A bridal shower is a fun, celebratory occasion that allows the bride’s close friends and family members to spend time together before the big day. It’s also a practical opportunity for guests to “shower” the bride-to-be with gifts to help her establish a home with her future spouse.
Bridal showers originated centuries ago during the days of dowries. When women wanted to marry “unsuitable” husbands, their families refused to provide a dowry, so friends of the couple gathered to pitch in and make up for the lack of a dowry by helping them set up their home.
Today, bridal showers are a time to share stories and advice, eat and drink, and pay special attention to the bride.
Before you start planning, make sure the bride wants a shower in the first place. A bridal shower is often a fun afternoon, but some brides might feel uncomfortable with all the attention or greedy for asking their friends and family for more gifts.
Hosting a bridal shower is a wonderful way to celebrate the beautiful bride-to-be, and is also a great opportunity for wedding guests to mingle and get to know each other. Typically, the Maid of Honour, along with the bridesmaid’s plan and organize the event. In order to host a stress-free and enjoyable shower, we created a checklist for bridesmaid’s to ensure the day is a magical and memorable occasion the bride will love.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Who’s supposed to host?
- 2 Who gets an invitation?
- 3 Should the bride be involved in the planning process?
- 4 Does the bride need to bring a thank-you gift for the host?
- 5 If dining out, who should pay?
- 6 What happens if the bride doesn’t want a shower?
- 7 When’s the best time to have it?
- 8 Tips for Hosting a Successful Bridal Shower
Who’s supposed to host?
Traditionally, the maid of honour, the entire wedding party, a family friend or the in-laws were expected to play host. It was originally thought to appear gift-grabby if members of the bride’s immediate family, like her mom, planned and hosted—but that’s not a thing anymore. However, since the mother of the bride might be up to her ears in wedding details, she might prefer to take on a supporting role. It comes down to who wants to throw the shower—the bride’s aunts, in-laws, family friends, college roommates or even coworkers—as well as who lives where.
Who gets an invitation?
As for the guest list, the only rule you need to adhere to is this: Anyone invited to the shower should also be invited to the wedding. After that, the bridal shower guest list can derive from the bride’s preferred vibe and the host’s budget. Small, intimate and ladies only? Invite her wedding party, closest friends and relatives, and her partner’s female relatives. For a couple’s or coed shower, this circle can be widened to accommodate the couple’s ideal group. Also, it’s normal to have multiple bridal showers as well to include loved ones in different states or locations.
Should the bride be involved in the planning process?
Unless the bride specifically says, “Surprise me,” you can safely assume she has at least some sort of opinion on the matter. While whoever’s hosting will ultimately take the reins, discuss key points with her like the logistics (date, time and place) and atmosphere (mid-afternoon tea with the ladies or a coed dinner in a private room?). She might prefer to celebrate with some sort of theme—or be strictly averse to themes of any kind. In short, you won’t know until you ask her, and once you do, you’ll have a solid jumping-off point.
Does the bride need to bring a thank-you gift for the host?
A nice, handwritten thank-you note would be perfectly acceptable, but many brides also choose to show their gratitude with a small gift, like a flower arrangement, box of treats, or lunch out on the town.
If dining out, who should pay?
Let’s say two friends of the bride are co-hosting a bridal shower meal at a restaurant. Should the two of them foot the bill, or should the rest of the party (excluding the bride) cover their share as well? This isn’t quite like the bachelorette party where guests pay their way and even chip in for the bride’s expenses too. The polite thing for the cohosts to do is to pay for it. If an entire meal is biting off more than they can chew (which is understandable), consider a pared-down event like a light tea, wine and apps, cake and prosecco or a self-catered event at someone’s home.
What happens if the bride doesn’t want a shower?
As the maid of honour (or other close loved one), it’s your job to be there for the bride, listen to her wishes and act accordingly. After making sure she’s sure about nixing the shower thing, move on and consider it a blessing—one less thing on your to-do list! But, we get it, it’s completely natural to want to do something nice for her. Maybe suggest mani-pedis, dinner and drinks, or a fun brunch for two as a way to celebrate without all the pomp and circumstance.
When’s the best time to have it?
You should try to plan for the bridal shower to fall anywhere from five months to two weeks before the couple’s wedding date (that’s roughly based on a 12-month engagement timeline—but your couple’s schedule may differ). The shower is meant to get the bride and her entourage geared up for the main event with, well, a shower of love and gifts. Anything too close to the engagement could feel premature—the bride may not have asked her wedding party yet or fully processed her to-be-wed status. Logistically, whoever’s hosting needs enough time to budget, plan and curate the perfect guest list, while guests need time to RSVP, travel and find gifts. Anything too close to the wedding could add extra stress to an already hectic schedule, so it’s smart to allow breathing room between these events.
Tips for Hosting a Successful Bridal Shower
Involve the Bride in the Planning
While bridal showers were often a surprise in the past, these days it’s perfectly acceptable for the bride to be involved in some or all of the wedding shower details. If the element of surprise is a must, disclose to the bride only the date and time of the shower. That way, she has some control over the planning, but will still be surprised when she sees all the unique details. She will surely thank you profusely for allowing her time to prepare her outfit, rather than walking into a roomful of guests in her gym clothes.
