My oldest son is getting married!!!! Yes, we’re excited. Before I get into bridal showers, can I brag a bit? He pulled off one of the best proposals ever. He went to grad school in Egypt, and he’s done a lot of travel in the Middle East. He and his soon-to-be fiance were backpacking in Syria where he took her to the highest tower of the Crac des Chevaliers, a castle from the Crusader era. At the top, he asked a British tourist to take a picture. Clever to the core, he faked having a rock in his shoe. When his girlfriend turned around, he was on bended knee with a ring on display, asking her to marry him.
She said yes and we’re so glad she did. She came to Lexington this past weekend for a family bridal shower and we had great time. We shopped for my “Mother of the Groom” dress together, ate Chinese food for lunch and came home to presents, games, food and Skype. My son is still overseas, but we got things set up so he could watch the festivities via webcam.
Imagine Skyping to a bridal shower. The world has sure changed . . . or has it? We had a kitchen themed shower much like mom had in in 1954. As a kid I remember looking in the hope chest she’d filled with sheets and towels and an assortment of what-not for her new home. As long as I can remember, she had special things in that chest. The history of hope chests would be an interesting blog. Since I have weddings on my mind, maybe I’ll do that next. Today, though, I’ve been thinking about bridal showers.
My husband and I got married in 1980. We practically eloped so we skipped the bridal shower tradition, though we made up for it with baby showers a few years later. We started out with a set of everyday dishes, pots and pans, bedding and a lot of hand-me-downs. What we didn’t have, we bought at Pick n’ Save. It’s been 30 years and would you believe I’m using the same red-handled can opener?
Bridal showers are a special time for the bride and family alike. The custom as we know it in America originated in the 1890s. It’s a gift-giving party for the purpose of getting the bride and groom set up in their new home. In some cases, where the bride’s family was poor or perhaps opposed to the marriage, the bridal shower made sure the wedding could take place. It provided the bride and groom with what they needed to set up house and sustain their marriage. Bridal showers also have ties to old dowry practices. If a woman’s family refused to support her decision to marry, friends would come together and bring gifts to fill in the lack of a dowry.
Did you ever wonder why we call these events “showers” and not just parties”? I figured it referred to showering the bride with gifts, but the word has more literal roots. In the 1890s, it was the custom for the bride’s family and friends to put small presents in a parasol and open the parasol over her head. Small should be the key word. We gave my future d-i-l a set of pots and pans. If they’d hit her in the head, she’d have been knocked unconscious . . . Same with the flatware!
Bridal showers started as an urban tradition among wealthy families, but the custom quickly moved to rural America. Over the years, showers have evolved into a celebration that can be anything from a couples party to a bachelorette party to the traditional kind of party my mom enjoyed.
What about you? Have you given a bridal shower? Been the bride at a shower in your honor? What did you like best? My favorite moment was watching my son on Skype as he joked with his bride-to-be. It was just so sweet . . . I’ll never forget it.