Google+ Southern Etiquette: Is a "Church Shower" Appropriate? - Southern Weddings

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Southern Etiquette posts remain some of our most popular to date, so after a brief hiatus, I’m happy to say they’re back! You can expect one a month from here on out. By far the most common query I get is about bridal showers and the etiquette surrounding them. It seems like the basic etiquette is understood, but there are an endless number of slightly different “situations” hosts and honorees find themselves in (and like to email me about). Let’s take a look at one recent note from a mother of the bride, Dea:

My daughter is newly engaged to a boy who grew up in the small town to which we moved about four years ago. His parents grew up here as well. The moment their engagement was made public, several women at our mutual church volunteered to be shower hostesses, which is a part of the local generous Southern tradition.

Between the couple, they have over 80 family members who will be invited to the wedding. This includes siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They want to limit the wedding to that group and a dozen or so close friends, most of whom will be members of the wedding party.

Should my daughter decline the offers of these women to host a shower, since they will not be invited to the wedding? The groom’s mother feels that the appropriate solution is to have a 300 – 400 person guest list, including people neither the bride nor groom really know, but this is not only outside the limits of our financial ability, it is also not what the bride and groom want for their special day.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this matter!


Photo by Amy Moss

I think the situation Dea is describing is extremely common in the South. (Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments!) I am with Dea that the appropriate solution is not to invite 300-400 people to the wedding if that’s not what the couple wants or what is in the cards financially. There is never an excuse to go into debt for a wedding, and while family opinions should be given considerate weight by the bride and groom, they should never be pressured into an event with which they’re not comfortable.

I think the first step is to offer the gracious potential hostesses an effusive thank you. Then, make it clear to them that the couple is planning a small wedding and that a traditional shower might not be the most appropriate choice. If they still insist on hosting, I actually think that’s just fine and a lovely gesture, but I would consider calling the event something like a “luncheon in honor of the bride” or a “meet the bride breakfast” instead of a shower, and I would insist on no gifts.

In lieu of gifts, you could ask each guest to bring a favorite recipe for the bride. Or, since it sounds like most guests have known the groom for most of his life, they could each write out a favorite or funny memory from his childhood, a volume I’m sure any bride would cherish!

Belles, what do you think? What would you advise in this situation? Any other ideas for a non-gift shower?

P.S. Have your own etiquette conundrum? Feel free to email me!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Alicia reply

    I have to disagree. My husband and I both grew up in Tennessee. Our home churches BOTH gave us bridal teas/showers before our wedding. Very few of the people who came to the tea/shower were invited to the wedding. They were both the kind of event where it was announced in the Sunday bulletin as an open invitation for whoever wanted to come and it was a come and go type of thing. It’s just an accepted practice here that the churches give a shower/tea and that all are invited (whether by formal invitation or a group one in a bulletin). I will say though that there were more invited to the wedding from my church than my husbands….just because the wedding was at my church and my husbands home church was almost 2 hours away.

  2. avatar Hayley reply

    I ran into this exact same problem! My fiance is from a very small Tennessee town and the town basically raised him! While I would love to invite all of his townsfolk to the wedding- it would be close to 300 people and we want to keep our wedding relatively small. We have decided to do an evening themed “party” which will be more of a cookout to meet everyone and celebrate our upcoming nutials! I am so glad to hear it isn’t just me with this problem! :)

  3. avatar Maggie Goodell reply

    A polite “thank you” with a decline seems the most appropriate. I too believe that weddings should reflect what the bride and groom prefer. Inviting extra people the couple doesn’t know, or don’t know well, can be awkward and distracting.

  4. avatar Dee Shore reply

    I agree 200% with you Emily. Inviting everyone and their mother is not financially smart. I’m from NYC so I know first hand that the average per plate here is about $150-$200. I’m sure in the South, though cheaper, I don’t think it differs by much. Also, keep in mind that not everyone gives a monetary gift, and it’s rare to get back every cent you’re spending. Now as per the shower, since they all seem to be eager to help, let them and do a ladies pot luck brunch at the church. This way all feelings are spared and everyone takes part of the union some way.

  5. avatar Liz reply

    I just got married a little over a month ago and had this same scenario pop up during our engagement. Both my husband and I are from small towns with sweet churches that we grew up in. For us, we knew it was poor etiquette since not everyone was invited to the wedding and went ahead with home church showers anyways. I think a “simple thank you” would’ve offended the women trying to host the shower, as well as more of the church members. Sometimes, even though things are “proper” etiquette, you just have to go with Southern rules and send nice thank you cards!

  6. avatar Maddison reply

    Maybe have the shower after the wedding.

  7. avatar Lauren reply

    I guess I’m definitely a southern girl. I loved the fact that my small church wanted to throw me a shower. In my mind, this is their way of celebrating with us since most won’t be invited to the wedding. Same goes for my office. Although I’ve recently accepted a new position elsewhere, they insisted on hosting a wedding shower before my last day.

  8. avatar lisa reply

    I am recently married and we ran into the same problem. We have large extended families and many friends, however we wanted a small wedding, mostly due to finances and not wanting to go into debt. However, we had two engagement parties that our parents hosted and invited all of our friends and family. Therefore, we invited them to our showers. Several of my MIL’s friends wanted to host and attend b/c they care for her and her family.
    Southern Weddings have changed. They used to be simple and receptions held in church fellowship halls or sometimes at someone’s home, therefore they were not expensive and everyone could attend.
    If you have had a wedding in the last 10 years, I believe people are more understanding b/c they know the cost.

  9. avatar Fletcher reply

    I think that this happens more often than not. I love the idea of having a luncheon or afternoon tea- the hostesses are pleased that they are giving the party but there is no pressure for gifts!

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