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The Vine: March 5, 2014

Submitted by on March 5, 2014 – 12:31 PM40 Comments


I'm going to be a groomslady in my childhood friend D's wedding to M. I love M and am thrilled for them, so that's not the issue.

I got an invitation (from D's mom) to their surprise wedding shower. It was addressed to me, but not my husband C, so presumably he's not invited. Nothing unusual, right?

Except D will be at the shower. The invitation specifically says to bring a gift and advice for D. So unless D will be the only man there, to be henpecked by all the women in his and M's life (…feasible, knowing D's mom), it seems weird that C isn't invited. We've done a bunch of couple stuff with them; D was a bridesman in our wedding. It's not like he's a stranger.

If it was that simple, C and I would just shrug and roll with it. But there are a few not-the-couple's-problem complications.

C and I live in New York. D and M live outside Philadelphia, where my family lives. The shower is the weekend before Easter. I would be making that trip two weekends in a row, and I'd really hate to ask C to do that if he's not even invited (I don't drive).

Normally, I'd decline graciously and send a really generous gift, but as a member of the wedding party, I don't feel like I get to do that.

Do I ask D's mom what the deal is? Ask around mutual friends to see if other dudes were invited? Decline and treat them to dinner when I see them over the holidays? Resign myself to spending all freaking day on a train? Something else I haven't thought of?


Would have preferred the bachelor party

Dear Bach,

C isn't invited. I agree that that's a bit weird; I also agree that some moms will get as far as including the groom in a shower but then not think other dudes logically ought to come also. Either way, speculating as to why, or whether it's an oversight, or trying to engineer an invitation, is more work than this warrants. Skip that and get down to deciding whether you want to go given the transportation challenges.

That, I can't tell you. It depends how involved you feel, or you feel D feels, you are as a groomsperson. Would declining the invitation on scheduling-conflict grounds wound him, or would he understand? Or is it easier just to go, investing one weekend of hassle to save you guilt and/or having to stick to a story later?

I'd probably just go, but…I drive, and not that you asked me this, but if you don't have a physical challenge that prevents you from learning, give serious consideration to taking lessons and getting your license. Not before the shower or anything, but generally speaking, getting to subtract "but how will I get there if C can't take me" from your calculations about travel in the future will improve your life. I would love to hear recommendations for instructions in NYC, too, because Dirk wants to sign up for some, and Yelp is kind of unhelpful.

Anyway! I would just go. Chalk it up to the cost of doing wedding-party business, and load up the Kindle for a day of railroad goodness. I'd also sign off on your not going, because it is a long day of traveling for a subgenre of party that, in my opinion, has been actively fun or interesting maaaaaaybe seven times in the history of its existence. Either way, make the call, feel good about it, and don't expend any energy on the whys.

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  • Jenn says:

    Is it reasonable for you and C to both go to Philly, C does something else while you're at the shower, and then you do something together? Maybe make it a short overnight trip? Probably not that reasonable if you're going back the next weekend, but it's an option.

  • Georgia says:

    You say you live in New York and don't drive, so I assume you live in NYC? How is it an all day trip to Philly?

  • Maria says:

    Can you make one of the weekends a plane hop? IDK, I would lean towards just doing it. It doesn't matter to me how they want to have their party. It's too bad that they didn't think of the logistics for it being so close to Easter when people may have travel plans, but you're stuck with that. If you don't go, I'm sure it's fine. I would probably still send a gift out of caring. Hope this helps.

  • scout1222 says:

    The fact that we have a "groomslady" and that the groom will be at the shower tells me that we've got a lot of tradition-bending going on here. I think it's not unusual to then be confused about what the expectations are here.

    Am I being crazy (or rude) if, in your place I contacted her and said "given that the groom will be there at the shower, which is kind of unusual, I want to clarify whether other (male) spouses are anticipated." I am terrible at classical etiquette (which is why I need you all to tell me I'm rude) but I'm even worse at mind reading, which is what it feels like we're operating with here. I think you can frame the question in an "I don't care what the answer is either way, I'm just confused" way.

  • ferretrick says:

    I think if you want to prove your real worth and be the Best Groomslady Ever, you or C call D, and use C as an excuse to get D out of the shower-C will be left all alone, and wouldn't it be better for D and C to go out for boy time? ;)

    If you don't want to go that way (and I don't blame you), my feeling is that, you are standing up for the groom, not the bride, therefore attending the shower is not as big a deal. Not that you don't like the bride or anything like that, but I don't see where bridal events are as big a deal for you as the bridesmaids.

