Wedding crashers: in popular culture, they’re viewed as uninvited guests who show up for a free party, nothing more. But at one Florida couple Matt and Marilyn Shuman’s nuptials, it seems that one “guest” may have arrived with intentions that were much more sinister.
It wasn’t until the end of the night that the newlyweds realized their special day had been marred by what may have been criminal behavior. They went to collect their gifts and realized that all but three of them were gone, a $2,000 loss in total. They thought it could have been a person in the crowd they hadn’t recognized.
But the most shocking revelation of all came later as the pair flipped through their wedding day guestbook, filled with Polaroid images of guests alongside their handwritten well wishes. Because it turned out the uninvited woman had left a note of her own.
Before the unexpected end to their wedding, Marilyn Shuman and her new husband, Matt, had been on cloud nine. The pair had met three years before their big day at the very same place where they wed in the summer of 2017: the Sunset Grille at Little Harbor in Ruskin, Florida.
Marilyn told Fox 13 News, “We watched our first sunset there, got married at the beginning of the pier where we watched our first sunset.” And their ceremony, she told ABC Action News, went off without a hitch. “It was finally happening and everything was perfect,” she said.
Once they started the reception, though, Marilyn said she noticed that something – or, rather, someone – was off. She didn’t recognize a woman among the crowd of revelers and found herself staring, perhaps trying to figure out who the stranger was.
Acknowledging the bride’s gaze, the woman came up to Marilyn and introduced herself. “She told me that she was investigating the venue for her daughter,” Marilyn recalled. But other guests who had made small talk with the mystery guest later said she had given them different reasons for being there.
To some, she had said she was trying to find her husband. Others recalled her saying she had been invited to the nuptials. It wasn’t until after the reception that her presence would really cause a stir though.
At the end of their celebration, the Shumans went to pick up the cards and gifts left by their guests. The couple found the designated table was empty, save for three gifts – but this didn’t cause immediate panic.
“I assumed that somebody may have picked up all of the gifts and cards from the table,” Marilyn said. But nobody knew where the presents had disappeared to – and that’s when the bride’s mind went back to the woman whom she hadn’t recognized.
So Marilyn asked the staff at her venue if she could watch surveillance footage from the time of her reception. What she claimed she saw was shocking: “[The wedding crasher leaves the reception with a big black bag,” Marilyn told Fox 13 News.
“Then, she goes back in and comes out with a white bag, a little gift bag,” Marilyn continued. “She goes to the bathroom and she comes out of the bathroom and she leaves and we don’t see her again.”
Even with this footage caught on camera, Marilyn still had to figure out the identity of the alleged wedding crasher. The venue’s managers refused to allow local reporters to see the video, although a detective from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office was examining the footage.
In the meantime though, Marilyn found a big clue on her own as she flipped through her wedding guestbook. Inside, there were Polaroids of guests, along with notes each person had written to the couple. Again, one of the people stood out from the crowd.
Marilyn found a Polaroid of the uninvited woman who she believed had stolen her wedding gifts. Those in charge of the guestbook told Marilyn, who recalled to Fox 13 News, “She told [them] she was a guest and so they insisted on taking a picture of her.”
The alleged wedding crasher even wrote a note to the newlyweds. “Thanks for letting [me] share your special day,” she penned, adding a heart-shaped exclamation point at the end. To the bride, this action was unconscionable.
“You just can’t believe it,” she told Bay News 9. “I don’t know how many times I said to my family and friends, ‘I cannot even wrap my head around this.’” But that guestbook entry could be a huge piece of evidence, if the woman is found guilty of the robbery. Marilyn admitted to ABC Action News, “It’s going to seal her fate, I hope.”
Although her gifts disappeared, Marilyn hoped the end of her ordeal would bring words of remorse from the supposed wedding crasher. “She owes me an apology and my family and she should be ashamed of herself,” Marilyn said to Fox 13 News. “She spoiled the euphoria that we were feeling at the end of the night,” she added to ABC Action News.
For now, the guestbook image has been shared online in the hope that someone will recognize the mystery guest. On top of that, one of Marilyn’s best friends has created a GoFundMe page to raise the roughly $2,000 the couple believe they lost that night.
But the Shumans vowed that the event wouldn’t be a damper on their life together; instead, they would look toward their future together. “That’s not going to change the fact that we love each other,” she said. “We are together and now, we are married and we are just going to move past this. Life is too short to hold bitterness.”