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If you've been to a wedding shower recently, you've probably noticed the time-honored tradition is changing. The typical Sunday afternoon gathering of ladies playing word games and snacking on pastel Jordan almonds has been replaced by sophisticated themed evenings. And sometimes men are invited too!

"We monitor trends in both weddings and showers so we can incorporate the freshest and most modern themes in our cards," explains Gale Thomson, American Greetings trend spotter. "We've found wine, gourmet kitchen and couples themes are the new wave. Changes in dating and relationship etiquette and other social factors, like career women postponing marriage, have directed showers away from providing basic necessities and more toward reflecting the couple's interests."

Thomson offers these tips for planning some of today's top trendy bridal shower themes:

Wine tastings reflect a popular interest. The wine theme can influence the menu, party activities and gifts. Invite guests to bring two bottles of wine: one to serve at the party and a second to give the couple. Search online for menu items to complement each wine, and display wine-pairing notes at each food and wine station.

Couples showers are a great way to include both the bride's and the groom's friends, and they tend to be cocktail, dinner or summer barbecue parties. Couples showers are a good option for smaller guest lists or as one of multiple showers. A note on the invitation could suggest gifts for future entertaining. American Greetings has taken note of this hot trend by introducing special couples shower cards to its Target line, like one with tiny pink and blue "His" and "Hers" cloth towel icons attached to the front.

Kitchen showers have moved away from providing basic necessities and become more sophisticated, reflecting already-established brides and gourmet cooking trends. High-end stainless steel fondue pots, blenders and food processors are topping gift registries and wedding website wish lists. Invite guests to bring their favorite recipe to share with the bride.

Personal gifts, indulgences the bride would never buy for herself or honeymoon trip items are also a fashionable shower theme option for second marriages or brides who are already established in their households. Spas are a great personal shower venue, and a gift certificate for spa services presented in a pretty card makes a wonderful gift.

Showers may be changing, but they are still an important part of the wedding tradition. If you're planning a shower and want it to be the latest and greatest, try one of these party concepts.

When it comes to gifts, presentation is everything. Wrapping that incorporates details and added touches can magnify the perceived value of what's inside, so don't forget to wrap and tie with style.

"For soft goods or items that do not easily fit in a box, use gift bags. They combine convenience and style in all shapes and sizes," says Patty Flauto, American Greetings gift wrap design guru. There are even gift bags designed for specific items. And they keep getting better and better looking, with fashionable details like ribbon handles, scalloped or cuffed "necklines," trendy colors and prints.

New gift wrap designs reflect today's elegant wedding fashions. Wrap featuring photos of trendy wedding flowers, like white roses and hydrangeas, and embellished with clear sparkling crystalline glitter are recommended for the well-dressed gift. Accessorize with ribbon, a bow and fun new package decorations, like a 10-karat "diamond ring" or a feather boa pompom.

Flauto suggests even ordinary household items can make a wrapped gift the star of the gift table. "The key is to pick a few accent colors to complement your wrapping paper. For example, to dress up a gift wrapped in paper with black and white photo images, add a few pink, black and white accent items from sewing supplies. Layer two kinds of ribbons, sheer and satin or thick and thin, or two shades of yarn. Use hot glue to add a flower cut from a greeting card or a key phrase, like 'I do,' and top it with a button or two or three.

If you're wrapping a smaller gift box, you could pick up two of the same shower card, using the extra to decorate the entire top of the box."

Every bride treasures her shower and wedding cards. Many lovingly store them in a special box or binder. Some even find crafty and creative ways to display them.

Keepsake cards today shine with satin, lace, ribbons, rhinestones, sequins and even embroidery--three rhinestone "bubbles" hover over a line drawing of two champagne glasses, or the piece may feature fabric miniature attachments (a little ivory pillow carrying two tiny rings or a wedding cake made with layers of ribbon).

Even more treasured are the sender's handwritten wishes, especially when they reflect personal relationships with the bride and groom. These words will be remembered always.

Wedding shower and gift trends are reflected in American Greetings cards and gift wrap available at many retail stores.

Creative bridal shower gift ideas include a "bouquet" of cooking utensils and silk flowers banded with ribbon and accented with bows. Just add a card and it's ready to go!

Ordinary household items like ribbon, yarn, buttons and recycled greeting cards can make any gift extraordinary.

Brides treasure the thoughtful messages in beautiful keepsake cards, and they find creative ways to display them like this French memo board.

Date: 5/8/06


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