Are Bridal Showers Outdated?

I attended my sister-in-law’s bridal shower this past weekend. It was lovely. She was lovely. The hostesses were exceedingly lovely. It was a great bridal shower. What I am about to say is not a reflection of the shower in any way. It would by highly hypocritical of me to say bad things about people who have bridal showers in any case, given that no less than four of them were thrown in my honour. I was grateful for them, and the generosity that people expressed on my behalf.

And yet, attending the shower this weekend left me thinking about bridal showers in general. These days, I see women opting for alternatives to traditional baby showers. Blessingways are becoming increasingly popular, for example. A lot of the people who seek alternatives are looking for something more meaningful, that speaks to who they are. I think that’s great. Traditions are meant to evolve right along with society.

Hannah coloring
The hostesses thoughtfully bought markers and colouring books for Hannah, so she had a blast at the shower

I haven’t seen a similar evolution in bridal showers, though. Historically, as I understand it, men had bachelor parties and women had showers. And then, sometime between the time my mother was first married in 1971 and when I was married 30 years later, bachelorette parties became common. I had a bachelorette party (just one) in addition to my four showers. Most everyone does, now. The bridal showers typically involve older female relatives or work colleagues, and the bachelorette is a chance to let off some steam with your close friends.

Now women have two kinds of parties, and the shower feels like the outdated one. Even if you don’t live together before marriage (and many couples do – CNN says it’s 70%), very few of us are living at home when we marry. Jon and I didn’t live together before we were married, but I’d lived on my own for years, and so had he (though he moved back home during our engagement). My point is that we’re not setting up house when we get married. It’s lovely to get some nice gifts, and especially the big-ticket items we might not spring for ourselves, but it’s not the necessity it was for brides-to-be during my grandmother’s era.

Sara, Hannah and Christy at Christy's shower
Opening gifts

Plus, let’s be honest. Isn’t it just a little weird to pass around someone’s tea towels and ooh and aah over them? Even at my own showers, I found that a little strange. And let’s not talk about when my grandmother and great aunt checked out the lingerie my sister bought me as a joke. Eep! I still shudder just thinking about it.

I asked what people thought of bridal showers on Twitter and Facebook, and got a range of responses. The people who were pro-shower generally put a different spin on things. They had a pedicure party, or visited a hot dog stand, or created a blessing ritual. They personalized it and updated it. But many people were anti-shower, and more specifically, anti-shower-game. It’s clear to me that many of us are just not huge fans of the bridal shower in general, much as we may love the bride-to-be and want to wish her all the best.

Cutting the cake
My gorgeous sister-in-law, cutting her cake

Like I said, I went to a bridal shower this weekend. It was lovely. I was happy to have the chance to celebrate my sister-in-law, and her upcoming marriage. And the cake was delicious. But I wonder how many more showers I will go to. I don’t know if my daughter will play toilet paper bride as she prepares for her big day, or whether there will be a new kind of event to mark the transition. Or maybe marriage rates will decline even further from their all-time low, and there won’t be much call for showers at all. I suppose that only time will tell.

In the meantime, I will attend bridal showers. I will ooh and aah over tea towels, and play games, and eat cake. I will celebrate and I will probably even enjoy myself, mostly. And I will continue to wonder what the future holds for this tradition.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are bridal showers outdated, or are they just the right party for our times? Did you have a traditional bridal shower (or four) of your own? Do you think that the shower can be updated to better reflect the way our society works today? Tell me all about it!

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  1. I didn’t have what you would call a traditional shower. A friend planned a little surprise party at a local restaurant and a few other friends showed up. It was almost a combo bachelorette / shower party.

    I can’t say I have attended many showers in my day so I’d have to agree the popularity is on the downswing
    Carrie’s last post … Red Writing Hood- From one to the nextMy Profile

  2. It’s funny, when I got married I had not one but THREE showers, and I feel much the same way as you do. One was given by my mother-in-law, and I think it was important for her to do that, since we had a very a-typical wedding and she sort of needed to do some kind of “I Need To Show This Upstart Woman How It’s Supposed To Be Done” (she somehow never learned in all her years with him that my husband is as atypical as I am, and so I think she blamed me for not straightening him out or whatever)–that one, honestly, was a nightmare for me. I’m an introvert by nature, and as utterly grateful as I was and am for the wonderful gifts people gave us at that shower that set us up for stuff like non-thrift pots and pans, bakeware, dishes that match, and all that, sitting as the center of attention in a room full of people I hardly know is absolutely my idea of hell on earth.

    A second shower was given by several of my friends–this was nicer, because they talked with me about what I would love and what I would hate, and we avoided games and had fewer people and it was able to be much more casual. (My MIL hated it.)

