We are all familiar with the bridal shower concept, usually a surprise event thrown for a bride by the maid of honour or a close female friend or relative.
It is an all-girl event where well-intentioned close female friends, relatives and a ‘professional’ sex aunty offer the bride-to-be advice.
Essentially, the bridal party is intended to impart female wisdom and get the bride ready for marriage and motherhood.
Times change and wedding trends evolve, but the shower remains part of the wedding. But does it offer any practical significance to the impending marriage?
When Bancy Wangui was preparing to walk down the aisle seven years ago, a group of her female friends and relatives got together for her bridal shower.
“The older married ones ‘taught’ the rest of us how to be good wives and mothers. We were told how to be submissive, how to tame our men and what to do – or not to do – in the bedroom,” she says.
In retrospect, Bancy says that everything she learnt about marriage, she learnt ‘on the job’. “It’s impossible to teach a woman to be a wife or a mother. Some of these qualities go way back to a woman’s personality and upbringing.
Only so much change can be effected after an afternoon with the girls.” The way she sees it, some of those issues that she admits to having heard in bridal party talks, especially regarding intimacy, can only be determined by the chemistry between two people.
Having been present at three bridal showers, Naomi Njau strongly feels that the talks reinforce stereotypes. She argues that we are in a different age, and the bridal shower should evolve with the times.
“I have heard women give advice that they themselves do not follow,” she says. “The speakers are saying what they think they are supposed to say to the soon-to-be bride regardless of whether it will be meaningful to her or not.”
She recalls one particular speaker vividly, a much older woman at a friend’s shower, who had quite a lot to say about pleasuring and ensuring the comfort of a husband.
She emphasised ways to keep one’s man at home without complaining, and didn’t seem to give much regard to honesty. She also swore that all men will cheat at some point, and the wife’s duty was to make sure that her husband comes back home after his escapades.
“This woman seemed to know even when the husband would stray. She said it would be after the third year. I have been married for over four years and my husband hasn’t given me any reason to doubt him in that sense.”
To support her convictions, the speaker argued that a woman needs to go into a marriage with her eyes open. If she is aware of what is likely to happen then she isn’t at the risk of being caught off guard or crushed.
“I think not. Predicting unfaithfulness in a marriage that has barely taken off will only breed doubt and make a woman paranoid. Women ought to look into real married-life topics away from the cheating,” Naomi says.
Despite the rapidly changing social dynamics, the bridal shower remains charged with old fashioned traditions. Attendees seem to fortify, possibly subconsciously, the same notions that were practical in marriages decades ago.
“Telling me to expect my man to stay out late every night and to wait up every night even if he comes in at dawn is impractical,” Naomi continues.
In her view, a bride to be should be listening to talks about consideration and being reasonable, and also how to ensure her own happiness as much as she does her man’s.
29-year-old Grace Wakuthii who is yet to walk down the aisle has a couple of bridal showers under her belt. From her experience, some of the advice given does little to build the women who are looking forward to marriage.
Talks going round the circles will often focus on what can go wrong.
“I have heard married women talking about marriage in graphic details from their own marital experiences and perspectives. Little is said about the progressive side of a marriage union.
I thought that the party is meant to fuel a bride’s anticipation for her impending marriage not dampen it.” In her view, every union is different, and allowances should be made for the unique nature of each couple.