Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Looking for that perfect bridal shower gift? Every bride needs a commonsense guide to the etiquette that really matters.  Let Wedding Etiquette Hell:  A Bride's Bible for Avoiding Everlasting Damnation by Jeanne Hamilton be your guide.

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Bridal Showers

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Jeanne, first, I just love your site. It makes me all the more grateful for the no frills, immediate family only, courthouse wedding that my husband and I had. However, we were surprised with a shower. And yes, it was a complete surprise! We thought that the afternoon get-together was to celebrate my Mom's birthday! Although I appreciated the thought, caring and concern. I hate anyone thinking that we needed charity!

Anyway, I should get to the whole point of this e-mail. Although I realize that having an immediate family member host a shower, whether it be bridal or baby, is considered rude, I can see why it is frequently done. Why?, you ask,....jealously! Very often when a friend even steps forward with an offer to host a shower, the other women perceive her as bossy or presumptuous. ("Why does SHE think that SHE is so-and-so's best friend. Why is SHE having the shower?) Most offers are not extended for the benefit of the hostess' ego. But, I have witnessed decade long friendships torn apart by the mere offer of hosting a shower! Why can't someone just be a friend from work, while the other is a friend from school? Who cares who is the "best"? I have a large group of friends and I don't place one above the other. But so often, who hosts a shower turns into a battle for the title of "best friend". What about sharing the responsibilities? It's very unfortunate that a kind gesture can be so easily turned into a small war! As a result of all the crap I have seen, I am hesitant to become involved in planning showers, no matter how much I care for the friend. I realize that I sound jaded and that makes me almost as bad the fighters themselves. I guess we all have an attitude problem to work on!



Hello, and best wishes to all those prospective brides reading these stories and shivering!  As has been pointed out elsewhere on this site, bridal showers are not meant to be hosted by relatives.  However, I was in a bit of a bind when my future MIL told me she was throwing a shower for me in my groom’s hometown (where I didn’t know anyone).  The shower was held at the home of people neither my husband or I knew.  The guests included the groom’s grandmother and little sister and other than that it was a bunch of my future MIL’s women friends.  These were the people other participants in this forum have described – the in-laws said they had to be included in the wedding EVEN THOUGH neither the bride or groom knew them.  All in all it wasn’t a bad shower – they had a nice little buffet, a cake, games that weren’t too silly, and even gifts.  However, I do have a page in my album featuring this shower, with people I’ve never seen since the wedding, and the lovely party favor – a dish towel that everyone signed with puffy fabric paint, making it useless as a dish towel, and not much of a memento for me.


My boyfriend and I were invited to Jack & Jill shower of a girl that more of a casual acquaintance than a friend; we lived in the same residence in university. We were not invited to the rather large wedding so I found it somewhat tacky to be invited to the shower. However, many of our friends planned to go so we thought it might be fun.

The invitation to the shower arrived and it decreed that it would cost everyone $20 to attend but for that we would all be given one complimentary drink. It started at 7 and we guessed that food would probably not be part of the evening. We were right. The shower was being held at a country club that the BM supposedly got a deal on. Four of us carpooled to the party, more than an 1 hour away from where everyone lived (including the bride and groom). We thought that since we were paying to attend, another gift would be more than we could afford (all of us we were still students) and our friends were already purchasing her a nice wedding gift.  Another friend had phoned the MOH, the co-host, weeks earlier to inform her that she could not attend, only to be met with the reply "That's too bad, hope you can still send a gift!".

We arrive at the shower to be asked, "Where's your gift?" by the MOH. I handed her my $20 cover and didn't say anything else. Then we found out that we would not be receiving that one complimentary drink we were promised (they denied it was even on the invitation). We could buy drinks if we wanted but even pop was $5 a glass.  The BM and MOH announce that we are all to proceed to the club's golf putting area where we would be playing a game for $2 a turn. Everyone was pressured to play at least twice. The three people who hit the most targets with their golf ball were given a prize. I placed second and when I put my hand in the prize box, I pulled out a bar of soap. The prizes were no better for anyone else, unless you count the neon condoms. The girl who pulled those was clearly embarrassed and I felt bad for her.  Similar games occurred the rest of the night. 

Then came the portion of the evening where people were supposed to toast the bride and groom and their happiness, etc. That would be fine except it went on for far too long and most of us didn't even have drinks to toast them with. The bride then proceeded to complain that we were not telling enough funny stories about her. My boyfriend and I left when we thought it was polite to do so. As we were saying goodbye to the bride she almost started to say that she would see us at the wedding but them remembered that we weren't invited.  The next time I saw her she was complaining about her wedding pictures.    BridalShowers1209-03


I knew at the time (nearly 6 years ago) that relatives giving a shower and multiple showers for the same person were considered tacky.

