(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.