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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  • Emily

    I don’t have a “whatever-of-honor,” and my bridesmaids are mostly scattered around the eastern half of the country, so I assume one is not happening. That’s ok, it seems like a weird tradition to me anyway, and I would NEVER NEVER ask, or expect, anyone to throw me a party.

    I am a little pessimistic about the bachelorette party for that very reason, though. I’d like to have one of those, since my groom’s friends are already getting excited about planning his, but I am afraid that my non-local friends will not be able to get into town further in advance than they absolutely have to for the wedding, and if his is well organized ahead of time there might not be any of our local, mutual friends who would be free to hang out with me.
    it’s not that I need someone else to plan me a party – movies and takeout with friends would be fine, and I can obviously host that – I am just afraid that there will be NOBODY to hang out with me! And if I am left at home on my own while he and everyone else are out having an elaborately plotted and exciting night, the night before all the craziness of the wedding starts, I WILL spend it in tears.

    It’s so hard to do parties apart and divide up your friends when you have a lot of fun doing parties together!

    • Josephine

      Does his party have to be the night before? If there is drinking involved then it would probably be better if it weren’t right before the wedding (hangovers make locating your joy difficult) and then you might not feel so alone.

      • “Hangovers make locating your joy difficult” cracks me up. You are a genius of understatement.

      • Emily

        Oh, you’re absolutely right! His party is going to be two nights before. We would like to be sober and in good moods for the wedding :) But that’s why I’m afraid people won’t be able to come in early, they’re already doing enough.

    • I feel like I’m in the same situation. W has all f these amazing male friends in the city with us who are super excited about throwing him a crazy bachelor party. Whenever I think about my corresponding night I get sad. My six bridesmaids are in six different cities and I can’t ask them to be taking more time off work/buying more plane tickets than they already are.
      I don’t know that I have any advice yet, but I just wanted to send you a big hug and tell you you’re not alone.

      • JESSICA

        I had these same thoughts and feelings during the lead up to my wedding. We live in the U.S., our friends live in every corner of the globe, and we got married in France. I was really cognizant of the fact that I was already asking my friends to come to France and so certainly had no expectation of any shower or bachelorette. That and the fact that my closest friends are medical residents so I knew they’d have no time to plan anything.

        But the thing is, deep down, this made me feel really alone. Especially when my husband’s friends had arranged a great weekend escape to San Fran. But a couple months before the wedding, in stepped my husband’s business partner, who couldn’t handle the thought that no one was organizing any sort of bachelorette. Despite my cries of “we’re already asking so much of them”, she organized an incredible cooking class, wine tasting lunch, and walking tour of in France, near the wedding, for whomever could make it the day before people we supposed to show up anyway. And it was great.

        Sure, there was a point when I was really upset that it had come down to my husband’s business partner planning it all (where were my close friends?), but in the end I realized that my friends are no less fantastic because they celebrated me in other ways… their own ways. They played a song in the ceremony or flew all the way to France even though they could only stay for less than 24 hours, and these actions were so much more important. Also, in the end, my relationship with my husband’s business partner is all that much stronger for her having played the role she did. So really, it was a win-win situation, but it took me time to realize that.

        I think what I’m trying to say, is that it’s so easy to get caught up in the idea that your friends, if they’re really good friends, will celebrate you traditionally, with a bachelorette or a shower. When in fact, if you’re lucky, you might find that your friends honor you in (what can be) equally meaningful and fun-filled ways.

        • JESSICA

          p.s. How is it that I’ve been hovering in the wings of APW for 9 months and only just now posted my first comment, three weeks AFTER our wedding??! :)

          • Remy

            Dunno, but it sounds like you’d have an awesome grad post! :)

        • Jo

          But Alyssa made a great point about this – if you’re wondering/wishing about a bridal shower you “know” your friends/bridal brigade can’t throw you… and not talking to them about it? That probably isn’t a good set of assumptions, necessarily. Talking is SO KEY between bride and bridespeople. But then the question becomes, how do you bring this shower thing up if you don’t want to be inadvertently asking them for it while knowing it’s probably more than they can handle… Anyone? (P.S. This is advice I never got but wish I had pre-wedding. )

      • mimi

        For my sister’s wedding, most everyone was from out of town, so we threw the bachelorette party on Thursday night before the Saturday wedding. That way, any hangovers were on Friday instead of on the big day, and it didn’t seem to be too much of a problem for anyone to come in a day early. Maybe that would work for your friends?

        • Emily

          That’s actually exactly what I want to do (and that’s the night my fiance is having his bachelor party), since we have way too many family coming in the day before the wedding to be able to escape for parties! But that means asking people on already tight budgets and schedules to come in an extra day early, and I’m not sure my “we can share hotel rooms/find couch space” offer makes it much better. I actually already asked them, saying that I’d like to have a girls’ night to hang out before things got crazy but that I totally and completely understood if they couldn’t make it for logistical reasons…we’ll see what happens, I guess.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I’ve got two thoughts-

      1) I’ve been to a joint bachelor/bachelorette party before and it was awesome. It wasn’t a booze and stripper-filled bacchanalia, but they never would have wanted that anyway. Pretty much everyone there is friends with both the bride and groom and I would’ve been sad to have missed out on the groom’s send-off if I’d been with only the bride instead.

      2) If scheduling is an issue you don’t have to have both parties the same night. My husband’s and mine were over a month apart because we both scheduled around what would allow the maximum number of guests to attend. If you’re really worried about being all alone the night before the wedding, talk to a few friends or family members about your concern. I didn’t have my party the night before the wedding, but by Friday night a lot of my out-of-town guests had arrived and I spend the evening with cousins and local friends catching up. I’m sure you’ll have people around too, even if it isn’t a carefully planned event.

      • Irene

        My husband and I had a joint bachelor/bachelorette party, which one of my sisters/bridesmaids planned with the help of a groomsman or two. It was AWESOME. It wasn’t a stripper-filled bacchanalia, but it certainly was booze-filled, and one of our friends did bring a penis crown, penis candies, etc. Before the party, our one request for the hosts was that the party still have elements of separation… basically we weren’t supposed to be couply all evening. They solved this by putting everyone on two teams, Humans and Cylons, and our teams competed throughout many stupid games like Viking Football, drinking games, impromptu volleyball using an empty water bottle, etc… we kept score throughout the day, and I’m happy to say that my team totally won. HUUMAAANS! ahem.
        Then my sister unexpectedly busted out her Cylon bandana again at our wedding reception three weeks later. Amazing.

        Anyway, back to the point, I highly recommend the joint party if a fair number of your friends are mutual, as there’s no feeling of being left out or of friends having to pick sides. I also thought it was really nice for some of our friends that aren’t as mutual… my best friend since kindergarten got to know my husband better as we all got trashed together.

        Oh and I also recommend the themed teams. For us at least, the competition made it easier to celebrate as individuals rather than as a couple. You can celebrate as a couple at the wedding!

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I’m SO JEALOUS of your Human/Cylon party!!!!!

          The party I went to had some separation too. We all went out for dinner together then went to a arcade/mini golf place. The bride played mini golf while the groom was inside the arcade and then they switched. Before dinner some of the girls went and got their nails done and after the arcade the bride went home for beauty sleep and a group of us went to a sports bar with the groom.

          All in all very excellent.

    • North

      I have a friend who organized her own bachelorette party (the night before the wedding, so people would already be there) and it was awesome. I think if you talk to your friends/bridesmaids in advance, one of them would probably be willing to organize it for you; and if you organize something, people will show. They just have to know that you want it.

      • I had a night-before-the-wedding shower/bachelorette party too. It was a low-key party at a friend’s home, but having it then was the only way to have people there, since it was an international wedding and my girl friends live in separate cities and flew in the day before the wedding. It was not a wild night, so being the night before the wedding was not a problem for us, and it was wonderful to have the time with my girl friends. :)

    • catherine

      Also, if you have the means, don’t discount traveling for a party.

      Like you, I have friends/wedding party members scattered through the country and it didn’t seem fair or reasonable to ask them to travel for another weekend for a bachelorette. I grew up on the east coast (where most of my friends are based) and live in LA, which is basically close to nothing. So I flew to New York for a weekend, stayed with my MOH who lives there, and invited all of my friends (many of whom live in NY, Philly, DC) to hang out that weekend if they could make it. Not only did a lot of relatively-local friends make it, but a friend of mine who lives in SF flew out too, claiming it was a fun excuse for a weekend in New York. We didn’t do anything too crazy or formalized, but it was an awesome weekend with a ton of friends that I don’t usually get to see. I don’t know if it’s possible for you, but it worked great for me.

  • Mallory

    Definitely needed this, great timing as always apw. I’ve requested no shower and conceded to an “engagement party” that is solely a celebration. However, my mom and mother-in-law keep slipping and calling it a shower, which seems like an indication of what the party will really be…

    I like the idea of consciously directing the gift giving into something small or charitable as the whole opening gifts in front of people gives me a mild panic attack. Any apw women done that with creative ideas?

    Also, on a separate note, is it weird to have an engagement party/bridal shower over a year after you got engaged? We’ll have nearly a 2 year engagement and I feel a bit odd having this party so long after the actual engagement. Any ideas for ways to acknowledge the delay and play it off in a sassy way?

    • Cass

      Why “acknowledge” the delay? People can celebrate you and your love at any time. Own it!
      People know you’ve been engaged. They know you’re getting married. They know there are many parties before the wedding, and most of them just show up when asked.
      Feel loved that those close to you care so much they want to celebrate with you :)

    • Hmmm… even though I think you should just unapologetically have your party (and cry if you want to), you could do something cheeky (ahem) like put a picture of Pippa Middleton in the invite and say “I’m a little behind…” or something of the like (look to late Birthday cards for inspiration)…

      Or, you could make the entire theme of the event: “The 11th Hour” which both winks at your “late-ness” and also celebrates your last moments as a single woman (though frankly, not much has changed in my life with my girlfriends, and our last boozy book club (no reading required) felt a lot like a shower). The 11th hour could be a classy and sparkly theme for an engagement party, or a glam night out/in with the girls… or both!

