In Other Words: “The Groom in the Wedding I’m Officiating Was Arrested”

From a Dear Prudence column published last month:


I was ordained online and am officiating at the wedding of a daughter of a good friend this summer. While I know the daughter very well, I don’t know as much about her husband-to-be. In order to provide some anecdotes about him during the service, I Googled. I came across an article regarding his arrest for a truly concerning criminal accusation (it was definitely him, there was a picture). Because he is not on the sex offender registry, I do not believe he was convicted. I am no super-sleuth and this information is readily available, so I assume my friend’s daughter knows about it, but I am not sure. Do I just keep my mouth shut? Do I mention it to my friend? — Reluctant Minister

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…


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  1. Dear Prudy link brings to an article about Donald Trump. This doesn’t sound right (although that article looks interesting on it’s own).

    1. Oh, never mind it’s at the bottom, I see it now.

    2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      I actually thought about giving my response on that letter but I didn’t want to waste any brain space considering Donald Trump any more than I have to.

    3. But really, if I ever find out someone I am close to is a Trump supporter that would be it for our relationship.
      Like Prudie says, it speaks to a fundamental disagreement on how to treat your fellow human. Even my crazy, gun-toting, sexist, racist, “Blue Lives Matter” uncle is not a Trump supporter.
      Ugh, I can’t even ponder the idea of my husband being one of those nuts. That poor LW, I really don’t know what you should do.

  2. First of all, I love that Wendy is doing this!!!
    Secondly, I kind of disagree. Personally, I think the letter writer is blowing an arrest (which can happen with overzealous police quite easily in some jurisdictions) way out of proportion. I don’t think the letter writer sounds concerned about whether to marry the couple but rather if the bride knows this about the groom. I kind of think it’s none of her business. But if she feels she needs to cross that line to feel like she is doing right by her friend and the bride (who she knows very well), then I would mention to it to the bride because I think it’s likely the bride already knows and doesn’t care but perhaps the bride’s mother doesn’t.

    1. Okay, I just caught the part about this being an alleged sex crime. If it involved kids, I would go with what Wendy wrote.

      1. I mean if it doesn’t involve kids now, it still might one day. So I think given that you know this, it’s worth saying something. As for whether to mention to the bride or the mother, I think it depends more on the LW’s relationship with each. If she’s close to the bride and feels she can bring it up to her (and she may be, since she’s officiating) then she can do that. But given the tendency to shoot the messenger, and depending on the relationship, it may be better to tell the mother so the news (if the bride doesn’t know) comes from a close source.

      2. honeybeenicki says:

        Generally speaking, most sex offenders never assault kids. Because most of them are not pedophiles and have a (skewed) code of honor. That’s an extremely unfair (and inaccurate) assumption. People who assault children are the lowest of the low, even among other offender.

      3. Yeah sorry, I thought keyblade meant if the couple has kids and I was saying they may have them later. Not that the guy would progress from raping adults to raping kids.

      4. honeybeenicki says:

        Ah yes, that makes much more sense 🙂 It may have also been a reading comprehension issue on my side. I’m going to the dentist so everything is colored in anxiety today :/

      5. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Even if it didn’t involve kids, but a rape of an adult, I’d still want to know if I were the bride.

      6. I’m still thinking the bride probably does know. Part of the reason I originally didn’t think the lw should tell the bride’s mom is because I didn’t see the point starting gossip and getting third parties involved. But predators (which we DO NOT know about the groom) can be so good at what they do, that I think the potential of causing needless drama between the mother and bride is outweighed by the potential of putting the bride and her mom on notice to watch things. This isn’t fair to the groom, but an arrest for a sex crime isn’t like an arrest on the street. Somebody pursued getting this groom arrested (though I still believe the groom shouldn’t be judged as suspiciously by the letter writer once she has voiced her concerns.

      7. The sex crime could also be that he was 19 and dating at 17 year old. It doesn’t have to be a child to be a sex crime. Maybe the charges were dropped because the full story came too and he wasn’t really guilty of anything terrible?

      8. That’s true. But I think that could be cleared up fairly quickly with a short conversation. I agree that the letter writer doesn’t really know much about this and after she voices her concern that she wants to make sure the bride knows (without prying), she should let it go.

    2. for_cutie says:

      I agree. It is ridiculous that she went online to find “fun stories.” No one wants stories found online in their wedding ceremony. I agree with Wendy that this is why you should pay for professional clergy who want to get to know you, and accurately represent your relationship in YOUR words. My friend does this as a side business and she charges $250 – plus she has the expertise to get the official paperwork right, this lady doesn’t. That is a small price tag, relative to other wedding expenses, to ensure it is the wedding ceremony that you want.

      Bottom line is the LW was being nosy and is now unsettled because she found something she didn’t like. She should recuse herself and recommend they hire and unbiased professional. She should also keep this ‘found’ information to herself.

