In a sweet moment on a chilly night in February, my boyfriend and I got engaged. Soon after, a barrage of questions from our friends and family began to roll in: Did you book a venue? Have you looked at dresses?
And my least favorite: Have you registered yet?
My anxiety mounted as I thought about the laundry list of things I would have to in the coming months. Luckily, I could answer that last question with ease. No, I hadn’t registered. And no, I wasn’t going to.
The decision to forego a bridal shower — and, in fact, not to register for wedding gifts at all — was one I’d been considering for a while. My best friend skipped hers a few years back, which planted the seed in my mind that not every bride has to go along with that particular tradition. Then, a recent Marie Kondo-inspired purge of my apartment solidified the decision.
No, I didn’t need any more stuff. In fact, STUFF is the last thing I need.
For one thing, I’m 34 and have been living on my own for a while now. I already have a Crockpot and a Kitchen Aide mixer. I’m even the proud owner of my very own deep fryer. My fiancé’s kitchen is pretty well-stocked, too.
Skipping through the aisles of Target with a registry gun, zapping everything in sight sure sounds like a lot of fun, but when that crap inevitably arrives at my apartment, where’s it all gonna go?
Plus, how could I possibly use it all — even if I could find a place for everything? More than a few women have told me that they registered for more gifts than they actually needed, to match the number of guests attending their shower. As a result, most of them had to stick the overflow of presents at their parents’ house for months at a time, or spend time returning a good chunk of them for store credit.
And for those who actually kept all the gifts, several admitted that they actually haven’t gotten around to using that Soda Stream or Spiralizer after all.
Stuff overload aside, there’s something else about this whole registering business that’s always left me uncomfortable: Why should friends and family be stuck with the price tag of setting up our home? Isn’t that the job of my fiancé and me?
A wedding is about celebrating a couple’s love and wishing them well as they embark on their new life together. On that day, our friends and family will come together to dance ridiculously, eat entirely too much, and drink even more. Throwing an additional party, which would require guests to spend even more money and likely cost my own mother thousands of dollars, feels like overkill.
I suppose some of this perspective comes from the fact that I’ve attended more bridal showers by now than I can even count, and the excitement has long since faded. If you’re a woman over 30, chances are you’re in the same boat. Who knows how many rounds of “Bridal Bingo” and “The Purse Game” we’ve all played over the years? Or how many hours of awkward chit-chat we’ve struggled through with someone’s third cousin twice removed. And let’s not speak of the hundreds — no, thousands — of dollars we’ve spent on Cuisinarts and decorative cheese boards that have probably sat collecting dust in someone’s kitchen.
According to The Knot, the average cost of an American wedding is just shy of $34,000; but where I live, in the New York/New Jersey area, most couples spend double that. By extension, the costs of being in a bridal party and throwing a bridal shower is also rather mind-boggling, and when I think of putting that extra financial burden on friends and family, it all seems so unnecessary.
When our mothers got married, some 30 or 40 years ago, bridal showers were typically small, informal gatherings at someone’s home. They were often potluck-style, wherein women would bring a casserole dish, maybe a crocheted blanket they’d made themselves, or pitch in for a new set of Tupperware. There was no elaborate theme, flower wall, photo booth, or cake pops. And there was definitely no sitting around for hours watching the bride open gifts, while fawning over spatulas and egg timers.
While bridal showers have changed tremendously since they first began in the 1890s, there’s one way in which they haven’t changed: They’re still typically an all-women affair. Co-ed baby showers might be catching on, but when it comes to the whole focus of bridal showers — setting up the home — that is apparently still the work of women. Or at least, that seems to be what we’re perpetuating here. And I’m just going to go ahead and call B.S. on that one.
My fiancé is more or less fine with my decision. (Though he does think that after I’ve been to so many showers, “it’s only fair” I should have my own.) My sister, I’m pretty sure, is silently relieved that it’s one less thing on her plate as Maid of Honor. And my mother? She’s happily on board. (But only after secretly confirming with my sister that I wasn’t just saying I didn’t want one.)
In the meantime, I keep reminding myself that all the shower questions will end soon enough.
At the end of next month, I’ll be packing the last 34 years of my life up and moving in with my fiancé while we search for a house. He’ll scoff at how many oversized coffee mugs I own, and I’ll beg him to put his hideous ‘80s bedroom furniture to the road.
But somehow, we’ll combine our collective things and fashion together a home we can call our own. And in the midst of it all, I’m sure I’ll breathe a sigh of relief that a mountain of bridal shower gifts won’t be filling every square inch of our two-bedroom apartment.
Then, come next April, we’ll dance the night away with friends and family at our wedding — some we haven’t seen in years; others who will travel thousands of miles.
And that one night will be gift enough for me.
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