      • FawMo

        I want to kiss you for that Pippa reference! Hilarious!

    • Sara

      If it makes you feel better, I’m planning an engagement party for the (aproximate) anniversary of our becoming engaged. I figure it’s appropriate. An engagement is a long period of time, and I think it can be celebrated at any point.

    • ElfPuddle

      Why would an engagement party have to be near the actual engagement?
      The longer the engagement, the more need to spread this stuff out so you can enjoy the whole thing.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I don’t think it’s weird for your engagement party to be long after the engagement. In my family at least, parties are usually timed backward from the wedding – so if you’re getting married in Dec. 2012 we’d target Aug/Sept ’12 for a shower and May/June ’12 for an engagement party. Even if you got engaged in Feb. 2008. If you won’t be doing gifts it won’t be as relevant, but for people with big registries, a lot of items are seasonal or only available for 12-18 months. We try to condense all gift-giving occasions into a small enough window that the things you register for don’t go obsolete before you’ve finished the collection.

      As for opening gifts in front of people, I know of two ways to avoid it. One is to schedule the party from 2-4 and “lose track of time” so that the gift opening doesn’t start until 4:30. People are busy and will start taking off at 4 so you’ll have a smaller crowd. The other way is to invite some children and let them open the presents (carefully). My nieces opened most of my gifts and I just sat back and said “thank-you” over and over again. The kids were so cute no one paid much attention to me.

    • Julia W

      If it isn’t obvious that each guest should bring a gift it might be awkward to open them in front of everyone anyways. You should tell your mom or whomever is planning this thing that you don’t want to, you’d rather spend the time mingling than have all eyes on you. If it truly is an engagement party there shouldn’t be a problem…right? Will it be co-ed?
      I, also, don’t think you need to mention the “lateness”. You are engaged so an engagement party makes sense.

      • MARBELLA

        Typically, I thought that engagement parties were supposed to be a ‘surprise’ (as in, the guests don’t know you are engaged until it’s announced at the party) and that as such, you do not expect/give gifts. Obviously that rarely happens these days, I am sure most people know they are going to an engagement party, but there are still not supposed to be gifts – otherwise it’s a shower?

  • My bridal shower/Hen Party was a strange mix of incredible fun and phallic imagery. It was so much fun to have an afternoon with my favourite women, and a great way for all of them to get to know each other before we all met up again at our destination wedding. They had a manicurist and pedicurist there and the most fabulous canapes… but man, did they go overboard on the phallic imagery. It made me feel a little embarassed actually. I used to work in HIV prevention and still work in the field of reproductive health, so they know that I’m never afraid to break it down about sex, but I was slightly taken aback by the sheer volume of penises.

    They had a penis cake, penis straws, a penis game, and even penis jello shots. This is an incredibly classy bunch of women, so I was pretty surprised when the party took that turn. It was interesting and led the Anthropologist in me (that’s my educational background) to think about indigenous initiation and fertility rituals… (or that might have been a coping strategy for being a little unnerved). In a way I felt like we were all doing something we felt we “should” do, and pushed it so far over the top that it became ironic. In our entire wedding process, I think it was the only time I stood toe to toe with the WIC. I can see how a wedding can get hijacked by the best of intentions. Thankfully, we honey-badgered the rest of our wedding ourselves.

    The best part of the party was when they rolled out a TV and I found out that they had sneaked to my house and interviewed Brian on FILM! They would ask him questions about me, then before he answered I would have to guess if he would know the answer or not. Stuff like: What is Manya’s (G-Rated) favourite part of your body (his shoulders and hands), What is Manya’s favourite colour. Finally, after all kinds of raucousness, they asked him why I was perfect for him, and then he cried and said all kinds of sweet stuff that made all of us cry.

    The funniest part about the whole thing was that the phallic jello shots were really tiny. I told Brian about the, but didn’t mention the size. Later, when he was talking to the husband of the woman who had done the Jello-shots he cracked: So, did you model for the mold? All of us who had been there, and the poor husband DIED laughing.

    By the way, for those of you who were pushing me to blog, I took your advice, stopped skulking and started it, and so far it’s been an awesome experience. If nobody ever visits, it’s still been awesome because it forces me to really NOTICE. I posted some never-before-published pix and pretty from our wedding yesterday, and the story of how I met Brian. If you click my name, it’ll take you there. (Meg! Forgive me! I promise I’ll never mention it again!)

    • Emily

      The anthropologist in me got to thinking there too :) Carnivalesque inversion?

      The video is so sweet! And congratulations to you and Brian!

      • Emily, are you an anthropologist? Seriously, Anthro provides the most incredible framework for looking at the WIC and unpacking it. I think the whole commodification of every major rite of passage in American culture is such an interesting phenomenon… and don’t even get me started on the boudoir-ization of American retail! This may be one of the nerdier phrases ever spoken, but Anthro ROCKS.

        By the way, when the Samburu warriers get initiated, they each get a very phallic spear (and anaesthesia-free circumcision) which they carry around for the rest of their lives–at least I don’t have to carry around the jello shots!

    • I specifically told my ladies no penises, please. They honored that… And made me a vagina cake. It was incredible, but cutting into it just felt kind of wrong.

      • What is it with the no-no-parts!?

        • Amy

          No clue, but something about bachelorette (or bridal shower) just screams penis paraphernalia! to some people. I asked my bridesmaids to confine that stuff to the bachelorette, my shower was very g-rated.

  • The one point that my mom and I really argued about my my shower was whether or not the groom shows up. My mom claimed that it was “tradition” for the groom to show up at the very end to carry gifts to the car, and that people would be “so disappointed” if my fiance didn’t show. I argued that I’d never heard of this before, and that this would mean that my fiance would have to drive a total of 4 hours to not attend a party and say hello to people he didn’t know very well. In the end, my fiance did drive 4 hours to show up, mostly so my mom and I wouldn’t come to blows.

    Otherwise it was a lovely shower and flowed well. I told people early on that I didn’t want to play any weird games and that people shouldn’t be required to watch me open up presents. So it was a lot of tasty food and drinks and no major productions. I think it’s good to put your foot down about things like that (which won’t significantly change the event) and otherwise let people plan the event they want. It’s more about them telling you that they love you than you getting the exact shower you want.

    • Amy

      My fiance was in charge of “secretly” getting me to the shower, so he did come. Plus, it was a nice way for his side of the family (some of whom we don’t see very often) to congratulate him on the engagement in person, and not just me.

  • Cass

    My problem with bridal showers is that since its guest list is usually a bunch of women who know eachother very well, conversation can get catty. So while I love you, I hate going to bridal showers. And I’m never throwing another one, ever again.
    I recently threw a bridal shower, and the bride started dissing my own wedding/shower! While I was right there!
    For every shower in the future, I want to be able to go home when I feel like it, and not stay to the end to clean up. So when the games end, and talk gets catty, I’ma leave.

  • Alyssa, I see syndication in your future. Brilliant.

  • Josephine

    Do people have showers instead of engagement parties?

    I don’t think either are such big things in the UK so I’m confused on the whole issue really. My mum wants to throw us a party, which is both sweet and unexpected, so we’re not sure who should be invited, where it should be etc. The wedding can’t be for almost 3 years for various reasons so it would be kind of nice to celebrate with a party. We don’t have a guestlist for the wedding yet (obviously) so it could happen that we invite people to a party that wouldn’t be invited to the wedding.


    • Amy

      Some people have both showers and engagement parties. What seems to be common among my group of friends is a small/personal engagement brunch *right* after the engagement so both families can meet each other. This tends to be mostly family and very close friends. My fiance and I had an “engagement party” that was really just a group of our close friends meeting us at a bar for drinks/snacks.
      Showers among my group tend to be much closer to the actual event and slightly larger.
      Personally, I think asking for (or expecting) gifts at both the shower and engagement party is a bit much, though I have certainly showed up with flowers/champagne to engagement parties for the couple simply because I wished them well.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        We were *insistent* that no one bring gifts to our engagement party (because we already had 2 showers planned that covered the entire female half of our guest list PLUS bachelor/ette parties PLUS it was 3 days after Christmas) and I still ended up writing a dozen thank-you’s for gifts. People are incorrigible.

    • Oh, man, I had this problem too… since we were doing a small wedding, we had a big party in Nairobi, invited everybody we knew, then called it an “engagement party” (though, truth be told, we have a Holiday Cocktail every year anyway, and the only difference here was that we spent a bit more on food). THEN, I found out that etiquette says that engagement parties are only for those invited to the wedding. DOH! I even made a little speech thanking everybody for being there and apologising in advance for the fact that our wedding was going to be very small and intimate.

      THEN… (this is the best part), an older couple who we had invited to the engagement party INVITED THEMSELVES TO OUR WEDDING and even crashed and stayed in a rented house with a bunch of our friends! Oh well… we rolled with it…

      I don’t know what the right answer is, but we TOTALLY screwed it up, and somehow it all was ok anyway.

  • Just wanted to say for those who are resisting a shower – it can be done. We (two brides that we were) didn’t have a bridal shower before our wedding, and I don’t remember it being a big deal at all. My mom didn’t even mention it and if Jami’s mom did it wasn’t a big pressure point (and there were some on both sides – we did try to accommodate what was important to our families).

    Also, my bachelorette party consisted of my pregnant friend/bridesmaid and I going out to dinner and a movie. Wild times, I know, but it was fun. My friends are all scattered and I knew I wouldn’t want to be bacheloretting right before the wedding when folks were in town. So if the “traditional” bachelorette party doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, find something that does (or skip it entirely).

  • Abby C.

