ANNE MARIE WILLIAMS & BRIDGET HEFFERNAN
In the summer of 2018, Anne Marie received an invitation to a lingerie shower, co-hosted by her friend Bridget. She had some initial misgivings: she’d been to several similar showers in the past and distinctly remembered the discomfort.
At past parties I’d attended, it felt like we were all there to gawk and catcall, expecting the bride to be “naughty" wearing the gifts she opened. I felt like we were invading her and her husband's bedroom--what was supposed to be their sacred space. Furthermore, taste in lingerie is a pretty personal preference. .
In the end, however, I accepted this particular invitation because I trusted the women organizing it. Bridget and her co-host been my good friends for several years and were Theology of the Body enthusiasts. I didn't know what this party would look like, but I trusted it wouldn't be gross or weird.
The shower was beautiful and tasteful, from the decor and treats to games and the opening of gifts. At one point towards the end, the married women present were invited to share advice from their own marriages. Some of their words reflected tremendous vulnerability, and I truly had a sense of the sacredness of marriage.
Because there can be misgivings or hesitation with this topic among Catholic brides, I asked Bridget to share her perspective and planning tips.
Lingerie showers have a reputation for being more trashy than classy. As super classy ladies yourselves, why was it important to you to throw a lingerie shower specifically?
When planning this bridal shower, we wanted to celebrate the gift of intimacy in marriage--both in Katie, the bride, receiving the gift of William, her husband-to-be, and by giving herself to him.
When you prepare a special gift for someone, you adorn it with beautiful wrapping. That is exactly how we look at lingerie.
The purpose of lingerie, used appropriately, is not to objectify the body, but precisely to emphasize the gift of the body.
I would also add that, beyond the style, the woman's behavior and attitude when wearing lingerie can emphasize one or the other: gift or object. As with so many other things in life, if she has the right perspective towards her own body (and assuming she is marrying a good man), her husband will respond to that.
How did you determine the atmosphere and mood for the shower?
We used a lot of greenery and simple white decorations. A trip to Hobby Lobby resulted in garlands of greenery, some of which we separated from the stem and arranged around the room. In the end, the shower had a garden feel with a feminine flair.
For other Catholic women planning pre-wedding events, can you share the order of events for the day?
First, introductions. Once all of the guests arrived, we sat in a circle and went around the room introducing ourselves and how we knew the bride.
Second, food. We prayed and invited everyone to get food from the other room. We served an assortment of hors d’oeuvres and beverages, including bacon-wrapped, maple-soaked water chestnuts, tomato, basil, and mozzarella skewers, blackberry and basil-infused water, coffee, juice (with the option to add Moscato!), and Blueberry, Lemon, Poppy seed muffins.
Third, sharing stories. While we ate, we went around the room and told the group a fun or funny story about the bride. Before long, the room was filled with laughter. Laughter always bonds!
Fourth, a game called Mixed Up Wisdom. Each guest was given a 3x5 card; on the front, she wrote a common marital problem, and on the back, she a corresponding wise solution (for example: what to do for dinner tonight?). Once everyone was done, we stacked the cards and passed them around. Each person would read the top card’s problem and the bottom card's solution, then put the top card on the bottom and move the stack to the left for the next woman to read. The mixed up combination of problems and solutions was quite hilarious.
Fifth, real wisdom.
We opened the discussion for all the married women in the room to offer real advice or kernels of wisdom they’d learned about creating a happy, healthy, thriving marriage. It was so beautiful to see and hear what they had to share.
Sixth, a simple Mad Libs game we printed from online. We had two teams with different scenarios, which we read aloud at the end. Everyone was rolling with laughter by the time we were through.
Finally, we were ready for the opening of gifts. At this point, I said a few words about the dignity of women and about the beauty and importance of approaching marriage with that understanding of the gift of self.
In view of that, joined one another in giving to Katie, both with beautiful intimate clothing and with our support and prayers. It was beautiful. As she opened the gifts, she and each woman in the room had a sense of joyful reverence for what Katie was anticipating.
After she finished gifts, we all prayed over Katie, that she and William would share a joy-filled, holy marriage, giving witness to the call to give of themselves to each other--as Christ gave of himself to us.
What would you say to someone who might object that a bride's intimate attire--and the marital act it's meant for--is private, not for the theme of a party?
Great question! It goes back to the point of the lingerie. If the point is simply to make a woman look like a sex object, then I think it has no place in a bridal shower--or frankly, in the bedroom, either.
But if the point is what it ought to be--namely, to adorn--then there is something very beautiful about other women gathering around the bride-to-be and helping her prepare to adorn herself as gift for her future husband.
What feedback did you receive?
We were blown away with how many women said afterwards how beautiful the shower was and how much it meant to them to witness such a reverent and holy, yet joyful approach to preparing a bride for marital intimacy.
About the Authors: Anne Marie Williams is a stay-at-home mom to Isaac and Eva Marie and is a part-time Intensive Care Unit nurse from central Illinois. She met her husband on CatholicMatch and they were married in April 2015. She's a firm believer that beautiful, strong marriages change the world. Anne Marie and her husband serve on the PreCana marriage prep retreat team for their diocese. She and Bridget met in 2013 and have been friends ever since.
As a single working professional, Bridget Heffernan enjoys working as a Lean Six Sigma Process Re-Engineering Consultant. However, Bridget's real passion is discovering, seeing, and talking about the beauty of God's handiwork, especially as regards the worth of the human person. As a team member for the monthly diocesan PreCana Retreats, she channels this passion by giving talks on the complementarity of masculinity and femininity, dignity and identity, and the power of sexuality & why sex is worth waiting for. Growing up in the middle of four brothers, she used to be a tomboy. As her understanding of the natural complementarity of masculinity and femininity grew, as well as her appreciation for the strength of the Blessed Mother, her love for authentic femininity grew, as well.