There seems to be a lot of confusion about what modern brides are entitled to have as part of their wedding festivities, including the etiquette surrounding bridal showers. I’m going to attempt to demystify the process here, and stop a few brides from giving their guests something to snark about.
Many modern brides don’t think of their wedding as just one main event, bracketed by a rehearsal dinner and maybe a farewell brunch. Some girls have figured out a way to extend the bridal experience for months, simply by packing in additional mandatory activities that were always considered gracious extras in the past.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating your engagement as thoroughly as possible, as long as there are close friends offering to host a slew of events celebrating your marriage, and friends and family who want to attend the parties. It’s only a problem when the bride, frustrated nobody has offered to host these gift-giving events in honor of her, decides to throw parties for herself.
Here’s the rub – you only get to throw one big party for yourself to celebrate your wedding, and that’s the wedding reception. Etiquette says that all invited guests should send gifts, whether or not they attend. Hosting any other pre-wedding events for yourself appears greedy and attention-seeking.
Wedding guests are expected to clear their calendars to attend the wedding, and they’re supposed to bow to the couple’s whims for the big day, even if it means getting a babysitter or renting a tuxedo, and focus all their attention on the bride and groom for the duration of the actual wedding events. There’s absolutely nothing that requires your family or friends to celebrate, and give gifts, at regularly-scheduled intervals from the time you get the first ring, until the time you get the second. Everything besides the actual wedding and reception is optional.
Wedding party attendance at pre-wedding events is not mandatory, although lots of brides seem to misunderstand this. Not even the Maid of Honor is REQUIRED to participate in everything wedding-related. I make this point because I’ve heard a lot of griping when bridesmaids “can’t be bothered” to attend every event to which they’re invited. Yes, it’s lovely if a bridesmaid can be at the bridal shower (or one of the bridal showers), but it’s not grounds for dismissal if she can only be at the actual wedding. Anybody from out of town is obviously excused, but even those who live nearby may have other things happening in their own lives on some of your auspicious dates. It’s important to remember something many brides and grooms lose sight of during the wedding planning: Nobody cares about your wedding as much as you do.
For those brides who are still confused, let me make the etiquette of bridal showers even more clear:
- Bridal showers may be hosted by a bridesmaid, an extended-family member, or a close friend of the bride’s family. Sometimes there’s also a shower given by a close friend on the groom’s side, if his family lives far away from the bride and her family, and won’t be able to attend any of the other pre-wedding events.
- You may have several bridal showers given by various people, but you cannot invite the same people to more than one shower. Bridesmaids and mothers are the exception to the single invite rule, but the bride must personally contact each person getting more than one invite and explain that they are not expected to bring a gift to more than one. Their presence is present enough!
- Everybody invited to a shower must be invited to the wedding, without exception.
There’s been a really serious departure from etiquette in recent years, with numerous brides throwing their own bridal showers because they believe they are entitled to one. These brides say nobody had offered to give them a shower, so they’re doing it themselves. What they clearly do not understand is the entire concept of a bridal “shower” is to shower the bride with gifts. Any bride who hosts her own shower is literally asking guests to bring her gifts twice – double-dipping, so to speak – one for the shower, and one for the wedding. That’s a gift grab. And people WILL snark about it because it’s tacky, and everybody knows it.
It’s not appropriate for the bride or groom’s mother to host a bridal shower, either, for the same reason. Etiquette has relaxed regarding immediate family such as sisters and sisters-in-law stepping into the gap, but brides are granted zero manners slack to throw a shower for themselves, regardless of how untraditional they may be.
I’m sure that there are some brides who just read that and thought it’s “not fair,” because nobody has offered to host their bridal showers. But they still want to have one. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. You can take matters into your own hands without breaking every rule of etiquette. Have a conversation with one or more of your besties, and ask them if they’re willing to host your shower. If they don’t have a venue and your mom is willing to loan her house, that’s perfectly fine. If a friend cannot, or will, not be able to act as hostess, see if your mom has a bff who would love to celebrate your special day. If there’s nobody willing to throw the shower, there’s no shower. You cannot shower yourself with gifts.
This is the point in the conversation where I can actually imagine all the non-traditional brides starting to yell at me for espousing these opinions, but I’m willing to take one for the good manners team under the assumption that many women don’t know any better. If you’re reading this and getting angry, that’s okay. As long as you’re reading it, and it makes you think.
I’m well aware that times have changed and wedding etiquette has been adjusted to accommodate for the lifestyles of today’s “modern” brides, but there are zero waivers being issued for using good manners. And it’s simply bad manners to throw multiple parties for yourself to celebrate the same event.
Yes, it’s lovely to have a friend throw a bridal shower in your honor. And if it doesn’t happen on it’s own, you can give it discrete nudge. Remember, being a bride doesn’t entitle you to anything except a marriage license after the vows.
Until next time, good luck and happy wedding planning!
P.S. In case you were wondering, all the pictures featured in my blogs are from actual wedding and events I plan!