    Oh lordy, I’m in the middle of that right now…

    An old friend of my mother’s offered to throw me a shower in a private room in a very ritzy country club. She has means, so I don’t feel guilty about the expenditure. I have known her since I was 6 or 7, and when I was in my teens I babysat for her three daughters. It was a stunningly generous offer of her to host it, and I was very moved.

    The drama comes from the fact that my maid of honor had not planned anything, and the scheduled luncheon on Saturday will be when she has class for her EMT training. I can’t reschedule, because the room isn’t available, and I feel like it would be a shame to waste the generous offer of our family friend…..but she’s not happy. The unfortunate issue is that there’s literally no time when my maid of honor would be available to shrow a shower of her own on a weekend before my wedding. And frankly, I’m still working on some feelings of self-consciousness regarding presents, so the idea of having multiple showers makes me cringe.

    I hope it will all settle out in the end.

    • Maybe suggest setting aside some special time with your maid of honor before the wedding (even just a fun dinner out) instead of an actual shower? You can acknowledge how busy everyone is and mention that you just want to spend time with her/other bridesmaids instead of a real “party.” It might make her feel better about not being able to throw/be at the shower.

    • LZ

      You could also consider doing something along the lines of (if you’re interested), seeing if your maid-of-honor would like to plan something the day before the wedding for the bridal party – My Maid-of-Honor took charge of manis/pedis the day before, and got champagne, etc for us to drink while we were getting our fingers and toes done. I noticed before the wedding that we kind of had everything completed, and there were a lot of people sitting around feeling like they should be DOING SOMETHING!

      So, maybe your maid-of-honor could plan something like that? That way she’ll feel like she helped, and you can explain to her that it was the Family friends decision to throw it tha day, but that you’d love for her to plan this other thing when she has more time

      Or even a “post-wedding wind-down event”? I think there’s a lot of people that would LOVE something like that… a, “let’s get the bridal party together, share stories, and go over the pictures together”?? Heck, I’d love that more than some of the pre-wedding stuff, because you have more energy to devote to it.

      Since it’s not a “common” tradition, there wouldn’t be expectations of gifts, either.

      It’ll all work out in the end — That became my mantra during wedding planning!!!

    • Sara

      Multiple showers can be a good thing if each one has a different set of guests. I’ve heard of people having different showers for different sides of the family, or nor for family and one for friends. That way, with smaller groups you can spend more time with your guests and it reduces the awkwardness of putting too many people who don’t know each other together. Of course, this doesn’t really apply so much to smaller weddings.

  • Thankfully, one of my bridesmaids was a crafty lady, like me… She conspired to throw me a crafting shower, where, among other things, my friends came together to make the invitations to the wedding–about 400 of them in 3 hours ;) It was supposed to be present-free, but I did get a gift certificate to the hob lob. Also, I think a major part of the success we had was an assortment of very straightforward tasks… Like using a paper cutter, attaching something with photo corners, and stamping our design on it. Boom–done! I feel like I should maybe submit our invites for a lazy girl’s DIY…

    • That. Is. GENIUS. If I’d had all my shower attendees participate in the invitation-making, the process would’ve been approximately 1 zillion times less daunting/exhausting. Man, I’m so suggesting this to everyone I know…

  • CWB

    Ah, bridal showers…I was wondering when I’d see a post about this topic. I wasn’t given a choice about having a shower, my fiance’s family threw the party and I cried. I detest being the center of attention and it took a lot for me to pull myself together enough to be gracious and polite while opening presents in front of 50+ people who I did not know. I had zero control over the guest list, my fiance’s mother invited all of her friends. They can be very judge-y and I was on display for the whole party.

    I happen to think that bridal showers are a silly tradition. I’m sure I will appreciate the presents (eventually, once the memory of the party fades), but who thought it was a good idea to dump the chore of writing 50+ thank you notes on an already overwhelmed bride less than a month before the wedding?

    Clearly this one is still a sore spot for me. I will give my mom credit for trying to shoot the shower down, but she lives very far away and no one listened to her. While I’m sure many people enjoy showers and think they are a lovely tradition, I wish everyone had been more willing to listen to the bride’s wishes in my case.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      One of my cousins had a “virtual” baby shower because she was living far away from home during her pregnancy and her family couldn’t stand not having a party. I think this should be advertised as an option for introvert brides. They had a party, video chatted with the “guest of honor” for about 10 minutes then her mom opened all the gift and brought them out to the mommy-to-be on her next visit.

      How nice would that be? People who want to party have a party, the bride makes a virtual appearance but doesn’t have to commune with more than 2-3 people at a time and then can hang up?

    • Kate

      @CWB, I could have written this exact post myself. I was soooo uncomfortable with my fiance’s mom and her friends throwing me a shower. All the other guests were THEIR friends, and it turned into 20 ladies in their 60s explaining to me that I MUST, SIMPLY MUST register for formal china, silver and crystal, “THAT’S JUST HOW IT IS DONE.” I wanted to crawl in a hole. A dirty hole, with no china whatsoever.

  • Meg

    My “problem” is not that there are tons of people clamoring to host a bridal shower… but rather there aren’t any. I’m a grad student and I’m super aware that the group of friends I’m most proximate to are broke and rustling up the cash for a single wedding gift in a few months is likely something that will put a strain on their meager stipends. Even though I could emphatically state NO GIFTS (and be super cool with that– really), I doubt that would work as everyone is super nice. And I would feel guilty about THAT, especially since I have a job lined up post graduation in few months, while most my friends are still active students or are actively freaking out about looking for jobs.

    My non-grad school friends who could afford the shower/gift giving combo all live far away and I won’t be around them until the actual wedding. Nor do I want them to incur the expense of traveling for something as silly as a shower… My family is also far away and I’ll only see them for the holidays, so no shower then, either.

    I don’t even know if I WANT a shower, per se, we certainly don’t need presents to make our cross country move more cumbersome and if we want a party we can always just throw one. I DO know that when random people (acquaintances mostly, my friends know better) ask me about shower plans and I respond, “Oh, no plans, I probably won’t have one”, and I get the kind of pitying look, that I want to say, “Look, I do have friends. Save your pity.” Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but it kind of irks me and leaves me feeling a little left out of this “wedding right of passage”.

    • gloucester

      As a poor student with poor student friends, definitely sympathize with your situation! Admittedly things were much easier for me than for you. Showers weren’t on the radar screen, and for a number of reasons, we happened to have our wedding close to my parents, in a state far away enough that it didn’t seem rude not to invite my school friends. I definitely feel for you as it was a relief not to have any of those folks travel or buy a gift on our behalf. We plan to have informal get-together around February (my wedding was in August and got exams in Jan., eek!) that will be a way to hang out and have fun with them and not attach it to anything wedding- and therefore gift-related (I hope!). I’m not sure if this helps at all, but I think the best way to deal with any anxious/sensitive feelings is just to not let the wedding planning get in the way of hanging out with your friends and giving them ample opportunities to feel part of the process in some way, that they’re contributing in terms of verbal/emotional encouragement and support. And share lots of pictures!

  • –Lisa

    Oddly, a shower was something I wanted, but I didn’t know if it was appropriate for me to have one. I am definitely a late bloomer, and am far and away the oldest of my local friends to get married. My MOH shower was 15 years ago!

    And, so while I wanted a shower, because I wanted the experience, and the memories (way more than the presents, which, eh, we are old and have good jobs and just buy a new toaster/blender/dishes if we want them), I wasn’t sure I should have a shower.

    Were people going to snicker at me behind their hands for being the Worlds Oldest Bride and Who Did I Think I Was Kidding Anyway?

    Fortunately, my MOH was appalled at my thinking, smacked me around a bit (metaphorically, of course) and planned what I am sure will be a lovely shower for me in two weeks. I’m still nervous, but I am very clear about how lucky I am to have friends to love me enough to buck tradition.

    Thanks to Team Practical – if I hadn’t found this site early in my planning I would have thought I was insane. I may be 40% OBB, and 20% WIC, but I am definitely 100% APW.

    • I hope you have a fabulous time at your shower! Enjoy! :) (And I also got married later than most my friends, quite a few of whom had one or more kids.) Finding the one you want to spend your life with is worth huge, joyous celebration…at any age!

      • –Lisa

        Thank you, Jenny. I appreciate it!

  • Cara

    I really didn’t want a shower at all, but my mom and sister really wanted to throw me one. So I compromised with them and requested that shower guests bring their favorite recipes to be put into a recipe book for me instead of gifts. And no games. At all. In the end it was really lovely – I got to spend time with the women who have been most important in my life but I didn’t have to open presents in front of anyone or feel guilty for getting another present from guests who were already shelling out tons of money to fly to my wedding.

    • Love this idea, Cara!

    • meg

      I had a recipe shower thrown for me, and have been to three or more in the last few years, and I find them… complicated? Gendered? (Though if the host asks for it, then I suppose it makes much more sense). There is always this assumption that women cook, so they have a recipe to bring, and it’s a good lady shower. I don’t cook, my husband cooks. So he always dutifully writes down a recipe, and then when I hand it over I say, “It’s from David” and my friend always sort of grins and nods. And when I got recipes, I was like, “Huh.”

      So anyway, I love that it was lovely for you, and I totally love shower ideas that don’t require gifts. Just throwing my thoughts about assuming-women-cook-being-complicated out into the world ;)

      • Ms Fran

        we decided we didn’t want gifts for our wedding cos we’re doing it out of the way and it’s a pain for people to travel/stay over, so we’ve asked people who wanted to know what we want to get us a copy of their favourite book.

        It can be their current favourite, something they’ve just read and loved or a book they adored when they were younger. We said we’re happy with new copies of old battered charity shop copies. It seems like a nice way to get something personal from people but not too expensive or difficult to store and if we end up with 17 copies of Pride and Prejudice and 20 of Great Expectations we’ll just take them down Oxfam!!

        • We did a book shower here — I say ‘we’ because I initially wanted a joint shower, but we were in different countries at the time so it didn’t work out that way. But it was still amazing . . . people brought coffee table books and novels and cookbooks and children’s books and all kinds of things that I never would’ve bought on my own but that I love.

