Arranged marriages began to decline in American in the 1800s. With their demise, so too ended the tradition of a bridal dowry. In turn, this meant that brides were no longer sent to their new husband’s household with a multitude of items and money to help set up a home.
Yet, brides still needed something to bring with them to their new home, especially since society wasn’t quite yet prepared for them to contribute to a marriage by working outside the home. The result: bridal showers.
Bridal showers developed as a way for friends and family to provide gifts to a bride who would otherwise lack worldly goods to bring with her when officially a wife. For this reason, guests at a bridal shower are expected to bring a gift. Additionally, most gifts are designed for domestic use, usually in the kitchen (the bride’s traditional domain).
This history behind bridal showers means that there are a few rules for guests, the hostess(es) and the bride:
Gifts are expected. The term “shower” refers to “showering the bride with gifts”, which is, as is know known, akin to providing her with a dowry. An invitation to a bridal shower requires bringing a gift with you to the event. In fact, shipping one before hand is pretty much a no-no unless it was mailed because it was fragile or easier to travel without and will be available at the event to open. Don’t be the guest who didn’t provide a gift for the bride to open - the discomfort isn’t worth it.
Gifts should be from the registry. A bride sets up and creates a registry to tell guests what she needs for her “dowry”. Respect her time, consideration, and energy by sticking to the list.
A helping hand is always appreciated. A gracious guest offers to help in whatever way she can, even if it’s just to carry a plate of sandwiches to the buffet table. This demonstrates an appreciation for the hostesses and a desire to create a great experience for and take care of the bride.
Provide shopping guidance. Its entirely acceptable – even desired by most guests – to tell invitees where the bride is registered. After all, how else will they know where to shop so that they can stick to the bride’s list?
Expect gifts. Even if the bride has specified that guests should not bring gifts to the shower, some will. After all, it’s tradition to do so. Have a designated space set aside to receive gifts and allocate time to open them before the guests.
For the Bride
Register with a nod to tradition. Tradition dictates that gifts be domestic-focused. In fact, many bridal shower guests expect to gift something to be used in a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom. Even if you need absolutely nothing for any of those rooms, register for items to fit in them anyway and plan on (secretly) returning them in the future. Many guests, especially elderly ones, are offended if all you register for are items they deem unnecessary (such as an Xbox). This doesn’t mean that all of your gifts have to be traditional.
Don’t expect a lack of gifts. For the most part, shower guests are familiar with the need to bring a gift. Therefore, stating that no gifts should be brought might not be as effective as anticipated. If a guest brings a gift in contravention to instructions otherwise, graciously accept and open it in her presence.
Open those gifts. Part of a shower is allowing guests to see what was gifted. Guests like this because it helps them see the bride’s “dowry” and check out new gadgets and products. It’s not conceited or show-offish to open gifts before shower guests.
The most important part for all hostesses, guests, and the bride is to have fun. A shower is a celebratory event, after all!