OPEN THREAD: We had a thief at our wedding — what can we do?

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Photo by Sara Smile Photography
Photo by Sara Smile Photography
During our wedding reception, several cards containing (apparently) money and gift cards were stolen. The only reason I know this, is because two of my bridesmaids told me that they thought they saw my (now) brother-in-law's daughter pocketing something at the gift table. Sure enough, after sending out a private Facebook message to people who were at our wedding, it seems like some people brought cards that we never saw.

Luckily, I was able to find out so that I could still write them all Thank You notes! But, guys, I'm super upset — not about the missing prezzies (although that sucks) — I just don't know what to do at this point. There's no proof with which to bust my niece, and suspicion alone isn't worth the risk of ruining a relationship with my brother-in-law.

Did anyone else experience stealing at a wedding? How did you deal with it? -Rich

Comments on OPEN THREAD: We had a thief at our wedding — what can we do?

  1. I’d be tempted to speak with your brother in law in general terms asking about the missing items ideally with the neice present too. Not in an accusatory way, just ask them if they saw anything or remember what items were present when they put their stuff down, as though to determine what’s actually gone missing. The guilt might surface on it’s own accord if it is indeed your neice to blame.

    Depending on how far you want to take it, you could ask your venue for any CCTV but I suspect if you don’t wish to sour a relationship, you’ll have to let this go to some extent and not use it as ammunition in any future disagreements (fingers crossed these don’t occur)

    • I would definitely bring up the CCTV footage IN FRONT of your brother-in-law and his daughter. You know, “Did you notice what happened to the items that went missing? We will be contacting the venue for their CCTV footage, I’m sure they will have evidence of what happened to the items, but I wanted to ask around to see if anyone else could help me first.” If the guilt doesn’t surface, a fear of getting caught might.

    • Generally I agree with you, but I can’t swallow the idea that it’s OK to let someone steal from you to keep a good relationship. Even if you don’t go after that person or accuse her, how can you have a good relationship with someone you know stole from you? How could any relationship be based on “if you want to be in this person’s good graces you have to let her / his daughter steal your stuff”?

      That said, I agree with the rest of your idea, and later on you can always come back, if you decide you do need to say something, and say that others you talked to saw niece taking things from the gift table.

  2. How old is the niece? I think the younger she is, the more important it is for your partner to speak to their brother to let him know what was seen. I think most parents would want to know this information so they can talk to their kid and get to the bottom of it.

    Of course, if we’re talking about a 25-year-old niece, then it may not make sense to go to the parent first, and is a more delicate situation.

  3. You say that you sent a private message, but I wonder if you have made your feelings known to your guests in general (including the niece and her dad)? I’m sure you don’t want to sour the memory of your wedding by making a big kerfluffle (though it’s her fault for souring things, NOT yours), maybe if you made it clear to them how upsetting it was for you and your spouse, and how much you’d just like to have your cards back no questions asked, she might return them–or at least learn not to do such a crappy thing in the future?

  4. Honestly, I think you and your partner need to raise it with your brother-in-law (if she’s a minor) and with your niece (either way). It’s a sensitive situation, of course, but she’s committed a crime. I’m not saying call the police, but she does have to be held accountable for her actions. It’s possible also that this isn’t the first time she’s stolen something. Whether or not it’s the first time, this isn’t something she should be getting away with- she needs to realise there are consequences- severe ones- for doing something like this, or what’s to stop her making a habit of it?
    Also, the guests who gave the money she pocketed would, I suspect, be upset that it didn’t make it to you- the intended recipients.

    • We have no proof that the niece actually stole anything. We only have the word of two people who said they thought they saw the niece put something in her pocket.

      I think Sara Elizabeth is spot on. Ask BIL and niece if they saw anything that might help you determine what was on the table and when. Sort of a “you’re my family and I hope you can help me with this because I don’t know else to turn to for help” kind of thing.

  5. It is a difficult one, but I would not be able to not say anything to Brother in Law. I think I would probably have the conversation a million times in my head first – but yes I would definately mention it, or get my husband to do so, after all it’s his bro

    In this instance I wouldn’t really worry about looking like the wicked in law, as stuff has gone missing, so the line has already been crossed

  6. I have to wonder why it’s not the LW’s spouse who should talk to his/her brother. It’s the new spouse’s family of origin after all, not the letter writer’s.

  7. There’s no good way to bring this up to your brother-in-law, but I think you should. Assuming his daughter is a minor, there are two very important reasons why you should say something.
    1. You don’t know what “strike” she’s on. By that I mean she could very well already have a reputation for having sticky fingers. Your suspicions may be important to BIL’s parenting. Maybe they think she’s only stealing cheap makeup or dollar store junk and don’t realize she’s willing to steal wedding presents from her uncle. Escalating to stealing wedding gifts could be a sign to him that she needs help.
    2. Assuming this is new behavior, your BIL should be aware of it so they can figure out what’s causing it. The desire to steal could just be a rebellious phase, but it could also be a symptom of a variety of psychological issues or an indicator of some kind of trauma.