          • Class of 1980

            It would be a nice change from the usual shower chatter.

        • meg

          FAVORITE BOOK! I had a book shower… best evar.

        • LZ

          LOVE THIS IDEA!!!

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I attended a shower where we were asked to bring recipes. As I don’t cook I brought a take-out menu from my favorite Chinese restaurant and a note that said “Dial phone, request food, await delivery” Most people found it hilarious and the bride certainly wasn’t offended as she knows that my cooking skillz are non-existent.

        Sometimes you just do what you can.

        • Class of 1980

          I love that because there are not enough (real) laughs at showers.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            The only “recipes” I know are for proprietary aluminum alloys, plastics, and polymers used to manufacture automotive components. For some reason I didn’t think the newlyweds would find those useful.

            I really don’t even know why people invite me places. Clearly engineers can’t interact with normal people :)

        • meg

          I am TOTALLY doing this next time.

          • Class of 1980


            Clearly, you should not be attending parties. You should be PLANNING them. ;)

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            I’ll plan them, but only if you’ll come Class of 1980 :)

            I think if I could go back in time I would’ve had an all-female ‘stock the toolbox’ shower. Skip the blender, mama needs a new cordless drill.

          • Class of 1980

            Sure. But I have to warn you that I am Trouble with a capital “T”. ;)

      • I can get your argument that it’s somewhat gendered to expect that all women have a favorite recipe they can share. But I don’t think it’s particularly gendered (at least in this day in age) as a gift. I mean, I don’t think most people expect that only the bride is going to use the gifts she receives. Sure we are “showering” her, but really the gifts are for the couple to use together. So a recipe, no matter who it is cooked by, is still a gift for the couple. Even if the husband cooks, than the wife gets to reap the benefit of that recipe by eating it.

        And I had a number of gifts signed from both the wife and husband (or girlfriend and boyfriend), even though only the wife/girlfriend of each couple was invited to my shower. So I think it’s perfectly fine for David to write the recipe down and then for both of you to sign your names.

        (apologies that this comment was so hetero focused)

      • gloucester

        Ha, great point! One nice thing about recipes themselves that they can have nothing to do with the labor of actually cooking (how else do we explain the Food Network?). They can treasured as verbal artifacts, part of the collective memory of families (though you’re right that it’s problematic to assume that kind of memory tends to go down the female line). Or things to aspire to or imagine enjoying for future celebrations.

    • Stephasaurus

      A recipe shower is such a great idea! I freaking love to cook (my fiance does too; we jokingly argue over who GETS to cook, not who HAS to cook) and I absolutely love when other people share their recipes with me. I don’t really care if it seems gendered — I just know that all my female friends/relatives enjoy cooking and sharing recipes, and my fiance would appreciate making those recipes equally as much as I would. :)

  • Sarah P

    It’s sort of tradition amongst my family that my dad’s sister and cousin throw bridal showers for everyone on that side of the family gettting married and it always turns in to a super awkward meeting of relatives you ONLY see at bridal showers. Well awkward for whoever the bride is, because our generation in the family (we’re talking like 3rd, 4th, 5th cousins here) don’t really know each other at all. The older generation loves it but the rest of us dread these events.

    I tried to curb the gift giving but I knew that wasn’t going to fly. So I suggested a cleaning supplies shower or a wine shower. They still insisted on the gifts, but everyone did give me cleaning supplies as well which was AWESOME.

  • My MOH (I called her my Best Gal) threw me a totally nontraditional anti-shower bridal shower and it was a blast! No games, no things in the shapes of penises. Don’t be afraid to trust your girl and for the MOHs out there – don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Mine involved crafting obnoxious hats, drinking beer and parading to the local pub during a hurricane. It looked nothing like a bridal party and it was the best! Let your friends spoil you a little, don’t be afraid to break the rules and give yourself permission to be ridiculous.
    That’s my two cents.
    Here’s a blog post about my anti-shower bridal shower.

    • Class of 1980

      BIG SIGH. I have never had a good time at a shower and I’ve always told the men in my life that women hate showers in reality. We’re just all pretending. ;)

      But YOUR shower. Oh man. You had me at “Obnoxious Hats in a Pub”.

      • meg

        I’m with you 1980. SHOWERS. (Ok, I have fun doing unofficial shower activities like drinking and gossiping, but I’d like if those were the official activities.) HATS IN A PUB.

        • Class of 1980

          Well, I am even more to be pitied. I’ve never even been to a shower where there were drinks! And if that’s not a time to drink, then I don’t know what is.

          • meg


          • Getting a drink is the first order of business when I arrive at a shower.

          • Getting a drink is the first order of business when I arrive at any party, to be honest.

          • See my comment way way below. I bought most of the wine for my shower. And, then, proceeded to DRINK most of the wine. (I may or may not have twisted my cousin’s arm to pop open the sparkling after already having one too many, post-shower … she lovingly obliged me!)

    • I hope you don’t mind but I’ve bookmarked the post and when questions about bridal showers come my way, I’m just going to send them the link — you totally achieved just about the only thing I think I can handle!

  • My bridal party consisted of my two best friends, including the one who lives 5 hours away who also happened to be the maid of honor. The whole wedding was a casual affair and I had hopes that the shower (if we even had one) would be the same. My best friends didn’t let me down.

    For me, it was more of a way to connect all of my different social circles into one day as a tester for the wedding on a much smaller scale and it went swimmingly. I also didn’t want anyone to get gifts, as we had only registered for a few things. My maid of honor had the brilliant idea that people could bring money to donate to a microlending agency that offers small loans to women to start their own businesses. Perfect for me, as I am in school for social work and feminism might as well be my middle name.

    We also had a joint bachelor/ette party because my partner and I have the same group of friends, my other best friend happens to be a dude (the best man), and well, we just wanted to. We went to a local brewery for dinner (my partner is a huge microbrew fan) and then to a dueling piano bar for the fun afterward (I love dueling pianos).

    We like to buck tradition while still giving those around us the opportunity to take part in all that stuff people think you are supposed to have.

    • I really like the idea of everyone chipping in some money to give to a micro-lending organization. I mean, it would be really cool to know that the money from your shower was the seed money for a woman somewhere to start her own business. Wow.

  • My shower is tomorrow! I do agree that communication is important – FMIL wanted to throw the shower, and so did my MOH. Each one was a little upset that the other wanted to be involved – so now I get TWO showers!! One tomorrow, one before Thanksgiving.

    I’ve been trying to find a dress with sleeves all over town – really really difficult!

  • Emily

    I have a question about being a top notch member of a bridal brigade – My childhood best friend just got engaged to an amazing guy, and I couldn’t be more excited for her! Visions of showers, bachelorette parties, engagement parties and crafting parties are literally dancing in my head. However, I don’t know the other members of the bridal party at all – we have never met. I want to make sure that everything runs smoothly for her, and that our powers combine to be the best support group ever throughout her engagement and wedding. Matters are complicated further by the fact that she and I live on the east coast and most of them live in the midwest, and most of them are planning their own weddings right now as well, while I am blissfully (insert eye-roll here) pre-engaged. I’m not the MOH, so I feel a little awkward reaching out to them in any sort of organized capacity – I don’t want to steel anyone’s thunder – but I do want to get to know them better and quickly so that we can start making this a kick a** year for my friend. Any thoughts?

    • meg

      Get their email addresses, and send out the first, “hey lets get to know each other and probably plan some awesome shit together!” email! Then you’ll see if the MOH wants to take the lead, or if you all can work together. Yay you.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Definitely this. And as a 3-time MOH I recommend taking time to call each of the girls personally to just get to know them a little. A 15 minute conversation will usually let you know if a girl is in 3 weddings this summer, paying for grad school herself and caring for a 1st-grader (i.e. likely to want help) or if she’s 100% focused on your friend’s event with a comfortable financial situation and a supportive significant other (i.e. probably has this thing under control and will give you direction as needed).

    • Jo

      Reach out with the same words you wrote here. I have visions. I want things to go smoothly for the bride, and I want to combine powers with you all. I’m not the MOH so I feel awkward reaching out but I want to get to know them better… yada yada yada. Email will work. Do this thing!

      • Jo

        Ha! Same time, same thought! Clearly there is consensus here, Emily!

        • Definitely! Offer up help and see where everything is. If they’ve got it covered, they’ll let you know. If not, they will probably be glad for someone to have said something….

    • Ms Fran

      If your friend can come up with an excuse to get you all together that’s great. I think it’s hard for us in the UK to properly appreciate how much of a pain that can be in the US so sorry if that’s really impossible!! It doesn’t have to be a bit fancy thing but if she can get as many of you to meet each other I think it’s lots easier.

      I chose three bridesmaids from my hometown so they all knew each other but lots of my other friends have been involved in one way or another and I just try to get my friends from different places together whenever possible. When my friends from Uni come to stay I make sure we go out for drinks or get together for a film at mine, no pressure just people hanging out together so they know each other a bit better before they need to work together on putting together flower arrangements or doing morning of wedding hair stuff etc. etc.

    • Jessmonster

      I don’t think it could hurt to reach out and at least test the waters – see if anyone else was going to plan something, or if they’re all relieved that you’re willing to plan something. I had two friends (one a bridesmaid, one not) start talking about what they could plan for me, then they checked in to see if it sounded good (a girls’ night at the Oregon coast – yes please!) and they’ve since planned the whole thing out. Unless someone’s hiding something from me, no one minded at all that they planned it, especially not my MOH sister who just got married herself! For similar reasons, an in-town friend threw me a shower, since both bridesmaids were out-of-town and my sister was busy (and not much of a party planner). For me, it all worked out perfectly – and I can’t wait for that beach trip next week!

