Fact Check

The Outlaw Inlaw

Videotape of wedding reveals that the groom's father stole the bride's father's wallet.

Published Nov 15, 1998


Legend:   No one knows who stole the bride's father's wallet . . . until a viewing of the wedding video reveals the criminal.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 1998]

A young couple are married. The bride's father makes them a lavish wedding and is carrying a large wad of cash to pay people like the band, bartender, servers, etc. At one point, the father takes off his jacket to dance. When he later retrieves it, he discovers that the money is missing. A couple of weeks later, the entire family gathers to watch the video of the wedding. At one point, the groom's father, unbeknownst to him, can be seen in the background taking the money from the bride's father's coat! Of course, this creates a scandal and the marriage is immediately annulled.


  • Sometimes the bride's father's wallet is lifted; sometimes the groom's father's wallet is.
  • The thief can be the groom's father (knowing that the bride's father is carrying a lot of money to pay off vendors and musicians at the reception), the bride's father (due to resentment over shouldering the lion's share of the costs), or even the groom (out of a desire to score a little extra money for the honeymoon).
  • In none of the versions is a female in-law robbed, and only in one 1998 example of the story is the thief female. Men appear to be both the ones with the money and the ones after it.
  • The amount stolen varies from a few hundred dollars up to $20,000.

Origins:   The "stolen wallet wedding" legend has surfaced in a few publications, told as a true story. In May 1982 it popped up in New York Jewish Week, where it was told as having happened "in the

Do you take this woman (and her family's fortune)?

New York area, in the year 1982." A year later the Chicago Sun-Times summarized a similar tale and named the magazine North Shore as its source. Need I say that no matter how many times the legend surfaces, it never tracks back to any particular couple who can be contacted?

Of course, no legend is truly pedigreed until it appears in Dear Abby, which this one did (30 October 1991) under the guise of an anonymous photojournalist's asking for advice about how to handle a ticklish situation: upon looking through his footage, he discovered the groom helping himself to his new father-in-law's wallet. Abby's solution? Invite the bride's father over to view the tape.

The same situation Abby advised on in 1991 was thrown to Dr. Laura Schlessinger in 1998. In October of that year, a caller to Dr. Laura's radio show claimed to have been the video camera operator at a wedding reception where a "money dance" was performed. (Depending upon whose traditions are being observed, the "money" or "dollar dance" is customary at some wedding receptions. While the bride and groom dance, members of the wedding party pin gifts of cash to their clothing. In other forms of the tradition, guests "pay" for the privilege of dancing with either the bride or groom by handing them money or by stuffing cash into a special purse the bride carries for this


Dr. Laura's caller claimed that on the tape she'd shot, one of the bills was seen to fall from the groom's jacket while he danced, and one of the bridesmaids was then seen to take the bill for herself. The good doctor pointed out the caller had no way of knowing whether the bridesmaid kept the money or returned it to the groom off-camera. Dr. Laura therefore advised that the groom not be informed and the incriminating footage be edited out of the tape.

Though widely told, the tale of the videotaped theft is apocryphal. No one has yet come forward with verifiable information of where, when, and to whom this happened. A thieving in-law is unlikely to risk exposure by filching the wallet out of another's jacket in a room full of people; there's just too much chance someone is going to see something. In some tellings, the coat is left in a cloakroom, thereby affording the thief with the moments of privacy necessary to make his dip. One then has to wonder how this ends up on film. Would any videographer worth his salt be filming in the cloakroom rather than out in the reception hall where the wedding party and guests are?

Barbara "from Kodak to Kojak moment" Mikkelson

Last updated:   19 May 2011

  Sources Sources:

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Choking Doberman.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.   ISBN 0-393-30321-7   (p. 140).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 88-89).

    Marsano, William.   Man Suffocated By Potatoes.

    New York: Signet, 1987.   (pp. 83-84).

  Sources Also told in:

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 168).

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