What's the difference between a 'wedding' and 'bridal' shower, and what gift do i bring?
April 23, 2009 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Difference between "wedding shower" and "bridal shower" and what gift goes with what? (wedding gifts vs bridal shower gifts.)

First of all, I apologize- I really thought this seemingly simple question would be something I could google, but the more I read the more confused I get. So please help me.

So I am going to a wedding soon as the date of a friend of the groom's. i know and like the bride but we've only met a few times, so we aren't best friends or anything. to my surprise, I got an invitation to the "Wedding Shower for [Bride and Groom]" addressed to just me (care of my date.) Upon googling, it seems that the only possible difference between wedding and bridal shower is whether or not the guys come- but it was only addressed to me. so is this a bridal shower? Also, inside the shower invite, it says where they are registered. Does this mean I should be bringing the wedding gift to the shower? (as opposed to 'bridal shower' gifts?) I just don't want to look like an ass by showing up with the wrong gift, or without one if i should have one, or with one if i shouldn't be bringing one (I thought wedding gifts were usually mailed, but if i am supposed to bring it to the shower, i certainly can.) should i be bringing a bridal shower gift and mailing a wedding gift later??

Thanks. Again, I'm surprised the internet wasn't able to help me much. Weddings are so damn complicated- I think if I ever decide to get married I better stick to eloping so I won't mess anything up. Also this is the first shower I've ever attended so any other helpful tidbits about etiquette or what to expect are welcome.
posted by lblair to Society & Culture (19 answers total)
That is kind of weird. Usually the bridal shower is for the bride and the gifts tend to be more girly or themed to something specific like "Kitchen" or something. The fact that it's a "wedding" shower confuses things and kinda sounds like a blatant gift request, especially since they included the registry info (gauche). It *sounds* like they expect two gift: one for the shower, one for the wedding and that there's no difference btwn the type of gift you're expected to bring. But how you decide to respond may be different.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2009

Wedding shower = bridal shower + men, usually, but sounds like just a bridal shower here.
it's a little weird to invite someone they don't know well, unless they're very close to the groom and you're a particularly significant other. Or they could be gift-grabbing -- who knows? Take a shower gift (smaller than wedding gift), wear something spring-y, show up on time, be a good sport about the stupid games. That's it!
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: I didn't realize that "wedding" and "bridal" were different types of showers - I thought the terms could be used interchangeably, and were usually women-only affairs. Often it seems the planner just invites every female wedding guest, no matter how close they actually are to the bride herself, so if you don't feel comfortable going on your own, you can politely decline.

What I would do, if I were attending both the shower and wedding, is bring one gift just from yourself to the shower, and then a gift from you and your date to the wedding (or, bring cash or a check to the wedding - depending on what region you're in, this is either expected or completely tacky. In the northeastern US, for example, money is expected at weddings and usually there isn't even much space to leave wrapped gifts). When choosing gifts, it's probably best to stick with items from the registry. Also, your gift will probably be opened in front of all the shower attendees, and they'll all know who it's from, so you might want the wrapping to look extra-nice.
posted by LolaGeek at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Can you have your date call the groom and ask about the details? How would you feel about just bringing a nice bottle of wine and saving your wedding gift for the actual wedding day? I might be completely wrong about this, but I don't think anyone really cares about these things, especially considering that you are not considered a close friend.
posted by halogen at 12:12 PM on April 23, 2009

I would regretfully decline the invitation to the wedding shower and just attend the wedding, sending just one gift.

It seems like it's a woman's-only shower since the groom's friend was not invited.
posted by muddgirl at 12:13 PM on April 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: someone they don't know well, unless they're very close to the groom and you're a particularly significant other.

I'd say this is the case, yeah.

Just to clarify, I do want to go. Like I said, I do like her, and I think that we'll almost certainly become better friends as time goes on and I see her around more. I just haven't gotten a chance to hang out with her much up until now. I don't really think they are gift-grubbing, possibly just confused about wedding traditions like me :-) I forgot to mention this originally but the bride is from another state (which is where the wedding is going to be, and where her family lives.) The shower is being thrown by the groom's family. So maybe the geography of the situation is what's making it weird? In any case, my question wasn't how to decline- I'll go. I just wanted to avoid messing up the gift part, if there were any sort of strict expectations. Which, it sounds like there aren't. So that's good.
posted by lblair at 12:36 PM on April 23, 2009

