The History Of Drinking At Bridal Showers

Bridal Shower

Bridal showers and drinking go together like bridesmaid dresses and random enthusiasm for fuchsia. Which is to say, they coincide, not necessarily in a healthy way.

Those of us “showering” the bride—giving basic kitchen equipment and towel sets to someone who already has her romantic life in (temporary) order—tend to be the ones drinking the most. More than the bride to be, anyway, since her job is mostly to wear pastel, giggle sweetly at the obligatory fulfillment of a meticulous registry, and show off the many sparkly facets of “the ring.” (“Oh, but did you see it in natural light?”)

But where (oh where) did this dreaded exercise in passive aggressive romantic show-and-tell come from? And how integral is drinking in the context of it all? (Beyond the basic fact of maintaining a hard line of tipsy sarcasm.) Bridal showers actually originated fairly recently—closer to the turn of the 20th Century, which is convenient since that’s around the time De Beers took over the diamond trade in South Africa and (a few decades later) invented the “must-have” diamond engagement ring. Corruption, outsize expectation, and three months’ worth of salary later, it’s just a repetition of a shiny, shiny rock on an anxious finger.

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Where were we? Oh yeah. Bridal showers, and drinking. There are references to the term “bruydale” in the 14th Century Piers Plowman saga, supposedly referring to the beer a bride would brew for her wedding day. Not that this was open bar—girlfriend sold it to her guests, presumably to supply her household the same way a person might by registering on Amazon. (And yes, if that’s true, weddings definitely sucked back in the day.) Other sources suggest the term “ale” doesn’t indicate beer but the wedding feast itself. Which would make the beer-brewing-bride a fanciful, but unlikely, story.

The “showering” concept has a couple of potential explanations. In one, tracing back to Victorian England, gifts were actually put “inside a parasol,” which, when opened, literally showered the bride with gifts. (Here’s hoping she didn’t ask for an iron.) The origin of the concept itself is tied to the dowry, or lack thereof, really. If a lady didn’t have enough cows, or orchard acres, or whatever it is people used to require to “sell” a woman to her potential mate, the bridal shower would presumably make up for that lack. Also, if her dad refused the dowry, because his baby girl was marrying a good for nothing so and so, the bridal shower would again make up for his stinginess.

Whether we’re actually dumping gifts on our friend or just clapping for three hours as he or she feigns surprise at receiving the demanded contents of a now restaurant-quality kitchen, the bridal shower has basically remained conceptually the same for many years: prepping someone for their awesome, if statistically doomed, married life by providing everything two united incomes for some reason can’t afford. If there’s any explanation for the custom of drinking at a bridal shower, that’s gotta be it.

With that in mind, a few cocktails to keep the non-betrothed pleasantly tipsy through all the toasts.

The Mimosa courtesy of


No easier way to justify daytime Champagne consumption than chucking some OJ in there. Also no easier way to get through two and a half hours of quiche and “concerned” discussion about your love life. “I’m freaky on purpose, grandma.”

The Ciao Bella Fizz courtesy of

Ciao Bella

Yeah, Champagne shows up a lot at bridal showers. Something about the bubbles as a metaphor for happiness. Or it’s just easy to drink. Add some blood orange Ciao Bella sorbet, and you’ve got yourself a drink to knock back as your old college roommate talks about the many lovable complexities of Devin.

The Blushing Bride Cocktail courtesy of

Blushing Bride

OK, more Champagne, but then again, the harder stuff tends to belong at a bachelor/bachelorette party, and/or the many sexless years that follow the wedding. This one goes all-in “girlie,” shamelessly pandering to ladies with peach schnapps, grenadine, and a bunch of Champagne. Will go down easier than the third telling of how they first met. “We saw each other at different Starbucks, across the street from each other.”