What's the deal with bridal showers?

Didn’t want to derail this thread with my question, so I’ve started a new one.

What’s the deal with bridal showers? We don’t have them in the UK (we have another tier of hell called the ‘hen night’ which generally involves a long weekend in Barcelona with 15 drunk women dressed as school girls drinking cocktails out of penis styled straws who you’ve never met before), but I don’t understand the purpose of the bridal shower.

It seems to be about giving the bride a gift, but don’t you already give a wedding present at the, you know, wedding. Isn’t it a bit cheeky asking for two? Or do you not do the wedding gift thing as well?

Explain it all to me please. I’ve noticed baby showers have started leaking in over here from across the pond (thanks for that) but at least I can see the reason for them. I just don’t get the bridal shower gift grab.

Yes it us about giving the bride gifts, but there are also games, and cake and good friends and family that you may not have seen for a while, and the party aspect that make it a bit more palatable. :wink: The tradition started when brides were going into a marriage with nothing…and the shower was intended for close friends and family to give the little every day things she’d need (towels, linens, etc.) and not the fancy china patterns or silver that was traditionally a wedding present.

These days we do the bridal shower for the bride, bachelor/bachelorette parties for each of them and the wedding. Sometimes there is an engagement party too. Gifts are generally given for the shower, for the wedding and for the bachelorette party (although those gifts are generally raunchy/sexy in nature) I’ve not heard of bachelor party gifts but the groom’s friends usually pay for his expenses if spending a night out on the town. Presents are not (as far as I am aware) given by guests at the engagement party (other than the normal hostess gift that might be given at any party) so a typical formal wedding would involve only the two (possibly three) gifts.

The shower is almost always a women only event put on by the maid of honor/bridesmaids. It does seem like you have to give 2 gifts although the shower gift is normally small.

What you call hen night sounds like what the US calls a bachelorette party, those are pretty new, they are the female version of the bachelor party.

Basically the idea of a bridal shower is to give a gift for the happy couple’s new life together.

I think they have outlived their original use a little as many people live together first anyway, but I don’t like them.

Yes, you still bring a gift to the wedding - so you are on the hook for two presents.

Here we call Hen Night either a bachelorette (as above) or a stagette.

I’ve seen some spurious articles on the ancient roots of the Bridal Shower. I’d like to see some real documentation.

In the etiquette books of my youth, the Bridal Shower was a girls-only party with ladylike snacks & “little” presents. (The serious presents are saved for the Wedding.) With much giggling that the girl was about to start having sex! Even if she had, most brides pretended they were virgins.

Now, many couples have been shacked up for some time. So the party can still be just a simple celebration–except that drinks are more likely to be served. Or things can get out of hand, if there’s a Bridezilla involved.

But the Bachelorette Party is becoming more popular–with joke gifts & trips to see male strippers or drag shows. And, one hopes, a designated driver.

Some brides have both celebrations. Others have just one. Or none at all…

Pity New Zealanders where both hens nights and bridal showers are common, and it’s not unusual for a bride to have both - typically the bridal shower is a more sedate affair, held at someone’s house and gifts are expected. The hen’s night is essentially the female version of the stag night, so obviously you’re not going to invite Aunty Joan to that (depending on your Aunty Joan, naturally) whereas you’d probably invite her to the bridal shower.

I didn’t have one. I’d been living on my own for years, so I had most of the household stuff. And I hate shower games with the fire of 6.02 * 10[sup]23[/sup] suns. So when someone offered to host a bridal shower for me, I said “no thanks”.

Bridal showers are traditionally a time for the bride, other women of the wedding party, and very close female friends and relatives to get together and celebrate in a more intimate setting (meaning much smaller scale) the upcoming wedding. They are not intended to be big affairs in a rented hall. So the girls can get together and chat and gossip about numerous topics before the wedding occurs.

I didn’t have one either. My first wedding was when I was only 17 though so I wasn’t expected to have the household stuff, but my mother followed the even older tradition of accumulating hope chests for her daughters and stockpiling the basics of what we would need when we moved out on our own over the years (knowing my Mom, probably from the birth of each of us!) so I was pretty well prepared as far as the typical shower gifts were concerned.

I also, at that young age, did not have a formal wedding although I did I have a baby shower :-\ thrown by my best friend.

My second wedding was also informal but my best friend really wanted to host a wedding shower. At that point my then-fiance and I had been living together (and on our own before then) and had households and children of our own (and I also hate wedding showers) so I managed to convince her that it would be incredibly tacky to do so. I did allow her to discreetly spread the word that any wedding presents (which I would have liked to decline as well, but there is no graceful way to do so) should be typical small shower gifts as replacements for our items that were worn or in need of replacement. My favorite wedding gift was a set of bath towels that I still have, and love (they have held up well over the years). After so many years of living, towels get worn and are generally something I don’t think to replace until it is dire. :slight_smile:

Usually there are several smallish showers - or rather, there used to be back in the dark ages when I got married.

Your maid of honor is invited to all of them. And probably your mother and future mother in law. But other than that, the person hosting invites her own small circle - your aunt might invite your other aunts and cousins. Your fiancees aunt would have one and invite his relatives. Your friends would throw one, but you wouldn’t see your great aunt at your friend shower.

Gifts were rather small - think “hotpads or handtowels” not the complete set of Calphalon cookware. Your mother or mother in law would sometimes give a bigger gift (something really exciting - I got a vacuum cleaner!) There would be games and lunch and gossip. Your husband’s great aunt Edna would get a chance to meet you where there were not 200 people.

