The daughter (Megan) of my mother’s good friend (Susan) is getting married. Susan expects my mother to host a shower for Megan. Susan has not been shy about expressing this expectation, but she has never asked my mother whether my mother wants to host a shower. My mother knew Megan well as a child but is not close to almost-forty-year-old adult Megan. (I’m much older than Megan, and I also live far away.) Aside from a family funeral that my mother attended to support Susan, my mother has not seen or spoken to Megan in years. (There’s no animosity—Megan simply grew up, moved away, and is living her own adult life. When Megan does visit home, she doesn’t make any effort to visit my mother. I’m not saying that Megan should visit; I’m only illustrating how my mother and Megan are not close.)
My mother is not enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting a shower for someone she barely knows, but she feels obligated to support her friend. Frankly, my mother sees this shower as a gift grab. I have no clue whether Susan’s expectation is reasonable. My friends and I are all very boho/not terribly interested in wedding “stuff,” and those of us who are married went to the courthouse and called it a day. Also, I’m from a small family where people tend to have courthouse or small home ceremonies. All that to say that I have almost no wedding/shower/wedding-adjacent events experience. I think it’s weird that Susan expects my mother (or anyone) to host a shower for her daughter because I assume that would be something people who are close to the bride/couple would volunteer to do. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Megan’s friends are hosting a shower for her in the city where Megan lives. I don’t know whether Megan expects my mother to host a shower. For all I know, maybe she’s not excited about the prospect of traveling several hours “home” so that a bunch of old ladies she barely knows anymore can have a shower for her.
My questions are these: (1) Is it weird that Susan expects my mother to throw a shower for the daughter my mother is no longer close to? (2) Should my mother suck it up and do this out of respect for her friendship with Susan? (3) Is there a graceful way for my mother to decline to host this shower without damaging her friendship with Susan? (4) Should my mother ask Megan if Megan wants this shower?
—Mama’s Got Problems
A:DEAR Mama drama,
I have great news for you! None of this is in any way, shape, or form your business. Your mother is a grown adult woman. If she refuses to say, “Actually, I’m not able to throw this shower,” then frankly that is her problem and I’m not even going to bother blaming Susan for putting her in that position. Idk their history, idk their discussions over the years, but apparently they’re friends and Susan assumes this is okay. Which OBVI, your mother hasn’t told her it isn’t! Tell your mama, “If you don’t want to host the shower, say no,” and then decline to play a further role in this nonsense.
But, I get it. I mean, I too have a mother and I would absolutely fight a bear for her, so with the firm caution that you should not become more involved in this than talking it out with your mom, let’s unpack a bit.
Who throws a shower? You’ve hit the nail on the head: someone close to the people getting married who volunteers to do so. Traditionally, members of your immediate family were not supposed to host the shower, since (legit according to etiquette) that makes it seems like they’re trying to get out of the dowry obligations by getting someone else to stock the bride’s hope chest. If this tradition is still important to your family or community, you’ll probably already be well aware of that fact. The rest of us can safely assume no one will be too bent out of shape at your mother or sister hosting a shower.
But in some cases that tradition holds strong… and the bride’s mom will ask a friend to host it, as a way to get around the rule. So in short—this is actually a thing! Our very own EIC Meg had a shower thrown by a friend of her mother-in-law, and she tells me that she hopes to recover from that experience by 2033. For some people, this is how showers work: your mom’s friends host yours, she hosts their daughters’, and it’s a collaborative effort over the years to make sure everyone gets one. It can seem a little odd to have women you may not be terribly close to throwing you a party, but if this is offered honestly I encourage you to take it—it can save your friends a ton of money hosting!
As for this specific situation, a shower is literally a party someone throws you to have people shower you with gifts. Either all showers are gift grabs or none of them are. It’s nice that you and your friends are all apparently uninterested in this traditional aspect of female community, but that doesn’t actually make it a bad thing.
Finally, let’s all spend a moment thinking of Megan, who as far as I can tell is doing nothing but accepting offers of showers that she believes are freely given. No, no one should contact Megan about this. If your mother doesn’t want to do throw the damn thing, she can call Susan and tell her that. If she refuses to do so, then this is on her, and she needs to throw Megan a lovely shower and be nothing but gracious.
I’m curious: Who hosted your shower? Who have you hosted showers for? What color KitchenAid mixer did you receive? And did anyone else suffer the shower-thrown-by-a-friend-of-a-mother, willingly or unwillingly?
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