Bridal showers are popular in the USA and Canada and some brides in the UK also hold a shower. Guests include close female friends and near relatives of the bride.
The Mother of the Bride only attends the bridal shower if the bride-to-be specifically invites her. She may want only younger women present. Wedding etiquette has become very personal. Brides make the rules. Mothers do not usually host the bridal shower.
What’s a bridal shower for?
It’s to celebrate the bride’s soon-to-be status as a wife. The all-female guest list ensues that intimate topics can be chatted about. The traditional gifts of small items for the kitchen or lingerie underline the bride’s new role as housewife and sexual partner. Of course today few brides take much notice such things and see the shower as a pre-wedding party.
The bridal shower became a common event at the beginning of the twentieth century. But its history lies much further back. In the sixteenth century brides-to-be were given small presents by their community to allow the wedding to happen when funds were short. The bridal shower also has a strong connection to the American tradition of the hope chest and the British trousseau where women gathered together items for their married life in advance.
Do guests give gifts?
Yes, this is a central feature of bridal showers. Typically gifts are around £25-£50/$25-$50. If your daughter has a register of presents she would love to receive then she should have the list ready before the bridal shower so that the smaller items can be gifted then. If you are invited this could be the moment to offer something useful for the home. Best not to get involved in choosing lingerie – your daughter will have very strong views and only her friends will be in on what she likes.
The bridal shower gift is in addition, not instead of, the more substantial wedding gift.
Who organises the bridal shower?
This is one of the duties of the chief bridesmaid/maid of honor. Often a great amount of organisation goes into the event. But sometimes the bride arranges things herself or asks her mother, sister or best friend to help. There is usually a lunch or at least coffee and cake offered to guests. Sometimes the event is part of a pamper day at a spa.
When and where is the bridal shower held?
It’s held well in advance of the wedding, often a couple of months or more. If the bride hasn’t prepared a list previously then she now has several weeks in which to circulate a register, taking into account what she has already received at her shower.
Your daughter may host the shower in her own home, in a friend’s home, at a restaurant or any reasonably up-market venue with a feminine vibe.
What’s the difference between a bridal shower and a bachelorette/hen party?
Sometimes these two celebrations are telescoped into one event. But in fact they are very different. Where the bridal shower is a pleasant afternoon between women, the bachelorette party is generally a much rowdier affair. Bachelorette parties are usually held in the evening and often include some food, lots of alcohol and sexy references. The latter might be anything from a cheeky maid’s outfit to having a naked butler to serve the cocktails.
Sometimes the bachelorette party last days and is held in a tourist resort but AirBnB hosts often explicitly ban them from their properties. Hen parties are the bane of city centres on Saturday nights across the UK as we all know.
But both events are all-female. If the shower party is to celebrate the entry of the young woman into the world of cooking, cleaning and making babies then the bachelorette party is to mourn the end of her freedom to date other men.
As Mother of the Bride you should never attend the hen party. But it’s a great way for your daughter to have fun with colleagues from work as well as other friends without feeling that they need be invited to the wedding. In contrast, everyone invited to the bridal shower should also be invited to the wedding.
While your daughter or her Maid of Honor are organizing the pre-wedding partied, you can be sorting out how and when to meet up with your new ‘in-laws’ – the parents of the groom.