This weekend, I'm throwing a shower for a sorority sister and wondered (randomly) where this wedding tradition originated. Thanks to our friends at Wikipedia, they enlightened this bride on the history of the beloved bridal shower.
"A bridal shower is a gift giving party given for a bride before her wedding. The custom originated in the United States, although the first stories about these events have been known to originate in Brussels, Belgium around 1860. It remains a primarily US and Canadian practice. Showers are usually coordinated by the bridesmaids, who invite guests to offer gifts for the home of the bride and groom.
The custom of the bridal shower is said to have grown out of earlier dowry practices when a poor woman's family might not have the money to provide a dowry for her, or when a father refused to give his daughter her dowry because he did not approve of the marriage. In such situations, friends of the woman would gather together and bring gifts that would compensate for the dowry and allow her to marry the man of her choice. A frequently quoted legend traces the origin of this practice to sixteenth or seventeenth century the Netherlands. However there are also parallels with many dowry practices and the US Colonial or hope chest (trousseau) custom.
In the United States bridal showers started in urban areas in the 1890s, mainly among the upper middle classes. By the 1930s bridal showers had spread to rural America.
The earliest use of this sense of the word in print may be in the Grand Rapids Michigan Evening Press 22 June 4, 1904: "The ‘shower parties’ that through mistaken hospitality the wedded couple are forced to attend..." And may derive from the custom in Victorian times for the presents to be put inside a parasol, which when opened would "shower" the bride-to-be with gifts."