By Leah S. Dunaief
This past weekend we traveled to Boston for a remarkable bridal shower. While I have been to many bridal showers before, this one was in honor of my first grandchild’s fiancee. Life is made up of firsts, of course, and we enjoy each of them in a special way. So up to Massachusetts we went for a new adventure.
I thought about my oldest grandson on the drive north. I still keenly remember the thrill of becoming a grandmother, of witnessing the beginning of the next generation. How lucky we grandparents are to reach that moment. I cherish a particular memory of having this adorable toddler running toward me as he entered the room, arms out for a hug, yelling “Grandma! Grandma!” on his arrival with his parents for a visit. Yes, I really was a grandma, I marveled then to myself, before scooping him up in my arms for a proper welcome.
After all, it’s a rarefied club one can aspire to but one is powerless to join on one’s own.
And that little person, grown up now to a handsome man who gives bear hugs, is extending the family with a new chapter, and I was going to celebrate with his soon-to-be wife.
It’s a phenomenon, this marriage bit, when you think about it. Two people meet, they fall in love, decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together, and the next thing you know, a small army of strangers rush to hug you and welcome you to the family. That’s what happens at a bridal shower, even as the avowed purpose is to help the newly weds set up their home with small gifts.
In addition, though, the two sides of the family get a chance to meet before the wedding, check each other out under joyful circumstances, then, no longer strangers, look forward to seeing each other at the nuptials. Maybe it’s not an accident that the shower is a women’s only affair. We have been known as the more critical of the sexes. If we have met and enjoyed the prospective extension of the family, the wedding will most likely go smoothly. Or so history might suggest.
Speaking of history, where did the idea of a bridal shower come from?
Here are two stories. The first dates back to 16th century Holland, where gifts were given to the bride to prepare her for her new life as a married woman if either she was too poor to buy them herself or her father didn’t approve of the marriage and wouldn’t provide a dowry. One such instance involved a father who wanted his daughter to marry a wealthy pig farmer, but she insisted on marrying a miller, who was from a lower class. The girl’s friends then supplied gifts to help her start a home.
The second story is from the Victorian Era. Ladies in those days would gather to wish the bride well, bringing small gifts like notes and home goods. These would be put in an open parasol, and they would “shower” them over her.
Today the bride’s friends and female relatives gather to wish the new bride well and help prepare the home, and that is exactly what happened in the lovely club setting on the water that we attended. My grand daughter-in-law’s shower was organized by her friend since early childhood. The day was bright and sunny on the outside, and so was the mood inside. We met some of her friends, her immediate family, her aunts and cousins, and enjoyed a delicious brunch together. We traded stories of how some of the women had found their husbands, where they now lived, how many children they had, what sort of work they did, in short the usual conversations when strangers first meet. The hit of the day was the clever 1 1/2 year-old son of the hostess who roamed among us and tried to put his sneaker on my foot. Gifts were opened by the bride, pictures were taken, and then slowly we dispersed, promising to see each other at the wedding, now an extended family.