The History of the Bridal Shower

As common as it is today, the bridal shower represents a relatively cultural new practice. Let's take a quick look at the tradition's roots

Now, you may perceive a bridal shower mostly as a handy reason to celebrate the upcoming nuptials and tease the bride. It's all that, sure; but look deeper, and you'll discover some practical reasons for such an event. Knowing these can help you can add a few interesting touches to the festivities!

Back in the Day...

These days, bridal showers commonly take place only in the United States and Canada, with recent inroads into Australia (possibly due to television poisoning). However, the idea of a pre-wedding celebration where the bride builds a little wealth to take into the marriage is an old idea.

While there's an ancient Roman saying that goes, "Rain falls in the lap of the happy bride," the modern tradition of the wedding shower has more recent roots... though those roots aren't all that recent, by most people's terms.

Back in the 1300s, the British custom of the "bruydale" or Bride Ale was, if not common, at least practiced. This was a party held the day before a wedding, during which the bride sold homemade beer to guests at high prices to boost her dowry. Now, there's a nice idea for a theme!

Eh, Who Needs a Dowry?

The phasing out of the dowry--a big payment to the groom's family to seal the union and act as "seed money" for the establishment of a new household--may have led to the original need for wedding showers as we now practice them.

In a way, the responsibility for provision has passed from a bride's family to her friends. No one really expects the shower to give the bride everything she needs to get a running start, but it sure helps.

The Modern Shower

Wedding showers as we know them trace back to Belgium during the 1860s. By the 1890s, the tradition had invaded American shores, where it took hold and flourished while dying off on the continent.

In the original Victorian form, guests stuffed little gifts into parasols, which they then opened over the bride's head during the celebration, literally showering her with goodies. This appears to be the reason we call the party a "shower." Press appearances made the term official shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

By the 1930s, the whole country was celebrating wedding/bridal showers. The expectations quickly became codified; then as now, the gifts consisted of items for use mostly in the kitchen and bedroom.

Bottom Line

So there you go--the history of pre-nup showers, if you were wondering! More to the point, does it give you a few ideas for themes? How about those parasols... or would you rather sell costly homemade beer at your next bridal shower?

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