Miss Manners’ topic of the day was the stress of “monster showers.” A reader wrote saying she felt it was appropriate–not tacky– for the family to host a wedding shower for the bride-to-be since the cost of being a bridesmaid was skyrocketing. I’m paraphrasing the intent and content of the column, but the essence was disturbingly based on modern expectations of what constitutes a good bridesmaid and good wedding guest.
Recent movies like Bridesmaids, and You Again, poke fun at our cultural inclination towards excess. If what’s on screen is making us laugh, we know it is happening all too often in real life because we’re identifying with the message. Bridesmaids, and friends of the bride, are pressured into hosting elaborate parties to honor the bride despite limited resources. The unspoken code? Expense at any cost apparently measures the quality of the friendship.
Besides the pre-wedding parties–which now often include trips to Las Vegas or elsewhere– let’s not forget the gift registry. One recent bridal registry in my life asked for a set of twelve drinking glasses. Each glass was $40. While that may not be much to some folks, I cringed at the thought of dropping one should I ever be asked to visit. (I could just see myself juggling the $40 glass filled with Kool-aid, and $50 bone china plate swimming in beans and cocktail wieners, to an unhappy ending.) My drinking glasses usually come in a boxed set from Target. Somehow they work just fine, and if one does go to glass heaven it doesn’t phase me in the least. But that’s me.
I shake my head in wonder at how much has changed since my early adult years. Somehow, someway, we’ve gotten the gimme part all muddled up with well wishes. In my view 1000 count sheets have little to do with threads of common sense. Do you need the best of everything when starting out? I don’t think so. Infact, I think it’s romantic to struggle and grow and find your style as the years unfold.
I remember my wedding shower circa 1979. I was twenty-one years old and my Maid of Honor hosted the shower in the basement of the church in which I was getting married. The decorations consisted of fragrant fresh cut lilac blooms and swoops of crepe paper. The bells hanging from the streamers were plastic funnels…to be used in my kitchen for years to come. We played traditional shower games that were simple and joyous while shockingly lacking in alcohol or male strippers dressed as police officers.The church’s ladies aide group put together a simple lunch of filled buns, pickles, punch, and cake. Since I’m a Lutheran, I bet there was Jell-o too, but my memory on that item is fuzzy.
Maybe gift registries were in use at the time, but I’d never heard of them. Instead, there was a sense of passing the baton on items that helped an unknowing girl become a wife in my rural neck of the woods. To expect and ask for gifts? Unthinkable!
Some of the women who attended my wedding shower were barely able to scrape by, but they wanted to be a part of my celebration. I received thoughtful, useful, gifts including hand-embroidered dish towels, a bedspread sewn by my mother, mixing bowls, and measuring spoons. They were gifts meant to get me started in my new life as a wife, and not guilt-prompted items I felt I somehow deserved because I was benevolent enough to invite them to the wedding. I loved the intentions behind the gifts that day, and I loved the women who cared enough about me to share what they were able to share.
In Miss Manners’ column I was delighted to read that she is on my side in this issue. She, too, feels we’ve gotten away from the sincere act of giving modest gifts and have turned weddings into score cards. Sigh. By my count, we’re all losing.