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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Here is my story: DH was a widower when I met him. In good time, we fell in love and decided to marry. As this was to be my first marriage, my bridesmaids arranged a bridal shower for me. Now my family is considerably larger than DH’s. The invites to his side of the family consisted of FMIL, FSIL, FBIL’s long time girlfriend and 2 aunts. One aunt immediately sent her regrets. The day of the shower arrives and my family and friends all gather. We wait for DH’s family members. And wait. Finally I called to see how much longer until we could expect them to be there.

FMIL answered the phone and told me that she would not be attending because she did not like to drive the country road my hostess lived on by herself. OK, she did live on a 2 lane rural highway but it was a state highway, not a dirt path and the shower was being held at 1pm, not like she would be driving the road by herself at night. She then informed me that nobody from his side of the family would be attending for the following reasons: his sister didn’t want to, brother’s girlfriend was going bowling and, since nobody else was attending his aunt decided not to either. FMIL then proceeded to tell me “well, we didn’t think it was important that we attend since we have already done this for “John”! Ummm, that was 7 years ago for his late wife, not for me, his wife to be.

Several weeks later we were at FMIL’s house. She went into her bedroom and came out literally throwing a JC Penney bag at me while she sniffed, “Here is your shower present.” In the bag, unwrapped, was the definition of “old lady nightgown” and was from FMIL, FSIL and FBIL girlfriend. Amazing.

Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that now, 24 years later, I actually get along very well with my MIL. 2 SIL’s? Not so much.



When I got married almost five years ago, I was thrown a beautiful surprise shower by my coworkers, just for those of us in the office. I was also thrown a shower by the people in my and my then-fiance's lives, and the best way I can describe it is a comedy of errors.

My attendants were all family; my next-oldest sister was my MOH, and my other sister and my future SIL were my bridesmaids. My MOH sister called me and said that she and the others weren't really into the idea of planning a shower, and since my fiance and I lived together already and had a household pretty well established, she was wondering if they could just take me out for dinner instead. I thought that was a good idea and we made plans to go out on a Sunday night.

Flash forward to the Friday before the "dinner." I came home from work and found a message on my answering machine, from one of my college friends. She was deeply apologetic about the fact that she could not come to my party on Sunday. I listened to it perhaps three times before I understood just what she was getting at. So already, the surprise was ruined. (Who RSVPs to the bride for a surprise bridal shower??)

It just kept getting worse. I arrived at my mother's house at the designated time for "dinner," and my grandmother let me in; the house was jammed with people (my husband's family is quite large). I stood in the doorway for several minutes until there was a sufficient lull in the conversation that I could announce the fact that I was there. I was given some food, then hustled into the living room for the unwrapping of my gifts.

My sister the MOH sat there and dutifully noted who gave me everything, but I was really rather disappointed. Not with the gifts -- the gifts were wonderful and very thoughtful -- but with the antics of my guests. One of my fiance's cousins had brought her four-year-old, who was "helpfully" ripping all the bows off of my presents before shoving them into my lap. Nobody really noticed this, however, because except for my sisters, mother, grandmother, and one or two other guests, nobody was paying attention. Every bridal shower I've ever attended, all the focus is on the bride when she opens her gifts, and I guess I wanted my turn, but I wasn't getting it. Half the guests didn't even come into the room where I was opening the presents!

Later, I found out that my future MIL (who, for as long as I've been with my husband, has treated me like her other daughter and always been good to me) more or less bullied my mother into hosting the shower, buying the cake, and cooking a large portion of the food. Many of the guests brought food as well, but when they left, they all took it with them. I have a vivid memory of one guest duct-taping her 12-pack of soda closed before carrying it out to the car.

Shower games? Don't even think it. While that was kind of all right, really, because I've never cared for dopey shower games, I would have liked SOME sort of attention paid to me. I don't wish to sound selfish, but it WAS my shower! Not happening, though; everyone was too wrapped up in their own conversations to even notice that I left...which I did. I walked across the street to visit my grandfather. He and my stepfather were watching television and avoiding the whole debacle, so I sat with them for about half an hour before I finally forced myself to go back and be nice. (Being with them was the most fun I had all evening.)

Nobody ever even noticed I was gone. I'm serious. It never registered with anyone there that the bride, the alleged focus of the party, had left. I was so thunderstruck by the fact that the guest of honor could leave a party without anyone even realizing it, I never said a word.

So the guests finally depart, and my sister (the MOH) decides to take my future SIL and myself out for a post-shower bachelorette party. My other sister couldn't come, as she was only sixteen and MOH sister wanted to go to a bar. Now, I don't drink. I have such a strong aversion to the smell and taste of alcohol that I might as well be allergic. So I was really reluctant to go, but she was assuring us that this bar was great, there would be dancing and music and we'd have a really good time, and since it evidently meant so much to my sister, I agreed.

