Miss Conduct

Advice on unwieldy bridal showers

Are mega bridal showers just gift grabs? (Yes.) Can you offer a stranger a tissue? (A thousand times yes.)

Illustration by Lucy Truman

> I’m invited to a bridal shower along with approximately 100 other women — every female who was invited to the wedding, in fact. Maybe I’m just being old-fashioned, but I thought bridal showers were for close friends and family. This feels like a greedy gift grab (others think so, too), and if it were not a family member, I’d send regrets. What’s your take on this trend?

D.J. / Cambridge 

The trend of promoting weddings as the culminating achievement of a woman’s life and then mocking brides who dare to behave as though it were actually true? I can’t say I’m a fan. (Then again, if Miss Conduct were ever to write a book on nuptials, it would be titled Marriage Is a Blessing, Weddings Are a Curse. I don’t claim to be unjaded.)

 Send regrets. Send a gift, too, since the bride is family, but don’t attend an event that has you feeling so aggrieved. That’s the upside of the inflated invite list, after all. One hundred people isn’t a bridal shower, it’s practically a campaign fund-raiser.  No one will remember if you plead a prior engagement or a bad headache. They will remember if you have one too many mimosas and start snarking about Cousin Bridezilla. You’d best stop gossiping about the event with these like-minded “others,” too. That could backfire terribly.


 Try to cultivate a more tolerant attitude before the wedding, for your own sake if not for C.B.’s. Showers, frankly, are gift grabs and always have been. This made sense when young’uns getting hitched needed to set up housekeeping with tools from their elders. Now that this is less frequently the case, showers are often more celebratory than functional. I’ve had to explain to some brides and grooms — or parents-to-be — that you can’t put “no gifts, please” on a shower invitation. Guest lists balloon as confused planners worry that inviting Carol Colleague will make her feel obligated to buy yet another gift, whereas not inviting her will make her feel snubbed. In such perilous times, D.J., it is best to treat one another with the greatest charity and assume the noblest motives on the part of those we love.

> If a person near me on the subway is sniffling audibly (at least, that’s a polite description of the noises being made and the volume of liquid apparently being transferred around the upper body), is it appropriate to offer a package of tissues? I don’t want to seem rude or condescending, but the slurping makes me crazy.

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B.E.S. / Hingham

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Every time a stranger offers a cold or allergy sufferer a Kleenex, a tissue angel gets its wings. We don’t care if you are motivated by compassion or annoyance. We thought we had tissues in our pocket when we left this morning. Actually we did have some, we just went through them disgustingly fast. Didn’t we just buy a case of them at BJ’s last weekend? Thank you. Thank you so much. Yes, we can tell by the look on your face that you are kind of grossed out by us right now. We’re not offended by that. We’re grossed out by us right now, too, and by the snot-monsters that have occupied our faces. April may be the cruelest month, but for those with hay fever, March is just plain nasty.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, who has a PhD in psychology.NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP? Write to her at And get advice live during a chat with Robin Abrahams this Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.