Everyone’s a critic, even when it comes to your wedding.
Especially when it comes to your wedding.
Maybe the groom chomped Bubble Yum as he recited his vows. Or the bridesmaids’ flowers were shaped like baby Yoda. Or the minister yelled at photographers just for doing their job.
Whatever the blunder, on the Reddit thread r/weddingshaming or on a series of private Facebook groups dedicated to wedding disparagement — most notably “That’s It, I’m Wedding Shaming (Non Ban-Happy Edition)” — matrimonial misanthropes can voice their opinions on everything from the bride’s camouflage gown to the happy couple’s first toke. (Yes, it was a pot-themed wedding.) According to another Reddit thread, top shame-worthy moments include a middle-age man pushing a child out of the way so he could catch the bouquet and hand it to his girlfriend; a best man who publicly confessed to sleeping with the bride two days earlier; and a couple whose dogs toddled down the aisle and left an unsavory gift.
“It’s a never-ending source of entertainment,” said Jessica Taylor, 31, a nursing assistant in Penacook, New Hampshire, and frequent commenter who was married in July. “I also loved learning what not to do.”
The wedding-shaming trend grew in popularity in mid-2018, when “That’s It, I’m Wedding Shaming (Non Ban-Happy Edition)” was born. The founders, Anton Justice and Hannah Chante, were planning their 2020 wedding and looking for ideas. But they couldn’t find anything that spoke to them. “In other groups you get kicked out if you say something negative,” said Justice, 22, a marketing student in Calgary, Alberta. “It’s better to know what people think rather than lie and be nice about it.”
So he and Chante, 19, decided to start a forum where people could speak their mind. The group gained traction in August 2018 after model Chrissy Teigen retweeted the story of a bride who allegedly canceled her wedding after guests refused to pay $1,500 to attend. The group has grown to around 147,000 members worldwide and receives about 2 million interactions every month, Justice said. Ancillary shaming groups — targeting things like cakes, dresses, rings and sisters-in-law — have also emerged.
Almost all have guidelines. On the Facebook wedding-shaming groups, faces are blacked out unless the person is in the public eye. Racism, sexism, homophobia and body shaming also are not tolerated. “You don’t want to make anyone feel singled out or attacked personally,” Justice said. “It’s more about the wedding than the person.”
Sometimes the shaming is reserved for the venue, like when a banquet manager interrupted the newlywed’s first dance to discuss their tab. Other times the shamer is shamed, as a woman was when she complained about a couple’s choice of the secular “Here Comes the Sun” in a Roman Catholic ceremony. (“Someone has never seen ‘Sister Act,’ and it shows,” one commenter wrote.) And sometimes people call themselves out. “I didn’t realize till after how out of the place the groom looked with his pink dress shirt, jeans, and rubber shoes,” one bride wrote of her betrothed. “He looked like he just casually strolled in and happened to get married.”
But other times the masses are the chorus, and the comments can be downright mean. Aleisha McCormack, who runs a private non-shaming wedding group with about 10,000 members, recalled the time someone reposted a photo of one of her members in a shaming group. There were negative comments about the bride’s dress and body shape. “I felt really upset that they promote that they won’t body shame or promote mental illness or focus on these topics and so often they do,” said McCormack, author of the “Bridechilla” guides. “Some of the comments were just revolting.” She reached out to the administrator, who removed the offensive post.
Anna Bozman Thompson, a stay-at-home parent from Atlanta, had an even more upsetting experience. Bozman Thompson, now 39, married Travis Thompson, a contractor for Federal Express, in October 2015. Earlier that year, her 8-year-old son from a previous relationship, Lake Bozman, had died of acute myeloid leukemia.
Bozman Thompson knew she wanted Lake to be a part of the wedding. How to do it? Through photographs. “Pictures are just everything,” she said. “It’s all that I have left of him. So the pictures for my wedding were the most important thing to me.”
She contacted Brandy Hayes Angel, who operates Be the Change, Brandy Angel Foundation, which offers free photos to families facing life-threatening illnesses. Angel had taken pictures of Lake in October 2014, and the women had become friends. Angel’s wedding photos included portraits of the couple, their two surviving children and a superimposed, ghostly image of Lake.
“To see him in the pictures with us gave me comfort,” Bozman Thompson said. “And I did feel he was there. He was a huge part of our ceremony and everything we do. It would have been weird to have had a wedding picture that he wasn’t in.”
A few months later, she shared the image on his Facebook page, “Prayers for Lake Bozman.” The photo went viral. And that’s when the shamers got hold of it. One woman posted on “That’s It, I’m Wedding Shaming (Non Ban-Happy Edition)” that she found the images with Lake “beyond inappropriate.” The post received more than 3,000 comments, some of which also took issue with the photo. (“I’m from Texas and this is still really distasteful and disrespectful and tacky.”) But many others shamed the shamer.
“I couldn’t believe that there’s even such a page,” Bozman Thompson said. “I was still in my grief. I couldn’t even fathom the things that were being said.”
Angel was so angry that she posted a response, in which she explained the origin of the photo. “I wanted to put a person to the image so they would realize that it wasn’t just a picture of no one that they were ridiculing,” she said. “People think they can hide behind their keyboard, say anything and not realize it’s affecting others so deeply. They don’t realize these are real people and real lives. I wanted to hold them accountable.”
Justice acknowledged that policing the group can be challenging, so he tries to adhere to Facebook’s code of conduct. “We’re not there to control content — we’re a place to be expressive,” he said. “Everybody has a different perspective on what’s offensive.”
He added that when there are especially vicious posts, group members are quick to jump in and educate the posters on why they’re misguided. “It comes out to be a learning experience.”
Suzanne Brooks doesn’t buy it. Brooks, 40, a boutique owner in Athens, Georgia, and a friend of Angel’s, finds the whole thing pretty awful.
“Some of the posts are funny and in good fun, but a lot of it is hateful,” she said. She recalled a post about a couple on TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé” in which the couple married in a trailer park, replete with one bottle of champagne and a store-bought birthday cake.
“What do these people do that they have time to sit there and troll people’s weddings?” Brooks said. “It’s not about dos and don’ts. It’s about making fun of people. Fat shaming. Shaming dresses that are too low cut, too high of a hemline, too trashy. Some people get married in the middle of a trailer park and that’s OK! Who gives a (expletive) what people do?”