Fact Check


Did a bride-to-be send an over-the-top list of instructions to her attendants?

Published Oct. 7, 2002

Image courtesy of Flickr/Rocksee
Bride-to-be sends over-the-top list of instructions to her attendants.

We began seeing this intriguing letter in our inbox in February 2002, when countless readers began forwarding it to us to ask if it was the real thing. Was this yet another glimpse into the machinations of a "bridezilla," a gal so caught up in the plans for her wedding that she turns into a monster? Or was it something else?

Example: [Dear Abby, 2003]

MEMO TO MY ATTENDANTS: Hey, girls! Mom has your dresses for the wedding. She'll bring them to the shower next weekend. You can pick them up there. Allison sent me an e-mail asking what style shoes and jewelry to wear. Great question, Allison! There are so many details. I keep forgetting to tell my girls what to do.This is an excellent opportunity to go over my expectations for each of you:

About the shoes, please wear tasteful flats. Most of you are taller than me. I'd rather you not all tower over me.

I want all of you to wear your hair down. Since Babs and Allison have similar hair, I'd prefer that Babs straighten hers and let Allison be the curly-haired girl. After all, she's my friend and you are just bridesmaids! I'm sure you understand.

Judy and Molly, you have both mentioned that you intend to shed a few pounds. This would be the perfect time! Watch your diets; we will all start weekly weigh-ins. Allison could use some trimming down, too.

Also, you should all stay away from alcohol for at least a week before the wedding. None of us should be puffy or bloated. I think this is mainly for Babs, as none of my ladies drink all that much.

Other than that, I don't have any real suggestions. Oh, please don't go tanning! I prefer to blend in with you than stand out as the pale one!

Judy, Allison and Molly, please call me. There are a few other things that I need to go over with you on this topic. Babs, you are Scotty's friend, so I wouldn't presume to tell you what needs to be corrected — plus, your own wedding is coming up after mine. So I'm sure you're already more than a little aware of what you need to work on.

See y'all on Saturday. Babs, remember you'll attend the shower with us girls rather than the paintball fun with the boys. Dress accordingly, dear!

Bridezilla tales are nothing new to the Internet, and usually after blossoming briefly to horrify the masses, they quietly fade into obscurity. This one, however, gained a shot in the arm when it appeared in a Dear Abby column in September 2002.

Readers sent the much-traveled e-mail to Abby, seeking her comments. She offered no opinion on whether the story was true but replied:

If the document you sent me is on the level, the bride-to-be appears to have an abundance of unresolved control issues and an astounding lack of tact.

Abby's observation was dead on. It also brings us back to the "was this for real or not?" element of the tale. You see, if this had been a hoax, it would have been designed to make its purported author look especially heinous. And there's a strong chance that's exactly what happened.

A couple of small sections of the earlier e-mail were left out of the Dear Abby version, namely:

[Following "Most of you are taller than me, so would rather you all not tower over me']

Plus, many of you are unaware, but Addie is terribly ill and sometimes is paralyzed from the waist down. And we do want to take care of Adam's girl!

[Following "Lindsay could use some trimming up too"]

Addie, you just take care of yourself. I know that some of us have trouble with food and I don't want to encourage any bad habits with those who have had problems in the past.

(In the February 2002 original, all the participants had different names: The curly-haired friend was Lindsay instead of Allison; Leisha and Sissy were the gals who needed to lose weight, not Judy and Molly; Addie, instead of Babs, was the paintball-loving two-fisted drinker who was soon to marry the problematic Adam, not Scotty; and the now-nameless bride signed herself as Jenny.)

A careful reading of the original reveals little digs are made at Addie (Babs) throughout the piece. Granted, brides do not always get along famously with their bridesmaids, but this level of barely suppressed hostility is unusual. The unrelenting Addie-bashing should sound a few distant warning bells in those tempted to take the letter at face value, because the behavior doesn't fit the occasion. Addie drinks too much, has "food problems," is marrying a loser, is dead from the waist down, should have her hair straightened because another bridesmaid preferred by the bride also has curly hair, and has to be reminded to dress properly for the shower on Saturday to head off her turning up in shorts and a dirty T-shirt. The letter wasn't so much an "It's my wedding and here's how I want to run it" missive as it was a bashing of one girl.

