I recently had the opportunity to interview Leah Ingram, a nationally recognized wedding expert and author of three wedding books. Her latest is Your Wedding Your Way (Contemporary Books, 2000), which offers advice on how to personalize a wedding.
Donna Pilato: Hi Leah. You've had the opportunity to speak with many engaged couples while researching your wedding books. What can you tell us about the latest trends in bridal showers?
Leah Ingram: I'm seeing two trends. The first trend is that people are hosting more couple showers. Men have become much more involved in the wedding process. With more couples paying for their own weddings, the groom doesn't want to feel left out of the pre-wedding festivities. The friends or family planning the showers have become tuned in to this.
DP: So, are couple bridal showers any different than all women showers?
LI: Having men present makes the whole thing much more relaxed. You see less of the traditions such as bouquets and hats made from the bows and ribbons. And the showers are more often held at the couple's favorite hangouts such as a restaurant or a bar, or even at a friend's house for brunch.
DP: You mentioned two trends - what's the other?
LI: The latest trend in women-only showers is that women are now doing things. A popular activity has become spending a day at the spa. Often the bridal party does this.
Everyone attending the shower is signed up for two or three spa services. The organizer reserves a space at the spa so that everyone can eat lunch together and exchange gifts. Sometimes the guests pitch in together to pay for the bride's services, as their shower gift for her. Another activity-centered shower that has become popular is going out for pizza and bowling.
DP: With all of these updates to wedding shower traditions, which rules of etiquette have been most affected?
LI: The traditional etiquette that a shower must be thrown by a non-family member is passé. Most people are no longer afraid of the etiquette police coming after them. If the mother of the bride hosts the shower, people don't look upon it negatively, as if the mother is just looking for gifts. They simply see her doing something nice for her daughter.
DP: People enjoy throwing theme parties. Are there currently any popular themes at bridal showers?
LI: Even though many people have the basics from living on their own before marriage, cooking and kitchen showers are still popular.
DP: Is there anything that people are doing to make kitchen showers more interesting?
LI: Guests come with recipes or they'll bring gag gifts for the wishing well, like X-rated refrigerator magnets.
Some people give the bride a safe that looks like a can of Coca-cola. People are going wackier. For favors, they might give a cooking apron with the bride and groom's names silk-screened on it. Centerpieces might be measuring cups with wooden spoons tied together with a pretty bow. You can raffle them off or give them to the bride. I think a great theme would be building a shower around a cuisine that the couple likes, or play into their ethnicity in your choice of menu items.
DP: Are there any other suggestions you have for updating bridal showers?
LI: Showers are becoming more customized to the bride and groom's interests. Even if you'd like to host a traditional shower, you can always personalize the wishing well and make it fun. When I was married, my mom asked people to bring something writing-related for the wishing well. Some people gave me crayons!
DP: Do you have any final advice?
LI: The bottom line is to keep in mind the preferences of the bride and groom. What do they like, what will make them uncomfortable? For example, if you know the bride is trying to lose weight for her wedding (not that I advocate this), don't have a pastry shower and sabotage the bride's efforts. And as long as the shower is not going to be a surprise, when in doubt, consult with the bride.