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By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein

Déjà  vu. It’s the only way to explain my experience with Bridal Showers. The guest lists and venues might change from shower to shower, but everything else has a strange way of staying the same. Don’t get me wrong, I love attending them in that I love all things feminine and romantic. And hopefully, all of the energy, time and creativity I put forth in planning my friends’ showers, will someday be returned to me when I get married, right? The trick is to take the elements of a bridal shower that we all know and love and make them special, unique and custom-made for the bride-to-be. Here are some things to consider when planning a shower:

1) Venue – Why not combine elements of glamour, practicality, beauty and fun by hosting a bridal shower at the Giella counter at Henri Bendel’s? With custom colors made on the spot, the bridal party will look good in any color dress they’re forced to wear! The guests can drink champagne in a private party room and walk away that day with beauty products specifically designed and made for them in minutes! See http://www.giella.com as well as my full write-up of this fantastic beauty line!

With more traditional bridal showers, I find myself trekking out to the suburbs, sitting at card tables set up in the dining room and waiting on the buffet line. I’ve also been known to venture to a restaurant for the bride’s favorite meal (i.e. brunch, BBQ, Deli, Italian etc.). Many restaurants and hotels offer private dining rooms for such occasions. The Metropolitan Cafe in New York City has a lovely room and an array of menu options (212-759-5600). Perhaps Dylan’s Candy Bar’s private party room would be a fun and unique atmosphere for a shower in Manhattan (http://www.dylanscandybar.com).

2) Theme – The theme of a bridal shower is not so apparent as it is at say, a Bar-Mitzvah. Never-the-less, themes are incorporated into bridal showers as well, however subtly. For instance, my friend went to Italy for her honeymoon and so she had her shower at an Italian Restaurant with pictures of Italy coming out of the centerpieces. Another friend’s invitation was a poem printed on a Chinese fan because it was taking place at – you guessed it – a Chinese restaurant.

Favors (which seem to be a must at a shower, even if just a token gift) can tie in a theme (i.e. chocolate covered fortune cookies in prettily decorated Chinese take-out containers).I usually receive things like chocolates, candles, and feminine goodies like sachets as favors. I’ve been to kitchen showers, lingerie showers, and ‘around-the-clock’ showers (once I went to all three for the same person!) These kinds of showers are helpful when you can’t decide what type of gift to give.

3) The Scrapbook – Without fail, a few days after the invitation arrives, I am mailed a manila envelope containing a page from a photo album and a self-addressed stamped envelope to return to the organizer by a strict deadline. I am instructed to “keep it simple,” write a letter of advice, stick a picture on it etc. Easy enough, right? Wrong. No matter how much of my soul I pour into writing a witty poem, re-writing lyrics to a song or concocting a collage of all our funniest pictures, when I arrive at the shower, I am shocked to find scrapbook pages of epic proportions rivaling the latest artwork at the MOMA! My advice is to really make it simple. If you’re the organizer, email only the other bridesmaids and immediate family members and instruct them to create a page on 8 ½ x 11 paper and tell them to bring it to the shower to enclose in a three-ring binder upon their arrival. If you’ve never done a page for a scrapbook, forget you ever even heard about it since it could be more trouble than it’s worth. But I will admit that the scrapbook usually ends up being the bride’s favorite gift and memento.

4) Games – I’ve never actually been a part of a successful Bridal Bingo game. I give up on filling in all of the boxes and end up losing interest in the gift opening routine as well as Bingo about three seconds into it. I tend to occupy my time by creating a paper plate hat of gift ribbons (or tie two plates together and use a third around the waist for a BIKINI of bows); or for God’s sake, help pre-unwrap the presents and keep the gift line moving, people! However, I recently attended a shower that used professional bridal bingo cards and Hershey Kisses as markers.

See http://www.badabadabingo.com for more information and ideas. Some people had the unfortunate experience of having things like “water filtration system” and “wall shelf” on their cards, but all in all, the pre-made cards did make the gift opening ceremony a bit more enjoyable for everyone. A crossword puzzle with clues about the couple might be more suitable for the hotel hospitality bags on the actual wedding day, but crosswords could also be a good ice-breaker for guests meeting for the first time.

This may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but this wouldn’t be an article about bridal showers without the mention of the toilet paper wedding dress game. Divide the guests into teams and create a wedding dress for one of your teammates out of toilet paper. A panel of judges awards prizes for the prettiest dress, sexiest, most elaborate etc.

Depending on the personalities of the bride and groom, a trivia game is also a fun addition to the shower. Keep the questions fun and interesting – i.e. No one cares if he knows what her favorite color is! Ask them where the strangest place they ever made whoopee is and watch them squirm. And don’t worry, they will both ultimately answer, “We’re saving ourselves for marriage. “Record the groom’s answers on paper or, if he’s game, on audio tape or video. To keep the guests engaged, you can pass out copies of the questionnaire and give a prize to the person who knows the most about the couple. Better yet, hand out index cards with the questions written on them and have each guest read one aloud. For another opportunity to hand out prizes, you can give hand lotions or candles to: 1) whoever has an anniversary date closest to the guest of honor; or 2) whoever went to the same place as the couple for her honeymoon and so on and so on.

5) Gift ideas – Unless there’s something very specific I’ve been dying to give the bride, I generally choose something off the registry. Lingerie is always an option, but only if it’ll evoke an “oooohhhh” from the crowd. Judaica is a nice gift (i.e. seder plates, menorahs, mezuzahs, the glass to break at the wedding etc.) See http://www.jewishsource.com for more ideas. One of my favorite gifts is a laundry basket filled with household cleaning products. Hold up each product as you read the item aloud in a poem (i.e. May your life be filled with “JOY” and “CHEER” as you “SNUGGLE” close all through the years). And I can never forget seeing a mop (for hair) turned upside down, wearing an apron as a dress, spatulas for arms and oven mitts for hands etc. You can add as many useful kitchen supplies to represent body parts and subsequently, a full-size person. It’s a great visual as well as a practical gift!

Planning a shower can be a lot like planning a mini-wedding. You may find yourself dealing with issues regarding the invitations, the guest list, the linens, the centerpieces, the menu, the place cards, and the transportation. But since wedding planning can be somewhat stressful, a bridal shower is the perfect opportunity to remain calm, have fun, break convention and relax a bit before the big day. It’s a challenge to make showers unique since brides generally want and deserve everything their friends received for theirs. But with a few personal touches, a bridal shower can be a celebratory social gathering that lets girls be girls. Maybe it’s all the estrogen in the air, but bridal showers can be a forum for all that is creative, imaginative and wonderful about being a woman.

Originally published May 2004
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