Can I Stop My Sister-in-Law from Wearing White to My Wedding?

AAPW: She's wearing a white floor-length ballgown. Whyyy?

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Q:My soon to be sister-in-law and I have always had a rough go of it. She is extremely close to my fiancé, and she made it very clear to me when we told her that we were planning on engagement that she was not a fan. Since that point, our relationship has been strained and tense, but we both try to put on a good show when we are around both my fiancé and their family, and have an unspoken agreement that we won’t bother each other or rock the boat.

Now that we are about ten months into a twelve-month engagement, however, things are getting heated again. She recently has chosen (without asking, I might add) to purchase a floor length white, floral, ball gown from Neiman Marcus for my low-budget wedding. Not only do I feel offended that the dress is white (I’m a traditionalist in that way), but the amount of money she spent, the fact that it mirrors the silhouette of my own dress, and her sheer lack of consideration have literally kept me up at night.

I feel disrespected, subverted, and just plain hurt that she couldn’t have at least asked me if the dress she chose was okay. I couldn’t even afford anything that expensive for my own dress… it just seems so hurtful and intentional.

So, when my fiancé tried to approach her and ask if she could please wear a different dress, her response was, “I will think about it.”

I’m so overwhelmed! I’m hurt! I don’t know what to do. My fiancé doesn’t think it would be good for me to bring it up with her myself (because she is apt to disregard me anyway), but I’m running out of time! I’m terrified that she’s going to show up to my hot, casual, Virginia wedding in a floor length white ball gown just to make a point.

Am I crazy for being so hurt? Is it foolish for me to be so up in arms about a dress? Or does it seem like she’s actually being subversive and manipulative, and what do I do about it with so little time left until my wedding?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

I think it’s pretty plain that she’s trying to upset you. Maybe a person can obtusely wear white to a wedding without considering that it may be hurtful. Maybe that person can even buy an expensive, floor-length gown for a casual event (um, what?) without thinking that they may stand out. But, to be directly told, “This is bothering me, please don’t do it,” and still consider wearing it? She’s being a jerk.

You’re worried that, “don’t wear white to a wedding,” is an old-fashioned expectation, but the core idea is forever relevant. Don’t try to outshine the folks you’re celebrating. That means don’t announce your pregnancy at a friend’s baby shower, don’t propose on the dance floor of your cousin’s bar mitzvah, and yeah, pick a different dress if you have to ask, “Does this look more like a wedding dress than the bride’s wedding dress?” It’s completely fair for you to have that expectation.

But, short of wrestling her into a pencil skirt, there’s nothing you can do about what she wears. So I would just drop it. Your partner made a polite request, now it’s up to your sister-in-law to respond.

It’s hurtful that she would be so intent on upsetting you. But beyond that sting, there’s nothing to worry about here. If you’re concerned she’ll outshine you, don’t be. She’ll attract attention, sure. But for being out of place and looking like an ass.

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