Response by poster: Oops- the shower is being thrown by the groom's family, HERE, where we all live and HIS family lives. She is from another place, which is where the wedding will be.
posted by lblair at 12:39 PM on April 23, 2009

Ah, that clarifies things somewhat. I agree with LolaGeek then - bring a small gift off the registry (perhaps something more feminine) for the wedding shower and, if you so choose, a more couply-type gift from both of you for the wedding.
posted by muddgirl at 12:43 PM on April 23, 2009

I agree with pretty much everything LolaGeek said. Wedding/bridal (I think they're interchangeable too) shower gifts are different from the gift you bring to the wedding, which you and your date can split. Just grab something off the registry for the shower and don't worry too much about it beyond that.
posted by pised at 12:43 PM on April 23, 2009

I've heard them called "couples showers" before. My sister-in-law had a regular bridal shower and then a couples shower. I think her fiance registered for tools at Sears, but it seemed that most of the gifts that people bought were just the traditional gifts (kitchen stuff, luggage etc) off of the main registry. I wouldn't worry too much about it.
posted by Ostara at 12:49 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: I always thought the two showers were pretty much the same thing. I also think it's kind of unfair that girls have to attend an extra shower and get an extra gift just because they're girls. But, here's what I've learned over the last few years as I grew into my 20's:

1. If you decline the invite have a good reason - plan something big for that day and say you can't make it. And it's OK to not be able to attend. It's what I would do if I didn't know the rest of the girls well (awkward!) and didn't care to become closer to the bride or make a good impression on the family. But if you decline, you're still pretty much expected to send a gift. Maybe a smaller one than you would if you were going to be there in person when they opened it. Unless, once again, you don't know the family well and don't know your date well enough to want to make a good impression on everyone, in which case screw all this extra effort.
2. If you bring/send a gift, get it from the registry. No one wants stuff they don't want or need.
3. Depending on where you are from and what's customary, either bring another gift to the wedding (from both you and the date), or cash or check. In NY/NJ/other areas around here cash or check is expected, not a gift, even if it's from the registry. Other places gifts are OK.
4. They might not be gift grabbing - I've seen all women and dates get invited to the shower if it's a smaller wedding, and I know families and the bride usually want to make everyone feel welcome and included and genuinely want to get to know them, so they invite the girls they don't know that well.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:50 PM on April 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I think I got it now.

Cash definitely seems easiest for the wedding gift itself. I have heard that it's tacky to ASK for cash, but I suppose it isn't tacky to give it, right? Is that what couples really want? Has the gift registry become just a front to appear non-tacky? :-)
posted by lblair at 1:00 PM on April 23, 2009

Respectfully disagreeing with KateHasQuestions' #1 - If you decline, you do not have to send a gift. A gift is a GIFT, not something you are obligated to send if you don't attend, just because someone sent you an invite. At least here in the Midwest, that's how we roll.
posted by sarajane at 1:10 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I agree with lolageek that cash is 'expected' at weddings in the northeast; I'd think it's still pretty much tacky.

The registry is both easiest and most appropriate, as it gives the bride and groom what they actually want/need. Some guests at our wedding gave gifts from places we had registered, but chose to buy things not on the registry anyway, which I found bewildering and even a tiny bit insulting -- what, you don't like our taste? -- so for certain don't do that.
posted by ook at 1:13 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: Yep, sounds like it's a bridal shower and maybe they're calling it a weddiong shower because the groom's family is hosting and presumably he (but not other males) will be in attendance.

Bring something from the registry wrapped in pretty paper with ribbons- that's the norm for showers, they usually make a big deal about the bride opening up the presents in front of everyone. I usually spend about $30 on a shower gift.

Also, showers (in my opinion) are painfully boring! Grab a seat at a fun table and indulge in the booze, if that's how you roll. The good thing is that you might get to know a few more people, so it will make the wedding more fun, and it is definitely nice of you to want to attend and to get to know the bride better. I'm sure she'll appreciate it.

oh and cash is fine for a wedding gift.
posted by emd3737 at 1:14 PM on April 23, 2009

Oh yeah, in general, always bring a gift to the shower (the whole "bride opening presents in front of everyone" bit) but mail a wedding gift.
posted by emd3737 at 1:16 PM on April 23, 2009

You *must* bring a gift to the shower, if you go -- the "shower" part is the bride being "showered" with gifts.

The shower gift can be a little smaller/less expensive than the wedding gift, but remember that she'll open it in front of everyone and everyone will know who it came from, if that matters.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:29 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: If you go to the shower, you should bring a gift. If you don't go to the shower, the gift is totally up to you. I didn't get any shower gifts from people that weren't there. And, traditionally, you are showering the bride to be with gifts that will make her a better wife. She is going to be leaving her parents home and soon be under the task of full-time caregiver for her darling husband -- cooking, tending house, having babies and keep up appearances. Blech. Whatever. Things I got at my shower: stuff for the kitchen (always nice), recipes, cookware (adorable stuff from my grandma), candles, bath stuffs, fluffy towels, spa slippers, etc. A bottle of wine might seem strange unless you know it is her favorite. A gift card for any kind of pampering service or to the store where they are registered would probably be equally as welcome.

Gifts for the bachelorette party: raunchy.

Gifts for wedding. Generally, if you get an invite, you send a gift whether or not you go. You can get stuff off the registry or not. For one of the last weddings I went to I didn't feel like buying any of the things on their registry so we gave a nice bottle of wine and a gift certificate for dinner for two at a local fancy restaurant. They said they liked it. I don't like to give cash but I do like to receive it! Registry -- always a surefire winner.
posted by amanda at 2:46 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a reason that Google was not able to answer this question easily for you: there's no concensus of opinion on the etiquette surrounding wedding gifts and parties.

Wedding gift-giving traditions I have been informed of over the past decade, in person by reasonable people who nevertheless believed theirs was the one-and-only proper approach:
- registry gifts are for the shower; give cash/check for the wedding gift.
- registy gifts are for the wedding; give something off-registry for the shower.
- registries are ample enough for both wedding and shower gift; choose a modest registry item for the shower and a bigger registry item for the wedding.
- registries are tacky; give something from the heart for the wedding and the shower, if any.
- registries are tacky; give cash/check for the wedding and something small for the shower.
- registries are for distant relatives and friends; if you know the couple well, give them something more personal.
- registries are the only acceptable gifts; off-registry gifts are clutter.
- registries are a necessary courtesy for the guests; a couple who omits to register inconveniences their guests.
- registries are a necessary courtesy for the guests; couples who don't register are tacitly indicating that they want cash/checks.

I give up. There were more, but that was exhausting. Not one of these covers my own family's tradition of wedding gift-giving, so I promise you there are more approaches than this.

If the hosts included the registry info with the shower invitation, it's a safe bet that they think the registry is appropriate for shower gifts. In your shoes, I would pick a modest gift from the registry and maybe pair it with something small and consumable not from the registry, just to jazz it up. (I say "consumable" because some people reeeeeeally don't want non-registry durable goods.) Example: a set of wineglasses from the registry and an inexpensive bottle of wine, or the casserole pan from the registry and the fanciest pasta you can find, or the DVD from the registry and a packet of microwave popcorn.

If you don't feel comfortable yet and want more guidance, you'd do best to get it from the hosts, honestly. One way to do this: write or call them at the RSVP [phone number/street address/email address] and ask:
1) is there a shower theme? (I've been invited to wine showers, camping showers, lingerie showers, recipe showers, and unthemed showers.)
2. is the couple registered? (I know you already know, but if you have any doubt remaining, this is a chance for the hosts to give you a hint. They might say "oh, yes, they registered at Smiths" or "no, the registry is really for wedding gifts" or "it's a sex toy party, bring a big vibrator!")

Whatever you do bring to the shower, as others have said, wrap it lavishly. Unwrapping of gifts is the primary entertainment at many showers.

I have heard that it's tacky to ASK for cash, but I suppose it isn't tacky to give it, right?

To give you the viewpoint of an almost total prig: as my own wedding approaches, I've been jolted by the occasional gifts of money, which is not a traditional wedding gift in my family. Though I've been stressing out over these gifts and I have an irrational feeling that it's somehow tacky of us to accept them, it would never ever occur to me that the giver was tacky. I believe that their generosity is earnest and from the heart, and probably in part a product of the very reasonable bewilderment you yourself are feeling.

One reason I suspect people give money at the actual wedding: it's portable. If you do give a physical gift as a wedding gift, it's a courtesy to send it to the couple's home in the weeks before or after the wedding rather than bringing it to the wedding, so they don't have to figure out how to transport gifts home from the wedding location. This is doubly true if the wedding is away from home or if they're going on their honeymoon right after that wedding.
posted by Elsa at 3:57 PM on April 23, 2009

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