The tradition of a bridal shower dates back centuries. The father of a Dutch maiden refused to provide a dowry, so the story goes, so friends and neighbors stepped up to donate goods to furnish her new home. Today, showers are a way for the bride-to-be to relax and enjoy a little downtime with friends and family prior to the Big Day. Shower etiquette has fewer rules than weddings, but there are still several guidelines you would be wise to heed. Following are the dos and don’ts of bridal shower gifts.
Don’t list the registry on the invite
This first tip is for the brides-to-be out there. Share your registry information with immediate family and members of the wedding party only, then let them spread the word. If people ask you directly, it’s fine to tell them but never include registry information on your invitation. In the case of wedding websites, registry information should only be available by clicking further into the site, not posted on the landing page. Also important, register for more gifts than invitees and include items with a range of prices to provide guests with plenty of options. Note that it still goes against etiquette to ask outright for cash, but financial registries are becoming more common.
Do stick to a budget
Not all brides register for both wedding and bridal showers gifts, leaving it up to her guests to decide what to give. While wedding gifts tend to be more significant items, bridal shower gifts are usually smaller and more personal (not to be confused with gag gifts; more on that below). As a giver, it’s perfectly acceptable to set a budget for your gifting. Don’t forget to factor in the wedding present as well. Keep in mind that registries are meant to help you understand a bride’s tastes and needs, not be a hard-and-fast requirement. If the bride’s requests are way out of your range, a beautiful card containing a gift certificate in any amount is always acceptable.
Don’t be surprised if it’s a couples’ shower
Bridal showers used to be women-only affairs; no longer. A couples’ shower or ‘Jack and Jill’ share some similarities with the traditional kind but also have some differences. Instead of brunch or afternoon tea, they may be held as cocktail or dinner parties. Both still include the gift-opening, and regarding gifts, they are offered to both the bride and groom. Since many of today’s couples already have housewares (even multiple sets), they may choose to register for items for which they hold a common interest, such as wine tasting or travel.
Do keep things classy
This one is very important: A bridal shower is NOT a bachelorette party. A bridal shower is an elegant gathering, most often held in the daytime, and attended by the bride’s mother and other senior female relatives, as well as friends. Don’t confuse the two and embarrass yourself and the bride by offering indecent underwear or other risqué gifts. The one exception to this rule is if the bridal shower specifically states it has a lingerie theme.
Don’t feel obligated to send a gift
There are many reasons why you might not attend a bridal shower. Maybe you’ll be on vacation, or you can’t swing the airfare for both the shower and the wedding. Or perhaps you’re already committed to your grandmother’s 80th birthday bash. If the bride is a close friend, your own feelings will dictate offering a gift. If however the bride is not a bosom buddy and you suspect she is merely inviting you to score extra presents, aka the dreaded ‘gift grab,’ you are not obligated to attend or to send a present.
Another red flag for gift grabs include asking guests to pay for their meal or any other portion of the party or entertainment. Etiquette states that if you are not invited to the wedding, you are not obligated to attend the bridal shower or send gift. In the case of a lunchtime bridal shower at the office, you may wish to contribute to a collective gift or, if you know the bride well, offer your own. If not, a gift is not required, but be sure to stop by and wish the bride-to-be well.