Party Plan: Etiquette of Bridal Shower Planning

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Etiquette of Bridal Shower Planning

A wedding shower is a gathering of friends in honor of an upcoming marriage. It is a celebration distinguished by the “showering” of gifts on the guest of honor, the bride. A morning coffee, a luncheon, a cocktail party or a buffet dinner—all are suitable. A shower may be held on any day of the week that is convenient for the guest of honor, the hostess and the majority of the guests.

In the past, it was traditional that the maid/matron of honor or bridesmaids gave the bride a shower, but today almost anyone who wants to may give a shower. The one rule is that immediate family—meaning mothers, future mothers-in-law, and sisters—should not under ordinary circumstances, give showers. This is because it appears very self-serving for someone so close to the couple to issue an invitation that, in effect, says, “Come—and give my daughter and her fiancée a present.”

But even then, there are extraordinary circumstances. For example, when a bride comes from a foreign country, or even from the other side of our own country, and will be married in her groom’s hometown but know no one there, the groom’s sisters might well give her a shower. Etiquette is meant to make life easier—not to impose unnecessary or impractical rules, and when the circumstances warrant it, the “almost” can be dropped and anyone may give a shower. It is also perfectly correct for two or three friends or for members of the bridal party to act as co-hostesses.

Ordinarily, only close friends and relatives are invited to showers, since the invitation automatically requires a gift. Also, showers were traditionally sentimental occasions, and only those most intimate with the bride were included. Now, unfortunately, shower lists sometimes seem to include everyone invited to the wedding.

No one should be invited to a wedding shower who is not also invited to the wedding. It is extremely presumptuous to ask people to a shower—meaning they must bring a gift—if they are not close enough to the bride or groom or their families to be included on the wedding list. Nor should anyone who does not know the couple being honored be invited, not even the closest friends of the hostess. Again, it would be an imposition to expect them to give a gift to someone they have never met.

There are two exceptions to the above. First, when the wedding is very small—restricted to family only, and perhaps with no reception—the couple may be given a shower to which friends are invited who would have been included in a larger wedding. The shower, in this case, almost takes the place of the reception, and the shower gifts are given instead of (rather than in addition to) wedding gifts. Second, when coworkers in an office wish to give a shower for the bride, it is likely that they all will not be invited to the wedding, so the shower is their way of wishing the bride-to-be well.

Except in the case of surprise showers, the guest of honor is consulted about the guest list. This is very important in cases where there may be several showers because only the bride or the couple being honored can divide up the list of friends and relatives so that no one is invited to more than one or tow. Although there is no “rule” about the numbers of showers a bride may have, the key is to avoid asking the same friends to several since each showers does mean a gift.

It’s advisable for the bride to review prospective guest lists with the hostesses so that no one friend is invited to more than two showers at the most. One shower per guest is really better. The hostess, however, decides on the number of guests, since she will be paying the bills. Attendants, who are generally included on several lists for wedding showers, should be told by the guest of honor not to bring gifts to each party or they may keep expenses down by giving small “joint” presents.

Otherwise there are no rules about who should or should not be invited. Some showers may be restricted to family members only, some to young people only, and others may be mixture of young and older, friends and relatives.
One final word about guest lists. The huge showers mentioned above that include almost everyone invited to the wedding are in the poorest taste. The entire idea of an intimate party is lost, and they are no more than a demand for more gifts. As such, they are an unforgivable imposition on those invited.

It is acceptable to have a large shower for a first-time bride whose groom has been married before. It is also fine to give a shower for a second-time bride—just remember that she will not have the same household needs a first-time bride might. Showers may also be given for pregnant brides, and if the bride and her family are not trying to downplay her pregnancy, it is acceptable to hold a combination bridal shower-baby shower. Showers may also be given for senior citizens getting married. After all, the primary goal of a shower is for family and friends to celebrate the happiness of the bride and/or couple.

Ideally, wedding showers should be held from two weeks to two months prior to the wedding. If the shower takes place too close to the wedding date, it may be very inconvenient for the bride, who has so much to do during those last busy days; if too early, the bride may be unprepared to know what she needs or there could be a change in the wedding plans.

Invitations are almost invariably written on commercial shower invitations that are available in a great variety of styles. They may also be short personal notes, or if a woman has them, they may be written on her informal card. In some cases they are even telephoned or issued in person, as might happen when a hostess asks her coworkers to a shower.

The name of the guest of honor and, if there is a theme, the type of gift should be included with every invitation, In the case of a kitchen or bathroom shower for an engaged couple, their preference in color should be noted, so that gifts will fit in with their decorating plans. Lingerie shower invitations for a bride should include her sizes.

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