  • Lis says:

    I'm going to guess that you are invited because you're a lady and moms tend to get really confused about what a groomslady is or isn't supposed to be invited to what event… If you are worried about looking bad for not going I'd call up one of the other groomsmen and ask if THEY were invited to the shower, if no other groomspeople will be there you really have an easy out if you don't want to go.

    I've been a groomslady in several weddings and only went to the showers for the wives who I was close with, my Best Man came to my shower, but it was a co-ed shower which confused my grandmother so much. I've also been to showers where it's ladies only until the very end when the groom comes and they do some silly game so you may be looking at something like that. I've also skipped showers for my very best friends because they were 5+ hours away from where I live and I didn't have the ability to go that far in the allotted time off work I had. People who love you understand that sort of thing.

  • Nora says:

    I've seen grooms/fathers-to-be at otherwise all-female showers; it's weird, but it seems to be A Thing. Best just to ignore that part of it while you mull over whether to attend. As you say, it might be very awkward for you, as a member of the wedding party, not to show up (regardless of the effort involved in getting there), and you'll have to face all these people again at least once.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I am terrible at classical etiquette (which is why I need you all to tell me I'm rude) but I'm even worse at mind reading

    There really isn't any mind-reading involved here; whoever the invitation is addressed to is invited. Anyone to whom it is NOT addressed is not invited. Black-letter manners law.

    Not that there can't have been an oversight, but in the case of a shower thrown by the future MIL, I think we can safely assume she invited only the female half of the couple by design. Regardless, you have to take that information at face value and get on with your day.

  • Kerry says:

    Traveling from NYC to Philly by train is definitely an all-day affair. You have to get to Penn Station (and if you're in Brooklyn or Queens, that's a thing, especially on the weekend) and then NJ Transit runs to Trenton, I believe. Then another NJ Transit train to South Jersey, or SEPTA to the PA suburbs, depending on what "outside Philly" means.

    You could also look into a Bolt Bus, they run to Cherry Hill near the mall, if that helps.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    "How do these traditions get started? I'll tell you . . . I don't know." (freaky coincidence, Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof popped up in my playlist as I was reading this Vine question)

    A Surprise Wedding Shower? For the couple, right? You said "their wedding shower" so I'm assuming it's for the bride and the groom. So do you not bring a gift for the bride? That seems awkward.

    The weekend before a holiday where you've already made travel plans? Tough call–you're in the wedding party so there is something of the expectation that you'll be doing lots of stuff, but still, that seems a bit much.

    Being given by a relative? It's my understanding that bridal showers (and I would assume groomal/couple showers) are given by members of the wedding party, not relatives. But I'm old and my etiquette book is from 1929.

    Did no one give the bride a bridal shower? If not, it's sweet of the groom's mother to step in, but why a surprise and why for both?

    Purely from my point of view, I would be very embarrassed (nay, let's go with downright mortified) if I were a bride or groom in this situation, but I hate surprise parties.

    If you decide you're going, I think a call to the hostess is the way to go, just to clarify what type of event it is so you don't bring a risque gift when everyone else brings an Ace Hardware gift card. Oh, and if there should also be gifts for the bride.

  • Georgia says:

    @Kerry — I've done the route from Brooklyn to Philly. Guess I just have a different definition of "all day." But yeah, if this were a Friday or earlyish on a weekend day, that'd be a real pain.

  • Lore says:

    If you do it via Amtrak, it's quite a bit more expensive ($100+ versus $45) but also only about a 90-minute trip. I've done it in a day, without getting up at the crack of dawn, even. If you're also adding a trip to suburban Philly on SEPTA, obviously you're adding time, but it still seems more doable if you can swing the extra $50 or find a good Amtrak fare discount.

  • Sallie says:

    If the MIL is ignorant enough of etiquette to throw a shower for her own child, she may well be ignorant enough not to know how to address an invitation properly. If the groom is clearly attending the shower, I'd think other men would be there, too. I agree with Scout 1222. I would call and very politely, without expectation or pointed tone, ask whether it's a couples' shower. (Hell, if it's a surprise shower, she may not even know your husband's name and/or have access to the invite list.)

