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Yesterday’s lovely bridal shower inspiration inspired me to dust off one of my favorite Southern Weddings features: our Southern Etiquette column!

I had just the query, one that came in from a lovely mother of the bride (oh, how we love that mothers read our blog, too!). Here it is:

Hello, Emily,

I read your post about not inviting people to showers who are not invited to weddings, which agrees with my personal opinion and everything else I find on the same topic, but I want to ask the same question again with my own twist, as I am not completely sure if this principle applies in every situation.

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!


A perfectly Southern table setting, courtesy of Katie Rivers

I think the dilemma of the “church shower” is both very common and uniquely Southern (i.e. I had never heard of this predicament before I moved South, but have since heard of it several times!). A strong church family is such a wonderful thing to have in your life, but it can make things like shower and wedding guest list planning complicated. Hence, why most Southerners don’t bat an eyelash upon hearing about a 400, 500, or 600 person guest list!

However, a monster guest list is not the solution for every bride, and does not sound like the solution in this case. So, if inviting the church ladies to the wedding and allowing them to host a shower is not the answer, what is?

I think the first step is to make it clear to the would-be hostesses that the couple is planning a small wedding and that a traditional shower might not be the most appropriate choice (while you’re at it, get the MOG on board, too, so she can help spread the word discreetly!).

If they still insist on hosting an event, I actually think that’s just fine, and a lovely gesture. I’m sure it’s one borne out of genuine love for the bride and groom! However, I would guide them towards calling it something besides a “bridal shower” — perhaps a “luncheon in honor of the bride” or a “meet the bride breakfast.” I would also insist on no gifts, and make sure that that’s clearly printed in the invitation. That way, the focus will be on surrounding the bride with love and support, and the risk for hurt feelings should be greatly minimized!

Ladies, I would LOVE to hear what y’all think – is this a situation you’ve run up against? What would you do if you were faced with this situation? Would you allow a traditional shower to be held, take a middle road like I’ve suggested, or insist on none at all? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!

P.S. Have a etiquette query of your own? Feel free to shoot me an email!

P.P.S. Past etiquette conundrums:
Tipping wedding vendors
Wedding rings for men
Formal invitations – necessary?
Clapping at the recessional

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Michele reply

    I belong to a very large church family and want to share one way that this situation has been tastefully handled by several families. Everyone in the church is invited to the wedding- sometimes an invitation is in the church bulletin- and a private, invitation-only reception is held at another location a few hours later. Some of the families, typically those who are on staff at the church, will have a simple cookie and punch reception for everyone immediately after the ceremony.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Michele! My sister did something similar for her wedding, and it worked out great! She was getting married on a small island with a tight-knit community, and we wanted to invite everyone to the ceremony but couldn’t have everyone at the reception. We had lemonade and cookies directly following the ceremony at the ceremony site, and then the reception started about an hour later at a different location.

  2. avatar Britt reply

    We had a church shower at my husband’s parent’s church close to the wedding- it is a small, tight-knit church family. We had already sent invitations out and everything, so it was already known that most of the people in the church were not invited to the wedding ceremony or reception. That group of families loves supporting each other, though, so they really wanted to have a shower and give gifts even knowing they weren’t invited to the ceremony or reception. We had a good ol’ fashioned church potluck with lots of visiting and well-wishing followed by lots of fun opening gifts with lots of “oohs” and “aahs” it was so much fun, laid back, and there was never any expectation or pressure of any sort from anyone to be invited. Everyone just wanted to celebrate with us! So I guess it depends on your group!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Agreed, Britt! I think this is probably how most church groups feel!

  3. avatar Dianna reply

    My fiance and are counting down the days 18 to go, and we’ve just finished up ALLLLLL the showers. Both of the churches we grew up in insisted on have a shower for us. We were even very open to let them know that our wedding was strictly immediate family only. It was still a must though. It’s just their way of showing their love and excitement for someone they’ve watched grow up. It was just announced the Sunday before and we did a drop-in for each church with cake and punch. It was a nice way for people to be able to talk to you outside of the Sunday handshaking after church. We enjoyed them and looking back I’m glad we allowed them to shower us, not only with gifts, but love.

  4. avatar Janna reply

    There were people who had watched my husband grow up in our small church and has insisted on throwing us a church shower- we also worked with the youth in our church and all of them were excited to see us married but adding an additional 30 teenagers to our guest list wasn’t very feasible, and financially and personally we both really wanted a smaller wedding and reception. We ended up agreeing on doing a cake and punch reception at the life center of our church. Our dinner reception started about an hour later at a different location. It worked wonderfully for us and allowed us to be able to include many people who wanted to be there to celebrate with us and still allowed us to have the smaller more intimate reception like we wanted as well.

  5. avatar Kristen reply

    My MOH had this same dilemma. Her father is the pastor of their baptist church in NC, and the congregation knew Emily since she was four months old. However, her reception venue capped at 150 (which is really a blessing in disguise!). So, they opted to have a pre-wedding cake and punch reception the week before the wedding at the church for everyone who wanted to wish the couple well. Then, they sent out the traditional ceremony invitations to everyone, and the “reception immediately after” cards were included with only the guests invited to the reception the evening of the wedding. So the church was packed with guests, the reception had a controlled amount of people, and the folks were able to greet the couple properly. A triple win!

    Needless to say, she did have a church ladies shower as well, and those women were pleased as punch to host it for her.

    Don’t let anyone strong-arm you into a mega-reception if you don’t want one!

  6. avatar Maggie reply

    I am 65 and going to a 5:30 wedding in February. Any attire suggestions? I would really rather wear dressy crepe pants with something, but what, and is that appropriate.


  7. avatar Claudia Cables reply

    I’m the MOB and I just found out the MOG already purchase the gown she is going to wear for my daughter’s wedding, without consulting me about style, color etc. How should I handled this situation?

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