    The third was the coolest–some OTHER friends, my work-related ones (I’m a musician and composer), wanted to give us a shower, and at that point I genuinely and honestly begged them, “NOOO! Please, no more showers!! I love you, I’d love to just have a party or something, get together and have dinner, but NO more showers, please!!!” They, who get what introversion is about, were very cool with it. And so instead, they threw me–us–a “Festschrift.” Normally that’s where a bunch of authors all contribute an article or essay or something in honor of a particular writer or thinker, and put them together in a book. This, instead, was a party, and everyone (or everyone who wanted to) picked a song or poem or something they liked and wanted to offer us, and sang them after dinner. I got to hear a marriage blessing song, a duet from Annie Get Your Gun (with Fred, who does the best Ethel Merman imitation I’ve ever heard, singing “Annie,”) and best of all the in-her-sixties very proper widow in the group somewhere found a red feather boa and sang “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” with full ‘tude and all fabulousness, and gave us the boa as a gift afterwards.

    Not that I’m recommending that for everyone–for us, that was a very natural get-together kind of thing to do (yeah, we’re geeks, what can I say?), and for everyone it will probably be different. But we made it our own, and that’s what was so awesome.

    I think, too, that weddings are one of the most culturally-ritual-laden events we still cling to as a society, and the pressure to do it “right” is very very strong. It takes a lot of strength to push out and do something different. But I think it’s awesome that more and more people are doing just that…
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  3. We had a story shower when we got married. Guests were asked to share stories about us and we were treated to stories, poems and an original song!
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  4. Hi Amber
    My husband and I lived together for almost 10 years before we got married, we had plates, pots and pans, towels and a house. When I registered for my wedding gifts I really was at a loss as to what we really needed. Thankfully most people gave us money which is always the perfect gift for a young couple who just paid for the majority of a wedding themselves and who also have a mortgage. I found my bridal shower and baby shower very uncomfortable because it was mostly my husbands family and I didn’t like being the centre of attention. But what can you do if someone wants to throw you a party to celebrate your upcoming nuptials – you graciously accept of course! I don’t see them going away.

  5. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Southern United States, but I had lots of bridal showers, and they were fun. Yes, they were mostly thrown and attended by older female relatives (and several men attended, too), but they were pretty stylish and classy. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed them so much: They’d throw me a catered lunch at a restaurant or a cocktail party at someone’s house. Presents were received, but not opened at the party. And there were certainly no “bridal games”–thank God!

    My baby shower was a more typical affair: cake, paper plates, and gifts that you have to open and discuss in front of everyone. Now that made me uncomfortable. But the saving grace was that it was held *after* the baby was born, so all the focus was really on him and I didn’t have to “perform” so much. Now I think all baby showers should be held after the birth: there’s no possibility of scaring the mother with birth/nursing horror stories because that work has already been done, and everyone gets to hold the baby, which, three or four weeks into new motherhood, is all a mother wants anyway!
    Sarah’s last post … Let it snow- let it snow- let it snow!My Profile

  6. we have baby showers in the UK but not bridal showers. instead we have hen nights which must be a little like bachelorette parties here? a huge gaggle of the bride-to-be’s friends parade her in embarrassing outfits (usually featuring toilet paper and condoms) though a number of nightclubs until they fall senseless from alcohol. no pots, pans, or tea towels change hands. i loved mine πŸ™‚

    can’t see this form of pre-wedding party ever hitting the dust
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  7. I quite enjoyed my traditional shower. My sister threw me a high tea luncheon with shower games and gifts. The Hubs and I were already living together, but there was lots of household stuff we needed (towels that weren’t disintegrating, for example). I agree that ooh-ing and ah-ing over tea towels feels silly, so I think we skipped that and I just held the gifts up. I don’t really enjoy having all eyes on me, so opening presents in front of a crowd makes me feel very awkward, but the rest was truly enjoyable. We also didn’t have many games, which I appreciated. I am much less fond of baby shower games – the dirty diapers and baby food ones in particular.
    Regardless of exactly how it’s executed, I do love the idea of getting all the important women in the life of a bride-to-be or mother-to-be in the same room to celebrate.
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  8. My wedding shower is this Saturday! My fiancée’s sister and her husband are throwing it for us. Ours will be for men and women. Although we do live together, and have been living on our own for about 4 years, I am really excited to get presents that will make my life a little easier (a crock pot would be fabulous). Right now, I think I have had the same furniture/dishes/towels/etc since I went to college. I would love for our home to feel like a more adult home instead of a dorm room mixed with a bachelor pad (which is kind of the feel you get now, with our stuff together). NO games will be played- but alcohol will be consumed, for sure.

