Recent talk of showers seems to have turned on the faucet.....
One of my friends, grateful that she didn't have to throw me a shower in advance of my wedding (they make me cringe and I avoid them whenever possible), was complaining to me about her BFF, who was being more than just Bridezilla at the time. They were of differing opinions about the type of gifts to be given at a shower, so, my question to you is: are gifts given at showers intended to be for the lady to use, or for the couple/baby to benefit from? For instance, if my friend wanted to give the bride a gift certificate for a spa for her use in advance of the big day, is that more or less appropriate than giving the bride-to-be something off of the couple's registry?
And, why are men not subjected to these events more frequently?
As to why men are not subjected to these events more frequently, I imagine there are many theories. Like childbirth, mammograms, and showers, men do seem to have dodged several bullets. On the other hand, they have to shave daily, undergo prostate checks, and are generally less intelligent than we, so maybe it's not as skewed as we think.
But on to your question:
Traditionally, showers were designed to help the couple furnish a home, hence the practice of giving pots and pans, linens, and other household goods. These types of items are always a safe bet, particularly if they are off the registry. As a person who almost always sends regrets, I am delighted when I can simply go online, select an item off a registry and click 'send'.
These days, many showers have a theme--this would be indicated on the invite--things like "kitchen" or "indulgence" or "round the clock"--in which guests are assigned a time and are charged with buying a gift that corresponds with that hour, e.g. 7am: a coffee pot, midnight: lingerie, etc.. If the shower is set up with a specific theme, then guests should adhere to the hostess's format. But if it's left open-ended, tailor the gift to the bride. If she is a spa nut, then a GC for a massage is ideal. Throw in a a scented candle or jar of bath salts so she has something to open at the shower.
So the answer to your original question is, like many things, "It depends." If the bride, her family, and the wedding are all very traditional, then a household item off the gift registry is the safest route. If they are a bit offbeat, then choose your present accordingly.
Hope that helps!
As much as I gripe about showers and studiously avoid them, I guess there are worse possibilities than the jello salad-silly games-endless gift display variety. Just ask Norman Bates.