  • harasylime says:

    Chiming in to note that although the "groom at all female shower" idea is a weird and fairly new tradition, it is getting to be pretty common. I've seen it happen several times in the past few years.

    I wouldn't assume it is a "couples" shower. I think it is pretty likely that the groom will be the only man there and the groomslady is only invited because she is a lady.

    And, depending on how needy your bride and groom are, they might be more understanding than you think about your need to skip this particular event.

  • Liza says:

    FWIW my best friend had a wedding shower at which the groom was present, as were her and the groom's immediate family members, which included males. But…only the females in the bridal party, as well as the groomslady, were there, and no male friends that I can remember. I remember thinking it strange that the groom was involved in the bridal shower but have since realized they do basically everything together, so it probably made sense to them. So if you go, I would just go and not worry about your SO not being invited. People just do things in different ways.

  • Maria says:

    But if it's a surprise shower, one of the couple has to know about it in order to make sure that the guest of honor is there to be surprised. It may end up being a ladies' shower, as I've noted that sometimes the men drift away after greeting the guests even though they're invited. Also, who knows, maybe the advice for D that will be collected will just go into a box for delivery.

    While the etiquette rule is that the immediate family doesn't throw a shower, we all know that family members do it anyway. It really can be a lot to ask of somebody else financially (depending on how big of a party they are having), and especially for somebody who is already in the wedding party.

    But you know, it's perfectly acceptable to decline because you already had plans, and it may be that your plan is just not to make the same trip two weekends in a row.

    Only you can rank the inconvenience to obligation ratio here. Would love an update!

  • Also not a driver says:

    Are there other friends that are going that you can hitch a ride with or even taking the train/bus to them first and go together? This may actually take longer but you can use the time to catch up with old friends so it doesn't feel like you're spending all day to get to a 2 hour event. Even going home and spending part of the weekend with your family. I know you said that it's the week before Easter, but this might be some nice quiet time with the family before all the relatives descend or everyone is running around for the holiday. If you think of it as a hassle it will be. Not going is always an options, good friends would understand.

    Also as Kerry says look into bus options, you don't say where "outside" of philly you're going, but often there's a more direct bus route. check NJ transit, Greyhound, bolt, megabus, and many others. if cost is not a factor, amtrak to the philly could be significantly faster than the NJ transit to SEPTA combo.

  • Aimless says:

    Yes, I have to agree with Sallie. Recently we were invited to the wedding of a couple whose son has been best friends with my son since preschool over ten years ago(they were not able to marry legally in our state until this year). I hoped my kids would be invited but didn't expect it, especially since they stressed they were trying to keep the wedding small and costs down – and sure enough, the invitation arrived with only my name and my husband's.

    When we arrived at the wedding they both expressed disappointment that we didn't bring the kids (we were too, since at $15 per hour, with the wedding an hour away from home, the sitter cost me an arm and a leg). I always, as Sarah does, consider the "only the names on the invitation" rule pretty ironclad, but I also to realize that not everyone has read every worships at the feet of the great Miss Manners and has read all of her books from cover to cover multiple times as I have and maybe are honestly not aware of the traditions and rules.

    Just this once, I wish I would have politely inquired "just wanted to double check if the kids are included, either way is fine!" I think the same can be done very casually and easily in this case – just say "I wasn't sure, is this a ladies-only affair or is C included too?"

  • flora says:

    Seconding Lore–Amtrak to Philly isn't as cheap as NJ Transit, but it's very quick and very doable. Shouldn't take more than an afternoon, with time at the shower included.

  • IS says:

    From the passive-aggressive files: If the actual location of the shower is somewhere where that you can only get to by driving, (i.e. you can totally get to Philly itself by transit, but there's no transit to the shower venue) you can quite properly contact D's mom to ask about logistics. "I really want to come, but the thing is I don't drive. What's the best way for me to get from [train station] to [shower venue] without a car?" Then you can add "C drives, so we've got it sorted for the wedding itself."

    (Or, if it is accessible by transit, you could go with "I just want to confirm that these transit directions I google up make sense – I haven't lived there in so long and so many things have changed.")

    If they're somehow tacitly expecting C to come along to, they have the perfect opening to clarify, and you still come across as an enthusiastic, undemanding guest.

