Wedding events are no longer just about the bride. At groom showers, men get gifts, advice and quality time with friends and family…
One of John Dixon’s favorite wedding presents doesn’t appear on most gift registries.
In fact, before he got married last fall, Dixon, 34, had only a vague idea that laser levels–tools used for hanging pictures–existed.
Luckily, a family friend who has been married for 40 years brought the level to Dixon’s “groom shower,” where 15 men played poker, grilled hot dogs and presented Dixon with gifts they suspected he’d need as a husband.
Sure enough, Dixon has used the level four times since the wedding. “Suddenly my wife wants me to hang pictures,” he said, adding that the shower was a unique opportunity for friends and family to give not only presents, but marriage advice.
Bridal showers have long been popular for women, but in recent years groom showers, often with sports or home-improvement themes, have become increasingly common. Experts say the trend is part of a broader tendency for grooms to become more involved in wedding planning than in years past, when such details were largely the domain of the bride and her mother.
“The wedding has always been about the bride,” said Dixon, an elementary school physical education teacher in Happy Valley, Ore. “It’s cool to have a piece of the wedding that’s kind of the guys’ chance to get together.”
The popularity of groom showers is rooted in the fact that couples these days are more likely to plan and pay for their weddings, said Christa Vagnozzi, a senior editor at the wedding Web site The Knot.
“Couples are more involved in the process now,” Vagnozzi said.
Aaron Markson, 27, of Hudson, Wis., picked out the photographer and band for his nuptials last June. “It used to be that the girl made all the decisions, and the guy nodded his head,” Markson said. “For our wedding, it was much more collaborative.”
This newfound enthusiasm has extended to pre-wedding festivities, prompting a rash of showers for couples and, increasingly, the grooms.
“My wife was having all these showers, and I thought, ‘Why don’t the guys get to do anything?’” said Markson, whose parents threw him a shower at their house in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Groom showers are an outgrowth of the “gentleman’s dinners” popular in the 1940s and ’50s, according to Bruce Vassar, one of the “Wedding Guys” who answer questions on the Web site TwinCityBridal.com. Usually hosted by the groom’s father, such dinners functioned as “a dad’s sendoff to his son, to manhood and being married,” Vassar said.
Over time, gentleman’s dinners were largely replaced by wild bachelor parties, Vassar said. But in the past few years, more sedate sendoffs have resurfaced. Resembling “a much more tame version of a bachelor party,” groom showers often consist of casual parties, trips to the racetrack or rounds of golf, Vassar said.
Bachelor parties are still popular, but groom showers, or “power showers,” function as an additional pre-wedding celebration for the groom’s friends and family, he noted.
At Markson’s bachelor party, for example, a few close male friends went jet skiing on Lake Minnetonka and barhopping in downtown Minneapolis; his groom shower a few weeks later drew a very different crowd. At the shower, some 50 guests, including his mother, grandparents, uncles and co-workers, traded stories about Markson while scarfing down his favorite foods: chicken wings and pizza with sausage and green olives.
“It was just a bunch of people coming together and hanging out,” said Wes Wilmer, a pastor at the church where Markson is the music director. “It expands who’s involved in their wedding at a deeper and more personal level than just the reception.”
Groom showers aren’t just for socializing. They also provide opportunities for the groom-to-be to stockpile “stuff that, as guys, we kind of want around the house,” said Dixon, adding that the bride-to-be, despite having multiple showers, often selects most of the items on the couple’s wedding registry. “Most of the things you register for, guys don’t get that excited about.”
Dixon threw his first groom shower 10 years ago, when he and a group of college buddies decided to hold a pre-wedding “tool party” for their friend Ethan. Guests brought toolboxes, work gloves and ladders to outfit the groom’s new house–a fixer-upper. Word of the successful event spread quickly, and groom showers became a tradition among Dixon’s circle of friends.
But over the years, showers began to take on a greater significance for Dixon and his friends, evolving into a forum for advice as well as gifts. At Dixon’s shower, he received an Xbox video game from a friend who told him, “You’re going to need to lock yourself in a room sometimes and get away from it all.” Another friend got him a “doghouse” kit, with items like massage oil for use when his wife, Jenessa, gets mad at him.
“It’s a fun way of saying, ‘Here are some of the experiences I’ve had,’ ” Dixon explained. “It’s a show of support and encouragement from your friends.”
Dixon believes that all this sharing and bonding–and men’s greater involvement in wedding planning–has grown out of changing roles within the family. “Guys are allowed to be more sensitive than we used to be,” said Dixon, who claims to cook more often than his wife.
Of course, this reimagining of gender roles is far from complete.
When asked about the dessert at his shower, Dixon said he and his friends usually avoid serving cake. Why? “It’s not very manly,” he said.