      1. Yeah LOL at the idea that she was looking for anecdotes. She’s a nosy shit stirrer and should just own it. It’s hard to know what to do without knowing what the crime allegedly was, that he WASN’T CONVICTED FOR, but she should probably just shut up.

      2. I know, can you really find anecdotes about people by googling them? Wouldn’t you do that by talking to the couple?

  3. I remember this Prudie letter. I really felt for the first LW. I don’t think I could be married to a man who actively supported Donald Trump. (My father does, and it’s causing enough problems already.) With regard to this letter, since the guy isn’t on the sex offender registry, nothing probably came of the arrest, so there’s probably nothing to worry about. People get accused of things all the time, unfortunately. I’m also with Wendy on the asking thing. People don’t talk to each other any more.

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      Yeah… just because you don’t get convicted, especially of a crime like rape, doesn’t mean you’re innocent. Hardly any rapists ever get convicted because it’s so hard to prove a lack of consent. If I were the bride I’d definitely want to know so I can ask him about it.

  4. Sue Jones says:

    I liked the old Dear Prudence a little better. The new one seemed a bit clueless so I stopped reading that column. Has it gotten better?

    1. Juliecatharine says:

      I still miss Emily but I do think newPru is finding her way and generally believe her advice is improving. I’m kind of an advice column junkie though!

    2. I think she’s getting better. She isn’t close to Yoffe’s level, yet, but she does seem to be developing more confidence as she goes. I find her perspective pleasant and I find it interesting to read advice from another writer who identifies as LBGTQ but doesn’t make it her primary theme like Dan Savage.

    3. Yep, I used to love Emily and still don’t like the new Prudie. I still read it though out of habit.

  5. love that you’re doing this Wendy! personally, I think LW should keep what she has learned to herself. 1. people like to “shoot the messenger” but also 2. bride probably already knows and would be embarrassed

    1. Eh, I don’t worry about the bride being embarrassed. I mean, if this info is really available just by googling his name (if the LW is being honest about her internet sleuthing skills, that is) then this is far from the last time the bride will be confronted with someone finding out the information. Better to decide before the wedding than after that this isn’t something she wants to deal with forever.

  6. I don’t think she should say anything to the bride’s mom, but if she does say anything, to speak to the bride directly. Though, I think it’s best to leave it be and assume the bride knows. That’s not something I would tell my mom if I were the bride and he was presumably innocent, and it would be an awkward time to bring that up.

    1. It is absolutely something I’d tell my parents, only because I wouldn’t want them to find it out from someone else. Especially since the info is so readily available by Google, how long did she think she could keep this under wraps?

      1. Yeah, that’s true…but if he is innocent (or it was something rather harmless like a an 18 year old with a 17 year old girlfriend), I would probably not tell many people, and if someone wanted to bring it up, fine…though I still think this is the wrong time to bring it up.

        Also, I feel like the LW should really be speaking directly to the bride. She says she is really close with the daughter, and it’s likely if she spoke to the bride’s mom first, it would get back to the bride.

  7. sobriquet says:

    I would be pretty put off if I knew that my family and friends were googling my husband-to-be. I know that it’s public information, but it would bother me, like they were digging for dirt. Maybe that’s because in my experience, only people who had a personal vendetta against me spent the effort googling me and stalking my social media accounts.
    I think it’s fine to mention this discovery to the friend, but then just stay out of it. Chances are the bride already knows about it and if not, well, the information is readily available for her to find. It’s not like the LW has secret intel on the guy.

  8. It would be interesting to see if this LW updates Prudie. I feel like she has a personal issue with being the officiant at this point and is using telling her friend as a way to get out. If it’s that easily found on google, then I’m going to guess that everyone knows. I would only bring it up if the LW didn’t want to continue being a part of the wedding.

    I also really don’t get this googling for person anecdotes if she really is that close to the bride. Why didn’t she ask to meet up for coffee and plan the ceremony?

    1. Because she’s a nosy betch, like anyone who googles someone.

  9. I’d skip mom and go right to bride. If you are close enough of a family friend to have been asked to officiate then you are close enough to a) get anecdotes directly from the bride (she’s going to offer up the cute, funny stories she wants to hear at the wedding anyway) and/or b) grab a coffee with the bride (perhaps while getting those anecdotes) and say I came across this info – I just want to make sure you already knew about it – and then quickly on to something else. I think Kate is right – you don’t use Google for cute anecdotes… Google shows my work details (firm; old firm; articles I’ve been quoted in), the deans list from University, and the high school I went to. Nothing adorable and wedding toast worthy to be seen. So I’m going to side-eye that explanation.
    If I was the bride I wouldn’t be annoyed being told – if I already knew then it’s just someone looking out for me and if I didn’t then I sure as all get out would want to know. I would appreciate it right from the source though and not through the grape-vine.

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