Every country has special occasions unique to its own cultures, traditions and society. Since the United States of America is known as a “melting pot” of many countries and customs, you may recognize parts or pieces of some special events and have no familiarity with others. The following list includes occasions that Americans might celebrate with parties and commemorations, along with a brief summary for each. (Please also see Attending a wedding.)
In the U.S., when a woman gets engaged, her friends often plan a bridal shower to celebrate her upcoming marriage. A bridal shower usually consists of games and refreshments as well as presenting gifts intended to help the couple set up their new household. Traditionally, women plan and attend these festivities and cater to the bride. However in more modern times, many showers accommodate couples to include the groom and other male friends of the pair.
If you attend a bridal shower, you should plan to dress nicely and always take a gift. Many couples register with at least one store, and often more. The stores where they have registered will provide a list of all the items in their inventory that the bride and groom are interested in getting. Purchasing one of those items will ensure that they need and will like your gift. Once you purchase something from their registry, it will reflect that someone has already gotten that item in order to avoid duplicates.
Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties
This American celebration focuses on making the most of the bride (bachelorette) or groom’s (bachelor) last merrymaking as a single person. The festivities usually take place very shortly before the wedding day and can last long into the night. Each party brings together the bride/groom’s closest friends and family of the same gender. Traditionally, these parties can get pretty wild, often due in part to alcohol consumption.
Much like a bridal shower, a baby shower focuses on celebrating another milestone—the birth of a baby. Usually first-time mothers enjoy baby showers because they receive advice and gifts centered on equipping their lives and homes for the new arrival. Guests enjoy games and refreshments, much like at a bridal shower, while generally the gift giving takes center stage. Although baby showers have traditionally involved women, in these modern times, sometimes the festivities now include the fathers-to-be and male friends of the couple.
When you attend a baby shower, you should plan to dress nicely and bring a gift. Most couples register with at least one store, and often more. At the stores where the couple has registered, you will find a list of all the items in their inventory that the new parents need or would like for welcoming their new baby. Once you make a purchase from the registry, it will reflect that the item has already been purchased in order to avoid receiving duplicates.
When a student earns a degree, whether high school, college or post-grad, families often like to throw a party to celebrate. The festivities might take place in a home or at a restaurant or other public location. Primarily social, these events usually include food and sometimes gifts, typically geared toward whatever the graduate’s next step will be.
Sometimes friends or family plan a big birthday celebration for somebody’s milestone birthday, ie: turning 40, 50, 75, etc. These events may or may not be intended as a surprise, so make sure you know whether or not to keep it a secret. Don’t let it shock you if the “theme” of the celebration seems mean spirited or dark. It’s really just an attempt at humor and helping the birthday person look at the light side of reaching an age milestone with things like gag (joke) gifts, black décor and such.
When someone retires from employment (anywhere from age 62 and older in the U.S.), they often enjoy a party to celebrate leaving the workforce. The company they worked for might organize the party, or it might be put together by friends or family of the person retiring. The festivities often take place at a public location, like a restaurant or perhaps in someone’s home. The intent of the occasion centers on honoring the individual and his/her contributions as an employee, as well the upcoming opportunities that retirement will bring.
Usually married couples celebrate their wedding anniversary every year on the date they got married. Public celebration and recognition generally only occur when the marriage has reached a large milestone like 25 or 50 years. Otherwise anniversaries are considered a fairly private affair, commemorated by the couple by a dinner celebration or perhaps a special trip or purchase. Many husbands purchase jewelry for their wives to observe a distinctive anniversary.
Renewal of Vows
Sometimes a married couple will decide to renew their marriage vows, either due to the number of years since their original vows, or because of a re-commitment to the relationship. The renewal ceremony is considered a public demonstration of their love for one another, much like the original wedding service, so if you receive an invitation, simply consider it an honor to participate. Unless otherwise indicated on the invitation, you should plan to dress nicely.
When moving into a new home or apartment, sometimes people organize a housewarming party to celebrate with friends and family. Not only does the occasion provide the opportunity to show off their new place, but it can also give others a chance to bring them something for their new environment, whether it’s a consumable (something to eat or drink) or something to help make the place feel more like home. You can usually plan to stop by these kinds of parties for a while during the hours indicated on the invitation, but don’t need to arrive at a certain time or stay for the whole time. You should arrive with a gift for the resident(s), whether it’s a plant, consumable or home accessory to celebrate the occasion.
When a family expands their family through adoption, they often celebrate the occasion with a party. Very similar to a baby shower, an adoption party focuses on the new child’s arrival—even if the new family member is not a baby. The adopting family might organize the party, or friends and family might put it together for them. The festivities will likely take place in the family’s home and gifts should center on the child and/or what the family will need due to his/her arrival.