  • Class of 1980

    Hmmm. Agree with the whole post, but still don’t agree with relatives throwing showers. Do you still love me, Alyssa? ;)

    • meg

      I put that line in, blame me. The thing is, I’ve seen things get SUPER AWKWARD on this front. First of all, the number of us that know that rule is shrinking to a tiny number. Second, it’s often the relatives that want to throw the shower, so to avoid the rule they throw it through a puppet friend… and it get silly. My shower ended up in my mother’s best friend and next door neighbors back yard (long story, but lets simplify). Her backyard? Not that nice. My mom’s backyard? Beautiful. But we couldn’t have it my mom’s backyard because of the RULE.

      I’ve since decided this is silly. If a similar situation were to emerge for a baby shower or something, I’d just have it in my mom’s damn backyard. I like rules, unless the conflict with good sense. I’ve finally decided, after years of thinking it over, that this rule has started to conflict with good sense.

      • Nicole

        I think this might have been discussed elsewhere…but I think the reason that the whole “relatives throwing showers” thing doesn’t bother me is because many couples that I’ve known and talked to are paying for and planning their own weddings, or at least primarily paying for and planning for them. So in the past, when parents of the soon-to-wed threw the shower, and were likely also paying for and hosting the wedding itself, it would seem tackier, somehow. As if they were trying to make even more of a to-do about their own event. But now, I think that family-run showers can be viewed more like a show of support and excitement, rather than an opportunity to impress wedding guests further. But that’s just my opinion.

        • Class of 1980

          The reason family wasn’t supposed to throw a shower is that a shower is specifically centered around gifts. It looked like the family was trying to enrich a family member by requesting gifts.

          That’s the history of the rule.

          You can’t say the same about a wedding because a wedding does not technically demand a gift, whereas a shower does.

          • I thought the rule was more in the vein of loading up the dowry, which the bride’s family was traditionally supposed to have together already, and then would look like the MOB was asking for gifts for herself…kind of. In the end. No? I might be completely wrong.

            My mother’s sister threw the shower for me, because I was totally anti-bridal party, and was only going to have my sisters stand with me during the ceremony. So my sisters were pretty much my would-be-bridal-party, but my parents still pay for all of their lives. Sooo it would’ve been my mother throwing the shower, still. And my mother LIVES to throw parties, so, really, no matter who hosted, it was really going to be her party.

            So they held the party at my mom’s workplace (because it’s a gorgeous historic building) and three days before it I decided OKFINE, best friends, you can be my bridespeople. So then they threw me an AMAZING bachelorette instead.

            Yeah, this response got long. My b.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            My family always throws a shower, but they avoid the faux pas by only inviting other family members. They let the friends throw a shower for friends and usually only the mother and sisters of the bride attend both. Our aunt & cousin showers are super fun and I think there’s nothing crass about it since we keep all the “wealth” in the family.

            Yes? No? I’m not great at etiquette.

          • meg

            That is correct! I’ve just seen the rule play out in such silly ways that I’ve decided to give us all a pass. Apologies to Miss Manners and Class of 1980, who are both more correct than I am ;)

      • Class of 1980

        Honey, the number of people who don’t know “The Rule” has always been high. My ex-sister-in-law was 11 years older than me and got married in 1972 and future MIL threw the shower … because the bridesmaids were useless!

        Technically, you could have still used your mother’s backyard by saying the “hostess” was just using the location, but still giving the shower.

        I was hoping someone would weigh in. What if the rule was that no one in the nuclear families could throw the shower, but other relatives could? I could live with that because it is still in the “spirit” of the rule.

        What say you?

        • Class of 1980

          Abby, I have to answer you down here.

          I think your relatives are not breaking any rules at all.

        • meg

          Maybe? Except my nuclear family is so extra sane (on most things. ha.) that I like them being in charge. But yes, this is a good bending of the rule.

          • Class of 1980

            Oh, I HEAR you on the sane!

            Sometimes you really don’t want life to be like a box of chocolates … never knowing what you’re going to get.

      • My family has ignored this rule for years. And somehow people seem to still like us.

      • I’m glad I feel fine ignoring that ‘rule’ — my sister is my maid of honor (and my only attendant, actually), so on the one hand, her throwing me a shower is By The Rules, but on the other hand… she’s a relative. Etiquette Conundrum. Except we don’t care.

    • Stephasaurus

      When my matron-of-honor got married a few months ago, her now-husband’s aunts got together and threw her a shower. As her maid of honor, I emailed them to ask what we (the bridesmaids) could do to help, and they put us in charge of coming up with some games. It ended up being a KICKASS bridal shower and everyone had such a great time. It also took some of the stress off of us bridesmaids, since we were already planning a bachelorette party for her. Honestly I never realized that relatives throwing showers was a no-no to some people…it seems like a silly rule to me after attending that wonderfully-planned shower. But I guess I just feel like whoever wants to plan the shower can plan the shower! And communication is always a big help.

      • Katrina

        Stephasaurus, I’d love to know what games you played – I’ve just been put in charge with coming up with some games for a shower and don’t know of any good ones!

    • OH COURSE I still love you. Even if you’re wrong. :-)

      KIDDING. I see your point though. I think when I think of family throwing a shower, it’s because others have bowed out and otherwise there would be no shower for the couple and that would make them sad…

    • ElisabethJoanne

      One of the reasons I’m fine tossing that rule it that 2 big reasons behind the rule have changed dramatically in the last, say, 40 years.

      First, no one thinks much of family property anymore, particularly not what lawyers call “moveable property” that is, stuff you own other than real estate. We haven’t thought that way for 100 years. When I get a raise, my parents don’t think “The family’s getting richer.” They don’t want my money. When a friend gives my sister a sweater for her birthday, we don’t think “Oh good, someone helped us clothe that family member.” Individual adults, or at most married couples, own their stuff, not extended families. So giving gifts to a grown daughter or sister is not implicitly giving gifts to the mother or sister, and so inviting people to give gifts to your daughter or sister is OK now.

      Second, typical shower gifts have greatly declined in relative value. It used to be that the pots, pans, plates, flatware, glasses, etc. for even a small apartment cost lots of money, relative to wages. Now, we may buy a cookware set on a whim, same as a new dress. So a shower invitation is far more just a social thing than something with big economics involved.

      (Of course, it’s rude to “demand a gift” whether that gift is expensive or cheap. But the cheaper the gift, the more it’s a gesture and the less it’s a gift. I’ll let a co-worker buy me a cup of coffee, for example, but not the tasting menu at French Laundry.)

  • Ms Fran

    Bridal showers don’t really exist in the UK – well at least they never used to, I’d not be surprised if they start creeping in – but all of this advice applies pretty well to Hen parties too.

    My bridal party had a real “don’t tell the bride” attitude about all the planning which I found really difficult – because I’m a control freak!! There were loads of times in the run up where I felt I was going to go crazy from all the little things I was hearing ‘so and so can’t come because she can’t travel that far’, ‘so and so doesn’t want to be involved in the daytime activity but wants to come out later’ etc etc. It was realy tough because my friends would come to me with problems that they couldn’t fully explain because it was all secret instead of talking things over with bridesmaid/hen night organiser in chief.

    So yes – communication is key! In the end I knew all that was going on and I was able to fix the issues. It made me feel calmer and I knew nobody was going to end up left out of my celebrations.

    I had a brilliant time and although it wasn’t AT ALL what or how I’d have organised it was worth it.

    So I think it’s a mix of trusting your friends and trying to just go with the flow as much as possible, and making sure that people are talking to you/each other if there’s a real issue.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      This is a good point for bridal brigade members. There’s “not bothering the bride with details” and then there’s “obnoxiously keeping secrets from the bride in a very obvious way”. It’s a delicate line and you have to take your bride’s personality into account.

  • A confused, non-US person here, if you get household type presents for your bridal shower what are your wedding gifts? In the UK we have a hen party where people just get together for a party, usually with obligatory penis-shaped goodies, and play games centred around the bride but no gifts. I was dreading mine to be honest but actually loved it! Even if the willy straws were very, ahem, detailed.

    • meg

      Same. Household gifts and more household gifts. How I envy you all no showers ;)

      • Class of 1980

        Me too. I can’t help it.

    • Class of 1980

      That is a good question. People tend to spend more on actual wedding gifts, whereas shower gifts are usually smaller inexpensive household items.

      Or there can be a theme, like a lingerie shower.

      I was invited to a shower for a wedding this month. It was too far away to travel for just the shower. I sent Victoria’s Secret lingerie for the shower, and I sent something substantial from the bridal registry for the wedding present.

      • Josephine

        wow, being American must get really expensive. Lingerie isn’t cheap.

        But as Ms Fran said, I’m sure they’ll start becoming more of a trend over here too.

        Fortunately I think I will get out of the penis shaped object hen night tradition, since I’m marrying a woman. Hopefully without lots of boob shaped objects replacing them!

        • Class of 1980

          American weddings expensive? Have you seen how big the country is? Imagine how far many people have to travel to some weddings. ;)

          To be fair, I could have gotten away without a shower gift since I didn’t go, but the bride is my business partner’s niece, and I have spent time and holidays with her since she was 12. She is practically my family member too at this point.

          We are all going the extra mile for her in everything.

    • Sarah P

      Actually, where I live (central Canada) the showers are where you get all the household gifts and the wedding is where you get cash. *GASP* I know. We straight up ask for money where I come from. It’s pretty standard wedding etiquette here. You might get a few gifts from close family but everyone else gives you cash. The expectation is you give enough for dinner and a little extra on top.

      • Josephine

        That is an awesome idea. So then half the wedding is retrospectively paid for. Genius!

        • Sarah P

          If you’re lucky you break even or even make some money. It’s pretty awesome as far as I’m concerned because for most couples these days, there are only so many household items that you actually need. And for the guests, the gift is a no brainer.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        It’s not just you. New Yorkers don’t usually explicitly ask for money, but people tend to give household gifts for the shower and cash for the wedding here too.

