Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Showers and Manners

Looking at the very first invitation I have ever received to attend a Baby Shower got me thinking. How many different customs there are here, compared with when I was growing up in Ireland.

Some are similar, but with different names and very different rules of engagement. As a foreigner, in this country for the first time, one of the things I found the most difficult is to know what questions to ask. And who to ask.

There are customs and traditions that people grow up with and take for granted, and Americans have a habit of assuming that the way they do things is the only 'right' way, that everyone else does it that way, or they are wrong. In fact, many customs vary considerably from Northern States, Mid West and Southern States.

A big advantage we in Ireland have over most Americans is that we received constant US culture education from movies and TV shows imported from America. So, I knew about baby showers, but wasn't sure how much of what I had learned about them from the movies was Hollywood fantasy and what was fact. After all, the few movies portraying Irish culture, such as The Quiet Man could not be relied on as a true depiction of life in Ireland.

Certainly more people in Ireland are having Baby and Bridal showers, no doubt they see the advantages. Showers are hosted by someone other than the expectant mother or bride, therefore there is a lot to gain and no expenditure involved, at least not for the star of the shower.

So, what do you do when you get an invitation to a Baby Shower? the invitation says RSVP, and I do know what that means, "répondez s'il vous plaît" or 'Please reply'. I know so many people, on both sides of the Atlantic, who totally ignore the RSVP request, and turn up anyway.

Anyway, back to the Baby Shower. I did RSVP, next question is - do you have to bring something? Oh, I know you have to bring a present  - I know that is the whole point of a Baby Shower - but should I bring some food? I ask a few people, I am still uncomfortable because arriving with one arm longer than the other is a big no-no in Ireland.  (See my blog post here dealing with that subject). Then there are the silly games - do people really do that? apparently so. Why I wonder? I am guessing it is intended to encourage interaction between a room full of strangers.

The other shower, the Bridal Shower, is also something that didn't happen in Ireland. I have never been to one of those either but I was told that it is intended to be your opportunity to hand over your wedding gift to the bride. If you don't go to the shower your are not expected to give a gift, if you do go to the shower you had better bring a gift and hopefully it will one from the brides registry, so something she actually wants.

However, doing some research I discover that my information is not correct according to acceptable etiquette in the US - here is where I discovered this piece of information:
“If you attend a shower, you should give a gift,” Post says. “If you don’t go, you don’t have to.” However, showers and the wedding ceremony are separate, and if you attend and give a gift at a shower, it doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility to give a gift for the wedding itself.
We do have gift registries in Ireland, but without the shower, the usual process is to select and pay for something from the registry list and the store does the rest, gift wrapping (which you pay for also) and delivery to the bride. It is also acceptable to send or present the gift yourself, and it used to be that you had up to one year after the wedding to still be within the rules of etiquette. Apparently that has now reduced to 3 months, perhaps due to the much shorter life expectancy of some marriages, sending a wedding gift after the divorce is probably not advisable.


Traditions that are very similar both in Europe and in the US are the Bachelor party and the Bachelorette party, except that in the Ireland, and in Great Britain, these are called respectively Stag and Hen parties. Which doesn't make sense to me, either they should be Stag and Doe, or Rooster and Hen.




I do accept that the rules differ vastly from country to country and not just continent to continent, and, since I came to the US, I frequently get teased about my 'manners' as though they are something like nail biting that I should try to break.