It’s All About That Lace

Illustration by Brian Justice
Illustration by Brian Justice

Mama Mia! It’s March, and bridal season looms on the horizon. Merrily offers ideas and advice for that age-old ritual of civilization, the wedding shower.

A tennis buddy of my husband’s got married years ago to a girl from a well-known Kansas City family. The day the wedding invitations arrived, mouths dropped open all over town at the last line: We are registered at William (sic) Sonoma.

This was a girl who should have known better. Spelling error aside, she should have had the fetchin’ up to know it is considered vulgar for the happy couple to indicate—especially on a formal invitation—that there is ever any expectation of a wedding gift. Presents, presumably, are not the point of the wedding. (Perhaps this is why the couple divorced acrimoniously several years later.)The marriage is the point of the wedding. One quietly registers, then leaves it to family and friends to get the word out as to where. And of course, one posts it on one’s personal wedding website, but only on the farthest-away nav link.

Pretty much all of humanity loves a bride and groom, and we want to celebrate the optimism that a wedding represents. We also feel a collective urge to give the little darlings a panini maker or whatever else we think they need to set up their household. Which is why, in every culture, no matter how primitive, there exists some version of the bridal shower. Here are some tried and true ways to shower the bride and groom in our own, highly evolved Kansas City culture.

To theme or not to theme

Wedding showers have become less gender-separated in the last couple of decades, an excellent development in my opinion, if only because it gives the singletons of the world a civilized way to meet.

When both sexes show up, it’s more of a party. But you don’t need a blow-out budget to host a fun shower, co-ed or otherwise. Buddy up with another friend or two and share the labor, expense and creative challenges. Consider designing the party around a common interest of the honorees. Do they play golf? Rock-climb? Are they big Royals or Chiefs fans? Do they both love a particular book, TV show or movie? Are they reggae, hip-hop or heavy-metal aficionados? Any such interest would make a clever theme to be carried over in the invitations, drinks, food, music and decorations.

Or not. Some of us have no imagination when it comes to carrying out a theme but can still host an interesting, memorable party. You don’t necessarily need a party theme, but for the gift-giving portion of the festivities, it’s best to have some guidelines. Here are a few thought-starters.

The heat is on

Kitchen showers aren’t just for chicas anymore. A lot of muy macho men cook nowadays, or at least watch the Food Network. In much the same way that they take an interest in having Bose subwoofers, they want a well-equipped kitchen, with Shun knives and All-Clad saucepans. And they want to be included in the kitchen shower, sometimes more than the bride does.

There are endless variations on the kitchen shower theme. You could host a simple dinner party where everyone brings a course in a serving dish or platter (thoughtfully chosen from the bridal registry), which is then bestowed, along with the recipe, upon the bridal couple. You could do the same thing with pots and pans.

Or do a stock-the-pantry shower where everyone brings gourmet pantry items with recipes. Or a cutlery shower, for the couple who has everything but good knives. Or ask guests to bring a copy of their favorite cookbook, along with a recipe for a successful marriage. Such a request might sound trite, but it yields surprisingly trenchant bits of wisdom.

Which leads me to the question of silly shower games: to play or not to play? Most times I would say no, because some people just hate them and resent being expected to participate. But if you have a group who doesn’t know each other at all, a game could help break the ice. You might want to have one up your sleeve, and bust it out only if you think the party needs help getting off the ground. You’ll find a million ideas if you Google “wedding shower games.”

Because who doesn’t love barware?

Did someone mention cocktails? Let’s have one, and plan a stock-the-bar shower for each other because clearly we’ve missed out. Stock-the-bar showers seem to have become all the rage. Some are centered around stemware and bar accoutrements, others around bottles of premium-brand hootch; some are a combination of both. With this type of shower, it’s particularly important for the hosts to organize who is bringing what, or the couple might wind up with six fifths of Hendrick’s Gin and four Pottery Barn martini shakers.

Another variation, for the couple who is fond of the grape, is a stock-the-cellar shower, where everyone brings a bottle of good wine. It’s important to tag the bottle you bring, unless of course, you’d rather not claim it.

The traditional all-girl fete

The traditional shower still has an established place on wedding event rosters, and it always will. Every bride should have at least one all-girl shower, if only because it provides valuable bonding time for mothers of the bride and groom, grandmothers, great grandmothers, bridesmaids, sisters, aunts, female cousins and close friends. Finger food or a light brunch are great choices, as is a traditional high tea. I have some great recipes for both—just email me!

A final word about wedding gifts

Here’s a bit of advice from the etiquette committee about wedding (as distinct from shower) presents. Never take gifts to the wedding. Always have them sent. The gift is a symbol of the esteem and affection in which you hold the bride or groom or their parents, and the value of it should have no relation to how much you think will be spent on you at the reception. Don’t presume to think you know what the couple wants; choose from the registry. I learned from my mother that it’s nicest to not be creative. Send the couple a place setting of their china and be done with it.