From a Dear Prudence column published last month:
My advice differs from Prudie’s response, which you can read here. First, the LW asks if she should tell her friend, which we can assume means the mother of the bride and not the bride herself; Prudie advises that she should tell the bride what she discovered in her Googling searching. I definitely don’t agree that this is a conversation that should be had with the bride. In all likelihood, the bride knows about the arrest — especially if it turns up in a Google search. I mean, doesn’t every bride Google her groom to make sure he hasn’t been convicted of any terrible crime before she marries him? The best-case scenario of the LW telling the bride what she discovered is the bride saying she already knows and thanks for looking out. But the more likely case is that, rather than feeling grateful for the head’s up, she’ll feel ambushed, embarrassed, and potentially pissed-off.
Like, why did the LW even have to Google the fiancé in the first place? To “find some anecdotes to use during the ceremony”? Please. There’s this thing she may have heard about that could help with that? It’s called asking? Having a conversation? Old-fashioned clergy people — you know, the kind not typically ordained online — practice the art of conversation and counsel all the time. If the LW would have followed suit rather than gone directly to Google, there likely wouldn’t be this uncomfortable thing she wishes she could now un-know.
But about that thing — an arrest doesn’t mean all that much. An arrest isn’t a conviction. An arrest isn’t proof that a crime was committed. (Hell, even a conviction isn’t proof that a crime was committed.) It could simply mean that the groom was at the wrong place at the wrong time or that he was mistaken for someone else. I understand feeling unsettled about seeing what might be a small part of a much larger picture, especially when that small part is so concerning. So, the LW should ask her friend about it (the mother-of-the-bride, not the bride herself). And she should phrase it like she assumes the best about the groom (that he didn’t commit the crime) and not the worst:
“Hey, Barbara, I’m working on the service for Lucy’s wedding, which I’m so excited to officiate this summer, and I was planning to talk to Lucy about what she loves about Ben and funny anecdotes I could include in the service, but, to get a head start and because I don’t know much about Ben, I Googled him and found something a little surprising. You probably already know what I’m going to say, right? About the arrest?” And then “Barbara,” if she knows about the arrest, can jump in and put any concerns of the LW’s to rest. Or, if she doesn’t know about the arrest, she can either pretend that she does until she gets more info, or she can be all, “Oh my God! What are you talking about?” And the two of them can decide together how best for Barbara (not the LW) to approach her daughter about this issue while there’s still plenty of time before the wedding to clear up any confusion or fear.
And if the confusion isn’t cleared up enough for the LW to feel like she can, in good conscience, officiate the wedding, she should as gracefully as possible, and as soon as possible, excuse herself from her duties, with the understanding that doing so may irreparably damage her friendship with both “Barbara” and her daughter. And maybe, in the end, saving her friendship is worth pretending to bless a marriage she has some concerns about…
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.