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Secondary Bridal Showers and Stepped-on Toes

Jun05

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Hi Amalah,
My brother is getting married in October. His fiance’s sister is the maid of honor, so it is her job to organize a bridal shower, which she did very well (it’s an all-out luncheon, she’s got it figured out right down to the very napkin detail, I’m very impressed). She’s inviting the women from both sides. In my family’s tradition, however, we seem to always have two bridal showers, one thrown by each side of the family. We have probably 10 women at most on our side, while they have around 60, so ours was going to be VERY small–just us, the bride, and the bride’s mother and sister, having a cookout at my aunt’s house. We also wanted to do this because some of my older relatives won’t be able to make the other bridal shower but would still like to go to some pre-wedding party.
But the bride’s sister and mother did not take this idea well. They would have been fine with it as long as it was after theirs, but that would leave us with only two weeks before the wedding, and we were hoping to take advantage of the summer weather. Suddenly, they were reacting like we were going behind their back to get out of theirs, like we were trying to convince our family to go to ours instead of theirs. Despite our insistence that of course we would go to theirs, we just always do two showers, you’ll lose 2 guests at most either way we play this, they were very upset. I even considered calling it something other than a “bridal shower” so that they would know that we weren’t trying to get out of theirs. My poor brother got caught in the middle, since they wouldn’t call us to talk about it and we don’t have their home number, and in the end he got so fed up that he just asked me and my mother to give it up. We’re lazy people anyway, so, in my mother’s words, “Oh well, one less thing we have to organize.”
But I’m still quite bothered by this. We were trying to do something to honor the bride, and instead it became about the sister’s money and time getting undermined. I don’t know the sister very well yet, but we’re going to have to soon, so the last thing I want is to step on anyone’s toes or get off on the wrong foot (or any other podiatric idiom). Plus, we have the whole summer ahead of us! Why aren’t we taking advantage of that? Is there any sort of pre-wedding party that we could throw–one that involves men and women so that it’s not interpreted as a shower–that wouldn’t be rude? Or should I just back off?
Thanks!
-Molly

Oh God, this would sooooo happen in my family, although even I’m having a hard time figuring out which side of the fence my family would fall on — all I know is, weddings get most families offended and overly worked up.
For the record, I know many brides who have had many showers — different showers for different social circles and geographical locations, and nobody batted a single eyelash. That said, it sounds like you are dealing with a family who is hyper-aware of etiquette and trah-dish-un, and the maid of honor is clearly VERY HEAVILY INVESTED in this shower, probably to the point that it’s not even about the bride anymore. (I wonder if anyone even asked the bride what she thought of your second-shower idea? I wonder if she’s off composing emails to an alternate-reality advice columnist about how her sister has turned into a maid-of-honor-zilla and what can she possibly do about it?)
So from my limited scope of wedding etiquette and my extensive history with batshit crazy families, you have two options for a drama-free event. One is to suck it up and follow the wedding rulebook and host the best damn rehearsal dinner you possibly can, but go ahead and have it at home and invite more than just the wedding party and their dates. (Inviting out-of-town relatives to the rehearsal dinner is completely acceptable, by the way, although you should also invite the out-of-towners from the bride’s family as well… if YOUR Great Uncle Harry shows up, you don’t want the bride’s family getting upset because poor Great Uncle Milton is stuck getting hotel room service.) Yeah, maybe the maid-of-honor will turn up her snooty nose at your non-sit-down catered affair and lack of a seating arrangement, but eh.
The other option is to throw a “meet the family” kind of party at some point in the summer. Invite the bride’s whole family and yours, specify NO GIFTS and basically have the party you were originally planning (albeit a big bigger and coed) without the dreaded “shower” aspect to it. Provided the bride’s family isn’t ultra-paranoid and doesn’t think you’re still trying to get away with a Subversive Shower or something (maybe smoosh it as close to July 4th as you can), it could be a nice way for the families to meet and soothe the stepped-on toes. Even though my entire wedding was, essentially, a backyard barbeque, my parents still did a meet-the-family party to smooth over some pre-wedding drama that managed to emerge. It wasn’t a shower or any kind of formal wedding-related event, but it was fun and our families worked together on the planning much better afterwards.
It’s not clear to me whether the bride’s family is local to yours, so if they aren’t, it would be awfully nice to just have a big family get-together and have your brother bring his fiance to meet everybody in a less stressful and overwhelming environment (like say, her WEDDING). She’s part of your family now too, so I don’t see how anyone could object to you including her in a regular-old non-shower no-presents family backyard party.
Offer a toast to the couple, take lots of pictures of the families coming together and mingling over burgers and put together an album of the event for your brother and his wife. Sure, there won’t be any toilet-paper brides or Tupperware gift sets, but you can make them both feel honored and loved regardless.
But.
Before you do anything, please talk to your brother. I know your feelings are equally hurt and it SUCKS that YOUR FAMILY’S wedding traditions have been so thoroughly stomped on, but…it’s still not your wedding. It’s his. He’s probably completely cut out of everything enough already, so if he really would prefer that you just “drop it” and not attempt any type of event, listen to him. If he thinks a meet-the-family barbeque sounds like a recipe for more drama and disaster, don’t push it. If he wants the rehearsal dinner to be wedding-party only and at his favorite restaurant, so be it. I understand wanting to accommodate your elderly relatives and feel like your family has some small presence in all this wedding hullaballoo, but the bride and groom’s wishes still need to trump yours.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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16 Responses to “Secondary Bridal Showers and Stepped-on Toes”

