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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Bridezilla

Monday, August 01, 2011


There are some pretty crazy brides behaving badly, if we're to believe all the stories being asked on my Web site from friends and family wanting to know how to get their bridezilla to use good etiquette. Is it because the competition is so fierce and no bride wants to be outdone? What happened to the once-fashionable laidback wedding couples who only wanted a lazy afternoon wedding on a Block Island beach or a sunrise wedding on a mountain top?

Recently one story that had me totally amazed, if not stumped, was about a woman's niece who found herself so perplexed that she had to reach out for help. The original question went like this, “Is it poor etiquette to buy and wear the same dress that a cousin just recently bought and wore for her wedding?”

My answer was standard enough, but then the followup question unfolded so much more.

Dear Didi,

Thank you so much for your reply, I appreciate it very much! I completely agree with you, but I wanted an expert opinion to share with my daughter.

Here's why:
My niece asked my daughter if she could borrow her wedding dress a couple of months after the wedding because, “she doesn't have the money to buy her own.” My daughter replied “you would need to have my dress altered to fit you and I want to preserve it as it is, so I'm sorry but I really don't want to do that.” Today my niece posted the question on Facebook asking: “Is it tacky to buy and wear a dress you fell in love with from someone else's wedding?” Some of her friends made comments like: “You would totally rock the dress--who cares! Do what you want.”

We knew whose dress she was referring to and my daughter was very upset, so I said I would try and look into etiquette standards for this. Thanks again! Charlotte

Now, all of a sudden the question of etiquette is open to a far wider audience on Facebook. It's gone viral. The advice to the bride-to-be from 93 of her 865 friends is that she should do what she wants to do without any regard for her first cousin's feelings. Her friends are telling her what she wants to hear, so my problem in trying to help the mother and daughter, the bridezilla's aunt and first cousin, to be honest and nice at the same time, which in my mind is the best solution:

Dear Charlotte:

Despite "imitation is the highest form of flattery," the sad fact is that your niece isn't able to create her own identity. Your daughter handled the situation sensibly and that says a lot about you.  It would be lovely if your daughter could offer to go bridal dress shopping with your niece to help her discover a dress that would truly be her own and not your daughter's. But it sounds as though bridezilla is stuck in her belief that her cousin's wedding dress is the only one that will do. Believe me, there is the perfect bridal dress out there for every bride.

As you and your daughter are now well aware, there is a great deal of insecurity going on with your niece and I'm wondering if there is anything that can be done within the family to support her sense of self. Since your daughter has led the way by marrying first, your niece feels she lacks the character to keep up appearances. Since I don't know the family situation, I don't know how else to help except to warn that this is a train wreck waiting to happen and your niece needs professional help to keep her on track. Unfortunately, if there is a melt down, your daughter will undoubtedly feel guilty needlessly. So, your niece has everyone by the horns here.  She didn't have the first wedding, and she can't have your daughter's wedding, so she's being what the media calls a real bridezilla.  You catch my drift: this is not about the wedding dress. The wedding dress represents much more and as painful as it would be to have to tell bridezilla this, this problem with the dress is just a harbinger.

What to do? You can handle it one of two ways: either distance yourselves from the craziness and suffer the consequences--either guilt or having a gloating bridezilla walk up the aisle in a dress the same style as your daughter's. Or try to get your niece to take it down a couple of notches by explaining to her that if she is so overwrought now, you're not sure how she's going to make it up the aisle unless she talks about her anxiety with a professional.

As you know, this is a very difficult situation made worse now that she's brought you and your daughter into it. She's not going to let you go because she clearly is seeking a lot of attention. Is there another mother, sister, grandmother, stepmother, or another aunt who can act as a buffer here and mentor this child? That's what she needs, even if it is a paid therapist. And I don't say that lightly. Quite frankly, I think there is a lot more going on here than your niece wanting to wear your daughter's wedding dress, and this needs to be addressed. The sooner the better. This bridezilla wants to be your daughter.

The deluge of questions about wedding etiquette and dress code is overwhelming, especially as the fall wedding season gets under way. Didi Lorillard handles the deluge on her Web site NewportManners.com, and she can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, after you've read her GoLocalProv columns listed below.


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