The bridal shower was born of forbidden love.
More than 300 years ago in Holland, the legend goes that a young maiden fell in love with a poor miller, but because he couldn’t provide a proper home for the couple, her father refused to allow the marriage.
According to Arlene Hamilton Stewart, author of “A Bride’s Book of Wedding Traditions” (William Morrow, 1995), the girl’s neighbors and friends came to the rescue, “showering” her with household goods and furnishings.
“The father relented,” Stewart said, “and the ‘shower’ morphed into an all-female party where women give the bride-to-be practical things to start her new life.”
The tradition of the bridal shower lives on, usually in the form of a tea or luncheon where gifts are opened and parlor games are played. But this is 2011 and some very fresh trends are emerging — just in time for summer nuptials.
Making it personal
According to Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings, planning today’s bridal shower is all about personalization. “Think about the bride’s personality and interests, and incorporate those elements to create a more meaningful day,” she said.
Alyson Fox of Levine Fox Events in Los Angeles is finding that many brides want an element of fun at their showers.
“Everyone is asking for entertainment,” Fox said, citing fortune tellers, belly dancing lessons and tarot card readers among examples. “It’s no longer just about lunch and watching the bride open presents. Even for a classic bridal shower tea, they are incorporating a tea leaf reader.”
Linda Ly, owner of Grand Soirées Event Design in Irvine, noted that stylish hats are a new shower trend, mainly because the newlywed Duchess of Cambridge brought them to international attention during the Royal Wedding.
“Bridal shower tea parties are a hot commodity with all the girls in pretty, frilly frocks and over-the-top hats,” Ly said. Whimsical elements can enhance the experience, such as a “bauble bar” at which a decorative selection of cocktail rings and jewelry are served up — and can double as party favors.
“An understated theme can be lovely,” she added. For example, throwing an eco-friendly shower for the environmentally conscious bride can be as simple as sending out invitations on recycled paper.
“Bringing the indoors outside” is another simple and popular trend, Fox said. She suggested using vintage tablecloths, mixed china and centerpieces of thrift store antique vases filled with simple cut wildflowers.
Spa showers, in which guests are pampered by massages, manicures, pedicures and more elaborate treatments, are in vogue at hotel and day spas. Mobile spas, where the spa comes to your venue, are becoming popular, as well.
At Spa to Go by In Touch Massage & Day Spa in Thousand Oaks, owner Shannah Tenner said that requests for mobile spa showers have doubled over the past year.
“Everyone loves to be pampered,” she said, “and getting massages and facials is more fun than playing bridal shower games.”
Some brides are bucking not just the games but the all-female shower tradition, as well. Julie Burton of Los Angeles, who is about to have a co-ed baby shower, considers same-sex showers to be archaic. “I have so many friends who are guys,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I want them at such a special occasion?”
Some brides just can’t sit still, and for them the word “shower” is open to interpretation.
Amy Vavrunek-Fry of San Diego opted for an active shower. Last September, Amy, along with a group of girlfriends and family members, went paddleboarding on the Pacific Ocean before meeting back in the bride’s room at the Four Seasons Maui for a champagne brunch.
“Getting out on the water and in touch with nature was just what I needed before my wedding day,” said Vavrunek-Fry, describing the fun and laughter she shared with her guests. “It was a great experience.”
Throwing yoga bridal showers, in which guests take a yoga class followed by lunch alongside a spa pool or at a restaurant, is a hot trend at the Montage Laguna Beach, said spa director Julie Raistrick.
“It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the bride and yet do something different,” she said, noting that guests love relaxing on poolside chaises while the bride opens gifts. “Every bride wants to get in great shape for her wedding, so they love it!”
While yoga and paddleboarding aren’t right for every shower, the idea is to create an event that not only reflects the bride’s personality but is fun for everyone involved.
Taste of something new
Food can make or break any party, and bridal showers are no exception. While tea sandwiches and luncheon salads were never hard-and-fast rules, somewhere along the way we got stuck in a rut.
But all that’s changed, said Erez Levy, chef and partner in Savore Cuisine and Events. “People are getting more creative,” he said, with bridal shower breakfasts featuring filet mignon “Benedict,” and Moroccan cocktail parties including hors d’oeuvres such as chicken merquez sliders and mini-lamb bastillas.
Wine and cheese showers also are popular. “We have been booking nearly two a month,” said Abbey Karr, event coordinator for Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City. “It’s insane.”
Not only does serving wine add to a festive atmosphere, some brides are even choosing to be showered with bottles of fine wine.
Brides with a sweet tooth can indulge in dessert showers such as the “chocolate tea” offered at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, in which every element is touched by the essence of chocolate, even the finger sandwiches.
Darcy Miller recently hosted a delicious bridal shower for Dylan Lauren of Manhattan. “I chose to go with a candy theme and created amazing details such as candy garland, a candy buffet and edible candy jewels,” Miller said.
“Classic is always great,” Levy added. “But it’s also great to think outside the box to create something unforgettable.”
– Jennifer Evans Gardner, Custom Publishing Writer