Some mailings identified the bridezilla in question, so we asked her about it. She replied that while she'd been made the goat of this affair, she hadn't written the letter; the piece had been the work of a disgruntled ex-boyfriend of Addie's. This fellow had somehow gained access to Addie's e-mail account, fabricated a letter supposedly written by the bride, and propagated it as if it were something Addie had received and was now forwarding to others. In this way, everyone in Addie's address book got to see all the little digs at her.

Is this a reasonable scenario? In an oddball way it is — it certainly better explains the "Addie bashing" element of the letter than does the "bitchy bride" construct. Bridezillas are generally far too lost in what's going on with them to spare much attention for any member of the wedding party other than themselves. A true bridezilla would barely recognize that her bridesmaids had lives outside of the wedding, let alone be capable of diverting the focus of attention from herself to any of them.

Jenny's explanation may be plausible, but since we can't prove the story one way or the other, we'll leave this one marked as "Undetermined."

The letter in question appeared in the May 2002 issue of Cosmopolitan as a sidebar to a larger article about bridezillas. All the names were changed once again.

The current bridezilla tale echoes an older e-mail similarly transmitted across the Internet in 1999. Please note that the claims of this letter's having been penned in all seriousness by a real bride have not been substantiated, but the piece did run in Harper's magazine in 1991. Harper's presented it as: "From a letter sent by a Youngstown, Ohio, bride-to-be to her bridesmaids and ushers in 1976. Since then, copies of the six-page, single-spaced letter have been circulating nationally among engaged and newlywed couples."

EDITORS NOTE: This is an actual 1976 letter from a Youngstown,Ohio, bride-to-be to her bridesmaids and ushers. Read it and count your blessings. (FROM HARPER'S MAGAZINE)Dear Bridal Party:

From time to time I will be dropping everyone a line or two to keep each of you informed about how the wedding plans are progressing so that no one thinks I have forgotten them and no one is in the dark.

Bridesmaids: Each bridesmaid will receive her dress via mail from Priscilla of Boston sometime in January. This will give each of you enough time to have the dress "professionally" altered if need be. The dresses are chiffon "Priscilla" dresses and can be worn after the wedding. The right shoulder is bare and there is no sleeve on the left arm. Each has its own cape, which goes almost to the floor. The two matrons of honor will be in silver and the four bridesmaids in peppermint green. As of this date, I have not decided whether the two in silver will wear green gloves and the four in green silver gloves, but long gloves will be worn. I strongly suggest that each person shops now for the typical cloth "closed-toe" shoe. Keep the heel size reasonable - of course, no platforms of any kind. Anyone having trouble with their legs should wear support hose.

Ushers: Each usher will be dressed identically to the groom, best man, and the head groomsman: black tails. Be sure you have black silk socks and black dress shoes polished to a high shine.

Reception Rehearsal: On Saturday afternoon (early) we will go to Powers Auditorium to practice for the reception that night after the wedding ceremony. Why? Well, there is a long staircase at the auditorium that will be put to full use: Each bridal-party couple will be introduced separately and will proceed down the first half of the staircase (accompanied by music).

Upon reaching the platform in the middle of the stairs, the girl will be required to "swirl" from the right side of the steps and move to the left side, and her partner (an usher) will move to the right; then they will proceed down the second half of the stairs and take their positions for the Bridal Dance.

Dancing: I will try to find a choreographer to help with the Bridal Dance — but each person can please do his or her part by learning to waltz correctly in three-quarter time. Now, when I say waltz, I do not in any way mean two steps here and two steps there, always standing in one spot. When we waltz it will be to "Tales of the Vienna Woods." Each usher will be twirling his partner while moving in a large circle and maintaining even spacing between each couple. Turn on some old-time movies and you can see how it is supposed to be done. But, PLEASE, PLEASE, practice now! Suggestion: Go take dancing lessons!! That's what we have to do!! Also, there will be some polkas, the Charleston, jitterbug, and others. These are not "required" dances. There will not be any up-to-date dances. I personally dislike them and think they look terrible-they simply are not dances, in my estimation.

Photographs: There will be plenty. First and foremost, there will be "sound motion pictures" taken throughout the wedding ceremony, during the Bridal Dance, and while each bridal-party couple walks down the steps at the reception. Flash pictures will be taken in the church ONLY until my father and I arrive at the altar-after that there will be NO flash pictures; the official photographer will be taking time exposures. I believe it is the height of ill manners for any guest to leave his or her seat and proceed to the altar to take pictures.

