In the modern era of weddings, we’re leaving a lot of the traditional behind. For instance, brides these days no longer feel like they can only choose from their female friends for their bridal party. Many no longer have a bouquet toss, and even more couples are choosing to have a co-ed, or joint, wedding shower instead of a ladies luncheon-style party.
The History of the Bridal Shower
The bridal shower tradition began in 16th century Holland and was held in honor of a bride if her family didn’t have a traditional dowry (money or gifts a groom would receive from the bride’s parents upon their wedding day). Sometimes a bride would be too poor to have a dowry or her father wouldn’t approve of a marriage and would withhold the dowry as a punishment. In these instances, the woman’s friends would pick up the slack and “shower” her with gifts and money to ensure the marriage could take place.
During the Victorian period in the United States, the tradition changed from an act of charity to an opportunity to celebrate the bride-to-be and give her domestic gifts that she can use in her new role as a wife. Modern bridal showers can be anything from a small gathering of women at a bridesmaid’s home to an elaborate party with themes, servers, and live music.
More recently, some couples are foregoing the tradition of the girls-only wedding shower entirely and adding in all of their friends, male and female, to make the celebration feel more like a cocktail party. If you’re trying to decide between throwing a traditional bridal shower or going for a more modern co-ed wedding shower, here are a few pros and cons for you and your partner to consider.
A Traditional Bridal Shower
Pro: You get an opportunity to privately celebrate with all of the important women in your life.
Your bridal shower may be one of the only opportunities in your life to be surrounded entirely by all of the important women in your life all at once (including those women important to your fiancé). The origins of the bridal shower may not exactly be joyful, but for women these days it can feel empowering to be in the presence of all of their female relatives and friends before they take this next big step in their lives. They can share marriage advice, swap stories—and you have a chance to get to know all of the important women in your future spouse’s life.
Pro: Because a bridal shower will likely be a smaller event than one where both men and women are invited, it will presumably cost less money.
Traditionally, bridesmaids or a female family member or friend of the bride will throw the shower and take care of all the food and decoration costs. For a joint shower, the rules on who hosts—and foots the bill—are less clear. (Will it be the couple paying for the tab, or is this something that the bridal party chips in for?) Plus, with more people at a joint shower than at a traditional bridal shower, it’s likely going to cost more for food, drinks, etc.
Pro: You can easily host a bridal shower in someone’s home.
While there have certainly been some extravagant and large bridal showers, for the most part bridal showers are intimate gatherings of close friends and family members of the bride. This smaller guest count makes it easier to host the party at someone’s home, which is a lot cheaper than renting out a room at a restaurant or reserving space at a bar for a big group of people.
Con: A bridal shower can feel stuffy or too traditional for many modern women or modern couples.
Some may think that like a lot of other wedding traditions, bridal showers have misogynistic roots. Some modern brides may feel uncomfortable with carrying that tradition forward when it’s their turn. Some women who are getting married may also not want to be called a “bride,” and others may not want to have a traditional bridal shower if they themselves are marrying a woman. Whatever the reason may be, it’s completely okay to say no to a bridal shower and instead opt for a joint wedding shower or a pre-wedding party with friends and family.
A Co-Ed Wedding Shower
Pro: A joint wedding shower allows your partner to get in on the fun.
Who says that the bride should get to have all of the parties? A wedding is a celebration about two people falling in love, after all. Including your partner into the shower is a fun way to kick off all your wedding events. Plus, they won’t be able to get away with not knowing who the gravy boat is from when you’re writing out thank you notes!
Pro: A joint wedding shower is a more relaxed setting than a bridal shower.
Let’s face it: bridal showers aren’t exactly known for being a raucous good time. While they are lovely, they can feel a little stiff and awkward—especially when you’re opening presents and you have a group of women staring at you for your reaction.
A joint wedding shower with co-ed attendees, on the other hand, feels more relaxed. Because it’s not a traditional practice, there actually aren’t any traditions you are beholden to. You can throw your joint shower in a bar, at a backyard barbecue, or in a restaurant, which makes it have a more casual vibe. (And you may even be able to get away with not opening presents in front of a crowd.)
Con: It can be difficult to narrow down who should be invited to a joint wedding shower.
One of the downsides of having a joint, co-ed wedding shower is that it’s difficult to determine who should make the guest list. Because of sheer numbers, you probably don’t want to invite all of your wedding guests—but it might feel weird to cut people out of the shower. The best way to narrow it down is to just include very special friends and family.