Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wedding Crap: Wedding Showers

(See introduction and disclaimer to this series here, and other posts in the series here.)

What is the tradition? 

Prior to the wedding, parties are held for the bride (or occasionally, the couple), for the purpose of "showering" the bride/couple with gifts. Games are played and treats are served, but the primary expectation is that guests will bring presents (from the couple's registry), which are opened during the event.

What is the origin of the tradition?

It's likely ultimately derived from the concept of dowry; if a girl didn't have a dowry (perhaps her parents were too poor to provide it), friends instead gathered to provide items for a dowry instead. 

In a more modern sense, though, it's about the village coming together to provide the household goods that a young couple needed to set up a life for themselves. Historically, of course, most couples getting married were, indeed, young, moving from their parents' home to the marriage home.

The name itself of a wedding or bridal "shower" is from a Victorian tradition of putting small gifts in a parasol, and then opening it over the bride and "showering" her with the gifts.

Why do people still follow it?

Well, free stuff. 

There's also a sense of being owed gifts in exchange for when you've participated in the tradition and bought gifts for other people.

Why is that crap? 

The average age of getting married is 27 (women) and 29 (men) (source). In other words, about 10 years after graduating high school and most likely moving out of their parents' house. Even if you don't count college as truly living on one's own, that's still a great deal of time (5 to 7 years) of living on one's own, building up a household. The likelihood that a newly married couple is actually lacking in sufficient sheets and dishes is quite low.

But - it's a worthy upgrade! you say. If you want to upgrade your own belongings because you're now several years into a decent-paying career, go for it! But why is it your figurative village's responsibility to upgrade your things for you? It's not about just getting by, but they must outfit you in luxury? 

A "deserving" upgrade at the time of the wedding also implies that you deserve it when getting married, because you're somehow more of an adult, and as an adult should have higher quality things. Why did you need to get married to act like an adult (if you view part of that as having matching dishes or whatnot)? I do understand the impact the economy has had on much of my generation, but that aside - why were you waiting for a marriage to build your own household? Why would you not be deserving (assuming you can afford it) of having a "real" household while single? 

What am I doing with this tradition?

As I lived on my own, I bought the items I wanted and that met the aesthetic I wanted in my home, so that, while there may have been occasional pieces that could stand for an upgrade, there was definitely no sense of desiring to replace a bunch of college-level crap. (Abe didn't so much, but beyond that being partially due to his pay/career, he simply doesn't have that much of an aesthetic preference to want matching stuff.)

We got rid of a ridiculous amount of stuff due to combining two households, each having lived on our own for several years. We were in no way building a household from scratch, therefore no need to be outfitted with household supplies. We passed on any offers of showers. (I did feel slightly bad for my mom, who's hosted many showers for her friends' kids, and certainly, in a sense, deserved to be paid back with her friends attending a shower for me, but I really didn't want the stuff!)

How did/will you handle this tradition?

I would love to have a lively debate and conversation in the comments! Please join in!

Dissenting opinions (from the post itself or other commenters) are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments that personally attack me or any other commenter.


  1. I, too, opted out of a shower. Before knowing the actual history of wedding showers, the idea always made me uncomfortable. To me, I always saw it as gifting the bride household goods so that she could fulfill the "domestic wife", no thanks! My mom didn't care that we opted out, but my MIL really wanted us to have a shower. Luckily, we live about 900 miles away from our families, so that definitely helped with convincing her not to throw a shower (although, she did say we could do it over skype and she would open the presents for us. we quickly rejected that idea).

    1. I agree, there's definitely a sexist issue in who the showers/household goods are primarily targeted at! I considered including that aspect in the post, but for this particular topic the consumerism spoke more to me, and that's where I started. Didn't want to make it too long!

      Skype shower? that seems... like all the consumerism without even pretending to make it be about socializing and supporting you! I understand there are some nice thoughts behind it, especially when it's from relatives, but still not something I wanted to participate in.

  2. This is your best post yet. Fantastic job. Showers have never seemed to me to be anything more than a gift grab. We've been invited to showers for scarcely known long-distance relatives (but not to the wedding) and it smacks of greed greed greed.

    1. thanks! :)

      Seriously. Some people/approaches more so than others, but it's hard for it to ever feel justified to basically be asking everyone to outfit your house (that I did for myself along the years!).

  3. I did the same as you, and also felt bad for my Mom because I know it was something she was really looking forward to doing for me. Aside from the fact that we didn't need much (although we ended up doing a small registry since people kept asking), I was NOT about to stand in front of a bunch of people and open presents. I don't even go to showers unless it's someone I'm very close to, so I wasn't going to put myself through the torture!

    I was talking to my friend's fiancee and she asked me if we had a wedding shower. I said I am not a fan of opening gifts in front of people so I opted out, and she said "oh I hate that too, which is why I requested envelope gifts only. It lasted less than an hour - we had lunch and left!" So they basically had a lunch where people gave her money in envelopes, haha. I thought that was pretty weird, but perhaps not as weird as my other friend who had four (FOUR!!!) showers. I don't get it.

    1. I also rarely go to showers! Who wants to sit around and watch someone open presents?! Even ignoring other issues, it's just boring.

      I've heard of "bridal teas" which are basically a shower without the gifts part, so a nice luncheon with bridesmaids and/or women in the family isn't a weird thing, but just tack on cash gifts is a little weird to me.


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