"You go 'cause you have to": The bridal shower as a ritual of obligation

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17 Scopus citations


Getting married is one of the most celebrated and revered transitions in a woman's life. Therefore, many rituals and events exist to prepare a woman to become a wife. The bridal shower is one of those that is most steeped in tradition. It may be viewed as an event in which women friends and family members must participate. Women often attend bridal showers out of "duty." Interestingly, many women find them boring, socially awkward, or otherwise uncomfortable. In this article, I identify the primary stressors of bridal showers for the three major participants: brides-to-be, hostesses, and guests. Finally, I explore the persistence of this ritual, despite its apparent lack of appeal for participants. This study draws on interviews with fifty-one women who are recent brides or who have recently hosted or attended bridal showers, as well as participant observation at five bridal showers. I discuss the bridal shower as a ritual of obligation, one that is grounded in tradition and gives women the opportunity to express care and support for other women as members of a gender community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-92
Number of pages26
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Nursing
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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