off her wedding four days out and disowned her family and friends—“the CUNTS who have ruined my marriage and life”—because they had refused to cough up the $60,000 she had demanded to throw her dream wedding (or $1,500 each—“not fucking out of the ordinary”).
The Facebook post went viral after it was screenshotted by a relative and shared in a “wedding shaming group,” from whence it was shared on Twitter, from whence it was shared by Queen of Twitter Chrissy Teigen herself (as the sharer’s bio now reads: “blame chrissy tiegan [sic] for making my mentions unbearable”). And as everyone on the internet knows, wedding tea + Chrissy Teigen = a recipe for virality. To the tweeter’s credit, she obscured details the original screenshot did not, including the name of the former bride’s son and the face of the screenshotter, though the same cannot be said of whoever took it to Reddit.
But the thing that’s caught the attention of some is not necessarily the attention-seeking bride—it’s the wedding shaming group, called “That’s It, I’m Wedding Shaming.” As many are asking: What is that and where do I join?
It’s just one of the private shaming Facebook groups where people go to spill the tea—or the Champagne, as the occasion would have it. There are a few varieties of shaming, ranging from general to the specific—ring shaming, Christmas shaming—but wedding shaming is far and away the most popular activity, with good reason. (Update, Aug. 28, 2018: The main wedding- and ring-shaming groups have either been deleted or marked hidden on Facebook. The links to the groups have been removed. You can still easily find some other wedding shaming groups by searching on Facebook. Good luck.) The main wedding-shaming group has more than 20,000 members (a few thousand of these are brand new), as well as a few splinter and copycat groups. A reverse group built around “wedding praising” is far less populous. A r/bridezillas subreddit also exists, but in the case of the Facebook communities, one has to request to join, answering a few questions and agreeing to abide by the rules. The fact that the group in question has a few thousand new answers shows that the gatekeeping is not that intense.
Really, it’s no wonder such communal dirty laundry–airing rooms have sprung up. There are just so many narcissistic screeds and possessive mothers-in-law and flip flop-wearing grooms and bridal party animal masks out there. For some, shaming groups are a much-needed place to vent—most people won’t share screenshots of their enraging friend on their own social media, lest the object of their scorn see it, and because they know they’ll go back to normal soon enough (hey, weddings are stressful). The group is a ready-made and hyperappreciative audience, a safe space full of strangers ready to whip out the Michael Jackson popcorn GIFs.
Furtive shaming groups are also the perfect foil to the highly public and performative Insta-weddings that constitute so much of our online consumption. Really, the wedding-shaming participants are just listening to Maya Rudolph’s character Lillian in Bridesmaids, who says: “Why can’t you be happy for me and then go home and talk behind my back like a normal person?” Why would we need a private space for wedding praising if we already spend all our time irrationally celebrating people for the act of getting married?
The major shaming groups have fairly consistent rules—they ban doxxing or even just the inclusion of identifying names or features, as well as all of the -isms—enforced by a team of admins. (Ring shaming’s excellent rules include “Don’t Be a Dick” and “Shame the Ring, Not the Person,” but also “ARAA: All Rings Are Awful.”) A community built around shaming may sound bitchy—and to some extent, it is—but it’s supposed to be good, harmless bitchiness, the kind where nobody gets hurt: The shamer gets something off their chest and everyone slurps some delicious tea. Some even shame themselves! In that sense it differs from public call-outs, like last month’s viral bridezilla story, in which a bridesmaid tweeted at JetBlue about being asked to “relinquish” her duties in the hopes of a refund and revenge. Compared with Courtney, wedding shaming seems a rather wholesome activity.
In this case, however, the post has leaked and gone viral, breaking what is seen by many in the group as a cone of silence—a sense of security that you are among friends when you shame and don’t name. Echo chamber has become a dirty phrase, but these groups are intended to be the good kind—a chamber, not a platform. According to some group members, the shamer is being harassed by people external to the group and has since deleted the post. But tea that is spilled can never be recouped.
It’s an important reminder that nowhere is private on the internet, least of all a shaming group—especially when you’ve got a shameless bride demanding $60,000 and to “for once let me take the stage.” Mission accomplished.