  • Lakelady

    This was a really tough issue for me during our engagement, as I was totally opposed to having a shower yet many, many, many people offered to throw one for me. Luckily, my mom was great at deflecting the advances that came her way and I tried to be as gracious as possible when I was on the receiving end of the offers. On another note, I recently attended a co-ed “baby party” (no games, guys and girls, Saturday evening cocktail/mocktail party with yummy eats) that was an absolutely blast! I hope to duplicate it when we have a baby someday. So even if you don’t want a shower of some kind, I do think there are ways to make them very you. However, if it’s not your thing, don’t stress over it!

  • Molly D.

    I didn’t want a bridal shower because I didn’t want to have to deal with all of the weird attention (I am extremely uncomfortable during gift-opening of any kind) and gender role expectations that come with bridal showers in my family. I mean, my husband and I share household duties and he was more excited about registering for the food processor and new knives and other whats-its than I was. It helped that my oldest sister also refused one, for the same reasons.

    HOWEVER. My friends threw me a lovely, low-key bachelorette party without all of the attention-drawing accessories (boas, tiaras, penis anything). It was so, so nice to have a celebration that was just for me. During the planning of the wedding, I felt like I had to accommodate three families, a divorce, special diets, international travel plans and the budget. My bachelorette party was just for ME, and even as an attention-avoider, I appreciate that night more and more.

    If you are on the fence about having a party to celebrate you, do it.

  • Danielle

    I was one of the people who stressed about the shower… I stressed about who was being invited (my future mother-in-law and her family/friends made up most of the guest list), I worried that it was too much for my best friend (who, as law student, was stressed out with time and money) to host, I stressed about having to open gifts in front of people.
    BUT, I have to say that it all came together. It was an interesting experience to have all of the important women in my life (new and old) sitting together and chatting and smiling and eating homemade carne asada (my friend’s family can seriously cook). I was one of those people who was “raised by a village” and I could tell that day that this party was just as much a celebration of that village as it was anything else. And YES, opening up gifts in front of people is just as awkward as I imagined (but I could see from the faces of all the grandmothers and aunts and moms how much they enjoyed it).
    So as someone who didn’t really “get” the whole bridal shower thing before, I kinda get it now.

  • Melissa

    Just wanted to share that I got married recently with no showers. I have a really small family, and my relatives live far away. My mom asked me if I wanted her to throw me a shower, and I said no. A bridesmaid asked if she should trow me a shower, but I said no. I realized I wanted a local auntie to throw me a shower and to have a bunch of cousins and aunties to come to it. But I have no local aunts, and I only have two cousins and they both live far away and couldn’t even come to the actual wedding. In the end, it was a relief to have one less wedding-related thing to stress over. I was very touched by our wedding gifts, and that felt totally sufficient. But some people have a network of people who insist on throwing them a shower, and that is understandable and often very nice.

  • GingerJess

    Gifts are natural at showers – you shouldn’t be afraid that you’ll look greedy, just make sure that you make it clear how grateful you are for the generosity of your guests. When you get to your wedding day (I just had mine last Saturday!) your day will be a whirlwind of hugs and happiness and you likely won’t get to spend a lot of time having casual converesations with people. Pre-wedding events like showers are a great way to spend some quality time with your nearest and dearest when you aren’t so rushed.

    Also, the whole “only invite guests to showers if they are invited to the wedding” rule isn’t so black and white everywhere you go. In my small hometown, it’s quite common for people to be invited to the shower but not the wedding. I’m talking great aunts, childhood neighbors, etc. Where I’m from those kind of people enjoy being involved in the shower because they get to socialize with other people and hear how your planning is going along and they probably like you so they don’t mind getting you a little gift with the understanding that they won’t be invited to the wedding itself. Where I’m from that’s totally normal, so make sure you know what is expected where you are.

    • Yup. My mother in law’s friends threw me a HUGE shower with about 50 people; and I only knew about 6 of them and only 4 of those were invited to the wedding. But that’s their etiquette, so I went with it and had a blast. (And broke seventeen ribbons. after three I just stated breaking them on purpose….)

      But that shower was about them shower HER and my husband love. And about welcoming me into the social circle. They were all lovely, which made it easier, but I can see how people who aren’t used to that might be overwhelmed and/or horrified….

  • CarolineEr

    You may laugh, but this is my best shower advice: wear light, loose-fitting clothing because when everybody is paying attention to YOU, it can be a very sweaty experience.

    • I’ll agree with the sweaty, but I wore a short dress and a fitted blazer, which hid any wet spots. A friend of mine took a TON of pictures, and I would’ve haaaaaated them if I were wearing a baggy outfit.

  • Know what’s the WORST?

    Work showers. ::shudder::

    A story: my boss decided to throw me a surprise shower at work, on an all-staff meeting day so everyone from the company was present. She secretly invited my fiance. It was scheduled for the day after he returned from this bachelor party in Miami (like 8 hours after, actually, since his flight got in at midnight). Poor dude was hungover and a mess and totally forgot about it.

    So, there I am, at my surprise work shower with employees that I cannot stand, wearing a dumb hat and a big fake blingy ring, and everyone is looking at me all awkward, quiet. Finally my boss says: “Well, I invited Craig but it looks like he didn’t show up.” I was mortified. AND THEN SHE CALLED HIM. And he was mortified. And he left work to drive to my office, but by then the shower broke up and everyone went back to their regular work, and so I had to personally bring him around to everyone’s office to introduce him to my co-workers that I’m not friends with and now think he’s some sort of deadbeat. We were both beet red for two weeks.

    Moral of the story is that work showers are a bad idea, unless maybe you work at a bar, or possibly for Google.

    • meg


      Are you saying I should cancel all the upcoming APW staff showers? Crap. THEY ARE OFF YOU GUYS.

    • Class of 1980

      Thank you.

      Want to hear something worse? I once worked at a large hotel where two female coworkers were getting married at the same time in our department.

      One of them had a higher status job and more friends at work. They reserved a function room for her, had the hotel cater the food, and everyone was invited after work, so it was a large shower.

      The other was lower status with fewer friends. Her shower was nothing more than a few refreshments at her desk and some gifts she had to open during the workday … and then her boss coming out and urging her to get back to work.

      These two showers were within a week of each other. It was despicable.

      They did however throw an extravagant shower previously for a different lower status employee because she came from a rich family and only worked to pass the time. And somehow they respected that more.

      Just say NO to work showers. Office politics are insufferable enough without rubbing everyone’s face in it.

    • That is HORRIBLE!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      omg. I just got invited to a work shower at the office I’ve only worked at few weeks. I don’t know the bride or any of the other people she’s friends with well. Dreading it.

    • Work threw me a surprise shower. It was very sweet but also a little awkward, partly because my boss was getting married the same day but was *not* getting a shower. I didn’t even get any food because my (then) fiancee and I were trying to visit with the 60 person department.

    • N

      The only shower we had was at my husband’s work (when my friends brought up the idea of throwing one for me I vetoed it), and I actually thought it was really nice. It was nice that the people at his office wanted to celebrate with us even in a small way, and we got to have a 1 hour-ish celebration eating cupcakes, laughing at marital advice people gave us, and opening a few gifts. without worrying about any part of it. So a work shower does not by definition have to be a bad thing.

      • I hear you – I think it has a lot to do with what type of people you work with. It sounds like you had a great experience – and that absolutely makes me happy to hear!

        I think my issue is that I’d like to leave the “gendered spotlight” out of the workplace. I work very hard to be seen as an equal to my co-workers of both sexes. Being embarassed, and asked to sit with girly wedding stuff covering me, talking about love and babies and private things and opening presents simply because I’m a woman chosing to enter into a legal union, made me feel like a total dumbass, especially in front of my male co-workers. It might be my sensitivity speaking, but I think it’s totally unprofessional without first getting the consent of the shower-ee.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I’m guessing there aren’t also showers for your male coworkers who are getting married?

          I know someone who threw a double shower for two men at the office whose wives were both expecting babies. They did gifts and games and the whole shindig. If you’re willing to sling the humiliation both ways it’s at least fair, if not kind.

        • Definitely. We had a couple of work showers for people getting married, but that meant that everyone chipped in (I think $20?) and we got a joint gift card or just gave the cash to her/him. And then we had cake. Man, we loved any excuse for cake.

      • –Lisa

        Thank god I work with all men. “Work shower” = Shudder.

    • my boss tried to throw me a bachelorette party. and then I realized all she really wanted to do was get in a picture with me and some random ladies, in a bar, with me wearing a veil, so that she could show her husband that she was at my bachelorette party, and not, in fact, having an affair..

      she even made me a (heinously ugly) veil with her own hands.

      this lady is no longer my boss.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      As one of the more junior employees, I feel work showers are where the “It’s not about you” advice is most applicable. If the staff wants to throw me a shower so they get away from their desks for awhile, that’s fine. It’s like the quarterly birthday parties or the annual boss’s-birthday/holidays party. I don’t enjoy them, even when it’s my birthday, but they’re not for me.

      My kindergarten, junior high, high school, and college graduations were similarly not really for me, but for the parents. But by law school, I put my foot down and skipped graduation (3,000 miles from all friends and family) and flew home early.

  • Jess

    I was totally and horribly opposed to a shower – I hate being the center of attention. I was also really opposed to setting up a registry, because it just felt wrong to me, and because we’ve lived together for 4 years and really – all we wanted was money to put towards a house with a yard so our dog can run around outside. But apparently you’re not allowed to say that (so said my aunts).

    In the end, my aunts applied maximum pressure and guilted me into having a shower. But I imposed a few restrictions, that made it the best shower ever, and one of my favorite parts of the wedding process. I insisted it be a co-ed, informal, backyard BBQ. Also, no gift openings or games. Also, we threw it on Mark’s birthday (a beautiful Saturday in June), so I took to calling it the “birthday shower.” It was really just a gathering of relatives and close family friends. There was lots of wine, backyard relaxation, grilled shrimp, and late-night conversations. It was amazing. And in the end, we really appreciated the gifts.