  9. We didn’t do a wedding shower, bachelorette party, or stag! We had a really small wedding, had both been living on our own for YEARS so we actually had twice as much stuff for setting up our house together as we needed. Plus I am super awkward about receiving gifts. My co-workers did pool together and give us a Home Depot gift card which was nice since we bought a house shortly before we got married. Nice but still….awkward. We also didn’t want wedding gifts or money, and other than our parents, people generally abided by our wishes even though they gave us a bit of a hard time about it:) SO … yes I think bridal showers are unnecessary (not outdated), although I think it’s culturally specific – neither my husband nor I comes from a big gift-giving, make-a-big-fuss culture, so it didn’t make sense for us. The southern U.S., as I’ve learned from years of blog reading is a different story!! Same for certain nationalities …and I think that’s great. Do what is comfortable to you and if that is a bridal shower, go for it!
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  10. I didn’t have a bridal shower. I wanted one but no one threw one for me. I dropped hints but I guess the people I am friends with are not the sort to take it upon themselves to do that sort of thing. Plus my maid of honour came all the way to BC from Pennsylvania and my bridesmaid is shy and didn’t know how to contact my other friends. Fair enough I guess. We didn’t need anything for our house and I knew those gifts would come in the form of wedding gifts anyway. It was the feeling that I was missing out on a time honoured tradition that stunk the most, but in reality I am not into consumerism and getting gifts I didn’t need anyway, but some kind of recognition would have been nice. People do ike my husband so I don’t think that was the problem. And as for in-law’s taking charge of organizing it his family lives in Ontario and his mom has passed.
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  11. My husband and I had been living together for about a year, but we had almost nothing, and we really appreciated our shower. I know what you mean about traditions evolving, but in all honesty, the term Blessingway makes me cringe a little as being, I don’t know, a little too new agey or more-spiritual-than-thou– maybe I’m not evolved enough. One of my friends had a ‘Celebration of Love’ instead of a wedding, and we went and I was kind of uncomfortable — I think it just wasn’t that well organized though, which could also be true of a traditional wedding. Anything of that nature should ideally be tailored to the person it’s being given for.
    allison’s last post … Family SleepoverMy Profile

    • I am more unconventional in general but I’m also not ready for a Blessingway so I guess I’m not as unconventional as I once believed, tee-hee.

  12. I didn’t have a shower or a bachelorette party and I’ve always felt like I missed out a bit. I don’t think showers are outdated per say, and I’m certainly not opposed to them. To me it’s totally a to each their own kind of thing. IF I was to have a shower I would put an ixnay on the big bow hat.
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  13. I find wedding showers a bit weird if they don’t represent the couple. We didn’t have a wedding shower per se but hosted a big bbq for our closest friends and family once the out-of-towners arrived and that was perfect. I don’t think as a whole they’re outdated – I just think as people get married later and later (and after living together for a while) playing cheesy games is kinda dumb when you’re 30.

    And as someone who has been to bachelorette parties & hen nights – wikipedia can say whatever it likes they are not the same. Hen parties are crazier (and following the recent trend often involve hitting some European destination for the weekend) and often involve some form of fancy dress or costumes. The wildest bachelorette I’ve been to has nothing on Hen night!

  14. Marcy G. says:

    I already commented in an earlier post about the wedding shower I gave for the daughter of a good friend. We invited women who had seen the bride grow up as well as her new sisters-in-law. The idea was to pass on “words of wisdom” about marriage and so we did. Some of it was profound and some very funny. In essence we were blessing the bride. We also ate good food and had fun, although no silly games. We did make the bride wear a sparkly baseball cap with a veil and ribbons, though, and she looked adorable. So, yes, I’m all in favour of any ritual that marks a passage and honours and recognizes the person.

    But here’s a dilemma I’ve been having with wedding presents. As you mentioned, Amber, most couples have been living together and already have what they need. I like the idea of giving a gift and do appreciate a wedding registry. However, I am not interested in giving money (although I have done) and certainly not interested in helping pay for a honeymoon or, heaven forbid, the down payment on a house. (When did things get so tacky and, dare I say it, grasping?) I feel it’s my perogative and my pleasure to give a gift and I appreciate some direction. But the Miss Manners in me says that, unless it’s my immediate family, it is not my job to do more. Go and make those things happen for yourself, dear people.

    Oh, and for heaven’s sakes, please do not ask me to wear a certain colour or theme to your wedding.To a costume party, certainly, but not to a wedding. When did it become OK to be so controlling? Alright, I’m starting to rant. Peace out.

  15. I agree that showers may be a tad outdated, but I don’t expect they’ll go anywhere too soon. It’s funny, it seems traditions surrounding the wedding itself are changing more rapidly than traditions surrounding bridal showers. I didn’t have a traditional bridal shower, but my then fiance and I were living overseas during our wedding planning so it wasn’t really possible. I did have a spa day with my bridesmaids the day before the wedding, and I loved it!
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  16. I really enjoyed my shower. I got married far from home, so the shower was a chance for the people who couldn’t have come to the wedding to see me before I got married. And we were setting up house for the first time (I lived with a roommate before, and he lived in a studio apartment) so we really did need the gifts. People seemed to enjoy getting us things we could use. I also got a recipe book of traditional family recipes that my maid of honor put together for me.

