Ah, one of the great tragedies of being engaged: People want to throw you parties. Here are a few pointers to help make sure your shower is fun to step into.
Showers are for gifts.
The name comes from the fact that one was supposed to “shower” the bride with useful items for her new home, and it is the only party where it’s accepted etiquette that all guests must bring a gift. That has a couple of ramifications:
• Your mom cannot politely throw you a shower. Having a party that requires guests to bring gifts for one’s own daughter is generally seen as a tad mercenary. Let your friends host, and be sure they know your mom would like to help with the planning if she really wants to be involved.
• Since gifts are part of the deal, no one should be invited to your shower who won’t be on the guest list for the wedding. (There’s an exception to that rule if your workmates throw you a little shower – presumably they understand that not everyone will be invited.)
• If you don’t want gifts, you can’t use the word “shower,” or people will be confused. Call it an engagement party or a wedding wingding or whatever else you want, but don’t say “shower.”
If you do want to have a shower but don’t want to demand gifts or if you already have all you could possibly need for your home, consider having something like a recipe shower: Guests each bring a recipe to start off your personal married-life cookbook. You could also have each guest write down a blessing, joke, or piece of advice for your marriage.
Technically, you’re not allowed to tell anyone about your registry.
You are a perfect, demure bride who is happy with the thought alone and would never suggest a specific gift. Fortunately, your mom and maid of honor are crafty ladies who love you. It’s their job to discreetly spread the word about your registry, and they’ll be more than happy to do so.
While you’re being all demure and etiquetty…
Showers where the guests are expected to pay admission or give you money are never OK.
They are common in some regions – you may have heard of them as “Jack and Jill” parties – but they are never, ever proper etiquette, no matter how well-intentioned. It’s not OK to shake your guests down for cash, or to make them help pay for the party expenses. Make sure your bridesmaids are absolutely clear that you don’t want one of these. And you don’t, do you? Even though the idea of piles of cash is attractive, it’s better to get them because your guests are inspired to give you something, not because they feel obligated or shamed into it. Your guests will be grateful that you’re not sucking them into this awkward financial obligation. And if they are absolutely dying to give you money, I guarantee you they will find you a way to slip you an envelope at the wedding.
Make sure your bridesmaids can handle the cost.
Since they’re the ones who are hosting your shower, the members of your girl posse traditionally shoulder the expenses. If your bridesmaids have different incomes, ask your maid of honor to make sure that the shower costs stay under control so that none of your maids is asked to pitch in more than she can afford. Be especially careful if the shower is dinner or a tea at a restaurant – remember that your guests can’t be asked to pay, so your bridesmaid squad will be footing the bill for everyone.
While you’re being fabulously considerate, ask your bridesmaids to deliberately seed your shower with a few inexpensive gifts. The whole gift opening part of showers can get weirdly competitive, so it’s nice to make sure that no one feels uncomfortable for bringing an inexpensive gift when your wealthy cousins give you a jet pack.
Alas, you may only have one shower per geographic region.
Again, this is one that really falls under your maid of honor’s jurisdiction, but if you know that more than one group of friends is planning a shower, strongly encourage them to combine the two – none of your friends should start to panic over when they’ll finally be able to stop giving you gifts. The exception, of course, is again with a small office shower. Just make sure that work friends who may be invited to your “main” shower know that you won’t be expected to kick in for both.
On the upside, if your friends in Pittsburgh, your friends in Tulsa, and your friends in Guam all want to throw you parties, by all means, go nuts.
Yes, you may quietly suggest theme parties.
No, I’m not talking about a Vampire shower or a Pirate Talk shower, (Although now that I think about it, wouldn’t that be great?) If you are stocked to the gills with kitchen equipment, you may discreetly slip the word to your maid of honor that a “linens” or “do-it-yourself home repair tools” or “pink lawn flamingoes” theme might be appreciated.
If you are squicked out by the idea of a lingerie or sex toy theme – or by such items finding their way into your non-themed shower – make very sure that your bridesmaids know. (If you do think that a naughty shower would be fun, this may be a case where you want to have it well away from your main party, with just a few girls who are also definitely comfortable with it.) It should go without saying that lingerie and sex toys should be nowhere near a workplace shower, but apparently it doesn’t. Put the kibosh on such things if you possibly can – it can make people very uncomfortable. And even if it doesn’t, you don’t want your coworkers to imagine you using your gifts.
Ask a bridesmaid to scribe.
It’s your call as to whether to choose the most organized one or the one with the best handwriting. She should keep track of which gifts came from whom as each is opened – by the end of the party everything will be in a jumble of boxes and pastel wrapping paper. When the party is over, she gets an extra thank you and a kiss on the forehead and you have an invaluable tool for writing your thank-you notes. (For tips on painless thank-you notes, check out our article over here.)
Let your bridesmaids know if you love or hate shower games.
I think they’re silly and fun… and then really boring after about 20 minutes. I definitely want them to be a part of my shower (briefly) just for the girly tradition of it, but I know plenty of brides who are prepared to disagree with me and willing to back it up with their fists. Your bridesmaids aren’t psychic, so make sure they know where you stand on that issue. If you’re planning a bridal shower, don’t force the bride to answer embarrassing questions or discuss her sexual history as part of a “game,” especially if the parents or siblings of either the bride or groom are there. That kind of karma will come back to bite you in ways too horrible to mention.
Yes! You can have boys at your shower!
There’s very little reason not to have a coed shower anymore. Couples showers happen all the time now. Just make sure the boys feel welcome – especially if they’re in the minority at your shower – and make sure things don’t get so girly that they lose their minds.
This is one of the few aspects of your wedding that you don’t have to plan, so relax and enjoy it. You have good friends and they wanted to throw you a party and bring you treats. What could be better?
And if you do have a Pirate Talk shower, please, please write and tell me about it