  1. jodifur Jun 05 at 11:33 am Reply Reply

    I am absolutely convinced weddings bring out the worst in people.

  2. mollyawesome Jun 05 at 11:55 am Reply Reply

    Thanks for another question of mine, Amalah! I have talked to my brother about it, and he seems so torn about it. He says that he and his fiance both feel very awkward about the whole thing thanks to both sides of the family (“We just want everybody to get along!”), so I have definitely backed off. He spent this past weekend at their house, and all I asked was whether there were any mutterings about me and my mother, since there aren’t any going on over here anymore. His interpretation is that the drama is over (but what does he know about girls and their drama? ha!). I think what I’ll do is let it rest for a while, and then towards the end of June bring up another alternative (I really like the July 4th idea). He’s said he would appreciate something like that, since they never did any kind of engagement party, so who knows, maybe that will work. If not, as my mother says, one less thing to organize (and one less thing to instigate anything unpleasant). Thanks again!

  3. Sadie Jun 05 at 12:53 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve never heard of a “one bridal shower” rule. We have a bunch– for different groups of friends, different sides of the family, couples showers, etc.
    Oh, and not only is it acceptable to invite out-of-town family to the rehearsal dinner, but where I’m from, it’s expected. Not only family, but ALL out-of-town wedding guests. Although I have been to wedding-party-only rehearsal dinners.

  4. TasterSpoon Jun 05 at 1:42 pm Reply Reply

    Mollyawesome – that’s exactly what I was going to say: Engagement Party. Especially because it’s co-ed and substantially in advance of the wedding. I just went to an engagement party (I’d never heard of them before), 6 months into the engagement and just a month before the wedding. It was great.
    The trick to making it not seem like a ‘secret shower’ is probably to say NO GIFTS.

  5. TasterSpoon Jun 05 at 1:45 pm Reply Reply

    I was in such a hurry to comment I only just noticed that I was 100% redundant. Sorry.

  6. Emily Jun 05 at 2:12 pm Reply Reply

    Could you have a shower for after the wedding? Usually people calm down after it’s all over, and then the celebration can be extended to celebrate the newlyweds.

  7. Lorie Jun 05 at 3:11 pm Reply Reply

    I have a friend getting married this summer, and for a number of reasons including potential drama, we opted not to do the bridal shower thing. Instead, another friend of ours had a fantastic idea that we have stolen and will probably use with every friend we know who gets married.
    And the idea is…a “stock the bar” party. Obviously this isn’t a great idea for non-drinkers, but we didn’t want to have anything too showery and didn’t want to get into weird/awkward gift-giving, so this is the idea. Everyone you want to invite is invited, couples, singles, coworkers, whatever, and guests are asked simply to bring something for the bar. It could be a bottle of wine, it could be a bottle of Scotch, it could be wine glasses, it could be corkscrews and cocktail napkins. It’s been tremendously popular with both the planners and the attendees. So…maybe that?

  8. Anne Glamore Jun 05 at 10:15 pm Reply Reply

    This is a brilliant illustration of my belief that if you can make it through the nuttiness of Getting Married, being married will be a breeze.
    And the advice is great- no tradition is worth major hurt feelings, other than the tradition of a woman in labor getting to decide who is (and more importantly, who is NOT) present in the delivery room.
    Congrats on boy # 2 BTW!

  9. Alison Jun 05 at 10:31 pm Reply Reply

    Also, if the bride’s family is concerned with etiquette, they should know that family members aren’t supposed to throw a shower at all. Showers are supposed to be thrown by non-family members, since it’s considered gauche for family to solicit gifts.