However, how do you tell your well-meaning SIL and MIL that they CAN’T give you a shower? 

That one was for female friends of my husbands family.  It was held at MIL’s house, about an hour from where we live. 

Then a friend of mine wanted to give me one, a co-ed shower, of close and dear friends. That was held at my own house, as the friend had just moved and we were better set up for entertaining. (We had a larger living room, and had moved a couple of months ago.  She handled all the food, games, and refused to let me help with the clean-up.)

My co-workers and my husband’s also planned showers (one a potluck at the office—we had potlucks quite frequently-- and one Dutch at a Mexican restaurant.).  There were probably 40 or 45 guests total, and only one person came to more than one (she was the wife of my husband’s best friend, and lived near my MIL at the time.). 

I can see myself being plunged into lots of levels of EH, but wouldn’t it have been much worse to say “Oh, no, Mum and Sis, YOU can’t give me a shower.  It’s tacky!”  Wouldn’t it have been worse to tell my supervisor that instead of her nice offer of letting us have a potluck on company time, people really would have to go to the ONE shower that etiquette allows, on their own time. (No-one was forced to bring a gift.  There was a card passed around, the cake was baked in someone’s house, not chipped-in-for, and a few people gave me clothes and other small items.  Nothing like the car-seat/stroller combo that everyone was strong-armed into chipping in for at a previous workplace of mine!) 

I sincerely believe that everyone who showed up for the various showers wished us well.  I hope that no-one was believing that I had a case of the gimmes (the grandparents, SIL and one pair of very close friends bought bedroom furniture for the baby, which, except for the crib, we still use.  Other than that, all the gifts were either handmade or small.)!  The good wishes were MUCH more important than the presents.


My husband's aunt (mob) and daughter (sob) sent out invitations that read- "Hawaiian Attire Suggested and in lieu of gifts bring $25.00 cash"!  I am not sure I want to attend. 

Can you believe the nerve!



About two years ago, I moved for graduate school and found myself living near an old friend from high school. She had just gotten engaged and, as we got back into touch after moving near one another, I was invited to the wedding. The wedding was in our hometown about 4 hours away. Well, as it turns out, no one had planned a bridal shower for her in the town we were currently living in, so I offered to help the bride's friend throw a shower for her and all of her wonderful friends with whom she had gone to school down here.

We decided to do an "around the house" shower and, as is common for such showers, in the corner of the invitation we wrote "please bring a small gift to complement their new_____". Only after the invitations had all gone out, did I find out that only about 2 people on the list were even invited to the wedding. Not only that, but the friend who I was co-hosting the shower with was supposed to have been a bridesmaid. However, since she couldn't afford the dress, she wasn't a bridesmaid. I found this to be HIGHLY insulting since this is supposedly one of the bride's best friends and the bride has more money than God and didn't even help her friend out. The bride then had the audacity to ask US, not her bridesmaids to throw her a shower and invite people who were not invited to the wedding to bring gifts.

On the day of the shower, people were polite and it went fairly well. I, however, am still utterly embarrassed for having been a part of such an etiquette faux pas. I honestly believe that the bride didn't do this because she wanted more gifts. She simply wanted to have a bridal shower as is part of the wedding tradition. If only she knew how insulting it all turned out.



Hi Jeanne- love your site! I was best friends with, let's call her Katie, for six years in junior high and high school. We kept in touch through college and afterward. Katie was a bridesmaid in my wedding. Fast forward five years, and now it is Katie's turn to get married.

Katie had a very long engagement--almost two years. That first pre-wedding Christmas, Katie called for me. I wasn't there, so Katie talked on and on to my mom about the wedding plans. My mother didn't really know what to say to Katie, so she said something like, "Well, let me know if there's anything I can do help with the wedding festivities--a shower or whatever." By the way, both Katie and I live in different states from our hometown, where our parents still live.

About six months later (a year before the wedding), Katie emails me and says, "Your mom offered to host a shower--can we do that next spring?" We were a bit surprised to get this email. If Mom had REALLY wanted to host the shower, wouldn't she have contacted Katie? But, after all, Mom did make that offer. We both enjoy parties and decorating and making fancy party food. So we said "Sure!" and organized the shower.

I kept expecting to get an invitation from Katie to participate in the wedding. But I didn't. I assumed I wasn't going to be a bridesmaid by this point. But I did think she would ask me to cut cake, or do the guest book, or SOMETHING! After all, she was my bridesmaid and I am (was) her very oldest friend.

