Family Bridal Showers

Since waiting for marriage went out of fashion, the premaritally sexually active majority has often misunderstood those of us who still cling to this ideal, assuming that we must be prudish, naïve, guilt-ridden and even frightened of sexual relations. Clearly, those who make such assumptions have never attended a wedding shower with my big Mormon family.  At a wedding, we celebrate true love, commitment, the beginning of a family and the achievement of a spiritual milestone.  At a wedding shower, we celebrate sex.

But not just any sex—a grand sexual event: the very first sexual opportunity for two people whose obvious sexual tension amuses or grosses out all who surround them. For many Mormons, this first sexual experience is not wasted in the backseat of a car with a pimply teenage partner; it actually does take place in a honeymoon suite between two people who have committed to love to each other for eternity.  How romantic! Not to mention sexy!

lingerieAt the bridal shower, we come bearing gifts to enhance this much anticipated rendezvous.  From the time I was very young, I would help my mom shop for the ideal offering for my one of my older, engaged cousins. Lingerie was a frequent gift choice. Of course, even as a child, I was familiar with the none-too-sexy Mormon undergarment that grown-up Mormons were expected to wear even while sleeping.  But in my Mormon family at least, the idea that someone would wear that churchy stuff for honeymoon foreplay was laughable. Sometimes, we would bring two negligee offerings, though: something sheer and skimpy for “fun” and something that was still attractive, but opaque and much less skimpy for “actually sleeping” (and covering up that ugly religious underwear, we would silently add).

My favorite gift was the “bath kit for two.” I helped my mom build several of these during my childhood.  We filled them with scented soaps, lotions, bubble bath, massage oil, bath salts, candles, wine glasses and a bottle of sparkling cider.  (A Mormon doesn’t need alcohol to get in the mood.)

Of course, the assumption that the bride and groom were preparing for their first sexual encounter was not always correct. I remember one shower in particular when the youngest attendee boldly asked the bride, “Are you pregnant?” and I nearly choked on my hors d’oeuvres. This particular bride, I happened to know, actually was pregnant, but it wasn’t common knowledge yet.  What would she say?  How would her Mormon guests react?

The bride did not lose composure. “Yes, I am,” she said simply and went on to open the next gift.

The child’s mother was mortified. “Why would you ask her that?” she demanded of her daughter.

“Because they gave her kids’ toys,” the child responded innocently, gesturing toward the pile of open gifts. Sure enough, there were pink toy handcuffs and a doctor kit.

“That’s not what they’re for!” exclaimed the mother before covering her mouth to prevent herself from explaining the actual intended purpose of the gifts. Everyone laughed and the celebration continued.

A family wedding shower can be quite the educational experience for a curious youngster, as the conversation often turns to PG-13 rated stories about sex. My own mother had one of the best honeymoon stories. On her wedding night, she went into the bathroom to change into her negligee.  Nervous about damaging the mood, she turned on the water to muffle the sounds of her nighttime routine. It didn’t occur to her to verify that the sink was unplugged. Soon the bathroom flooded. She screamed for her new husband to come help her. It was only after he did that she realized that she was completely naked.  My dad didn’t mind.

Of course, PG-13 fare was not always adequate to convey the message.  Once, one of my older cousins received a gift that baffled her a bit. “Um, what is this for?” she asked. Little me leaned in to hear the answer.  Noticing my interest, my aunt whispered an explanation too quietly for me to hear.

I have heard the theory that a couple cannot know if they will be sexually compatible if they don’t have sex before marriage.  The idea that a couple can predict their sexual compatibility two years, ten years, or a few decades into the future based on the earliest sexual experiences of their relationship, at the time period when they are likely to be the most horny (and/or awkward) seems naïve to me. Long before I met my husband, I knew from these bridal shower chats that libido and compatibility were fluid.  I expected my sexual compatibility with my future husband to change with our experience, our biology, our circumstances and perhaps most importantly, our relationship with each other.  When it came time for my own bridal shower, I was ready.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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8 Responses

  1. HokieKate says:

    Thank you for this perspective. I attended a ward bridal shower last week for a bride that is about 20 years old. At 27, I was the next youngest adult attendee. However, the maid of honor is the bride’s 14 year old sister, the host has a 13 year old daughter, and other guests brought their daughters, so there ended up being quite a few 12-14 year old girls there. At the time I thought the girls were too young to be there, but I can see from your writing that including them could be beneficial.