  10. Cassie Jun 06 at 10:35 am Reply Reply

    My family always does co-ed showers, which are WAY better, in my opinion. An aunt & uncle always host, because immediate family is not supposed to. That way, it is just a party. One of my cousins didn’t even open presents, which I loved, though my fiance – who really dreaded a shower, for reasons I still don’t understand – insisted that we open presents (the part he really ahted) because otherwise it would be rude. Weird.
    I think an engagement party is a great idea, you can even joke about the lateness of it and make it a belated engagement party. A relaxed bbq is perfect.
    Weddings are absolutely the worst part of getting married. Though I had a blast at my wedding, planning it was a pain in the butt.

  11. Jill Jun 06 at 10:50 am Reply Reply

    Thank you Alison! Immediate family members are definitely not supposed to throw showers, and I will add to that that the maid of honor has no actual required ‘duties’ other than standing up for you at the altar, and that includes planning showers or bachelorette parties.
    It’s possible I’m in the minority here, but I think weddings have gotten a bit out of control with the number of events guests are expected to attend (and pay for). If it were me I think I’d just let it go.

  12. jen Jun 06 at 11:17 am Reply Reply

    hey Amalah, this is so not on-topic but did you SEE that Philosophy now makes a Hope in a Jar with SPF (it’s on Sephora’s website)???? I thought of you immediately (is that weird) and shook my fist at the full tub of non-SPF Hope in a Jar sitting on my bathroom shelf…

  13. Stephanie Jun 06 at 12:47 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for the heads up on the Hope in a Jar with SPF, Jen! Unfortunately, I definitely still have a 2/3 full super jumbo container from QVC sitting in my medicine cabinet. I wonder how long that stuff lasts, if I were to get the SPF version just for summer. (Not that SPF isn’t important in winter, but my foundation has SPF which I feel covers my bases in the grey winter months, but not so much in the full out sun so I need that added layer of protection in the summer.)

  14. psumommy Jun 06 at 1:32 pm Reply Reply

    First- I hate weddings, too. I despised planning mine (and had so many fights with my mom that I pretty much just handed the whole thing over to her because it’s just one day!). I always think about My Big Fat Greek Wedding when stuff like this comes up. I never really saw a wedding as the “bride’s day” at all…it’s a family affair. And I totally laughed when I read Sadie’s comment because that occured to me, too! They’re so caught up in what’s “right” that they’ve forgotten actual etiquitte. I was mortified when my own family threw a shower for me. I didn’t have any friends at the time, but would have been perfectly happy to not have a shower at all.
    Um. Anyway. I also agree with the ‘weddings bring out the worst in people’. Absolutely.
    Finally (I promise!) Jen, I had exactly the same thought when I got my email from Sehora this morning…I almost forwarded it on to Amy, then remembered that she has NO IDEA WHO I AM, so maybe that would be a bit, um, weird. LOL! And I *just* went and splurged on the large pot of Hope. So no built-in SPF for me for another 6-8 months!

  15. Amanda Jun 09 at 4:58 pm Reply Reply

    I was at a “Jack and Jill” party this weekend…it was horrible. The Worst Man planned the most obnoxious dinner I’ve ever had to attend. It would have been fun! It had potential! Except for the fact that it was more like a Jack party that Jill and her friends had to attend before they could escape to the bachelorette party. We all were told to bring a tool for the groom’s new toolbox since “he’s the man of the house now.” And the bride got nothing. (Except drunk.)
    Moral of the story? Co-ed showers can go horribly, horribly wrong. Be careful! And don’t make the guests pay for their own dinner.
    Amalah, a new Ulta store is opening near me! My life is complete.

  16. Colleen Jun 16 at 1:07 pm Reply Reply

    yeah, didn’t have this issue since my husband’s extended family is generally a bunch of losers who didn’t show up to the shower (save for his grandma and 2 aunts), didn’t want to have a separate shower, didn’t RSVP for the wedding, didn’t show up to the wedding (thank goodness since I axed them from the list), didn’t send a gift or even a card.
    yeah, still bitter after 7 years…heh! They also didn’t come to my baby shower or even send cards after the birth of either of our children.
    But I did have a couple showers…family/close friend shower and a work-shower. No one who organized/attended either seemed offended…kinda think Molly’s future SIL’s sister needs to realize who this is for and to settle down…why should the groom’s family not be able to help celebrate (esp. those who cannot make the other shower or possibly the wedding)? But I agree, he needs to be the one to negotiate and decide, especially if his future SIL is going to live nearby and make him miserable…LOL!

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