At a friend’s wedding shower, while watching the bride-to-be open a box brimming with tissue and brightly-patterned dishes, it occurred to me that she already has plates in her cupboards.  I was at her apartment recently for dinner and her plates were just fine. Yet here she unwraps lots of new ones.

She’s 34 and has lived on her own for quite some time, so she owns many of the items she’s now receiving. When she really needed the gift shower was after her college graduation as she stepped into that new season of her life.  Instead, she, like me, got pans from her mother’s cabinets (her mom’s wedding gifts, in fact), hand-me-down cooking utensils and old, chipped serving platters.

This wedding shower ritual hasn’t kept pace with changes in our culture. It used to be that young couples lived with their parents until just before marrying. As they prepared to set up house, the community gathered together and “showered” them with gifts for their new home–dishes, pans, knives, towels, sheets, accessories. What a great idea!

Today men and women venture out into the world on their own.  The traditional high school graduation gifts—like irons, luggage, popcorn poppers and computers—just don’t cut it when you need utensils to eat with.

I remember using birthday and Christmas gift wish-lists as an excuse for requesting the things I needed.  During the four years shortly after college, I asked for a food processor for Christmas, dishes for my birthday, flatware for the next Christmas, then Calphalon pans, a mixer, mixing bowls, a colander, and a cake platter. It took a few years, but I eventually had a stocked kitchen.

Before I married at 35, dear friends hosted showers in my honor and I was grateful. I began wondering what might happen if we begin changing our practices. It used to be taboo to register for baby gifts, but “Registered At” with the stores listed pop up on baby shower invites all the time now. What if we asked our single friends to register at Target or their favorite department store for things they want and need, and host a shower in their honor?

My sister is single and lamented that her bath towels are more than ten years old and paper thin. She longs for the thirsty, Egyptian cotton ones calling out to her from magazine pages. She wouldn’t want a “personal” or themed event but a co-ed “everything” party could be loads of fun. She thinks that then, should she ever marry in the future, she’ll just register for furniture and vacations.  Besides, she’s hoping she might meet her future husband at her own shower. Now that would be shaking our culture up a bit!