Dress Requirements: Makeup — It is requested that you wear a little more than usual because of the photographs and the movie pictures. Any ladies with short eyelashes are requested to wear either false eyelashes or go to a beauty parlor and have false eyelashes put in one by one. The matrons of honor wearing the silver dresses must have a lot of pink in their makeup. That is straight from Priscilla. Be sure that each of the four other bridesmaids has green eyeshadow and that every one wears blusher, powder, eyebrow pencil, foundation, lipstick, and mascara — the works!! There will be two experts in the field of makeup to help anyone who needs it or wants it. As for the men, ho, ho, you will have your turn also. If you have a shiny face, be sure to use some of your wife's face powder to take the shine away.

For the wives and husbands of those who are in the wedding party: Ladies-the color of the bridesmaids' dresses has been stated, and all that I ask is that your dress be a color that will not contrast with the peppermint green, that it is of full length, and fairly simple in line. Also, please do not wear an extensive amount of jewelry, as the bridesmaids will possibly wear only small pearl earrings. Be sure each of you has gloves. You need wear nothing in your hair.

Men — Amy Vanderbilt's book on etiquette says that anyone receiving a formal invitation is to wear "black tie," which means tuxedo. Now, this could get rather touchy, so I will put it this way: If you do not wish to wear a tux, or do not wish to take on the expense of renting one, it will be perfectly fine to wear a "black" suit, white shirt with French cuffs, black silk socks, black shoes, and a black-and-silver tie. I hope this doesn't inconvenience too many, but I would hate to look at color pictures of the head table and see some men in black tails and others in brown or blue suits!!

Children at the Wedding or Reception: It is my wish, and also Z.'s [the fiancé], that there be no children at the wedding ceremony or at the reception. For purposes of clarification, a child is anyone eighteen years or younger. There are many reasons for this request, but the best is the simple fact that I don't have the money to invite children who only pick at their food, cry, run around, etc. One friend of mine, who married about a year ago, says that when she got her wedding pictures back, there wasn't one that didn't have a kid in it and she was disgusted. Don't get me wrong, children are great. But there is a time and a place for them and this isn't it. This is an adult, ultra-formal affair and I want to keep it that way.

One point of etiquette: When a formal invitation is sent out with Mr. and Mrs. Paul J. Smith on the outside envelope and Mr. and Mrs. Smith on the inside envelope, that is exactly what it means — only Mr. and Mrs. Smith are being invited and no one else; no others in the family, no guests who might be visiting at the time, etc. If asked about guests, you can "diplomatically" pass this on.

I know it sounds like I am being a real fusspot, but I would hate to tell each of you what the cost is per person just for the reception alone. I'm doing this for my friends and relatives, for all of us to have a good time, but since there are only so many hours in the day, and I already have three jobs, and I am not a Vanderbilt, some lines must be drawn, and I hope everyone understands.

I've never wanted a small country-type wedding — Z. says this is no wedding but rather a coronation!! Well, not quite. But it sure has been fun so far, and I just cannot wait for everyone to arrive and for all our friends and relatives to have one great, fabulous night. Everyone think positive and keep your fingers crossed. Pray — that will bring more help.

Won't each of you come with Z. and me to fantasyland — a place where dreams come true and fun abounds for everyone? Where the bride is Cinderella and the groom is Cinderfella for an evening. You are going to attend a ball at "Buckingham Palace" (pretend) and the King and Queen have invited only "royalty" — YOU! This will be a time to remember when you were courting the person to whom you are now married-a time to take a second honeymoon. We want everyone to be as happy as we are and to rekindle (add extra "fire" to) their own marriages. If you have a happy marriage now (which I know you all do), we expect the Palace to be really electrified with all that LOVE.

May your every dream come true!

Those who've yet to have their fill of bridezilla stories will find many, many more stashed in the archives of Etiquette Hell, your one-stop shop for horrifying accounts of people behaving badly.


Mehalic, Jessica.   "Attack of the Monster Brides!"
    Cosmopolitan.   May 2002   (pp. 240-243).

Dear Abby.   "Bossy Bride Rides Herd on Wedding Attendants."
    29 September 2002   (syndicated column).

    Harper's Magazine.   "Wedding Memo: Planning That Fabulous Night."
    June 1991   (pp. 35-42).

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