    And, apparently, we used up all the good weather on our “birthday shower” because it POURED the day of our wedding, but that was ok too :-)

  • Elizabeth

    I was pretty apprehensive about having a shower because I didn’t want to seem like I was asking for gifts, and I was uncomfortable with the gender dynamics of showers: women getting together to give household gifts to the bride, implying that the home is really her domain. However, I ended up having 2 showers, one thrown by my mother-in-law’s friends and one by my mom’s friends, and they were both lovely. I got to know many of my husband’s family friends better, which made it even nicer to see them at the wedding, and I got to celebrate in a more intimate setting with my relatives and family friends who have known me for much of my life.

    I realized that even though I was considering all wedding-related decisions through the lens of the marriage my husband & I wanted to create (feminist, egalitarian, nontraditional), many people in my life simply wanted to celebrate me and the start of our marriage. I could be a gracious recipient of beautiful parties thrown generously by people who love me, or I could protest on feminist grounds, which would likely alienate people close to me and make the feminist values I hold dear seem isolating and offensive. I’m all for fighting the good fight but it didn’t seem worth it here, and I had a wonderful time.

  • I didn’t want a shower, so when my mother-in-law expressed her interest in me having one, I involved my husband.

    He didn’t want a shower either…we didn’t need or want more gifts and certainly didn’t want our friends to feel burdened or obligated to buy more of The Stuff for us. But my mother-in-law really really really wanted us to have a shower because what she really wanted was to have a party and demonstrate her love to me.

    So we told her if she really wanted to throw a party and call it a “shower” it must be co-ed, guests must not bring gifts (except for, perhaps, music) and she could make the rest of the decisions from there.

    What did we end up with? A great party. Lots of amazing Greek food. Lost of new music. Lots of drinks. AND AN AURA READER. (That may be the best party trick/tip/ice-breaker ever…hire an aura reader and even your most disparate friends will be chatting it up in about 5 minutes.)

    Whatever we had may not have been a traditional shower, (and we were very clear about that to our guests) but it was great. Damn the “rules.”

  • North Star

    A couple of the most difficult things for me about my showers (one with my extended family,one with my in-laws’ relatives) were having to stand up in front of a room of people I didn’t know very well to open gifts & say a few words thanking them for being a part of our wedding as I’m pretty shy. It helped to think about what I wanted to say& write down a few things so my mind wouldn’t go blank in front of everyone. My friend also gave me this tip if you’ve got children at the shower & feel awkward about having so much attention on you: invite the children to help you open gifts. It worked well for me–the kids had fun tearing open presents with & collecting bows for themselves. I had fun watching them help me & it felt much less like I was on display alone for the entire time.

  • I ended up having two showers … one in my hometown (family) and one where I live now, thrown by my church ladies.

    The “church lady” shower was simple and sweet and easy going. Gifts were brought (the extravagence was embarrassing … until I realized that all the gifts were addressed to both my husband and myself … these were women who could not come to our wedding and wanted to give us a wedding gift … the shower was an excuse), games were played, and cake was eaten. The only input I had was okaying the guest list (they drew it up, but asked me to approve/add/delete anyone I wanted) and showing up. Done and done.

    The hometown one … wow. We had the fighting bridesmaids ( more like the MOH doing all the work while my sister ignored it, and then sister started bitching about “not being included”” ::headdesk:: ) , and the whole etiquette drama. My mother insisted only those invited to the shower should be invited. INSITED. But then also insisted invitations should be sent to her aunts … who live out of state. THAT felt like a grab for presents, big time. Add into that the fact that my MIL didn’t come, which meant the women who knew her and my husband, but not me, were not to be invited. It ended up being the women in my family, the women in my MOH’s family, and two of my grandmother’s friends. To say that was awkward would be an understatement.

    That being said … it was nice. My MOH knows me super well, so she didn’t inflict anything I wouldn’t like … but she did tone it down to suit my mother’s opinions.

    I, honestly, could have done without either. But I realized it was extremely important to the women who attended/threw them that we have them. And that was worth the irritation of playing peacemaker.

  • Few things made me cringe like the thought of a shower- at least the traditional kind. We didn’t have a traditional wedding party, but my sister-in-law came forward and really wanted to throw me a shower. So, I asked that it be a joint shower, because Ben does as much of the cooking as I do. And my sister-in-law decided to make it a Stock-the-Bar cocktail party theme, and it ended up being a really great, mostly unawkward (well, at least I got to open gifts WITH Ben) way to get our parents to meet our friends. Someone even made us cucumber-infused gin, and put it in a cute little basket!

    I’m really glad I insisted on it not just being a lady’s event.

    • Class of 1980

      Yes, if there must be showers, I do wish they were co-ed. I thought we were moving toward that years ago. No?

  • Emily

    My main problem with showers is that they are frequently not meant to be fun in any way. You know what is not fun to me? Sitting in a circle oohing and aahing over dish towels. And I like dish towels! They are fine! I have some myself! But Christ on a cracker I don’t need to discuss them for five minutes and pass them around a circle and discuss someone’s “kitchen colors” ad nauseum. Yet this is frequently the kind of “entertainment” you find at a shower. So awkward. Let the bride open gifts later on her own, and then send thoughtful thank you notes. Not only will it leave room for actual fun activities at the shower, but it saves the bride from the supremely uncomfortable (but somehow inevitable) situation of opening identical gifts in front of the gift-givers and trying desperately to explain that actually, she and her new spouse do in fact need two separate picnic backpacks complete with plastic wine glasses.

    This is one area where I do think ladies could stand to take a tip from the men. Traditionally, men don’t have showers. But plenty of guys like to have a gathering of their male family and friends before a wedding, to share stories and show support. And I’m not talking about some debaucherous bachelor party. I’m talking about going to a baseball game or having a golf weekend (both of which I would enjoy way more than a shower, and I don’t even play golf). The focus is on spending time together and having fun, not on gifts and etiquette. I know theoretically that’s what a bachelorette party is for, but bachelorette parties generally don’t involve multiple generations, and they carry all of this pressure related to being crazy and “being single” one last time.

    I would love to see our culture replace showers with a tradition of parties where the bride’s friends and family gather to celebrate the impending nuptials simply by spending time together and having fun. In this day and age, gifts can be delivered and opened privately, and it’s actually easier for everyone involved. Why not focus on relationships instead?

    • Class of 1980

      From your lips to God’s ears. Oh wait. We can change this for ourselves!

      I love brides and I am talented at gift-giving according to my friends. But I suck at Sincere Kitchen Towel Talk and so does everyone else really.

      So YEAH!

  • mel

    Well, what do you do when you find out that someone is going to throw you a secret/surprise party and you have no idea what is coming!? My sister let this slip in the “you can’t know anything about this, haha” way.

    I’m now going to live in anxiety.

  • No time to read all the comments yet, but please, for the sake of brides everywhere, do not let the bride cut all the bows off the presents while opening them and then make a joke that she will have a baby for every ribbon she cut. JUST DON’T. Not that I would expect anyone here to do that, but you never know with these things. In fact, as a guest, maybe have a clever comeback in case someone else says this while the bride just stares at them open-mouthed in horror.

    At my shower, they made this joke BEFORE I opened the gifts, so I did not cut one darn bow off. While saying, “I do want babies, but I don’t want them from the magical gift voodoo!”

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Somebody tried to do that at a shower I attended and my mom (aka my hero and one of the hosts) jumped up and said that the bride and her husband “both just finished pharmaceutical school. I’m sure that with the wonders of modern science, two such intelligent and accomplished people will have exactly as many children as they want to have, exactly when they want to have them. Here’s some scissors sweety, let ‘er rip.” That was the last I’ve ever heard about that at any shower in our circle of friends and family.

      Would that we’d all had such brilliant hosts.

      • Class of 1980

        And I thought we only had the “entertainment” of gluing the bows onto a paper plate to serve as a bouquet for the rehearsal.

        You mean there’s more ribbon fun out there? I’m going to start drinking.

        • Gigi

          There aren’t enough martinis in the world to help survive bridal showers. My personal philosophy is to avoid them like the plague.

          • Class of 1980

            I go to support the bride, but I dread them. I don’t know very many women who look forward to them.

    • One of my aunts tied her gift to me with SO MANY RIBBONS that were IMPOSSIBLE to get off without breaking or cutting. She thought it was hilarious, but I just felt really uncomfortable and on the spot. I don’t know, I am having trouble articulating it. In general, I think it’s a harmless superstition, but I can’t handle people making a big huge giant deal out of it.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I really dislike the linking of weddings to babies in such an explicit way. Marriage is not pre-parenthood. One does not guarantee the other. There’s so much problematic gender stuff associated with wedding traditions anyway but when you start adding in the pressure to procreate before the poor bride is even married it’s just double-yuck.

        Plus, the superstition around baby-making feels a little…. I don’t know. Like it doesn’t give grown women credit for knowing where babies come from. Perhaps it’s just me, but it’s one of those things that just makes my head explode, especially because it happens in an environment where there aren’t even any men around. We do this one to ourselves.

    • Wasn’t there a reader a year ago or something who commented that in retaliation for this awkward joke tradition, she cut off every single bow at her shower on purpose. That was awesome.

      • That’s awesome! They kept saying to cut just one “in case” and I kept saying “Yay babies! Boo magic gift voodoo!” while untying them, even when it took 20 minutes to undo one. I said it in a joking manner. I don’t think people mean it in a bad way, its just super bizarre and presumptuous.

        • No one means it in a “bad way.” At least I hope not. But it is subtle societal pressure that you should reproduce regardless of whether you want to or not. It’s a joke that places on the assumption that married couples have kids. Not that most people realize this consciously when they say things like this.