  • Reyn says:

    My MIL's best friend threw me a bridal shower in husband's hometown. Being that I had not meet her and wouldn't know about half the invited guests, I asked that my future husband also be there and it be a co-ed shower (oddly, I knew most of the husbands of the ladies attending, but not the ladies themselves due to tailgate parties). Wonderful husband gamely agreed and passed along this info. I thought it was all good, co-ed planned, etc. When we arrived, no men were there or invited.

    Point being, showers are weird and sometimes the groom is the only dude there. MILs can mean well and be very sweet but still be confused. I felt terrible for my husband, but actually he hadn't seen a lot of his mom's friends in years (and some couldn't make the wedding-all invited to shower did have wedding invites), so it turned out okay, though a bit awkward, in the end.

    All that said, I personally wouldn't go due to everything (weekend before Easter, difficult to get to due to being in another state, etc). Just because you're in the bridal party doesn't mean you are obligated to go to every single thing. Send your regrets (a gift if you want) and don't worry about it.

  • cayenne says:

    Sars, re your comment about Dirk & driving instruction: did you guys look at AAA? I think they offer driving instruction, and in some jurisdictions, you can get a discount on your car insurance if you take it from them.

  • Sarah says:

    I would only go if other groomspeople were invited and going, to be honest.

  • Jo says:

    Because you describe D as a "childhood friend," I assume you've known him a really long time and therefore she would know that you are married and know your husband's name. I would think in that situation, if C were invited, his name would be on the invitation.

  • Jack says:

    Is it possible the groom isn't ACTUALLY going to be there? That you're bringing a gift and writing a piece of advice for him that he'll be given later on, to include him in the shower process, but that the actual party is just for ladies?

  • MizShrew says:

    I agree with Jack; if the invite says to "bring advice for D" that doesn't necessarily mean D will be there. The advice could be handed to D later. Or, possibly, D will show up sometime during the event to receive his advice. I've been at a shower where the groom showed up late in the party to participate in a "how well does he know her" game? As others have said, it appears to be A Thing some people are doing.

    Anyway, I would not assume that C is invited if he's not listed on the invite. Probably not a huge deal if you want to call and double-check, especially given the driving situation, but might lead to more aggro than it's worth.

  • CMJ says:

    Have you asked your husband how he would feel about driving you? Being from Chicago, I plea ignorance, but how long is the drive from New York to Philly? A couple hours? Not convenient, I realize, but that also doesn't seem too awful, even if you have to do it two weekends in a row. I know that my husband would probably be happier driving me and just spending a few hours watching tv at my parents house while I was at the shower rather than actually having to attend the shower. Maybe not practical if your husband doesn't have that level of comfort with your family though.

  • Lis says:

    The convention of "only the name on the invitation is invited" thing is really starting to bug me. In the past year I've had maybe 7 invitations come with varying names, mine, my husband's both of our names my first name his last name etc. for various events from weddings and baby showers to kids birthday parties, each time it turned out both of us were invited and it drives me crazy. These are all people who are close friends or family and the only "properly addressed" invitations we received were for actual weddings and even then once we got an invite addressed to Husband but were told we were both invited but the person doing the invitation didn't know ho to spell my name… It seems like specifically for showers people are inviting the female and then maybe chainging their minds before the party and saying "oh, but it's co-ed so if your husband wants to come he's welcome" which is so annoying. Put his name on the freaking envelope then! I've got a wedding invite sitting in front of me right now which was addressed to my husband only but when the groom called my husband to get our address he specifically said "we can't wait to see you and Lis" so… am I invted? Is it just husband? I don't know?! It doesn't help that the RSVP isn't a card but a website so there's not even any way to know if he has a +1. Argh!

  • Allie says:

    Busses from NYC to PA are stupid-easy. I've done it and I have a fear of mass transit. My husband does the train from CT to home in NJ, and that stops in NYC and Philly as well. This is so do-able without a car. Good luck!

  • ferretrick says:

    @lis: Well, if you aren't invited, they'd be committing a different faux pas anyhow, because you don't invite only one half of a married couple. That's a bigger rule than the names on invitation. You don't have to give a +1 to single friends and it's a gray area how long standing an unmarried couple's relationship is before you must invite both of them. But you do not split a married couple, no way, no how. So, if they are clueless enough that they would think they COULD politely only invite your husband, they are probably clueless about the name on invitation thing also and you are safe to assume you are invited.

