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Ask Team Practical: Bridal Showers

In theory, bridal showers should be a big ball of fun. A party thrown for you, where people shower you with love, adulation and presents. However, friends, family and social conventions sometimes conspire to ruin what is supposed to be just a good time. Let’s chat about that.

Do I even have to have a bridal shower?

No. And if you are among the few who think that’s a strange question to even ask, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of the readers, the mere mention of a not having a bridal shower will have your loved ones looking at you like you suggested that y’all not wear undies and go cartwheeling in the church parking lot. But, just like any other aspect of your wedding, if you really and truly do not want to do it, don’t. You’ll be miserable and your hosts will be miserable because you’re not enjoying all their hard work. Be respectful and gracious while refusing the honor, but stick to your decision. Seriously. We’re not kidding. Send us booze to thank us later.

But my bridesmaid/mom/co-worker is having a fit about it.

That’s because, also like your wedding, this isn’t completely about you. Culturally, bridal showers can be about celebrating community just as much as it is celebrating your wedding. It’s a chance for people to gather, talk, laugh and eat. And also to give you presents. Again, if you truly don’t want one, decline. The world will not end if you don’t have a bridal shower, no matter what your mom says. But if you’re on the fence, and the person who wants to throw it is standing at the ready with petit fours and Pin the Bouquet on the Bride games, and you know that they’ll be willing to really listen to what you are and are not comfortable with, then let her or him just throw you the damn party. It might be fun.

So I don’t get a say in how the party is thrown? Awesome, Alyssa.

No, sassy-pants, you can definitely request some major things. The guest list should come from you, as well as the overall tone, i.e. don’t let your maid of honor throw you a kegger if you’re inviting your alcoholic mother-in-law. If you hate games, say you hate games. If you don’t want everyone to have to pay a fortune to eat lunch at the Ritz, tell them that. The person throwing it may even welcome some guidance; not everyone is immediately equipped to handle the task of being in the bridal party.

However, once you paint some broad brushstrokes, let them fill in the details. You can’t tell them Blush is ok as a color, but not Bashful. You’ve got a wedding to throw, so stay out of the way. If you want to control the exact type of food provided or the music played, throw your own party. (Which you should do anyway.) Trust whomever is throwing it not to do a terrible job, and be gracious regardless of how it turns out.

So who throws it?

Traditionally, the maid or matron of honor, but the rest of bridal party usually wants to get in on the action. However, anyone can throw you a shower. If your older relatives want to do a shower for their friends as well as yours, go for it.

But please, don’t just expect that you’re getting a shower thrown for you. Don’t require a shower to be thrown for you. Talk to your bridal party about it. This is an area that can be fraught with tension because of uncommunicated expectations, so y’all need to be up front with each other. Realize that the person you’ve picked as your whatever of honor may not be able to be the one to throw you a shower. Finances may be tight, their life might be crazy busy or they just may suck at throwing parties and not feel like it. That’s why other friends, family or members of the bridal party can step in and help out or even take over. And that’s fine. Don’t feel like people not throwing a shower for you means they love you any less.

Can my relative/mom’s friends/partner’s family throw me a shower?


Kidding, of course they can, what did you think I was going to say? (Miss Manners, please forgive us, as you know we adore you, but we’re getting rid of the rule that your family can’t throw you a shower, because it’s become awkward and outdated. Etiquette must evolve, yes?) If you mean instead of the traditional bridal party thrown shower, talk to your ladies and gentlemen before you sign away the shower to a well-meaning relative. That person may welcome the help or they may get their feelings hurt, so this is again where the talking becomes important. (Man, if people would just talk to each other about what they’re thinking more often, I’d be out of job….)

My book club friends want to throw me a book club shower. Won’t this seem like just a grab for more presents?

If you’re the one requesting the multiple parties it is, and you should stop it, you jerk. However, if your bridal party throws you a shower in the city you currently live in, and then your aunt wants to throw one for you back home, that’s okay. More often than not, brides will have two showers depending on their social group, location, etc. The presents are the excuse for the party and if it bothers you, request that it’s a gift-free shower. Themes are big with bridal showers, so let them brain-storm one that will require few or no presents at all. I’ve seen showers where people brought their favorite recipes, bottles of wine or a winter coat to donate to a charity. Google is your friend; use it.

Heck, just keep it simple. “We will be showering Jenn with love, heartfelt advice and the warmth of our presence, so please, do not bring a gift.” BAM. They’re let off the hook and you don’t feel like a Greedy Gus. Be warned—people will still bring you gifts. They can’t help it. But give yourself some slack. Those presents are about more than just giving you stuff, so don’t stress over it. You needed that toaster anyway.

So who gets invited?

Another tricky situation. Etiquette states that you do not invite anyone to the shower who is not also invited to the wedding, and there is a good reason for this. However, that often gets thrown out the window depending on the parties involved. Social groups tend to create their own etiquette, which was fine when everyone lived in the same town and knew everyone else as well as what was expected. But not so fine now when you suddenly get a call like reader D. did from her mother who was upset that her friends weren’t on the shower guest list.

To avoid this, again, you talk. What kind of shower do you want to have and what kind of shower does the host want to throw for you? (The answers to those questions need not be perfectly aligned, but pretty close.) Generally bridal showers are thrown after you’ve already compiled your guest list, so talk to your parents and future in-laws regarding anyone they might want to invite in addition to that guest list. Remind them of the etiquette rule about the shower guest list equals wedding guest list, but don’t be surprised if they have people they want to add who know they aren’t invited to the wedding and would love to come to your shower anyway. Provide the host with your list and ask that they double-check with you before adding anyone else. (The two more people they add because they “knew you wouldn’t mind” might be someone you very much so would “mind” about.) And make sure that your mom’s random work friend that she really wants to have knows that she’s not invited to your small backyard wedding (weddings are always small, when talking about them to people who are not invited, didn’t you know?). Inviting her to the shower is fine. Hurting her feelings when she does not get a wedding invitation is not.

My bridal party is fighting over this stupid bridal shower, and I don’t even want it anymore.

Okay, you know what? This next part is for those of you in a wedding and not having one, so brides go put your head between your knees. Bridal party, let me talk to you for a sec. Are you listening? Okay.


No, I’m serious, stop it. APW has talked before about bridal parties and bridal brigades, so you know we have massive love for you guys. You guys help hold us together and keep us sane. So when you start fighting amongst yourselves, it drives us more batty than it would without the wedding happening  In the end, the shower is just a party and is not truly representative of your friendship with the bride, so throwing your angst in the argument about what venue to hold it at is not helping. Maybe it’s the bride’s fault for not being accommodating enough for you, maybe it’s the other bridesmaid’s fault for being a heinous heifer. Whatever the reason is, do your best to keep it civil.

Okay, now, brides? This part is gonna be hard, but you have to let your bridal party work it out amongst themselves. Have a come-to-Jesus-meeting if things are getting out of hand, but in the end your bridal party is made up of grown-ass women. It’s not your job to fix them. Address any real concerns that may arise, but remember what Meg said, “Weddings have a way of bringing ‘the way we wish things were’ into conflict with ‘the way things are.'” And sometimes that sucks, and I’m sorry.

What if it’s my relative who’s driving me crazy?

Then you have my sympathies. They’ll have to be dealt with in the same way you deal with them in any other part of your wedding where they are stressing you out:


Kidding. Treat them with kindness, patience and a firm stance when needed. In the end remember that, just like wedding planning, this will all be over. Eventually.!

Picture by Little Bat Photography from the APW Flickr stream

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