    The gifts were boringly tame. All the other guests brought kitchenware. I brought a bath set, two pairs of panties, and basic KY jelly. At least that made the bride blush. 🙂

  2. BethSmash says:

    I remember at one Bridal Shower I was at, the bride got a cute little negligee. After the party, we were helping cleaning up and the groom came by to pick up his fiance and she was showing him all the presents. She was showing him the negligee and he picked it up, tossed it on the floor and said, “Looks great.” Which made everyone giggle and the bride blush. Super fun memory.

  3. heather says:

    April this was just a treat to read. I love how open your family is about the sexual aspect of marriage. I find it tough in the Church to deal with the “sex is vile and disgusting–save it for the one you love” mentality. We need more openness about how sex can be such a great part of a healthy relationship. My husband’s family (mostly lapsed Mormons) threw a bridal shower for the fiancee of one of the active brothers and made it so over the top sexual, partly to be funny, partly to shock what they saw as Mormon up-tightness. The cake was decorated with a couple midst coitus and the bride to be was given lots of kinky toys. Unfortunately the bride to be’s mother was there and was NOT amused which made my cringe and giggle all at once. Welcome to the family.

  4. Em says:

    For my sister-in-law my mom and I put together a superhero outfit. We bought blue panties and a red bra and I made wrist and head ornaments. My mom made her a red cape out of polar fleece (it is cold here, and undies can be insufficient!) It was awesome.

    I had a shower with my mother-in-law and I knew none of the guests. She has no daughters so she wanted to seize the opportunity, but they were all women from her ward. I was slightly acquainted with one guest my age who was a good friend of my husband’s. All the ladies gave me kitchen ware, except the one my age who got me a negligee and a doctor’s kit. My mother-in-law was mortified. Now I am close friends with this girl, and I keep the doctor’s kit in my toy box for when kids come over.

  5. Libby says:

    How FUN! April, I am now convinced that I’ll need to take my daughters to bridal showers when they get just a wee bit older.

  6. Emily U says:

    I loved this, April. I wish my family had wedding showers like yours!

  7. Rachel says:

    My in-laws threw me a shower, and the sexiest gift involved two sleeping bags that zipped to each other.

  8. deb says:

    Love this–and I agree, it is a celebration of sex to come. Around here, most bridal showers are pretty sexy, I must say, but in a fun way. My favorite gift has to be this one: three matching boxes, neatly wrapped. They are labeled “Open 1st—what the bride’s father wants her to wear on her wedding night, ” Open 2nd–what the bride wants to wear on her wedding night,” and “Open 3rd—what the groom wants her to wear on her wedding night.” The first has a flannel nighgown, not sexy at all. The second box contains a flirty negligee. The third box contains… nail polish, taped to the box so it doesn’t rattle around. Hilarious, every time!

    The worst shower I attended was for the fiancee of a friend’s son. She was visiting the family for the first time, and they threw a surprise lingerie shower! The invitations, mailed weeks earlier, even listed her measurements. The poor bride walked into a room full of 35 people she had never seen, all bearing gifts of unmentionables, and she was told to GUESS who gave her which gift! Some sexy showers can be a fun safe way to tease the bride…this was cruel. Fortunately, my gift was chosen first, and I took the chance to identify myself so she would not have to guess. “Just want to say, even though I have four grandchildren, I’m really not old enough to be in those stores, so I kinda grabbed the first one I saw. Hope you like it!” The laughter broke the ice, and she shot me a look of pure gratitude.

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