We got to the bar and it was dead. It was open, but there were a whole TWO people inside -- the bartender and another woman, "Carol," who wouldn't leave us alone. She kept trying to buy me a brandy alexander (I have no idea what that was), even after I couldn't choke down the two drinks my sister tried to buy me. My sister knew Carol vaguely, so she explained what we were celebrating, which is why Carol kept trying to buy me something. I finally ended up with a glass of water and the sympathies of the bartender, who was doing her level best to make Carol leave me the hell alone. Finally, after the longest half hour of my life, we decided to just go, so Carol came over to wish me luck and tell me that she "thinks the world of marriage." She took my hand in the most painful cast-iron grip I've ever felt, and her nails dug into my hand so hard that I had tears in my eyes. She actually drew blood. I was never so happy to leave a place in my life, or to get away from a complete stranger.



How odd that so many of your contributors don't seem to realize that they and their relatives should not be hosting their showers.  Shouldn't they be informed of their own poor etiquette?


They have. Many times.


My sister's wedding was 5 months after mine, and her bridal shower was held 3 months after my wedding. The shower was held at the home of one of the co-hostesses (the same ladies hosted my shower). This co-hostess is very dear to my sister and I, and helped out with my wedding, including letting me and my bridesmaids dress at her house, giving us rides to the wedding site 10 minutes away, etc. At my reception, our photographer took several nice portraits of her family (our families are quite close).

I live 2.5 hours away from my family, so when I got the proof album, I knew there would be limited times to show it to extended family. I brought the album to my sister's shower, with my sister's knowledge, to show the hostess so she could order prints of the portraits of her family and anything else she desired after the party. I arrived at the shower early, and immediately put it upstairs in a spare bedroom, away from the guests. Only the hostess and my mom and sister knew the album was there.

Sometime later, as this very nice shower was in full swing, I see my wedding proof album being passed around the room! I was mortified! This party was not about my wedding, but about my sister! A guest must have been wandering around upstairs, found the box with the album in it, took out the album, and brought it downstairs for everyone to see. Everyone was chatting about the photos and my own wedding! As soon as I could politely do so, I snagged the album and brought it back upstairs and really hid it another bedroom.

I apologized to my sister afterwards, but she told me not to worry. Most of the shower guests were at my wedding as well, and was the first time since my wedding they were all together. My sister said it was natural they would talk about my wedding, and knew I didn't deliberately bring out my album to make the day all about me.

I was again embarrassed a few months later, the night before my sister's wedding. Instead of a rehersal dinner, my sister, mom and some dear female family and friends went to my deceased grandmother's favorite deli for dinner. We then went back to my parents house, where the group decided to watch my wedding DVD! They, including the bride-to-be, insisted it would get them in a wedding mood. I went along, but was secretly very queasy about the whole thing.


I wanted to submit a little item from my bridal shower. My office co-workers at the time decided to throw a shower for me and, office politics being what they were, everyone in the office was invited. Since the boss's MIL was one of the co-hosts of the party and it was held during business hours at the office in the conference room, I imagine that everyone felt obligated to attend whether they wanted to or not (something that I feel is not right). Anyways, one of the gifts was a set of cast-iron camping cookware (I love camping). The funny part was that the box was kind of squashed and slightly damp and was *moldy*! It looked & smelled like it had been in storage in someone's leaky garage for years! It was wrapped really nice and I certainly appreciated the gesture of the gift and loved the gift itself and thanked the giver profusely afterward. I can appreciate the awkwardness of the giver feeling like office politics obligated them to participate whether they really wanted to or not, as well. I certainly don't care if a gift is re-gifted or isn't something "store-bought new". I would have at least put it in a different box before wrapping it up though! LOL.

I don't work at that office any more (thank goodness) and the tacky politics got worse over time. Perhaps I'll send you another story about the "mandatory morale parties" they had from time to time...



I loathe bad manners.  That said, understand that I fully know that all guest invited to a bridal shower must be invited to the wedding to avoid the appearance of "fishing for gifts." 

My mother's best friend, "Cathy," offered to throw me a bridal shower a couple of months before my wedding.  I happily accepted, but from Day 1 informed my mother and she that my fiance and I were having a small wedding, with no more than 60- 70 people.  We were very firm about this fact, particularly since my wedding was almost completely planned by the time the shower came around.  We had a budget, venue, catering, flowers, everything already arranged for 60-70 guests.  I provided Cathy with my guest list so she could invite all those invited to the wedding. 

To Cathy and my mother's credit, the shower was beautiful.  However, it was full of people I HAD NEVER MET.  When I say full, I mean that there were 150 people in attendance, only 20 of whom I had invited to the wedding.  I was horrified and terribly uncomfortable accepting gifts from people I had never seen before. 

To make matters worse, many of these people expected to be invited to the wedding, mainly those who were my mother's and Cathy's friends, and some even asked why they had not received their wedding invitation!  I could only sheepishly respond that we were having a very small wedding, and everyone there I'm sure figured that I was "fishing for gifts."  I discussed this with Cathy and my mother, who both assured me that there was no such rule of etiquette that dictated that shower guests be invited to the wedding.  Ugh.

So, I come off looking like the rudest person, but understand that there was no way I could turn my 70 person wedding into a 200 person affair! 

Moral of the story: sometimes the appearance of rudeness is thrust upon the unwitting bride-to-be, so cut them some slack!



Page Last Updated July 30, 2007