          • Yes. We had a friend give us a Target gift card with”Congratulations on your BABY” on it when we got married. It was a joke, of course, but man was it hard not to be snarky when I wrote the thank you card…

    • Gigi

      It is interesting, though, how this superstition touches so many chords. It’s a piece of ribbon, for heaven’s sake, and we’re all intelligent women. Yet here we are, resolutely NOT cutting the ribbon for fear of “magical gift voodoo”. I have no idea what this means, but it is interesting.

      • I didn’t cut it because I was making a joke to try to show how silly it was. The whole thing puts you in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position, and I think the only way out of that is humor or awkwardness.
        Usually no one tells the bride until after the gifts are opened, and I would imagine the idea is that the more gifts she gets, the more she will be able to support children. I don’t think its usually done in a way that the bride has to make a choice about how many ribbons to cut.

        • I’m lucky that I was in on the joke before my shower and that only one friend made the joke once (ironically). Of course I said something rude to her in response as a joke. Luckily no relatives said anything about it, or I may have said something rude but not intended as a joke.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Hadn’t heard of the bow-cutting tradition (and my mother’s an obstetrician and all my friends want babies before they’ve been married 12 months). Thanks for the warning!

    • Um . . . what???

  • Lauren

    I am not having a bridal party. My would be MOH is going to have a baby about two weeks before my wedding, so I am just hoping she can make it at this point. My soon to be sister (well really sister-in-law but I love her to death) asked to throw me a shower at my future mother-in-laws and I couldn’t care less about it being a faux pas. I think some etiquette is outdated and rigid. How is it any different than throwing a birthday party for a family member?

  • ka

    The shower stress was a millions times worse than the wedding itself, and I really don’t want to relive it, so as a total cop out, I will say I blogged abt my pre-shower meltdown here:

  • Opening presents in front of everyone . . . SO not fun! I still shudder thinking about it almost one year after my bridal shower. Other than that, my bridal shower was quite lovely. My Mom, Aunt & bridesmaids honored my wishes for a small, local shower with no games. They surprised me by asking each guest to bring us a Christmas ornament (December shower, January wedding) & the thought everyone put into their ornament was beyond touching. Now we have the sweetest, decorated Christmas tree! I truly expected the worst of the whole bridal shower experience & was pleasantly surprised by a beautiful party (minus the gift nightmare)!

  • LBD

    I didn’t want to do a shower. It felt like a super-awkward thing (none of my bridesmaids would be able to come or help plan it, because they all lived on the other side of the country), and I was worried about the whole OMG GIVE ME PRESENTS perception. I also have a very small group of female friends who are local. But my wonderful auntie, who is like my surrogate mom, really wanted to throw me one, so because it was important to her, I acquiesced. To make it less of an OMG PRESENTS thing, we had a theme, “Stuff for the Garden,” so people could choose to get me something small and not stress-y. We had it at my house, because all my friends knew how to get there easily, but my aunt and cousins-in-law took care of all the arrangements.

    And it turns out, I enjoyed it. It was the weekend before the wedding, and after all the planning I was doing, it was really nice to have something that someone else completely took care of for me. I felt I got to fully participate, and had a good time catching up with people, when in the craziness of last-month wedding planning I felt like I hadn’t had a chance to really connect with everyone that well. The theme thing really helped, because the present thing was there, but it was a small element (though people took amusing takes on the theme, one friend bought me a nice bottle of tequila, “for drinking in the garden.” We didn’t do games or anything, just sat around on a nice day on my back patio drinking champagne and eating tasty food. It was a nice bit of calm in the storm of wedding planning.

  • When I told someone at church that I was getting married her first response was to ask if she could throw me a shower. My gut response was no, she didn’t know me well enough to throw me a shower rather she was using me as an excuse to throw her own shower. But I said yes. And then I never followed-up and she never mentioned it again. Problem averted.

    The friends who had set my husband and I up and been there through our whole courtship used to joke about the types of showers they would throw for me. So when we got engaged I told them I would love it if they would follow through on their “threats” with the condition that there would be no gum chewing games and no making of wedding dresses with toilet paper. And it was the most awesome shower ever – belly dancing, fruit, brownies. That night was one of my favorite parts of the week leading up to our wedding.

    Now I’m wondering about baby showers at some point. Because baby shower games make me gag just as much as bridal shower games do. Maybe we could do more belly dancing.

  • Alyssa, you ROCK.

  • Kendra

    I didn’t choose an moh amongst my girlfriends/bridesmaids, and that meant everyone got to decide how much time and energy they wanted to put into the shower (which they had already asked about throwing). I worried throughout the entire wedding process about asking too much of them, because there was so little i could do myself – all four live in the city we were getting married in, and my now-husband and i had moved away some years back. In the end we had an awesome time at my mom’s house and i loved hanging out with everyone, including my and my husband’s sassy older lady relatives. My girlfriends were so fantastic.

    But, bridal brigades, a plea? Please please take pity on your bride and don’t expect her to know all the social etiquette that ‘everybody’ knows around showers. I wasn’t dressed properly, didn’t know about the ribbon bouquet or the baby voodoo ribbon magic, and i hadn’t expected to have a list of photos i wanted taken so i didn’t realize until too late that i missed important people in that moment.

    • I love the sassy older lady relatives I got when I got married. They have been an absolute hoot to hang out with since the marriage. I’m so glad they were at my shower too.

  • Remy

    I don’t think either my sweetie or I will be having a shower — it seems silly when our wedding guest list is so tiny (~20, immediate family and very close friends) and we aren’t expecting gifts. And my attendants are my sister who will be at grad school in London until the week before the wedding; my best school friend who’s flying in from either the UK or another state, depending on when she and her partner move; and a dear friend who often has to call off plans suddenly due to illness. It doesn’t seem practical to have a shower. But a local friend (who IS invited to the wedding) is great at event planning and entertaining, and has repeatedly offered — before and after the engagement was announced — to throw me a bachelorette party. So I get to think of options that will suit and pitch them to her before she goes crazy on something that will wear out this introverted bride-to-be!

  • librobot

    My mom and I talked about it early, because my aunt threw one for my new sister in law last spring and was already polishing the punch bowl for mine. I really didn’t want to have one, especially because I, being employed full-time, make a reasonable amount of money…and most of my lady friends are straight up poor. Plus, a good number of my gal pals are also in their 30s and unmarried, and ain’t nobody bought them any dishes, and I’ve got a kitchen full of stuff (see “employed full time”) I would feel wildly uncomfortable about having any of my friends feel like they had to buy me a present in order to come. Also, I hate opening presents in public.

    I ran this by my mom, and she seemed to get it. We came to a compromise that I think works for me: a luncheon with my female relatives and in-laws to be. That way we can chat, but there don’t need to be games, or weird advice sessions, or presents.

    • Class of 1980

      I love your sensitivity to your friends.

  • I didn’t have a bridal shower, but it was not by my choice. We seem to be blazing the “traditional adult ceremonies” trail amongst our friends so no one knows any of the rules about showers (weddings/babies) and don’t know they should or when to be thrown (my sister threw my baby shower – at my house! Miss Manners is rolling over in her grave). But for my wedding my sister was my only bridesmaid (no drama) but she was in grad school in London so it was up to my mom…only my mom decided I didn’t need one. I agreed I didn’t need the presents, but I did want the opportunity to spend time with women that I don’t normally spend time with. I didn’t need my friends to be invited, but all the longtime family friends who are my mother’s age (we have a very small family so we pick and choose our extended family) would have been nice to see. I actually really like the many kinds of community gatherings and ceremonies that revolve around weddings so I was (and still am) dissapointed to have missed out.

  • I initially didn’t particularly want a shower, or if I had one I wanted more of an informal engagement party that my (now) husband was a part of as well. My MIL was heartbroken at the mere mention of it and told me that “her sisters” were already talking about my shower (translation: she had spoken to her sisters about it, but was trying to steel herself for the disappointment). I saw how much it meant to her (and her sisters) to do something nice for me, so I allowed it. My mother and her two best friends decided they wanted to throw me one, too (different city, not close by).

    I said I didn’t want shower games, and I provided the guest list. I also bought the wine – because I’m particular. :) These wishes were honored and people were happy to be there to honor me, which was a nice feeling. I think that’s the big thing – people WANT to do nice things for you when you’re getting married. They want to share in your joy. To the extent that it does not encroach on your personal values, LET THEM. Who am I to tell someone they can’t throw me a party simply because they love me and are happy for me?

  • Pingback: Throwing An Amazing Bridal Shower On A Budget | Blog Archive | Party Costume Shop()

  • Kassi Bienusa

    My mother and I were arguing like crazy about the guest list for the bridal shower. I had made a guest list that had two wedding showers at 30 people at each shower. My mother? A guest list of 234 people with not everyone invited to either shower. We couldn’t come to a compromise and both of us were screaming at each other over the phone and crying every day. The solution? I decided to heck with this bridal/wedding shower crap! We have decided not to have one and everyone can bring their gifts/money to the wedding. It seems to be working out so far. :)

  • Guest

    I have a question. I live in Hawaii and will be coming to Colorado for 3 weeks for the wedding. We will have the shower on the first weekend. It is being thrown by my MIL’s best friend. I don’t think I can get out of them giving me gifts (even though I don’t need more stuff), I think that it is part of the event for them. How can I politely tell them that I don’t want a bunch of candles and crap that I will have to pay a ton of money to ship home. What other gifts would you recommend. I know that opening gifts is the whole theme of the shower but, how annoying. Thoughts?

  • Rachel

    I have a question. I live in Hawaii and will be coming to Colorado for 3 weeks for my wedding. We will have the shower on the first weekend. It is being thrown by my MIL’s best friend. I don’t think I can get out of them giving me gifts (even though I don’t need more stuff), I think that it is part of the event for them. How can I politely tell them that I don’t want a bunch of candles and crap that I will have to pay a ton of money to ship home. What other gifts would you recommend. I know that opening gifts is the whole theme of the shower but, how annoying. Thoughts anyone?