Friday, September 25, 2009

Serial Showers: Stop the Wedding Madness

It's hard to know where to begin on the subject of wedding etiquette. There are so many choices for weddings these days and if the trend for bigger, more expensive, more elaborate weddings continues, the etiquette guidelines will continue to evolve. But, I won't get on my soapbox about how crazy weddings have become - that deserves a post all its own! A local wedding consultant recently told me the average cost of Save the Date announcements and Wedding Invitations in this area is now $40 - that's not a total, that's each!! You do the math - 200 guests x $40 = a whopping $8,000 - just for the invitations. How crazy is that?? Not that I believe this is really what most brides are spending, but it illustrates how out of control this industry is - which leads me to our main topic: Serial Showers.

One of my most-asked-about topics regarding weddings is the etiquette for multiple showers. It's not uncommon for bridal attendants and close family/friends of the bride and groom to be invited to five, six, seven, or eight showers. I've had so many discussions in the past year about this that I've started to think of these as 'Serial Showers'. The typical concerns are:

  • Are you obligated to attend every shower to which you're invited if you're a member of the wedding party?
    No, but make your best effort to attend. Your role as bridesmaid is to support the bride and she will appreciate your presence at the shower. Not to mention the fact that showers are usually lots of fun so it's a great time for you to relax with the bride and to meet some of the people who will attend the wedding.

  • Should you bring a gift to each shower?
    If you are invited to multiple showers, it is okay to bring a gift only to one. Here's where the bride can really shine - she should tell all the duplicate guests that she hopes they can attend the kitchen shower, Christmas shower, stock-the-bar shower, shower in her hometown, shower in his hometown, etc., but ask them not to bring a gift. (In the interest of being somewhat concise, I've stated this tersely, but as a gracious bride you'll know what to say . . . after all you want your wedding to fun for all involved, not stressful because it's costing your friends a months' salary to participate.)

  • As the bride, if someone wants to host a shower and you have several planned, is there a polite way to decline?
    Yes, in most cases there is - however, if it's your Mom's church friends, or the groom's aunts you should just accept and try to assist them in tweaking the guest list so there aren't duplicates. In most situations, though, you can explain that there are several showers already planned and broach the idea of a party instead. For the same amount of effort, the host(s) could have a party in honor of the lucky couple with the same guest list. An afternoon tea, a brunch, a cocktail party, a cook-out - these are all great ways to celebrate the upcoming nuptials without obligating attendees to purchase another gift. Again, this will require tact and graciousness on the part of the bride-to-be and on the part of the host (don't get huffy if the bride wants a party instead of a shower, she knows best . . . and your event may turn out to be the highlight of the pre-wedding season).

  • Is it rude not to invite all wedding party members to all showers?
    Another question with a yes and no answer . . . If the shower is out-of-town or involves a group of people not connected to the wedding party (such as a shower in the workplace), you do not need to include the bridesmaids (or groomsmen, if you live in an area where co-ed showers are de rigueur). Otherwise, you should include them and certainly if you invite one bridesmaid you should invite them all (again, following the aforementioned guidelines regarding gifts).

As everyone who's been involved with a wedding knows, weddings can be stressful and your goal as a bride-to-be or mother of a B-T-B is for the whole process to go smoothly and be fun (while we may enjoy bridal dramatics on reality shows, it's not what we want in real life). So, brides - put yourself in the shoes of your bridesmaids and invite them to join you in all the parties, but let them know you're not expecting eight gifts! And bridesmaids and others who love the bride - take a deep breath and remember the B-T-B may be a bit stressed - overlook the little things and concentrate on looking good in your lovely bridesmaid frock!

I'd love to hear your stories about showers and weddings. And, to close here's a look at one of the most famous brides of the last century (her wedding gown is part of the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art):

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