A bridal shower is a time for a woman to celebrate being a bride with her friends and family members. The tradition of the bridal shower began in the 1800s when a poor Dutch miller fell in love with a well-to-do girl. The girl’s father prohibited the marriage and declined to supply a dowry, which generally consisted of a substantial property or financial contribution. In those days, a bride could not marry without a dowry. Luckily, kind and charitable friends “showered” the bride with enough gifts to make up for the father's harsh stance, and the wedding took place.
At a bridal shower, the bride is provided not only with gifts, but also moral support and help in preparing for her upcoming wedding.
While tradition dictates a shower should not be hosted by someone from the bride's immediate family, any friend, member of the wedding party or other relative can host a bridal shower. And since the purpose of a shower is to provide a material foundation for the new couple's life together by way of shower gifts, the geographic separation of today's families has led to an easing of etiquette in this area. Today, whether the bride's mother or the groom's cousin holds the shower, the aim and result are the same: the bride and her husband to be will receive practical household items, romantic lingerie or other necessities for a happy married life.
The table centerpiece can be a great extra gift for the bride. Purchase a basket, mixing bowl or colander, and ask each guest to bring an inexpensive necessity of life such as a scrub brush, a pack of sponges, matches, a box of bandages, gum, a flashlight, etc. After the guests have arrived, toss in some swirls of ribbon and present this gift of goodies to the bride as the festivities wind down.
It's always fun to include the creation of a one-of-a-kind instant heirloom in the shower activities. Buy a thin point permanent marker and a wooden rolling pin. As guests arrive, ask them to sign this simple kitchen tool. After the event, seal the rolling pin with varnish, allow it to dry, tie on a length of ribbon and give it to the bride. She and her groom may never bake, but they will keep this very special gift forever.
Bridal showers typically include games and the opening of gifts. It is perfectly okay to list stores where the engaged couple has registered on the shower invitation. It can certainly be suggested that guests bring a gift that goes along with the chosen shower theme; for example, kitchen, bedroom or lingerie. Any gift that can be used in the new home of the bride and groom is appropriate. Using your creativity to come up with themes or gift ideas is not only challenging but fun, though current etiquette frowns on money showers and "no host" restaurant showers where each guest is expected to pay for her own meal.
Try to schedule showers at least a month or two before the wedding so the bride doesn't feel too rushed. Naturally, the bride must deliver the names and correct addresses of all the guests to the hostess a month before the actual date of the shower. This way shower invitations can be sent out two to three weeks in advance.
Friends and relatives enjoy helping a bride begin her new life, but budgets may be tight. Remind guests who are invited to more than one shower that they should feel no obligation to give a gift at each separate event. Always use your best judgment and let your imagination soar.
Brides should thank the shower hostess with a sincere note and a small gift such as flowers or a pretty plant.
Those brides who begin writing thank you notes right after a shower will congratulate themselves for their foresight as wedding gifts start to pour in and the need to graciously thank friends and family for their generosity seems overwhelming. This is especially true if their grooms haven't shouldered their own responsibility in this area.