If there’s a journalistic medium that reliably provides a raw glimpse into human behavior at its most bizarre, it’s the syndicated advice column, and last week, Amy Dickinson of Ask Amy answered a whopper of a query in the Washington Post: is it a red flag that my fiancé doesn’t support my desire for a silent wedding and silent wedding reception?
“As the bride, I’m planning on making certain requests of my guests, to make sure that my special day is as perfect as possible,” the anonymous writer said (Dickinson declined to divulge her identity to The Daily Beast, and none of her would-be guests appear to have leaked her identity online yet either).
“For example, I’m asking that my guests wear exclusively yellow at the ceremony. My fiancé has been supportive, but he angrily rejected my other request: that our guests remain silent throughout both the ceremony and reception (to ensure that the focus remains on us). My fiancé said that this is irrational. He does not want to have a silent wedding.”
As you can imagine, the internet immediately descended upon this objectively bonkers letter; it’s already made the rounds on Twitter and been brutally picked apart by the r/bridezillas subreddit: “She’s gonna end up with no guests and may not even have a groom,” crazzymomof5boyzz weighed in. “Their wedding video is gonna look like a doomsday cult meeting,” Director-Current added.
But the writer’s plea to Ask Amy didn’t stop there.
“I know it’s uncommon,” she continues. “I’ve never heard of anyone else having one, but we’ve had them in my family. The guests are not permitted to speak at all during the ceremony, and the only toasts allowed are from the mothers of the bride and groom. Instrumental music will be playing quietly.”
(There’s something so chilling about “Instrumental music will be playing quietly,” don’t you think?)
“During the reception, the guests may whisper among one another, but may not speak aloud,” she concludes. “As the newly married couple, our focus should remain solely on each other rather than on any rowdy guests. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I feel I should have the wedding I want, so that the start of our life together will be perfect. I want him to support me, even if we disagree on something. Is my fiancé’s lack of understanding and support a red flag?”
“Weddings are meant to be celebrations of the love between two people, and family and friends will be eager to toast the happy couple and revel in this exciting time. A silent wedding would certainly minimize that…”
— Gabriella Rello Duffy
2022 has been a banner year for weddings, many of which were postponed due to the pandemic; couples are itching to get hitched. According to the market research firm The Wedding Report, 2.5 million weddings are predicted to take place in the United States in 2022, a record number that hasn’t been broken since 1984.
And indisputably, couples now feel far more free to build non-traditional ceremonies around their unique interests as cultural norms around weddings relax. “I’ve done circus weddings where they were all circus performers and I’ve done Christmas and Halloween-themed weddings,” Susan Chagnon, an NYC-based former wedding planner, told The Daily Beast.
Disney-centric weddings are almost a trope at this point, as well as offbeat location choices: couples have gotten married in Costco, Taco Bell and even Whole Foods.
“While I’ve never heard of or seen a silent wedding ceremony, the team at Brides believe that couples should have the wedding they want, and if a silent wedding is really what you are looking for, you should feel empowered to go for it—assuming your partner is on board,” Gabriella Rello Duffy, the editorial director of Brides, told The Daily Beast.
“Just remember that most guests won’t have experienced a silent wedding in the past and will need to be educated about what this looks like. At their core, weddings are meant to be celebrations of the love shared between two people, and your family and friends will be eager to toast the happy couple and revel in this exciting time. A silent wedding would certainly minimize that, so it may be a better option for a smaller guest list.”
Not the silent wedding of the bride’s dreams: Katharine Ross runs away with Dustin Hoffman at the end of ‘The Graduate’, 1967.
Some have concluded there’s no way the silent wedding letter could possibly be real, but Dickinson said she had considered this.
“The person contacted me via email,” Dickinson told The Daily Beast on Monday. “I found her story to be absolutely bananas, wondered if it was a spoof and communicated back and forth with her several times, asking followup questions. Based on her answers, I determined with my best judgment that her question was genuine.”
“In my many years of taking queries from various Bridezillas (and an occasional Frankengroom), I know that this whole trend of requiring all celebrants to wear one color is definitely ‘a thing,’ but the silence thing was a first,” Dickinson added. “The bride told me that this was something of a ‘tradition’ in her family. I asked her if she was part of a faith practice that dictates this and she said no. She copped to knowing that it was very unusual. As you’ll recall, the question really had to do with her groom’s reaction. And shouldn’t he back her up, no matter what?”
In her reply in the Washington Post, Dickinson puts the letter writer thoroughly in her place. “Your fiancé’s job is not to support you regardless of how dumb your ideas are,” Dickinson writes. “That’s not how marriage works. Aside from some traditions associated with a Quaker wedding (which yours obviously is not), the idea of a silent reception goes well with your color scheme: basically bananas.”
Historically, advice columns tend to be littered with outlandish matrimonial demands.
“My fiancee has absolutely put her foot down that she will not have one of my groomsmen in the wedding party, because she’s upset about his facial hair,” one help-seeker wrote to longtime Post columnist Carolyn Hax. “His beard goes, or he does.” (Full disclosure: Hax is this reporter’s aunt.)
In emails from a bride to her bridal party published by Gawker, a wife-to-be informs her cohort that they’ll be subjected to “weigh-ins,” strict bedtimes to prevent under-eye circles and that “all bikinis leading up to the wedding must be strapless bandeaus. I cannot have terrible tan lines in strapless dresses.” But there’s rudely unreasonable, and then there’s the silent wedding lady.
Silent proceedings within weddings are not totally unheard of: Nathalie Babis-Whitcomb and Matthew Whitcomb decided to say “silent vows” when they got married in July, according to a recent Insider article. “When other people listen in, it’s…higher stakes, and then you want to say all these things just because other people are listening,” Babis-Whitcomb said. “This way, we knew it was just going to be the two of us.”
But given that the Ask Amy lady’s extreme demand has caused such a hubbub online, one wonders if she’s caught wind of the backlash and decided to cave or whether she’s stuck to her (silenced) guns.
“It is extremely unusual for anyone who writes to me to follow up, so no, I don’t know if she is aware of anything. I’d guess not, because—well—‘awareness’ doesn’t seem to be her strong suit.”
— Amy Dickinson
“I have not heard back from the person who wrote to me,” Dickinson told The Daily Beast. “It is extremely unusual for anyone who writes to me to follow up, so no, I don’t know if she is aware of anything. I’d guess not, because—well—‘awareness’ doesn’t seem to be her strong suit.”
“It’s a strange thing to assume you can put people in an uncomfortable position for the sake of your celebration,” psychotherapist and couples expert Daniel Sokal told The Daily Beast. “The presumption of celebration via the absence of normative human interaction, which would be dialogue, the sound of people chit-chatting and catching up, has a tinge of hostility to it.”
“I’ve done Quaker ceremonies where they sit in a circle and they don’t speak, but the receptions were just normal receptions,” Chagnon told The Daily Beast. “It’s fine to want to control the toasts. They can get out of hand, especially because when people are drinking they can get long-winded and say stupid stuff. As far as the silence during the reception, I don’t understand that at all. I find that very odd. It’s beyond weird.”
Chagnon would also advise against the all-yellow dress code concept: “I discourage that with my clients, because you’re inviting someone to a celebration and people are going to wear what they want anyway.”
If this mystery bride came to her with a request for a silent reception, “I would tell her as tactfully as possible that it’s a bad idea,” Chagnon said. “It’s tasteless, honestly, and I would never agree to that as a planner. It’s a recipe for disaster.”