Another annoying thing--Katie invited only ONE local person to the shower! Everyone else on the guest list lived in a different state from the location of the shower. She invited people from all over the COUNTRY. Did she really think people would want to FLY in and rent cars and hotel rooms for a little wedding shower and an engagement party that evening? And then fly to the wedding a few months later? There were plenty of local people she could've invited. But she wanted it to be an "intimate" gathering of only her dearest friends.

The day of the shower arrives. I drove to my mom's house the night before to clean. We had the house looking beautiful with fresh flowers and crystal and china and a beautifully decorated table. Katie arrives with her fiancé's mother and sister (who did fly in), her mom, and two of her bridesmaids (who drove long distances to attend.) That's all. Six guests. Guess no one else was interested in flying in for a shower!

They then proceed to talk and talk about wedding plans. Of which I am not included, remember. She showed me photos of the bridesmaid dresses (did she not think this might hurt my feelings just a BIT?) I used Katie's camera to take photos of Katie and her mom, Katie and her bridesmaids, Katie and her friends. She did not take any photos of me and my mom, despite her friend saying, "Don't you want a picture of your hostesses?"

They finally left. Katie did not ask me ONE question about my life. Nothing. I haven't seen her in a year and a half. I drove into town and took off from work and spent money on this horrible event, and she didn't even ask, "How's your job?" or "What's new with you?" or "How's your husband?" or ANYTHING! Actually, she didn't make one direct comment to me except for greetings and goodbyes.

She did send a prompt thank-you note. It said, "Thanks for the lovely shower. I'm glad you got to meet my friends from the 'other' part of my life. Hope you can make the wedding." I guess she wasn't glad to see me--just glad I could meet her "real" friends.

I was feeling guilty for not flying to her wedding--not anymore!



I work in a bank with about 20 women. Our bank manager was getting married, and the assistant manager wanted to have a surprise bridal shower for her. In our bank there are two "camps" - the lowly tellers (like me) and the Professional Customer Service Associates (new accounts, loans, and the like). Apparently the high and mighty knew all about the shower, which was scheduled after work one evening. The lowly tellers were informed when someone asked in passing, "Have you gotten Boss a present for the shower yet?" Huh? What shower? "The one we're having tomorrow night after work." OOO-kay. We scrambled for details. The assistant manager cornered us and demanded each teller pay $15 toward the shower for food, invitations, and decorations. The shower none of us knew about or had any say in planning. And WHAT invitations? Some of the ladies declined to attend the shower, citing the short notice and the trouble of getting a babysitter. The AM insisted these ladies needed to pay the $15 as well, since the shower needed to be paid for whether they attended or not. This led to a lot of low-decibel muttering on our part. I couldn't believe I was being forced to help pay for a shower they couldn't even bother to remember to invite me to!

AM also told us where the bride was registered and suggested we get her a place setting of her formal china. Maybe I am wrong, but most of the tellers agreed with me. A bridal shower involves presents especially for the BRIDE, not place settings off the registry. That's for the wedding present. We talked about what to buy, giving each other ideas. As the shower was the next night after work there wasn't much time to shop. Most of us had to go pick up children from daycare right after work. I personally spent my lunch hour picking out just the right gift at the mall. Since Boss was going on a Caribbean honeymoon I bought a pretty beach bag and filled it with things that would be great for a day at the beach. I was quite proud of myself for the idea.

The next evening after work I helped set up for the shower. Only 3 of the 12 tellers bothered to attend at all. The decorations were minimal (a centerpiece) and the food was just a meat tray, a fruit tray, and the cake. Now if 20 people each gave $ did this not-so-lavish spread cost $300? There were no games, just eat a bit of cake and on to the presents. All of the women at the shower (except for the three tellers) had given Boss place setting from her formal china off her wedding registry. The boxes were all identical in the "wedding wrap" from the store at the mall where she was registered. The only oddball presents were from the three tellers. When Boss opened each of the boxes of china she gave effusive thanks to the giver, saying how thoughtful they were, basically gushing on about how much she loved this pattern, etc. When Boss opened mine she gave a small condescending "how nice". SOOO sorry it wasn't a $60 place setting, lady! I have NEVER heard of shopping from the wedding registry for a bridal shower.

It was worse for the other two tellers. They had gotten together and gone to the "adult" store. They had a "honeymoon basket" filled with lotions, potions, creams, and paint--nothing nasty, but cute and slightly suggestive. Boss was mortified. She turned red and refused to take anything from the basket to show it to the room. She gave the gift-givers a look of supreme disapproval (maybe I should mention Boss is only in her mid-20's and has never shown herself to be prudish before) and shoved the basket under the table. I felt so bad for the gift-givers! They, like me, believed the shower present should be something for the bride, and they thought she'd find the gift funny and hopefully useful.

