Having just given a bridal shower for a very dear friend’s daughter this weekend with a couple of friends and the bride’s sister,I started wondering what the history is of bridal showers. This is what I found out:
Bridal showers in the earlier eras were very different from what they are today. The modern-day celebration of this old custom is marked with fun, fiesta, food and favors, and sums up as one complete farewell bash for the bride. However, bridal showers weren’t one such gala affair in the past.
This custom, which traces its roots and origin back to 16th century Holland, was initiated as an alternative to the dowry system, where friends and families brought small favors for the bride to help her begin with her married life. If the mother of the bride was too poor to afford a dowry, or if the father was opposed to the alliance, then the friends of the bride would bring her small gifts to make up for the dowry and help her walk down the aisle with the man of her choice.
In fact, there is a very interesting Dutch legend on bridal showers, which narrates the story of a young Dutch girl of high standing who fell in love with a miller’s son. She was so smitten by the young lad that she wanted to marry him, even though her family was opposed to the alliance owing to the boy’s poor standing. Her father wanted her to marry a wealthy pig farmer and threatened to withhold her dowry if she disobeyed him. However, when her friends and the village folks learned about it, they insisted on bringing her gifts to fill in for the dowry and help her begin her married life. It’s said that the father of the bride was so touched by this sweet gesture that he agreed to the marriage and also dished out a hefty dowry to bless the new couple. Since then, it has been a custom for the would-be-brides family and friends to shower her with gifts before she embarks on a new journey, namely -marriage.
Bridal showers became a part of elite United States culture in the late Victorian Era, when ladies of high social standing organized bridal showers to fete would be brides. These ladies held bridal showers, regardless of the need of the bride, to gather and gossip and exchange thoughts, ideas and have fun. Plus, the brides didn’t mind getting a few special items to mark off their new roles as wives either.
Although a bridal shower was an alien custom to the English, it became quite a rage in USA during the 1930s. The bridal showers of the early to mid 20th Century were simpler affairs as compared to their modern day avatars. Gifts were more modest and usually included a collection of kitchen implements, a single plate, table linen etc.