Mother-in-law email: was etiquette lesson a PR stunt?

Wedding cake

The man whose mother's angry email to his fiancée went viral works for a wedding company

BY Sophie Taylor LAST UPDATED AT 14:20 ON Sun 3 Jul 2011

Freddie Bourne, the man whose stepmother's etiquette email went viral, is one of the people behind a firm which plans weddings, it has emerged. The revelation suggests her snippy advice to his fiancée – "No one gets married in a castle unless they own it" – could have been concocted as a PR stunt.

Carolyn Bourne's email, apparently sent three times to Heidi Withers to be quite sure she got it, drew comparisons to the snobbish attitudes of TV character Hyacinth Bucket. It provoked Withers's father, Alan, to say Bourne had "her head stuck so far up her own arse she doesn't know whether to speak or fart".

Bourne's email offered Withers the following advice: "It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you."

Among other tips for how to comport herself in polite society, were: "When a guest in another's house, you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early – you fall in line with house norms.

"You should have hand-written a card to me. You have never written to thank me when you have stayed.

"No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour."

So far, so hilarious. But now the Observer detects a raincloud darkening the sky over the schadenfreude parade: could the whole thing be a PR stunt cooked up by Freddie Bourne, with the connivance of his parents and his future in-laws?

The rat sniffed out by the paper is the discovery that Freddie Bourne - a 29-year-old "entrepreneur" whose only business so far seems to be an online bike shop – set up a catering and events company with two friends just weeks before his stepmother's celebrated email was sent.

Mise-en-Bouche Ltd offers prospective customers the "wedding of your dreams", a "perfect bespoke event" for "one of the most important days of your life". The weddings on offer certainly appear luxurious – with a sample menu promising "mini steak frites topped with green peppercorn butter" and "lemongrass and ginger chicken skewer[s] with a ponzu dipping sauce".

All this resonates suspiciously closely with Carolyn Bourne's advice to her future stepdaughter-in-law. "I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding.

"If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.