Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A British bride's guide to an American bridal shower (now with added surprise element)

I was over in PA spending a week with Mr and his family for the last time we'd see each other before the wedding, and the last time I might be allowed in the US for a while (though hopefully I can visit when my visa is pending, after marriage). While I was there I read a blog post on the private Offbeat Bride ning entitled "a British bride's guide to an American bridal shower". I have to laugh now about the moment I read it because I didn't realise at the time that it'd be a guide I'd be using at all. I had only read it out of interest because the author is a fellow transatlantic immigrating bride, emigrating from England and immigrating to NY in a kind-of-the-same-but-different-situation to me.

On Saturday Mr and I went to play crazy golf (I won both games) and eat hot dogs and ice cream. It was very windy out on the crazy golf course, so I wore Mr's hoodie, and my hair went crazy golf windswept wild. When we got back to his place and entered through the garage door I heard "surprise!" and saw a room full of people taking photos of me that look like this:

Mr's mom and sister had arranged it all, a bridal shower just for me, and in the few hours we'd been out of the house they'd decorated and made a fab spread of food and a bowl of punch served in the in-laws' 1930s punch bowl.

They invited the aunts and uncles, including two who'd driven up from DC with their pooch just to spend a few hours at the party before driving back home again. I don't have any friends in PA (yet), but it was a lovely family affair nonetheless. I was handed a glass of punch (against the traditional I'd heard that bridal showers are dry affairs) and told to sit down and open gifts.

As a reserved British girl thrown into a loud Anglo-Saxon-American Bridal Shower environment, I happily did as I was bid. I remembered what the other blog post had said about it feeling a bit strange being the centre of attention and opening gifts, but Mr's sis was great at keeping things moving and handing me gifts. Traditionally bridal showers are slightly matriarchal events, held by women of the family exclusively for the bride to receive housewifely gifts to ensure she's well set up for becoming head of her household's domestic affairs. My Mr was there the whole time though, which I liked. It made it our shower - so when I opened the cereal bowls I could joke that these were for him to make me cereal every morning like he used to when we were at grad school. Later when I opened coffee mugs I told the story about how he made me cereal and coffee every morning, but one day threatened to stop making me coffee because I never drank it, and I had to admit that I don't like it black but was too shy to ask for milk.

This is me with our new slow cooker, asking with desperate perplexity "but what is four and a half quarts? what is a quart? I'm British, I don't understaaand" to which everyone laughed, but couldn't give me an answer in metric. Oh, the adventures I shall I have in Fahrenheit.

Lovely gin and tonic glasses from my sister-in-law-to-be. she got them while antiquing in Georgia.

I was the only Brit in the room, but for the rest of the family a bridal shower is a normal occasion, so I felt quite relaxed, even as my sister-in-law-to-be started putting together my 'bridal shower hat' (a phrase I must admit I googled afterwards to see if it really was a 'thing' and was relieved to see equally daft pictures of blushing brides in bow bonnets).

Then Mr and I cut a St.Patrick's day themed cake and I gave the Americans poor travel advice for where to visit in the UK.

I was goofing around and stabbing the cake. The knife was Mr's parents' wedding cake knife, although they bought us our own for our wedding for a keepsake; Mr was delighted as it's something he had wanted (post wedding update: Mark forgot to bring the knife over to Scotland for the wedding, but I'm sure we'll use it one day!).

So there you go: Cross-cultural experiences are fun, and don't have be entirely traditional. Sure, the groom and the men of the family can join in - the groom might even don the brightly coloured 50s apron gift and run around outside with the pet bulldog. Matriarchal housewifey gifts can be shared and enjoyed by future husband too, especially when he loves baking. And isn't division of labour a sensible modern economic concept anyway? Check out this book on the matter!

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