The idea was that there were a lot of expenses involved in setting up house and showers would provide some of the little stuff.

My perception is that they’ve gotten quite out of hand for many people. I still bring hotpads or handtowels. I don’t get invited to many showers.

While this is very true, the origins and “traditions” of bridal showers are varied and often disputed and/or argued. One amusing “origin” is:

which puts quite a different spin on things. The American tradition of wedding showers probably varies a lot too because so many bits and pieces were co-opted from other cultures. Unless we lay out a specific area, and/or a specific culture, every wedding shower and every wedding shower hostess will likely have different thoughts on the matter and different traditions with which she is familiar, sometimes without even knowing why it is done just that way in her social circle.

This is pretty close to how things still are, at least in this area and among my circle of family and friends. I gave my sister-in-law a matching shower curtain/bath mat/hand towel set for her wedding shower, for example. I’ve always thought of the shower as a time to give little household gifts, and to socialize amongst other women.

And hey - a vacuum cleaner IS exciting! I still get a little thrill every time I see our new vacuum cleaner sitting in the closet, and we bought it four months ago. I refuse to apologize for or be ashamed of this. :smiley:

Most of my family is in Long Island, where shower gifts are often high end items from the couple’s registry (sometimes a number of people will chip in for these). These can be pots and pans, bedding, everyday and/or good china, etc. Money is given as a wedding gift. They are often buffet or sit down meals at restaraunts. They’re boring and they suck.

I agree! I got a Roomba at my wedding shower and it was the hit of the party.

I haven’t yet trained my cat to ride on it though…

I have to admit I found that thread baffling, too. I’m an American, and I’ve been to a few weddings, but not only have I never been to a bridal shower, I’ve never been invited to one. Baby showers, yes. Bridal showers, no.

I don’t think I’m part of any kind of specific culture that would have unique traditions (well, I’m Jewish, but most of my friends aren’t), so I’m not sure how I managed to arrange this, as they are apparently pretty common.

The girls in the office gave me a little shower at a restaurant after work (I insisted I didn’t want or need anything, so I got small loot - a garment bag, salt and pepper shakers, vases, a bread knife…) I wasn’t all that popular at the company but lots of women came for a cocktail and snacks if nothing else. … The last shower I attended was a combination wedding and baby shower! We had pizza, wings, and salad, caught up with old friends and relatives, and had a very nice afternoon. I’ve never been to a bachelorette party, I think those are gross, but then I’m an old crank shopping for Martha Stewart dishtowels and potholders for fun.

I’ve been to a couple of bridal showers, but just for friends who got married not long after graduating college and didn’t have a lot of household stuff. Most of my friends got married later than that, and if there were bridal showers at all, they were just for family or something and I didn’t hear about them, let alone receive an invitation.

Tom Scud I got married last September, but I had been living on my own for going on 20 years (and we’d been living together for 2 years), so we didn’t need much in the way of household stuff; I was hard-pressed enough to come up with stuff to put on the wedding registry, because I knew people would give us gifts, so we might as well provide some guidance about what we wanted and could use. Nobody offered to throw me a bridal shower (though a couple of people did ask whether I was having a bachelorette party, and there was a HILARIOUS moment in which we found out that my BIL had contacted Tom Scud’s brother on Facebook to inquire about a bachelor party, which, trust me, would have been a hilarious clash of cultures and personality types).

The complete lack of showers or bachelor/bachelorette parties was just fine by both of us, and the closest we got was hanging out in a bar the night before the wedding with our local friends and a bunch of out-of-town guests.

Come to think of it, I think the closest any of my good friends has gotten to having a bachelor or bachelorette party was having a Day of Paintball a week or two before the wedding. We aren’t big on the whole shebang of things like that. The wedding was quite enough of a to-do as it was, and we didn’t do anything hugely extravagant.

I haven’t been invited to any bridal showers, either. But I know how I manage it. I’m a geek, and most of my friends are male, so no invites there. I don’t live near any of my family or in-laws who are at all likely to be getting married, so I don’t get invites there.

But that means you also aren’t getting the “I know you can’t come to the shower, but send me a gift anyway” invitations which is always a good thing.

My husband is a supervisor for his company which means that every employee who gets married (or has a baby) feels the need to suck up (okay maybe that is too strong, let me rephrase “bows to the social obligation”) to the boss by inviting him (and us as a couple) to the wedding and by inviting me (as the wife) to any and all showers. Tacky habit, IMO, especially when the chances that I have met the bride or new mom are slim to none. Not only that, but the chances of me knowing another woman at the shower are equally slim. You can imagine what a good time that sounds like to me! :wink:

When I receive these invites for showers for women who couldn’t pick me out of a line-up (nor I them) I follow the rest of the (probably artificial) social obligations by politely declining the invitation with a nice card and a gift.

It may not be true, but I really feel like these women are sitting around thinking, “We have to invite Mrs. Katze, she’s the boss’s wife, she’ll have to get a nice gift!” and it rankles me to no end. But I know they do not want my company, they know that I know they do not want my company, so we do the dance, then call it a day and everyone’s expectations have been met.

That’s what our hen nights are for, but they never involve gift-giving. Although to be fair, we don’t really have an event for all women - hen nights just tend to be for close friends, and perhaps mothers, if they’re of the unshockable, hard drinking variety (not mine).