Pre-wedding henna. Photo courtesy of wengyen.blogspot.com

Bridal Showers Around the World

Two hours to take-off.

I’m approaching the weekend and my anxiety is palpable, so much that my heart feels like it’s literally about to leap out of my chest. For one thing, I’m traveling again. Walking into the airport is like putting on an old, comfortable pair of shoes. I remember the motions, the smells, the process. Starting a new life in Chicago and settling into a new job have kept my traveling feet at bay, but I’m about to break out into the world again. And this time, it’s all for me.

The ticker on my wedding website says I’m going to get married in 78 days, and although my fiancé and I have now been living together for two years, it’s still terrifying to think about the big day coming so soon. It’s also the most exciting thing, and this weekend my best friends in the world and I are getting together to celebrate.

In the span of 48 hours I have a bridal shower, a bachelorette party and another bridal shower, nearly back-to-back. It’s a seat-of-your-pants kind of ride, but that’s the way I prefer to go. I can’t wait to get it started.

Pre-wedding henna. Photo courtesy of wengyen.blogspot.com

Though I’ve never been less than a strong feminist and a huge advocate for women’s equality and rights, I sure do love a good bridal shower. It’s said that they originated in Belgium in the mid 1800s, where women gathered together to compensate for a poor woman’s lack of dowry. The first time I went to a bridal shower, I was appalled. Why is this woman receiving kitchen supplies? And why is she so excited about it? The thought of a group of women fawning over a KitchenAid mixer made me want to hurl. Yet the meaning has been preserved to some extent: to honor someone making a big life change, and to give her (or him) the support that only close family and friends can give.

With the onset of “Jack & Jill” showers for the bride and groom both (something I would have loved to do if it wouldn’t have caused us to grossly overwhelm our party planners with our guest list!), I wanted to know how other cultures shower their spouses-to-be. Here are a couple of findings:

  • According to starlightregistry.com, Middle Eastern bridal showers actually happen seven days after the wedding, on the fifth day of a string of parties held for the new couple. As the bride is now officially married, only women may attend, and they bring gifts to celebrate the beginning of their “official part of the community.”
  • In traditional Chinese culture, the wedding gifts are brought to the future husband’s house. They are all tied with ribbons for luck. This includes a new wardrobe for the bride in suitcases, a tea set for the wedding tea ceremony, and other household items.
  • In Scotland, a bride’s mother holds an open house for guests to come by and drop off presents, where they are unwrapped and set out to be viewed. After the viewing, the bride-to-be is dressed up in crazy fabrics and paraded round town by her friends, who bang on pots and pans. This has evolved into what is known as a “hen night”, or bachelorette party.
  • In Greek culture, an engaged couple must choose a koumbaro, who carries a large portion of the wedding responsibilities. On the day of the wedding, the bride’s mother presents a dowry and Nyphostoli begins, where local females set up and decorate the couple’s new home.
  • In the Czech Republic, bridesmaids gather to make a wreath for the bride on the night before the wedding. They gather rosemary twigs, and sometimes baby’s breath and tiny roses. Many Czech couples receive their wedding gifts the day after the wedding, which is the first day the bride is in her new home.
  • In India, sangeet is hosted by the bride-to-be’s family, with the bridesmaids and a few close members of the groom’s family. The bride’s family traditionally plays the dholki and sings songs teasing the groom’s family. Nowadays, this is usually an event consisting of dinner and a DJ. Just before the wedding, the bride and her bridesmaids get henna designs done on their hands and feet.

Despite the perhaps un-feminist intention of bridal showers, the modern-day practice is truly beautiful. Nothing can replace a celebration hosted by a woman (or man)’s closest friends in preparation for one of the biggest days of her (or his) life.

Now, here comes mine.

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