Em013: I am going to give you the old-fashioned proper answer. You are going to hear a lot of different “wedding-etiquette” answers which have been made up in recent years to give other brides permission to break the rules they want to break, while still making them feel smugly that there are rules they are not breaking. What you need to know is that there is no such thing as “wedding-ettiquette”: just everyday good manners. What legitimately seem to be strange exotic “wedding etiquette” are just the formal end of everyday good manners with a few odd traditions thrown in — and it is perfectly proper to choose to lay tradition aside.<br /><br />So on to your specific questions:
Is it alright for your friend to host a shower for you? This one is a bit complex. It is never formally proper to hold a public event to raise money or goods for a friend. It would be treating the bride like a charity case. So showers have always been a little risque. But “risque” can be fun for releasing a bit of the tension and sharing a bit of the excitement of an impending wedding. The way around the impropriety, is that the shower is as follows:
a) Showers are never instigated by the bride herself nor by anyone related to the bride, nor do they participate in the planning. So this is really up to your friend to do the proper thing and not really something for you to worry about. Some wedding-etiquette websites will tell you that to be “proper” you ought to turn down the offer of a shower if you cannot follow the website’s rules. Turning down an invitation as guest-of-honour is a sharp snub to the hostess and can end friendships, especially if your reason for the snub is that some strangers on the internet wrongly disapprove of your friend’s manners.
b) The hostess should invite only your closest mutual friends: people who, to the hostess’s near certain knowledge, love you enought to actually want to give you gifts to start off your new life. This is the real rule about restricting the guest list, not “only people who are invited to the wedding”. In general, people who love you that much will be invited to the wedding. But if childless old Mrs Schneider your grade-two Sunday School teacher who has watched you grow up in church, didn’t make the cut for the wedding but still wants to give you half a dozen her mother’s crocheted doilies, how on earth could it be considered more proper to cut her out of the shower as well? There are exceptions to the only-if-invited rule. There are no exceptions to the only-those-who-love-you rule.
c) Since gifts at a shower are mandatory, expensive gifts would really make you look like a charity case and would embarrass you. The proper gifts to be given at a shower are the small expendable items of nominal value that are necessary for setting up a household — potato peelers, tea towels, spices, tack hammer or plumber’s helper — that sort of thing. For that, it helps if you actually have a household to set up. If you are one of the 65% of brides who are already living together with your groom, you need to think about how your life will change in your new role: will you be moving to a new place? Settling into a different routine of meals and cooking or hospitality? Talk about these future plans with your best friends so they can choose appropriate gifts to fill in the blanks. Obviously things like money showers or honeymoon showers do not fit into that category — but a lingerie shower might if …that… is the only thing changing in your life.
Second, do you register for “gifts” for either your shower or your reception? <restrained shudder.> Registering for “gifts”, or any other discussion of “gifts” is materialistic and entitled. Registries — household registries, china-and-silver registries, and so on — are perfectly proper. I have one myself despite never having been married. A lady who aspires to run a gracious hospitable household needs to equip that household with certain heirloom-quality goods. No-one can acquire those things all at once. During the twentieth century it was normal for girls in the middle class to “register their patterns” in their early teens or late pre-teens; choosing china, silver and crystal under the guidance of some older female relative, and then slowly fill their dower chest with place-settings and 800-thread linen sheets over the birthdays and Christmasses between that ritual-of-passing and the setting up of their own household.<br /><br />So by all means register. Register for yourself: as a way of planning and organizing how to equip the kind of household you wish to run for the next fifty or sixty years. Register for the high-quality items that do not need to be replaced: that will outlast your marriage and be passed down to the next generation. And then over the next fifty or sixty years keep that registry active by buying a mug or a salt-and-pepper set off it every six months or so until you have acquired your full household equipage.
If you find yourself asking “but how will my guests know about my registry” go shake your head and examine your value system for materialism. It’s your guests’ business to figure out what gift to give you, if they choose to give you a gift at all. There is no connection between invitations to a party — even a party that is being called a “reception” — and gift-giving. People will give you wedding gifts because they are happy for you, whether they are invited to your wedding or not; and people who don’t want to give you gifts are perfectly entitled not to. But your mother will know where your registry is, and there is a long tradition of wedding guests asking the bride’s mother for information of that sort. And nowadays Google and the internet perform backup to the bride’s mother on that subject. Guests who want to find your registry will find it on their own.