  • fastiller says:

    Re Dirk & driving instruction: I can't recommend Ferrari Driving School enough. My instructor (Edgar) was great – calm, pleasant, understandable. Their in Astoria so it might be a bit of a haul to get there. I know that they'll go as far as Ridgewood Queens (near the Brooklyn border) to pick up the student. I passed the test first time.

  • Andrea says:

    @lis: also consider that it may have been an error on the part of whoever addressed the invitations. When my husband and I were engaged, he received a wedding invitation addressed to him alone (at our home). Following the go by the names on the envelope rule, I told him to go ahead, and he responded that he was coming alone. He happened to talk to the groom the week before the wedding, and the groom said he was sorry that I couldn't make it. Turns out they had hired someone to do the invitations, and she inadvertently left my name off the envelope. Also want to echo other comments here that I don't think it's clear that the groom will be at this shower. Just because the invitation seeks advice for him, that doesn't mean he'll be there. Plus, lots of showers do the thing where the groom shows up at the end with the fathers of the bride and groom to say thanks and help cart off the gifts.

  • LizzieKath says:

    @Lis and others: I'm objectively horrified at all of these people who don't know the rule that you write the names of the people you want to invite on the invitation! When I got married I had the opposite problem: we were young, Dad's family is Irish Catholic so I have a million aunts/uncles/cousins/whatall, and even with a decent-sized wedding we couldn't hand out +1s all over town. So we made a no ring, no bring policy (excepting longer-term partners, which I considered a virtual ring, but then it doesn't stay short and catchy).

    And of course, we had people calling us even a week before the wedding asking to bring some person we had never met before. No, groomsman, as thrilled as we are that you starting dating someone two weeks ago, we don't have room to buy her dinner at this point while you spend no time with her because you're doing photos anyway.

    Clearly, we of the Nation need to start a PSA campaign on What Invitations Mean.

  • fastiller says:

    Stupid me: should've been "they're" not their. I do know this stuff.

  • Sophie Charlotte says:

    Brooklyn driving instructor: Left Turn! Valeriy and his son are both great — it's like being taught by Yoda, first of all, plus you get all his excellent stories from when he was a driving instructor in Moscow (there are some good ones). His son (name forgotten) taught me the geometry and physics of parking and lane changing, which was a huge comfort when I was so paralyzed with fear I couldn't even turn my head to look in the rear-view mirror. And I passed first time.

  • Nikki says:

    Why not take the train? It should take 2 hours max and won't put you out much, plus it puts the onus back on the couple / people in Philly to pick you up. If that's too much hassle or if they can't help you, you don't go. That's what I'd do. :)

  • JanBrady says:

    Ditto taking Amtrak from NYC to Philly! I actually find the trip quite pleasant–under two hours each way, just enough time to get in some good reading. I also don't see the big deal in just going by yourself, and if it turns out C WAS invited, oh well, your mistake (though not really–they should've made clearer), they'll see him at the wedding or the next event!

  • Emma says:

    Sars – nervous soon-to-be driver here who just wants to say thanks for the support. I'm paranoid about whether I'll be able to pick up the reflexes at my age (26), but if someone you found awesome enough to marry still doesn't have it down pat, I don't feel so alone :) .

  • Ben says:

    I'm kind of with Jack on this one. "Bring advice for…" doesn't equate to D being there in my head.

    And I find it dizzying that physically capable adults don't know how to drive. I live a few hours upstate of the city sure, but I find the thought of not being able to drive terrifying. So +1 for the "Treat yo'self" to some driving lessons. Granted I'm also confused by adults who can't swim.

  • Jennifer says:

    It took me 16 years to get driving down, Ben. I had absolutely terrifying, screaming, nitpicking instructors, both paid and parental, that traumatized the shit out of me. It can happen. If you don't have someone sane to teach you the ropes (and you can't learn to drive without hours and hours of someone teaching you), you get me. Sigh.

    Anyway, on the subject of invitations: I find it irritating as hell to have "oh, you could have brought X!" stuff said after it's too late, but I think it's probably even worse to invite X along and then find out X wasn't wanted/affordable/invited in the first place. Or to put the B&G in an uncomfortable spot by asking, which in some cases could be "the more the merrier" and in some other cases could be "oh dear god, awkward." Just by asking, you're pressuring the B&G or whoever into doing what you want when they might not have wanted you to. Which is why "names on the invite only" is the rule in the first place.

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