More on Shower Giving

Sandi Boswell has another good piece (it is in response to a comment, so look below her article) on the why’s and why not’s of shower giving. The thing I always appreciate about Sandi is her gracious way of tackling thorny issues. She knows there is always a deeper right than being right. (There is a rude way of correcting someone’s rudeness.) So if our friends and relatives are falling short on some of the rules of etiquette, whether it is on this topic or on others, we are not to look down our noses at them, but attribute the best of motives.  Love covers it. And love is the thing we are striving for in all our applications of etiquette.

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12 thoughts on “More on Shower Giving

  1. Ever since I first became aware of the proscription on family-given showers (many years ago, via Miss Manners) I’ve become sensitive to the “self-serving” nature of this. I agree with Sandra that most people simply don’t think of it this way, and think they are doing a kind and socially proper thing, so I don’t judge them hardly for it. I also think that Sandra’s explanation would be met with incomprehension by many Americans nowadays — you mean it ISN’T the social circle’s responsibility to financially set up the new couple? The family is EXPECTED to take on the responsibility, if necessary? It’s like speaking Chinese to say this, for some people. In some regions and/or social classes, not only are showers given routinely by families, but they are big affairs in rented space with an unabashed flavor of fundraiser to them (silent auctions, raffles, and the works!) I’m not sure we can do much against this cultural trend, but as Christians those of us who are sensitive to this can at least provide a counter-example and a witness.

  2. I have to confess, even after reading both posts, I’m not sure I understand the necessity behind this proscription. In my social circles, a shower is assumed. We often encourage family members to throw the shower because when a shower is put on by someone who knows the mom or couple very well, it is often more personal and fun. They are the most excited about the coming event and so often create the best shower possible for that person. I don’t think it even occurs to anyone that they’re just doing it so their family member will receive presents. There will be a shower either way, so why not have it be personal and heartfelt? Usually, the showers put on by family members are more fun to attend because, knowing the couple/mom so well, they do unique and interesting things with the shower. I’ve been to some which were full-on dinner parties, special dessert buffets of the honorees’ favorite things, etc.

    From a “love your neighbor” standpoint, couldn’t you look at the issue from the opposite face and say that being offended by a shower is uncharitable as well? Shouldn’t we desire to give good gifts to one another and be grateful and pleased at being given the opportunity? I’m sure as Christians we wouldn’t want to look down on the possible “offender” either way, but I am curious about “best way” questions.

    Everyone will have their own take on the appropriateness of various situations, of course, so I’m happy to hear about how others view such things. I just find myself confused over this one and would love to hear your thoughts on another take on the matter. I’ve never heard before now that people consider it rude to throw your own family showers so I’m particularly intrigued by these posts.

    Thanks for always getting me thinking! :)

  3. I’m going to offer a different perspective, and see whether it can get shot down by all your thoughtful readers, Nancy. :-) This is coming from someone, do understand, that appreciates many of the “rules” of etiquette; but I also think there will be times where etiquette, like language, will itself undergo some shaping and molding. Sometimes a rule or a spelling or a word will be dropped or changed, and for the best of reasons. I’m leaving this comment over at Protocol Matters, too, and look forward to hearing Sandra’s response.

    Just two thoughts: Couldn’t we just as reasonably put a different construct on the thing, and say that a close family member throwing a shower is behaving sacrificially? In lovely Christian communities like our own, baby and wedding showers are basically a “given.” You aren’t going to get away with producing a baby and NOT have a shower! They just won’t let you. So–my view–if a family member takes on the necessary work and expense of throwing that shower, she is simply demonstrating her willingness to step up and shoulder part of a (pleasant) burden on behalf of a relation.

    The second thought is this: especially in this Christian context so many of us enjoy, why draw a distinction between those who are mine by blood and those who are mine in Christ? None of the directives we get from Scripture seem to tend in that direction, but rather toward the breaking down of all those walls of separation. I can see why it has been traditional to think of throwing a family shower as panhandling; what I can’t see is why we should perpetuate that point of view.

  4. Diane, just a quick thought on your second point — showers aren’t generally restricted to the church community, but usually include a wider circle. So in many, if not most, cases at least a portion of the people being “solicited” are the bride’s neither by blood nor in Christ.

    As for your first point, that is another consideration that has always enabled me to take a very charitable view of the practice. But I don’t think it outweighs the other, IMO.