    The games were things I enjoyed: trivia about the groom (whom many of the ladies hadn’t met, so they got to learn about him), guess-that-spice (I love to cook), sharing memories about how they’d met me, and yes, the toilet paper dresses. I, personally, really enjoyed it! Then, while the others were modeling their TP dresses, I tried on the real dress for the girls … there was lots of squealing about that one!

    Not for everyone, I guess, but it was a chance for me to — well, I admit it — be the center of attention. I’m usually on the sidelines of everything and it was nice to feel celebrated, and feel that my friends were excited for me.
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  17. I think traditions are meant to change and celebratory parties can be whatever you want them to be! I still love going to bridal showers because it is a nice way to kick start the wedding celebrations and also for people to meet up before the big event and connect. It is a great way for friends of the bride to meet family members and vice versa.

    I’ve been to bridal showers held at the spa where we just showered the bride with lovely spa treatments all taken care of by the guests. I’ve attended showers with a focus on the honeymoon and people all chipped in with gift cards to be used to buy the honeymoon or luxury items to be taken along on the honeymoon (fancy lotions, sexy underwear, etc). Because at some point you have enough tea towels.
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  18. I like bringing together the family and friends of someone (the bride-to-be, the parents-to-be) to celebrate and eat cake together. The increasing number of gifts gets complicated though – shower plus wedding plus other gifts can add up to a lot for some folks.
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  19. I’ve never been to a bridal shower, or baby shower – I think in our country we don’t party quite enough πŸ™‚
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  20. I had only one shower, but it was massive. Bigger than many weddings. We got far more stuff than we needed, due to the size (and the fact that one of the places where we registered decided to close down just after invites went out and people bought whatever was on clearance). That said, it was nice to start our official lives together with NICE dishes, towels, appliances, etc., rather than the junk we had acquired (or inherited) as singles. But the fact is that I can’t stand showers and shower games are miserable, especially once you’re out of your mid-20’s. My family showers are almost always quite big, so we aren’t subjected to stupid games, but I wouldn’t be sad if showers went the way of the dodo. Of course, they rank much higher than Jack & Jill’s, which, well… ick.
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  21. Yes. And when you have showers, and a bachelorette party it can get VERY expensive for your close friends and family.

    Sure, they are nice, but it makes being in somebody’s bridal party stressful.
    Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah’s last post … My LifehackMy Profile

  22. i think we’re going to see the traditional shower and the bachelorette party merge into one concept. i definitely want a day before my wedding to celebrate with the women i’m closest with but i don’t need to be showered with gifts to set up my house because my fiance and i already live together and i’d been living alone for many years before that and i don’t want to have a crazy wild bordering on obscene night out. i would like to have a nice lunch and maybe some time at a spa with my mom, sister, future mother in law, future sister in law, and my best friend. if they’d like to bring gifts they’re welcome to but spending time with them is more important to me than anything.
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  23. I’m really not a fan of bridal showers… most of us were already living together before we even got engaged to our SO & so have had a shared household for years. I too hate being the center of attention if front of people who are mostly friends of our parents, ect. I think a more intimate party just to celebrate your union with only people you really care about w/out gifts would be better; in fact that’s really what my wedding was like (but gifts did come at the wedding mostly in checks/cash, we never registered & asked for no gifts but traditions die hard,) and yes our parents weren’t completely happy that bosses & extended family that we had no real relationships were not all invited but we were & that’s what really mattered to us at the time.

    I am however a fan of the baby shower mostly because that is still very functional & really I’m pro baby shower for more than just the 1st born because to me it’s really a celebration of each new life & each lil person is a unique individual just as worthy of love as the 1st born & the attention isn’t really just on you but on your new lil baby.

  24. I am an older woman, about to celebrate my 50th. wedding anniversary. I had 2 showers; one thrown by my sorority sisters while still at college and one at home, a luncheon for about 25 given by one of my mother’s friends. I have been a guest, over the years, at more than I care to count. I have no objection to wedding showers if they are not given by relatives (which I still think is incredibly tacky) but I don’t like embarrassing games. I also feel that the gifts have gotten way too expensive and elaborate…more like wedding gifts used to be. I prefer recipe showers or books, such as a guest book for the new home, a pretty holiday decoration, a plant, cookbooks, a photo album or frame etc.. That leaves the Kitchen Aid mixers, complete sets of china and high end pots and pans and gifts of cash for wedding gifts which I think is much more appropriate. One of my most appreciated wedding gifts which I still have and use was a nice card table with 4 chairs.

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