Consulting the bride also ensures the guest list is accurate and will include everyone she would like to invite. In addition, you can gather her input on what themes or activities she may want to include or forego. Finally, it gives the couple a deadline for completing their registry information and ensures the proposed shower date works with their schedules.
When beginning to plan the shower, it’s essential to make sure you check the schedules of not only the bride but other VIP guests such as the bridal party and the immediate family members of both halves of the couple. While it may not be possible to accommodate everyone’s schedule, it’s important to choose a date that is suitable for most.
Choose the Venue and the Shower Theme
Once you’ve set the date, select and book the venue, if necessary. These days, it’s acceptable to host bridal showers just about anywhere, including at the home of the host or another friend or family member, restaurants, parks, hotels and even spas and wineries. Community centres, clubhouses and fraternal organization centres offer amenities such as kitchen areas and tables and chairs, along with spaces capable of accommodating large groups. Wherever you choose to host the bridal shower, just be sure it’s somewhere the bride will enjoy.
Sticking to a bridal shower theme provides direction to both you and your fellow planners. It makes it easier to coordinate all the little details — from invitations and linens to the menu and even the favours. Since there are so many different bridal shower ideas, the easiest way to narrow down the list is to choose a theme the bride enjoys. For example, if she is in love with all things romantic and Victorian, an elegant tea party-themed shower is in order.
- Tea Party: This classic theme can be carried out by adding special touches such as salad served in teacups and a table with an assortment of teas and delicate finger sandwiches. Invite guests to wear their prettiest and most colourful hat, or provide hats and other fanciful accessories at the shower. Décor may include lace tablecloths, mismatched china place settings and toile linens. You can also tie in additional themes such as vintage or glam.
- Wedding Colors: Tying in the wedding colours throughout the shower, such as in the linens, florals, plates and another décor, is an easy theme to follow. You can also be sure the bride will approve.
- Co-Ed: Many modern couples opt for a coed shower (sometimes called a Jack and Jill shower) where both men and women are invited. Coed showers usually include different activities than at traditional bridal showers, such as sports and wine or spirits tasting.
- Kitchen Party: For this fun and functional theme, guests bring an item for the bride-to-be’s kitchen. Choosing kitchen items from the bridal registry ensures the couple receives their most-wanted kitchen items. Incorporating a cooking activity or food stations such as a make-your-own-pizza or waffle station is an engaging way to carry out this theme.
- Spa Party: In the same Ultimate Bridesmaid survey mentioned above, the “spa party” theme took second place, with 37 per cent of the vote. Depending on the budget and size of the guest list, you may want to reserve an actual spa. If you’d rather have a cozy spa party at home, there are many DIY spa treatments and activities to incorporate into the theme. In addition, you can invite guests to wear their favourite fuzzy slippers or robe.
Themes can even be carried over into the shower gifts. Honeymoon items, bar supplies, books and even lingerie have become popular “wishing-well” items, which are primarily themed items requested to help stock the couple’s home.
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Plan the Wedding Shower Menu
Once you have established the theme, it’s time to think about the bridal shower food. When planning a bridal shower menu, your choices of food and drink will most likely be determined by the theme, time of day and by the bride’s taste. Since showers are usually held in the late morning or afternoon, lunch and brunch foods are both popular and appropriate. You may also want to try to incorporate some of the bride’s favourite foods into the menu for a more personal touch.
Consider a potluck luncheon or brunch where members of the bridal party and other friends or relatives that are helping host the shower each bring an item or dish. This helps keep the price down and ensures the food duties are equitable. You may also choose to have all or some of the food catered. If using a caterer or having the shower at a restaurant, be sure to make your food choices early and discuss the menu with the caterer or banquet manager.
You don’t need to serve a full meal unless the shower is being held around dinnertime or for longer than a few hours. Appetizers, finger foods, meat and cheese plates and other light fare are perfectly acceptable for bridal showers. Continental breakfast foods such as quiche, pastries, fruit and coffee are elegant and filling choices for brunch. Don’t forget the mimosas!
Speaking of mimosas, they make a fun and elegant beverage table when presented with metallic printed napkins, lovely champagne flutes, different types of juices and bowls of fresh fruit. You may also want to whip up a dazzling bowl of punch, complete with matching crystal glasses. If serving alcohol, provide a non-alcoholic option for guests who don’t wish to imbibe.
Food stations are becoming popular bridal shower features. These are an easy way to fill up your guests and allow them to get up, move around and mingle. Interesting food tables also effectively keep guests engaged during downtimes, such as when the bride is greeting guests or opening gifts.
Other ideas for food stations include:
- Taco Bar: Complete with meat, cheese and all the necessary taco fixings.
- Bruschetta Bar: Mini crostini bread with various toppings such as tomatoes, pesto and other tapenades.
- Yogurt Parfait Bar: Yogurt, fruit and granola. Perfect for a brunch shower.
