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According to Emily Post, the wedding shower tradition dates back to an 18th century bride whose father did not like her choice of husband and refused to give her a dowry. The citizens of the groom’s town, grateful for his unusual generosity, joined together and “showered” the bride with their own assets, creating enough of a dowry to make the marriage possible. The wedding shower tradition has evolved and, over time, certain etiquette rules have become standard.
The bride’s maid of honor is the customary hostess for a wedding shower, but any bridesmaid, friend of the bride’s mother, friend of the groom’s mother or distant relative of the bride is an appropriate hostess. Traditionally, members of the bride’s immediate family do not host a wedding shower to avoid the appearance of requesting gifts on the bride’s behalf. Members of the bride’s family can help to organize the shower, but their names should not appear on the shower invitation. This logic extends, to a lesser degree, to members of the groom’s family because the groom will also be using the gifts the bride receives at the shower. Etiquette rules dictate that a bride should not, under any circumstances, throw a shower for herself because she will be seen as merely asking for gifts.
According to theknot.com, involvement of the bride’s family is becoming increasingly acceptable because geographical distance among members of the bride’s wedding party may make planning (or even attending) pre-wedding events impractical.
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Emily Post notes that a wedding shower theme is not necessary; rather, a shower simply celebrates the upcoming marriage of the couple. Customary wedding shower themes, however, often center on the gifts guests bring to the shower, such as a lingerie shower, spa shower or a kitchen shower.
Wedding showers involving both the bride and the groom, often called "Jack and Jill" showers, are becoming more common. Themes for couples' showers should appeal to both genders, such as a "stock the bar" party or a tools and gadgets shower. Couples' showers have no strict rules, so an informal barbecue or a cocktail party is also appropriate.
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Wedding showers, like weddings, are laced with traditions. Strictly speaking, grooms do not attend wedding showers. However, one typical wedding shower tradition is for the groom to appear, with flowers, just before the bride opens the gifts. Other traditions include making a bouquet out of the ribbons and bows from shower gifts for the bride to use at the wedding rehearsal and collecting items for the bride’s “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”
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Etiquette rules, in general, focus on avoiding the appearance of fishing for gifts. Accordingly, only guests invited to the wedding should be invited to a shower. Emily Post notes one exception to this rule--not all guests at a workplace shower need to be invited to the wedding.
It is customary for the mother of the groom, and any sisters of either the bride or the groom, to be invited to all wedding showers, but inviting every female who is invited to the wedding is not necessary. According to Brides.com, sending invitations to guests who cannot attend the shower is not rude (but, rather, a nice gesture).
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Gifts are a focal point of a wedding shower. According to Martha Stewart Weddings, including the couple’s registry information on the shower invitation is acceptable. The bride should open all shower gifts at the shower, and etiquette rules dictate that the bride should send handwritten thank you notes to each gift-giver (even if the bride thanked the gift-giver in person) and to the shower hostess. Guests should not be asked to address their own thank-you notes.
If multiple showers are thrown for the bride, guests attending more than one shower need only give one gift. Also, a hostess does not need to give the bride a gift (the shower is a gift by itself), and it is appropriate for the bride to thank the hostess for throwing the shower while opening her gifts. Finally, a guest who cannot attend a shower should not feel obligated to send a gift.
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