|It is said that “showering” a young bride with gifts originated in Holland, but since the late 1800’s, it has become a rite of passage and time honored tradition in the United States. With the growth of the internet, the popularity of bridal showers has grown throughout the world, especially over the last 15 years.|
The Who, What, Where and When– Traditionally, the Maid of Honor would be the one to host a bridal shower, usually 2 to 3 weeks prior to the big day. She could count on the fellow bridesmaids for help with planning and sending out invitations to the bride-to-be’s closest friends. As it has always been considered unseemly for family members of the bride to ask for gifts (monetary or not – dowries went out of fashion long ago), it was considered poor etiquette, not to mention tacky, for members of the family to host the bridal showers.
Nowadays, it is perfectly acceptable for family members to host showers and parties of all kinds, as these parties can be expensive and attended by many more than simply one’s closest friends or co-workers. It is not uncommon for a Maid of Honor to send out the invitations for showers to be held in a restaurant, tea room or the home of the mother-in-law-to-be or grandmother in-law-to-be. Showers are best held 4 to 6 weeks prior to the wedding now.
Themes and Games– Though bridal shower themes and games are not necessary, they make a bridal shower more fun. Unless the shower is a surprise, get the bride’s input on games and a theme for the soirée. There are numerous sites like Pinterest or Instagram which hold inspiration aplenty when it comes to creativity and party planning.
The Divorced or Widowed Bride– The old etiquette was that bridal showers are not to be held for 2nd time brides, or even 3rd time brides. But etiquette changes with time and “serial-marriages” are probably with us to stay. Regardless of what celebrities are seen doing in reality shows and in the tabloid press, unless one is a widow, it is wise for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time bride-to-be to make sure anyone throwing a shower for her keeps it tastefully small and with just intimate family and friends invited. Anything over-the-top appears tacky. Widowhood allows for a more festive shower, however, as widowhood is not the same choice that is divorce.
The Couple– The old etiquette was that the shower was held only for the bride, her family and friends. Today, more participation of men has given rise to “couple showers” that honor both the bride-to-be and groom-to-be. Men enjoy being feted, just as much as the ladies do. Keep in mind that when hosting a shower for a couple, the shower’s costs will be doubled, as you will be hosting both the male and female friends of the couple. Make certain you have a large budget and/or help with your hosting duties, along with ample room for the added guests.
The Already Married Bride– What about the “Already Married Bride?” Several couples who, due to a move or military service, etc... have hurriedly tied the knot via a civil ceremony, when family could not attend, choose to repeat their vows a second time so that family and friends can share in their joy. Bridal showers are still proper for the brides or couples who have already set up their households together. Planners and guests can skip the “trousseau” or lingerie themed showers, and stick to household gifts or gifts of “necessities” – which brings us to...
The Pregnant Bride – The pregnant bride is not an uncommon sight nowadays. Hosting a bridal shower for a pregnant bride is perfectly correct and is indeed a kindness, especially if the bridal shower stays related to the wedding only and basic etiquette rules for bridal showers are followed. Make certain your invitations reflect that the shower is a “Bridal Shower” and keep with that theme. A separate baby shower can, and should, be thrown at a later date.
Bridal Shower Gift Registries– Registering for gifts has become a rite of passage for both brides and couples alike. Etiquette allows for registries, but brides should keep in mind that a variety of objects in a wide variety of price is most polite. Guests invited to a wedding have up to a year in which to send a gift, though it is thoughtful to send one writhing 6 weeks of the wedding. Brides have six weeks in which to send notes of thanks, after receiving a bridal shower gift. Please don’t confuse the two.
Wedding Gifts– If you are a bride who’s under the impression that what price you or your parents are paying per plate for the reception, is what your guests should be paying for your gifts, sadly you are incorrect. Etiquipedia suggests that a bride requesting the presents of someone at her wedding, instead of the presence of someone at her wedding, has her priorities out of whack.
Notes of Thanks– The old etiquette of handwritten thank you notes for the shower gifts, being sent out prior to the wedding, is still the correct etiquette now. If the bride and groom do not get notes of thanks sent out quickly, they will find the task much more difficult as the wedding nears. A thoughtful shower gift is monogrammed stationary for the bride to be or couple, along with postage stamps, to assist them with getting notes of thanks sent out quickly. And as it is poor manners to email a note of thanks to someone who took the time to bring a gift, a guest book in which the shower guests can write their names and addresses is a nice touch.
One Last Point for Brides to Be–Unless a shower gift was emailed, an emailed “note of thanks” is rude. An emailed, or even texted “gift card” is still worthy of a handwritten and mailed note of thanks.
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia