Like many wedding customs and traditions, the history of the wedding shower is steeped in etiquette, but the actual origin is unclear. The practice is said to be tied to dowry practices and to have originated in the Netherlands. The story surrounds a high-society Dutch woman who didn’t want to marry the rich farmer her father had chosen for her, but rather wanted to marry a poor miller instead. Her father rejected the idea and in an effort to force his daughter to marry the man he chose said he wouldn’t provide a dowry unless she married the farmer. The story goes on to tell how the villagers joined together to “shower” the woman with household items and other small gifts so she could marry the man of her choice. This particular account has a happy ending saying these actions touched the heart of the father and changed his mind. He decided to allow her to marry the man she loved.
According to a second account, the history of wedding showers in the United States isn’t quite so romantic. In this case, the practice of holding a wedding shower grew popular in the States in the late 1800s when women of high society celebrated bridal showers for the gossip, food, the opportunity to give gifts and to talk about the bride-to-be’s new upcoming role. During these shower parties, small gifts were placed inside a paper parasol in order to “shower” them over the bride-to-be.
A third story tells a more practical story about a young woman who couldn’t afford to buy her friend a wedding gift. She invited others to a party and told all to bring a small gift. In this way, she did what she could to give her bride-to-be friend a gift. And lastly, it is suggested the bridal shower originated in the United Sates as a more recent invention created to sell more gifts rather than the result of any tradition.
No matter the origin, today, the wedding shower has evolved into anything from a more modest affair to an extravagant themed party. In any case, the bride is “showered” with gifts. And while the practice of the bridal shower has evolved over time to include both the bride and the groom, much of the original wedding shower etiquette still surrounds this special occasion. Like many wedding traditions, learning the history behind the bridal shower can be used to create your own unique, modern way to celebrate this special occasion.
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