I did get Boss a place setting for her wedding, which I did not attend. To this day I have never received a written or verbal thank you for either gift, though I see the woman every single day. I also heard mutterings about how "tacky and trashy" she thought the honeymoon basket was. I'll tell you what's tacky and trashy - not even pretending to like a gift and neglecting to thank the giver, making them feel bad for getting you a gift at all.


I was getting married and my SIL wanted to host a bridal shower for me.  She decided to host a co-ed shower that would have both guys and girls in attendance.  Four weeks before the shower the invitations went out.  I was really excited about having the shower as was my husband (fiancé at the time).  Four days before the shower, my mom asked my DH and I if anyone had told us they would be attending.  I answered no, and my husband said no one had said much to him about it.  Well it seems that other than my future mother-in-law and sister-in-law no one had RSVP’d either way.  They didn’t know what to do about food or games.  At the time my MIL and I were not on the best of terms (you’ll get an example of why later).  I was heart-broken that none of the bridal party had even called, to me any acknowledgement would have been better than none.  So, I told them to call the whole thing off.  I called my in-laws to let them know it had been canceled, and that was the only phone call made to cancel everything.  Knowing that my SIL had not sent out directions, I knew anyone else planning to go would have to call someone that knew the party was canceled. 

Well, a few weeks later, my SIL called me.  She said my future mother in law was planning a surprise shower and she was worried it was an ambush.  Well, with knots building in my stomach I decided to play ignorant of the entire shower in hopes that she may have actually been trying to be nice.  The day of the shower, I dressed fairly nice, but not out of character since it was a “surprise”.  When I was taken to FMIL’s house, I acted surprised to see the cars of my mom and SIL.  Pretended to be shocked when I was greeted, but the real shocker was that other than my 2 future SILs, my mom and SIL everyone else was my husband’s exes and their mothers.  No friends on either side had been contacted.  I think I acted rather gracious, thanking everyone for coming oohing and aahing over gifts.  Well, it was time to cut the cake.  So standing there while my picture was being taken by my SIL, my future MIL smashes the cake in my face.  Her excuse: You said I couldn’t do it at the wedding, so I just decided to do it now.

And let’s not even get started about her behavior at the wedding.


Further proof that cake smashing is a passive aggressive act.  


My SIL was planning a "surprise" bridal shower for me.  The date was not disclosed to me, and the planning was to be done by my SIL, my mother, my maid of honor and a close friend.  OK, so I sat back and waited for the day.  Unfortunately, my (then-fiancé) now husband's grandmother passed away and my husband and my SIL had to fly out of town.  This horrible news postponed the "surprise" shower.  (A bit of a back story on this, it was stated by my SIL that this will be a SURPRISE shower for me and that was proper etiquette for wedding showers and no one better tell me.  Everyone agreed.).  My SIL called me up one morning after we found out about their grandmother, and told me the day the shower was scheduled for and asked me if I minded if we postponed it for a week later.  I said, that is fine........whenever, or ever, is fine with me (they needed to be with family at a time like this, and that my shower should be the last of anyone's concern).  However, she never told any of the other 3 party planners that she did this.  The other 3 were fuming, as it still could have been kept a surprise since I never knew the first date.

So now I know the day.  My SIL gets the bright idea to tell my husband that it would be a good idea if he drove me to their grandparents house (an hour away from where my husband and I lived), and when she (my SIL) picked up their grandmother for the shower, she would drive me back to her house (this is another 45 minutes in the car).  OK, fine whatever.  The fact that I was 2 months pregnant and not having a fabulous first trimester didn't occur to anyone, as I was signed up to be in a car for 3 1/2 hours on MY special day.  (Side Note:  I lived only 45 minutes from my SIL house, why I couldn't have driven myself is beyond me....). 

We get to my SIL house only to be there before all the guests (who still think this is a surprise).  Ok, again, I overlook this.  The house was decorated beautifully and the food was wonderful.  Fun was had by all and the day was a huge success.  I thought my SIL did a great job.  I thanked her as did all the guests, and went home very happy. 

Well as it turns out, my SIL really didn't do anything but have the shower at her house (she didn't even pick up, her fiancé did).  It turns out the original day fell on my SIL birthday.  This was told to me by the close friend, planning the shower, that my SIL planned the date of the shower specifically that way, so that everyone could go out for drinks to celebrate with her after the shower.  (Again, let me remind you that I am pregnant.)  When the date changed, this threw that plan out the window.  Again, I overlook.

