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Extravagant showers burden hosts, guests

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I disagree when it comes to the ban on families giving bridal or baby showers. In my day, it was the bridesmaids who gave the shower, but today bridesmaids have extra expenses – engagement parties, dress, shoes, hair, makeup, gift and hotel room.

With today’s economy, it’s very hard to budget that expense, and some friends live out of state. In most families, parents can finance the showers.

GENTLE READER: Really? Why does Miss Manners suspect that you have a popular but unengaged daughter, and that you might change your mind when you are faced with financing an entire wedding? Could it be because so many of the people who take issue with Miss Manners are seeing only their own side, and not that of others, to whom they cheerfully assign whatever they wish to escape?

The funny thing is that Miss Manners also tries to rescue bridesmaids and other friends who feel – or worse, are told – that they must give parties they can ill afford. But she does not accept the premise by which you merely reassign the expense: the unfortunately widespread belief that lavish showers are an essential part of wedding festivities.

Bridal showers, and for that matter, baby showers, are supposed to be informal gatherings of the honoree’s close friends, who give charming little (repeat: little) presents befitting the circumstances-to-be. For the honoree’s parents to give showers, whether or not they can afford to do so, not only looks vulgar because of the focus on presents, but also destroys the premise.

Those monster showers given today have become a burden on both hosts and guests, another in a series of events designed to collect whatever goods the honorees have announced that they want.

Miss Manners’ antidote is not, like yours, to stick someone else with the bill. It is to return the shower to its proper place as an optional, lighthearted gathering of intimate friends.