What I Wish for a Bride

Mary Dell writes: Fashion is mercurial. Gender relations are trending topics. Yes, despite waves of social change, bridal showers remain sweetly traditional. Handed down from one generation to the next, from mother to daughter, the recipe is one we take turns following as honoree, guest or host – roles that change as we age.

wedding cake

Wedding Shower Recipe

1. Begin with one woman wearing a sparkling ring

2. Fold in her friends (FOB) and her mother’s friends (FOM)

3. Add a light ladies luncheon

4. Sprinkle in presents from the registry

5. Whip up the oohs and ahhs of the guests as each gift is unwrapped

6. Bake in the admiring, maternal smiles of the mom guests and the giddy excitement of the younger women.

When my friends began to marry shortly after graduating from college, I attended more showers than I have fingers to count. Upon arriving at the home of the host, I began to feel a sense of unease bubbling up inside me. Effusive greetings, Hello, hi, come in how ARE you?  sounded like a siren song Join us at home, join us at home, it’s all about matrimony and motherhood.

Was I overly sensitive? Definitely.  Did I breathe a word of this to anyone? Definitely not.

Walking into their beautiful homes, I feared that the open arms of my mother’s generation might clutch too tightly and sweep me into the roles that they stepped into as post-WWII brides. Many married young, had babies shortly thereafter, and few had careers, at least in the way I defined a capital C-career.


While in high school in the seventies I had looked out the windows of my small world and saw women speaking up and asking for the chance to study or work or have lives that varied from the traditional model. (I explain to my teenage daughter, more often than she would like, that her vast opportunities were not always the case. “Mom, I get it.”)

When it was my time to be the bride, I felt ……ambivalence.  I just hope that the very kind and generous friends of my own sweet mother who hosted my bridal shower didn’t see all the way through to my reluctant core.


It may have taken a quarter century for me to realize, but I now understand why we, the older generation of women, are giddy when a young woman decides to marry.  By sharing our wedding customs, we are not trying to indoctrinate her into becoming a certain type of woman or living a certain type of life. Instead, we celebrate her decision to embrace a partner who she loves. We cheer her happiness and hope that this young couple will have good health and good fortune for many years to come – words that can easily be found on any Hallmark card but, despite their overuse, happen to be true.


Do we presume to dictate answers to these questions: Have children? Pursue a career? Be a stay at home mom? Both? Neither? Absolutely not. We know that she, and her spouse, will face dilemmas for which the answers will be far from easy. We stared those same questions in the face and, without blinking, made up our minds and lived with the consequences.

My secret wish for each new bride is this – that she rely on her good judgement as she approaches all the thrilling, scary and wonderful decisions that lie ahead. In discovering the answers and living the life that results, she will create her own unique future.

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