    If you can get proof that she stole, you should get it. As someone else mentioned, if she stole the cards, she committed a crime. Unless she’s a very small child, she probably took the cards because she knew they were likely to contain money. That shouldn’t go unpunished just because she’s family.
    If you can’t get proof, then tread super lightly with BIL. Most importantly, your husband should be the one to talk to him. His family, his responsibility. If you get too involved, you’ll look like you’re trying to drive wedges between people, which is obviously not the case.

  8. Were there checks in the cards? If so it might be possible to trace what happened, e.g. if they were deposited to a different account.

    If not, if it was cash and empty cards, then probably your best bet to get it back would be to send out a message asking for the cards to be sent back to you, no questions asked. I’d also ask your bridesmaids exactly what they saw – if it was just putting something into a pocket, then it could have been a cell phone or something that she happened to have out while hiding out in a corner. Would a pocket even hold wedding cards? I’d be thinking more ‘snuck into a bag’ if you’re looking for something that’d hold several wedding cards… (Don’t give them ideas, though – leading their memory can get them to mis-remember. Just ask exactly what they saw, what she seemed to be holding if anything, can they give you any details. And listen carefully for inconsistencies too – they might be mis-remembering or exaggerating to try and convince you of the conclusions they drew, even if what they saw didn’t really back that up. Or be the ones who took the gifts, G-d forbid! But there are lots of other people who could have slipped a few cards off your table.)

    Regardless of who it was who took it, some cards definitely went missing! An email asking for them returned anonymously, or for anyone who saw something suspicious to come forward, would be a really good idea. Maybe both requests at the same time so that the person knows you’ll catch them if they don’t return the cards.

  9. First things first: I’m so sorry you have to deal with such a difficult and frustrating situation.

    Second things second: I’m “here-here”-ing Lisa’s advice. A “pocketing” action seems pretty innocuous, really, and you don’t want to lead your bridesmaids on. The exaggeration and misremembering is pretty common and doesn’t make them bad people, and it happens to everyone!

    Third things third: If you’re really convinced it’s your BIL’s daughter… could your partner handle this? Since it’s your partner’s brother, your partner will likely be able to confront him and his daughter’s potential theft with less risk of damaging the relationship.

    Fourth things fourth (and final): If neither of you prefer a direct approach, the following steps.

    1. Tell your parents, siblings, parents-in-law, and siblings-in-law, and any other relative/close person in your intimate circle that you’re missing cards, including cards with gift cards, cash, and checks in them. You’ve confirmed with the guests that cards are missing. Why? Telling them in a group ensures you’re not singling anyone out (if you just tell your new BIL, it’s apparent you’re already “zeroing in”).

    2. Ask everyone in that circle for help IDing who did it. You can involve the kids in this conversation, or ask the parents to ask their kids if they saw anything. There are myriad possibilites if your BIL’s daughter did it: she may have bragged to her cousins or siblings, if she has any, who will likely be more willing to tell the truth than she is; she may come clean; she may appear very guilty and have the truth wrangled out of her by her parents or some other authority figure who is not you. Why? Kids will tell on each other (and other adults, if this niece is not a minor). And if it wasn’t your new niece… the person who actually did it may have been less cautious in front children, so they could be a big help!

    3. If you haven’t already, send out a group email to the guests and let them know what happened. This is important not only because someone may have seen something, but to protect their privacy if they gave you a check: they can void the check, sure, but their account information is still on it! Also, if they didn’t get a thank-you, it lets them know why!

  10. My youngest brother stole about $3500 in cash, checks, and gift cards out of the card box at our moms wedding. Needless to say he has a drug problem, but this was gifts from just about everyone – at 50, they didn’t need a lot of “stuff” so registered for very little.

    She had to call every single person to ask what was in the envelopes not only for a list for the police, but so she could thank them. Two people re-sent checks.

    It was horrific and humiliating and there was no “proof” so the police did nothing (he did admit it, over the phone, from jail for something unrelated but the call was surprisingly not recorded). He never tried to cash the checks and sold or used the gift cards for restaurants. He spent the cash on heroin. The cards and checks were in his personal belongings that my mom picked up after he released them to her after his arrest – the police said it wasn’t enough “proof” unfortunately.

    I don’t have advice – I don’t know how I’d handle this situation. He asked if he was going to be invited to my wedding in October and I very honestly told him I wasn’t sure. I second requesting if anyone happened to “find” cards from your wedding to return them. But how do you do it?

    This is so sad and unfortunate – my heart goes out to you and I hope there is/was a resolution!

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