Showering the Bride
March 4, 2015 § 1 Comment
I’ve had two bridal showers thrown for me. Rest assured, I’m practically an expert. Showers are often non-negotiable extracurricular wedding events. It’s expected to have one. Sometimes one for each side of the family. Sometimes your co-workers will throw you a third one depending how boring the office gossip is that particular month. Of course you don’t need to have a shower, but you will disappoint a lot of people. Kind of like eloping, or promising cake and bringing a watermelon disguised as a cake and saying smugly “it’s paleo.” So suck it up and have twelve showers. At least you are going to get the presents you picked out for yourself.
So a bunch of women gather to honor a bride to be by drinking enough to play silly games, eat finger sandwiches, and gift her household items or the occasional piece of lingerie. “Thaaaaank you, I picked this out for me.” It sounds absurd, right? So I did a bit of digging.
Let’s start at the beginning. In 16 Century Holland showers were an alternative to the dowery system. If the parents of the bride were too poor to provide a dowery the MOB will hold a party where her lady friends would pass down small kitchen items and advice on how to keep a man happy. You know the type of advice, plus whatever you had laying around the kitchen that was a duplicate.
There is even a Dutch legend to go with this common sense inception of bridal showers. It is said a young uptown girl, living in her high class world fell in love with a downtown guy. Boy, was her dad pissed. He withheld her dowery as she crossed the tracks to marry her heart’s desire, but not without a little help from her friends. Pretty soon the whole town was contributing small gifts for the start of their married life. Fortune smiled again on our young heroine and her father changed his tune. They and their dowery lived happily ever after, like all good fairy tales.
In the late Victorian era, bridal showers became events of the elite. Only ladies of high social standing would organize pre-wedding celebrations for would-be brides. Although, it was more because it was a place to get drunk and hear the latest gossip, rather than giving gifts to compile a dowery. Make no mistake, gifts were given, but not enough to fill a Uhaul. The presents would be inside a parasol, which when opened would “shower” the bride-to-be with gifts. Or knock her out cold so they could freeze her bra and draw on her face.
The next evolution came in the 1930s. Although, at this point showers in the United States were a big to-do and anyone could have one. The fad hadn’t spread to England though, probably because they were still considering noble families and inbreeding. First or second generation Americans were just starting to really simmer together in the country’s melting pot. No dowries or elite social standings needed for a little party, party.
The earliest use of this sense of the word, “shower” in print may be in the Grand Rapids Michigan Evening Press 22 June 4, 1904: “The ‘shower parties’ that through mistaken hospitality the wedded couple are forced to attend…” (WHICH IS HILARIOUS… mistaken hospitality).
When I first started working as a videographer in LA, I was hired to shoot weddings and bridal showers. Sometimes the shower would outshine the wedding. There was one at The Beverly Hills Hotel that had a dance floor, three course luncheon, and about 75 Persian women. I imagined that I was that bride and wanted to hide in a hole.
I’m not a fan of being the center of attention unless I’m giving instruction or opinion. I have present opening anxiety even if I know what’s inside. Because my birthday is so close to Christmas I have a lack of practice at these types of person honoring soirées. I’m a terrible bride to plan a shower for.
For a while, I just thought the bridal shower was just another party to have for all the women who it was inappropriate to extend a bachelorette party invite, like if they were too old or pregnant. Come to find out, etiquette says you shouldn’t invite people who aren’t invited to the wedding. Well, what if I couldn’t invite all the people I wanted to celebrate with?
I want to rewrite this invite rule. It seems stupid to invite someone to your shower and expect a gift and then invite them to your wedding expecting another gift. Just give the gifts if you want to give the gifts. Wouldn’t it be better to invite all the people who couldn’t make it or that you wish you could invite but you have 200 family members and your best good work-wife just didn’t squeeze onto the A list?
Etiquette says the maid of honor has to foot the bill, but what if that chick is broke? It seems like it should be a pot luck. Let’s not be fancy. And again with the gift giving only if you want to, I rather be showered in laughs.
It’s pretty much a roast anyway. You play games about the bride and groom’s intimate life details and sit her in a special seat like a contestant on a daytime TV show. Parade around her choices for home decor and kitchenware while we quietly place bets on how long the marriage will last. Mostly it’s just good backstabbing female fun.
Fortunately for me, both my showers were equally entertaining, mostly because of the wonderful hosts who planned around my awkward shyness with their grand mastery. Showered with laughs, a flash mob, and cards with little pictures inside them of the gifts I already knew I was getting. I even spit my water across the room in a fit of laughter. And I wore black, like a boss.
In truth modern bridal showers are a complete charade. An absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance. Except for mine, because every time my appearance is respectable I spill food down the front of me.