EST. May 2000 (AD)


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Bridal Bonanza

Bridal Shower Etiquette for the Modern Woman

By Jessica Becht

Every bride deserves tribute. No matter how many diamond solitaires a woman has flaunted before jealous spinsters, she never waives her right to be feted with silver-plated strawberry hullers upon announcing her latest engagement. However, with the rules of etiquette in perpetual flux, how does a bride ensure that her acquaintances will heed her dainty pleas for kitchen finery?

Years ago, strict notions of seemliness governed bridal showers, preventing brides from maximizing their gift potential. Shockingly, stodgy etiquette books used to forbid showers thrown by the bride herself. These days, demure sorts wisely ignore such strictures. They realize a self-hosted shower is ideal for the nubile lady with more cheek than chums.

The etiquette-savvy modern bride will plan her shower thus:

She will register at the department store that provides the most elegant registry cards. No invitation is complete without one of these gentle reminders of the bride's expectations. Brides have traditionally registered for china, crystal, and silver. Though the modern aesthetic tends toward simplicity, the shrewd bride will defer to grandmotherly tastes and select the costliest gilded patterns for her registry. After the wedding, she may exchange these items for plainer patterns, and spend her refund on a waterbed.

After registering, a bride must compose a guest list for her shower and send out invitations. Though custom dictates mailing cards several weeks in advance of the festivities, the more budget-conscious or indolent sort of bride may instead send her invoices invitations through e-mail as late as one day before the scheduled event. A virtual invite should always include helpful links to all the bride's registries. Note that a bride should never limit her shower guest list to ladies invited to the wedding. This outdated guideline cruelly excludes the unpopular from gift-giving occasions. What passing acquaintance wouldn't be honored to buy a set of gelatin-molds for such an enterprising bride? Don't neglect to post a general summons on the office bulletin board and at the bus station. Remind shirkers who claim previous obligations that they should still send a gift, preferably from Tiffany & Co. Never forget to insinuate that skinflints will be treated accordingly at the reception.

A clever bride will never allow the cost of hosting a shower to cut into her profit. She may eschew crepe paper, cake, and balloons, instead reserving tables at a diner or bowling alley for her guests. It is polite for the bride to shout "separate checks" every time the waitress approaches her table, in case a unsophisticated guest misses the hint and expects to be treated.

The bride should arrive at her shower early enough to set up boxes marked Keep and Return behind her chair. Once the party is underway, protocol dictates tossing gifts in the appropriate bins, after a few dismissive comments on their perceived prices. Ask a trusted friend to demand receipts from those who purchased off-registry.

Though many ladies expect games and conversation at a shower, a bride should never waste time with chit-chat before scrambling to the gift pile, tossing the cards in the trash, and wresting each gift free of ribbons and paper. Polite reticence may prevent guests from stating it outright, but the ladies have come to indulge in vicarious greed. It is the bride's duty to oblige.

After the pillaging and sorting of gifts, any bride who is also an expectant mother should pass out invitations to her baby shower, along with a comprehensive list of acceptable and unacceptable items.

One traditional rule remains firm: a bride should never neglect to send thank-you notes. However, writing a few lines to every guest expressing "gratitude" is onerous enough that brides should always seek shortcuts. Cards printed with some cloying sentiment may be pre-addressed by guests as they leave the shower, and then dropped in the mail by the maid-of-all-work maid-of-honor. Hint that donations to cover postage costs are appreciated.

After the gift glut, brides commonly enter a letdown mode. A woman should know that showers are just like marriages; no one should feel obligated to stop with just one. If the first shower netted an unsatisfactory haul, schedule another one. This process may be repeated until the first anniversary party.

Today's fiancée must pity the brides of yesteryear, ruled by a thousand petty restraints. Old-time showers must have been dull affairs, limited to close, life-long friends who gave dreary gifts of time-tested recipes and hand-embroidered linen. These downtrodden women little suspected etiquette would one day be a fluid concept, shifting to the whims of each bride. Thank goodness things have changed!

© 2008 Jessica Becht








Jessica Becht is currently sweltering in the state of Florida, where she has become quite intimate with election fiascos, hurricanes, and fire ants. When not shielding her alabaster complexion from the sun's brutal rays, she can be found strolling her baby about the neighborhood while silently mocking pink flamingo enthusiasts.