Wedding Shower Etiquette....Expert Commentary

The wedding shower is an old custom originating in the Netherlands.

Tradition has it that a girl married a poor miller whom her parents considered unworthy. To show their dissatisfaction they gave her no dowry. A dowry is any property that a wife brings into a marriage, which usually consists of linens, rugs, dishes, and sometimes even cattle or oxen. The townspeople, overcome by the couple's predicament rallied together and "showered" the couple with gifts.

Today's wedding shower might be considered a modern replacement for the dowry or hope chest. A friend or friends of the bride throw a wedding shower. No one, however, is obligated to throw the bride a wedding shower. The shower is a charming custom taken up by those who have the means to accomplish it. It is not a right of the engaged.

Shower throwing can get underway as soon as the engagement has been announced. Keep in mind that it is not a good idea to throw a shower the week of the wedding, even though everyone you want to invite will be in town for the event. Remember too, at parties that coincide with mealtimes, guests expect to be fed.

If the bride is being thrown multiple showers, care must be taken not to include the same guests. This is also true with the wedding party. But, also be aware that one steadfast rule is those who are invited to the shower must be invited to the wedding.

Today, it is much more modern to have coed showers than single sex, since the old ideas like, "The guys would be bored at a kitchen shower because they can't cook" are no longer true. The host or hostess of the shower should be prepared to answer questions like, "What are the colors in the kitchen going to be?" And have some suggestions like, "I think he'd like really like a pizza stone."

Shower gifts should not be expensive unless mother or grandmother want to make a presentation of a large gift. Being invited to a shower and bringing an appropriate gift does not exempt you from bringing a wedding gift. The gift you bring to the wedding should be nicer or more expensive of the two.

If you are invited to a wedding shower and must decline, it's not necessary to bring a gift, although if the bride and groom are your good friends you probably will want to anyway. Wedding gifts were once displayed at the bride's parent's home for the guests to peruse prior to the wedding; guests could also view them at the reception held at the house. This is rarely done these days, although perfectly correct.

Unlike wedding gifts, the shower gift is opened in front of the giver and gratitude is displayed on the spot. Technically, this relieves the recipient from having to write a thank you note. Nevertheless, some thoughtful couples take this opportunity to use up all the maiden name monogrammed stationary and write sincere thank yous anyway.

A thank you should also go to the host/hostess of the party. Although, this is one time that bringing a host/hostess gift is not necessary. This is because you are being asked to come and bring something not just receive something. Further instruction on hosting parties is given on my website at