This close friend did all the cooking for the shower, all of it.  But my SIL never admitted that when guests complimented her on such a great shower.  Then this close friend and my SIL were going to buy decorations.  Apparently, my SIL didn't realize that we needed more than a few balloons and didn't bring any money.  So this close friend bought all of the decorations (my mother and maid of honor decorated, not my SIL).  The only thing that my SIL was tasked with was to get the cake.  As it turns out, this was too much for her to handle.  My MIL came up to my SIL house the night before the shower and had asked her where the cake was.  My SIL told her she "forgot" and so my MIL said SHE'D go get it.  And my SIL says to her.........this is good.........."Get a black forest cake because that is my favorite.".........Now I know this was said, because the close friend happen to be there setting up the industrial sized coffee pot and heating trays for all the food she MADE.    To top all of this off, some of the guests that came later told me how incredibly rude they thought she was, because just as soon as they arrived to the shower, my SIL immediately took them outside to see her NEW Lighthouse mailbox, not to the room where I was.............

To think, all through the planning part of this, my husband and I thought my SIL had turned over a new leaf and was doing something completely unselfish.  Boy, were we wrong!


Well,  let me tell you about my bridal shower. I had left a good friend in charge, in fact, my Maid Of Honor. She had reserved a banquet room at a local restaurant where I worked. She did that about 4 weeks before the shower and nothing else. The day of the shower she's not even ready to set things up nor did she have any decorations so she tells me, "All I have is $15, let's go to the dollar store." So we do and pick up games like Big Top Bingo and Pin The Tail on The Donkey we get balloons, streamers, etc. We get back to the restaurant and there is every one sitting in the room waiting so the whole party pitches in to help decorate. I was upset with my Maid Of Honor She even took my picture while I went to the restroom (in the stall) the worst part was she used my boss's camera.



Here is a story about horrible, ungrateful yuppie brides. About 7 years ago, my then fiancé's soon to be sister-in-law ("Penny") was having a bridal shower thrown by her mother and sister. Now her family did not have a lot of money, nor did most of the guests who were invited, but that did not stop her and her fiancé from registering at very expensive stores and asking for rather expensive items. To make matters worse, there was a shipping strike going on around the time of her shower and so most of the stores didn't have the items "Penny" had registered for.

The day of the bridal shower showed up and it was in August in Detroit - high 90's with high humidity and I had to drive an hour to get to the shower. I did not know anyone at the shower except for Penny and my own soon to be mother and sister-in-laws. Penny's mother and sister did not say a word to me except to ask me to move my car during the bridal shower. We played stupid games and every time I won one, they skipped over me and gave it to the person next to me (did I mention that Penny did not like me for some reason?). So after 2 excruciating hours of trying to make excuses of why I didn't want some green punch nor the "pigs in a blanket", they opened all of the gifts at the shower and I never heard a thank you from Penny to anyone there. I left without any acknowledgment from her or her family.

Later on my fiancé told me that his brother and fiancée both complained about the shower and how no one gave them exactly what they had registered for. Instead people gave them "inferior" quality products, except for me. Little do they know that because of the shipping strike, I couldn't find anything on their list, so I happened to find the towels they had registered for at clearance outlet store. To this day, I have never received a thank you note for their bridal shower nor wedding gifts.


This faux pas has two parts.  I'll leave it to you to decide which part is more awful.

At my own bridal shower a few years ago, the guests were my close women friends, plus women from the groom-to-be's side: his sister, sister-in-law, mother, and grandmother.  There was no "theme" for gifts, but because the guests knew me well, I wasn't expecting anything risqué.  Sure enough, from almost everyone I received lovely, personal gifts; even the lingerie was tasteful (opaque satin pajamas and a long robe).  The exception was Y.  First I opened her card, containing a sexual entendre.  I "accidentally" didn't pass that one around the circle.  Then I gingerly opened the gift: a red satin thong.  Oh, with tiny handcuffs attached -- lovely.  I shoved it quickly back into the box and told my fiancé's grandmother, sitting right next to me, that it was a pretty handkerchief.  The other guests recognized it, though; my friends laughed and my in-laws were a little flustered.  That was plenty embarrassing, and I was further puzzled when -- looking at the thong again, at home -- I realized the import of the message on Y's card: it was a man's thong, meant for my future husband to wear… or was it?

Part two of the story took me longer to laugh at.  Five months after our wedding, my husband suddenly abandoned newly-pregnant me and files for divorce.  I had no idea why for a few more months, when he announced publicly his engagement to Y.  Sure enough, my now-ex-husband and Y marry.  Can you just imagine how the groom's female relatives felt when they met his new fiancé and recognized her as the thong-giver from his FIRST wife's shower?