Last weekend I finished a top for my cousin Jenny. She is getting married next December and I thought I would make her a lap quilt. Actually I made her two--because what else do I have to do these days?
A Christmas themed lap quilt all ready to go. I got the pattern off of one of Missouri Star's tutorials.
This one I made after consulting Jenny's Mom who said Jenny liked neutrals. The color choices threw me for a while but I settled on this pattern and batik fabrics. The pattern is called "Ebb and Flow" and was free on a fabric company's website many years ago.
While I was sewing this I thought about wedding showers. And then because I'm always curious, I researched it a little. Where and when did showers become popular? Well one site said that in 16th century Holland the tradition began when a father objected to his daughter's choice of partner. Her friends and sympathetic family gave her gifts so she would have a dowry. Their gestures softened the heart of the Dad who finally agreed to the marriage.
I couldn't find many articles on late 19th century wedding showers. Most of the articles were about a different kind of wedding shower, the throwing of rice on the bride and groom. One 1898 article quoted a doctor who said he hated the tradition because he had two recently married patients who had gotten rice lodged in their ears and required surgery. That particular story didn't surprise me.
When I was a little girl, I read a biography of Juliette Low, founder of the American Girl Scouts. Most people don't realize that she was deaf. One ear was inflammed when she was in her late teens and the other was impaired when--you guessed it--a kernel of rice got lodged in her ear at her wedding.
But back to wedding showers as we know them...
Wedding showers as we know them became more popular in the late Victorian era and especially the early 20th century. The gifts given to the bride were more modest. One newspaper article in 1909 described it: "The shower gifts were arranged in a prettily decorated parasol and showered on the bride-elect. Games and music were enjoyed by the guest, after which a supper was served." Yes, they literally showered the bride's head with gifts dropped over her head. Obviously, silver tea sets, cutlery, and dishes were not gifted.
In 1903, one article suggested that showers could be theme related. There was a "library table outfit" which I think would suggest things book themed or writing themed. The article said not to follow this trend if the bride-to-be was not literary.
One event was a "hairpin shower" which included hairpins of all sizes and shapes.
"Magazine showers" provided the woman with subscriptions to various women/household magazines.
Early 20th century articles tell an interesting story about the slow rise in popularity of these parties. One newspaper wrote in 1901: "What surprises us most is why the 'Wedding Shower' fad hasn't struck this town."
In a Montana newspaper, the writer of The Housemothers Exchange expressed ignorance about showers in 1909. A reader responded and said "our mothers never heard of it." The reader went on to say that the first one she learned about was in 1900. This reader wrote that themes included handkerchiefs, fruit (as in canned goods and jellies), kitchen, or linens.
Some showers were elaborate and by the 1912, more affluent families were gifting china and silver. The majority of the articles I read suggested more humble gifts were given and usually placed in a parasol or basket.
One theme that surprised me was the sewing themed shower.
The friends "fitted up for her (the bride) a complete sewing outfit, thimble, scissors, wax, sewing apron, needle book, emery bag and a score of things in which the heart of every housewife delights, but which she seldom provides for herself." I was suprised by this because I had assumed that most women had a sewing box already when they married.
Which brings me to my idea for Jenny's bridal shower. I'm going to get her a nice sewing box and fill it with all the things she never desired but someday she or her husband may need: needles, thread, cloth measuring tape, safety pins, pin cushion and straight pins, scissors, and seam ripper. Can you think of anything else I should include?
Beth and I keep a list of sewing related things long forgotten but that we should bring back. We both agreed that a little sewing kit for brides and grooms is a perfect small gift. The kids may not sew or think much about it--until they need to replace a button or repair a seam.
Well there you have it. More information on wedding showers than you would ever expect to need.
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Have a safe and happy day!