Showers are the New Sweet Sixteens

When I was in high school, I had a Sweet Sixteen. I wore a bright blue and rainbow-striped sweater from Benetton with shoulder pads. The sweater was three sizes too big, and it swallowed its tighter, matching cousin, the sweater skirt. Who got invited to Sweet Sixteens was the stuff of Gossip Girl. Midway through my party (at the now-shuttered Brio in Highland Park), I sat front and center opening gifts, dolling out my best “oohs” and “ahhs” before 40 frenemies. I feigned excitement over a stuffed animal…

When I was in high school, I had a Sweet Sixteen. I wore a bright blue and rainbow-striped sweater from Benetton with shoulder pads. The sweater was three sizes too big, and it swallowed its tighter, matching cousin, the sweater skirt. Who got invited to Sweet Sixteens was the stuff of Gossip Girl. Midway through my party (at the now-shuttered Brio in Highland Park), I sat front and center opening gifts, dolling out my best “oohs” and “ahhs” before 40 frenemies. I feigned excitement over a stuffed animal.

Last weekend was my first bridal shower, which was similar to my Sweet Sixteen in 1990. Even some of the same people were there. But instead of a strawberry- and banana-filled cake from Deerfield Bakery, there were individual lemon, vanilla, and chocolate cakes from Sweet Mandy B’s on each of the tables at Brasserie Ruhlmann. I wore a strapless yellow dress and a lip-glossed perma-grin as I fell victim to the worst ritual known to women: publicly opening presents you picked out yourself.

The one saving grace, if you can call it that, is that I don’t remember what I picked out for my registration since, at the time, I was still in a fog from my knee operation. The surprised look on my face as I unveiled a chunky-knit throw from Crate and Barrel was actually genuine. Even for a control freak like me, the idea of telling your family and friends what to buy for you is so self-indulgent. Plus, why should I get showered with nice things? Isn’t getting married to the man I love my real fortune?

Some brides-to-be (and even some grooms) love getting showered with gifts and have figured out a system. “We registered for gifts at certain price points for showers and for wedding presents,” one female friend explained. Translation: Your guests will spend less on the gifts they buy for showers versus the gifts they buy for your wedding. (She suggested giving them appropriate shower options such as picture frames.) Then she dropped this bomb on me: “We returned about 50 percent of our gifts and purchased furniture.” Furniture?! The Fiancé and I hadn’t even thought of furniture when registering for spatulas and cutting boards—four cutting boards, to be exact.

“Do you really think you’ll ever use a garlic press?” my best friend and MOH, Jamie, asked the other day. “Do you even know how to use a garlic press?” The fact that I do isn’t the point; even she realized I didn’t have a clue when I set out to register a few months back. I’ve been adept at figuring out the big-picture stuff. Venue: No problem. Flowers: We went with the first florist we met. Music: The tunes are in the bag. But registering? I found the whole process painstaking and unnecessary.

“At the end of the day, the only thing I did wrong was get involved,” my brother said about his own registration ordeal. “Men just don’t care about plates.” Hey, I didn’t either, until I found myself mixing and matching everyday dinnerware among the racks at Material Possessions. What do men care about? Money. A girlfriend admitted that when she got married about five years ago, her husband wasn’t shy about the things he wanted as gifts. “We’re registered at Bank of America,” he’d tell anyone who asked. The funny part is he wasn’t kidding.

As for me, I’d rather stick with a garlic press. Unlike my Sweet Sixteen, I actually like the stuff I got—even the stuff I don’t remember picking out.

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