- Candy and Sweet Bar: Candies, cookies and other sweet treats. Provide guests with bags to fill and take home as bridal party favours.
Ending the shower with a sweet treat is a must for keeping your guests happy. While having a shower cake is traditional, you may decide to buck tradition and serve decorated mini doughnuts or cookies instead. Consider serving dessert while the bride is opening her gifts to keep things moving.
Choose the Invitations and Send Them Early
When it comes to bridal shower invitations, the choices are as varied as weddings themselves.
Invitations can be handwritten, professionally printed or DIY. With so many elegant styles available, choosing the perfect invitation can be difficult. However, incorporating the colours or theme of the wedding or shower is an efficient way to narrow down your choices. Invitations should be sent out about a month before the shower.
Be sure to get a guest list from the bride or someone close to the wedding planning, as it’s common etiquette only to invite wedding guests to the bridal shower. Consult the bride about who she would like to invite, as she may want to include only close friends and relatives.
Card stores sell elegant blank invitations that can be written out by hand. Many websites, such as Etsy offer inexpensive templates that you can download and use to print your beautiful invitations. Special card stock and envelope kits are available at most craft and office supply stores. If you wish to have invited professionally printed, many websites offer this service as well, along with numerous design choices.
If you choose to go paperless, some websites will allow you to create, send and manage your bridal shower invitations and RSVPs. While it may be tempting to send out an Evite or share a Facebook event, it’s important to remember that not all guests may be tech-savvy and therefore will not receive them. One option would be to send out Evites to guests you know are sure to receive them, and send paper invitations to the other guests, such as parents, grandparents and other close relatives.
Invitations should include the correct date, time and place where the bridal shower will be held, along with any other special requests, such as wishing-well items, advice or recipes. Include the places where the couple is registered. Advise guests of the wedding shower theme and menu, if it’s relevant to their shower preparation. Weigh your complete invitation with the envelope and any other add-ins to ensure you have the correct postage. Last but not least, be sure to triple-check for any mistakes before sending out your invitations.
Plan Fun Bridal Shower Games and Activities
Bridal shower games are a fun way to keep your guests engaged. Not only are they enjoyable to play in a group, but they are also an excellent way for people to get to know each other since most of the guests at the shower will also be attending the wedding. Games about the couple and how everyone knows them are great icebreakers and work well with guests of varying age ranges.
There are many options for bridal shower games. However, a word to the wise is to keep them classy. Consider that your crowd will most likely include guests from the couple’s families. For this reason, it’s not the time to share any embarrassing or risqué stories or indulge in naughty bridal shower games that will make Grandma blush.
There’s usually at least one person who gets very excited about the preparation and planning of the games. Enlist that person to oversee the planning, gathering supplies and overseeing the games at the shower. Providing small prizes (such as candy, nail polish or gift cards) for the winners is another fun way to keep your guests engaged and usually helps persuade more guests to participate.
Some popular bridal shower game ideas include:
- Bridal Shower Bingo: This ever-popular bridal shower game, where players receive cards with the word BRIDE across the top instead of BINGO, is a staple for many reasons. First, most everyone already knows how to play, and second, it’s easy to vary the game according to things such as gifts the couple receives or places or facts about the couple.
- Purse Raid: This fun and exciting game is a scavenger hunt inside guests’ purses. Have a list of items from common to unusual, and call them out one by one. The first person who pulls the item from their purse or bag receives a prize.
- Words of Wisdom: Invite guests to fill out decorative blank note cards with either word of advice, a favourite recipe or any other piece of information they would like to share with the couple. Guests can take turns reading these to the bride at the shower. They can then be assembled into a scrapbook that will become a treasured gift. If you choose this option, be sure to include requests in the invitation and ask guests who are not able to attend the shower to mail their contributions back.
- Memory Lane: In this game, guests have to figure out who did what with either half of the couple. Have guests write down their favourite memory or adventure (e.g., which person helped the bride pull a prank during college?). Once collected, read them aloud, and guests will have fun guessing and hearing the accompanying stories.
Some hosts opt to have alternative activities instead of the traditional bridal shower games. Food and wine tastings, spa services, cooking or yoga classes or even art or painting activities have become popular bridal shower activities. These activities are perfect for incorporating into shower themes such as Jack and Jill, kitchen or spa party.
Check out our extensive list of Hens Party Ideas for your bestie.
Thank Each Guest With a Bridal Shower Favor
It is a thoughtful gesture to give each guest who attends the bridal shower a small token of thanks. There are many fun and unique ideas available to favour ideas. They don’t have to be big or expensive to be appreciated. Any item that is small, useful or personal makes a perfect bridal shower favour.
Bath salts, nail polish, jars of preserves or honey, cookies, candles or potted herbs or plants are just some of the many favour ideas that are popular today. Favours are also a chic way to carry through the theme of the shower.
Though a lot of work, I found hosting an at-home bridal shower to be more intimate, cost-effective and a fun excuse to spend an entire day in the kitchen baking. The event ended up being very successful, largely because we were incredibly organized. No event ever goes 100% according to plan, but if you go into the shower with a positive attitude and have fun, it will be an excellent time for all involved.