  5. I agree with Claire. I don’t find the points on Sandi’s blog to be very convincing, and there are times when she seems to beg the question and use somewhat contrived arguments in an attempt to convince people that it’s sinful to do otherwise. And the fact that she says at the end “We mustn’t look down on them for their actions… We have all been adrift at times in various ways,” just makes me think of someone stating along the lines of “Some women wear jeans sometimes, but we mustn’t look down on them.” Well, of course you mustn’t look down on them, if it’s seriously debatable whether they are even doing anything wrong. And I don’t see that she’s proven that it IS wrong – only that she is offended by it. I’ve learned a lot from your writing, Nancy, about not binding another woman’s conscience on things indifferent (which women are prone to do)- and after reading Sandi’s post (as well as countless Miss Manners posts on the same thing, since this seems to be one of her favorite topics), I’m still not convinced that this isn’t more about how women interpret other women’s motives – which we also don’t tend to naturally do a good job of.

    Anyway, thanks for your writing! It’s been a great help and encouragement to me, even if I disagree with a point or two on some (very) rare occasion!

  6. I had been mulling over a response to this today and I certainly appreciate the points made by Claire. I’m aware that many Femina readers aren’t from here and so this may sound a bit foreign but yes, here in Moscow we attend baby showers almost weekly (and just recently twice in one morning with overlapping times) so our “culture” has changed a bit in response to the bountiful baby blessings we have. For example, I can think of three standard practices here at our church that would horrify Emily Post (and certainly many newcomers as well): we send out mass email invites, we regularly say “just bring cash and pop it in the provided envelope”, and we have “open house” showers so people can come and go as their schedule permits (even if they stay just 10 minutes). I think these practices are even worse breaches of etiquette (in fact, I have a hard time even writing them in a public forum without giving all the reasons why they have come about) and yet they are now fully ingrained in our church culture. So while I certainly love good etiquette (I would be a happy girl if I never again saw a bridal registry on a wedding invite), I have to say that when a gracious family member would like to spend their own time and money hosting the ladies of the church at their home in celebration of the newest member of their family, I have never thought of it has panhandling but as simply an event to celebrate–much like throwing a birthday party.

  7. Kelly,
    I already broke it to our readers back in April 2007 (you can find it in the From Me category) that our large church has had to establish some new traditions to facilitate the heavy load of celebrating we do! Thanks everyone for your comments. And though I think it’s great to discuss these things (else I wouldn’t write about them), the technicalities of shower giving are not on the top-ten list of issues facing the church. But, of course, love always is. Bekah and I were talking about this today, and she made what I thought was a good point: if parents throw the wedding (and everyone assumes a gift) and if family members throw birthday parties (and everyone assumes a gift), then why can’t family members throw a baby shower? So I thought I would pass that one on to Sandi to answer. We’ll have some inter-blog dialog! Meanwhile, see you at the next shower!

  8. This is news to me! In our church, family almost always hosts the wedding shower (unless the maid of honor is not family) or the baby shower. I am really surprised by this revelation. I have a very large family and only a handful of close acquaintances (we only invite close friends, because we are not just asking for gifts, rather we are enjoying a fun tradition). It seems much more rude to put the burden and expense of hosting a baby shower on one of the few non-family members. To avoid that rudeness, we could host a family only shower, but this seems even more rude to be excluding our close friends who expect to share this time with us.

    So, I believe the rules of kindness depend on the circumstances. Family not hosting a shower could be the thing that is rude or what causes hurt feelings in some circumstances.

    Thank you for posting this, Mrs. Wilson. It is a great conversation starter! I love hearing about all your baby showers. Here is a question:

    Do you have that many first-time moms in your church or do you celebrate all pregnancies?

    I would really like to hear more about what you do for baby showers. We could all use more celebration!

  9. Mrs. Wilson, I found your blog post from April 2007, so that answered my question. I find your celebration of every baby delightful!

    I would be very happy to know more about what you do for baby showers. We have quite a few pregnancies in our church, but this would be new for us.

    What does a shower look like for the third, fourth, etc child? Do you celebrate before the child is born or after? Do you also have Baptismal celebrations after the baby is baptized?

    Thank you for the inspiration :-)

  10. Melissa,
    Yes, the ladies in our congregation celebrate each baby, no matter what the number. But this is not a rule, and the church does not organize the showers. Someone just always pops up to host another shower. The baptismal celebrations vary for each family. Some have big events, others have smaller family celebrations. We do not have any church-wide baptismal parties, at least not any that I recollect right now.

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