A bridal shower is a fantastic way to celebrate a bride-to-be officially. Not only is it one of the first pre-wedding events where friends and family from both sides get to meet each other, but it’s also filled with fun decor, snacks, gifts, and games—and it’s the perfect excuse to get fancy! If you’re in search of bridal shower planning tips and ideas, consider this your one-stop-shop. Whether you’re a seasoned bridal shower planner in need of some last-minute advice or you’re hosting your first party and have no idea where to begin, this guide covers the bridal shower planning process from start to finish.
A bridal shower is one of those parties that are fun and practical at the same time. The obvious reason for a shower is to give things to the future married couple that will help them establish a home together. But the underlying reason for a bridal shower is that it’s a nice occasion for the close family and friends of the bride to spend relaxed time with her before the big wedding day.
It’s a time for sharing funny stories, for relatives to give advice to the bride, and for friends to show their support. The bride is the princess of the day, so be sure that in your planning, you don’t do anything that will make her feel uncomfortable.
You are wondering how to plan a bridal shower? This pre-wedding event is typically hosted by the bride’s BFFs or a few family members. It can be a coed wedding shower or ladies only and can take on just about any theme. As a friend of the bride, it’s your job to throw her a stellar bridal shower that she’ll remember. Don’t consider yourself a class A party planner? No worries, we’ve got you covered with bridal shower games, ideas and etiquette tips.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Here’s everything you need to know about planning a bridal shower.
- 1.1 Set a budget
- 1.2 Decide on a date
- 1.3 Make your guest list
- 1.4 Choose your location
- 1.5 Pick a bridal shower theme
- 1.6 Send bridal shower invitations
- 1.7 Choose your catering style.
- 1.8 Stock the bar
- 1.9 Get to decorating
- 1.10 Plan bridal shower games
- 1.11 Set up a gift area
- 1.12 Craft a ribbon bouquet
- 1.13 Prep a toast
- 1.14 Pass out your favours
- 2 Three (or More) Months Before
- 3 Two Months Before
- 4 One Month Before
- 5 Two (or More) Weeks Before
- 6 One Week Before
- 7 One Day Before
- 8 What to do during the bridal shower
- 9 How to plan a bridal shower: common questions
- 9.1 Who pays?
- 9.2 When is the bridal shower thrown?
- 9.3 When do you start planning?
- 9.4 Where do you host the bridal shower?
- 9.5 Who gets invited?
- 9.6 When are invitations sent?
- 9.7 How long is the bridal shower supposed to last?
- 9.8 What happens during bridal showers?
- 9.9 Do you need to serve a full meal?
- 9.10 How do I keep track of the gifts the bride receives?
Here’s everything you need to know about planning a bridal shower.
Set a budget
The first step in the party planning process is working out your bridal shower budget. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a one-woman job – rally up a couple of bride-to-be’s close friends and family members to put together an epic bash that won’t break the bank. Keep in mind that some people have more or less than others, so make sure you’re not pushing people beyond their means. Tip: keep all this info in a group chat or email thread so that you know what you’re working with.
Decide on a date
The bridal shower is typically thrown about three months before the wedding date, so start planning ASAP. Make sure that all your desired attendees will be able to make it by calling or emailing them and offering up a few date options. Whichever date suits most people should be the one you go with.
Make your guest list
The next step is working out your guest list. Everyone who gets an invite to this soiree should be on the guestlist for the main event – so you’ll want the bride to give it a once-over before you start addressing invitations. You may also want to ask her what type of shower she wants. Though you may dream of hosting a big coed bash, she may prefer an intimate dinner party with her closest girlfriends.
Choose your location
Once you know the budget, guest list and date you’re working with, you can move on to choosing your location. If you’ve got the funds to spare, a swanky restaurant or country club make for nice, upscale options. If you’d rather be a bit more fiscally responsible, opt to host it at one of the host/hostess’ houses – just dress it up with a few decorations, and you’ll be good to go!
Pick a bridal shower theme
While themes aren’t totally necessary for bridal showers, they do add a touch of personality. If nothing comes to mind, consider playing off the bride-to-be’s favourite places or activities. Is she really into camping? Maybe host an outdoor event with beers and a barbecue. Does she have a strong love for Italian fare? Consider doing a DIY pizza party. Brainstorm with your co-hosts to come up with something truly amazing or check out these creative ideas.
Send bridal shower invitations
You’ll want to give your guests about six to eight weeks’ notice so that they can sort out their schedules in advance. Sending out a bridal shower invitation in the mail is the most traditional and involved option. But, if you’re trying to reduce costs, an email will do just fine (remember to follow up, as it may end up in a spam folder). Be sure to include the couple’s gift registry info – some retailers will provide registry notification cards to enclose with the invitation. Tip: follow these bridal invitation wording tips and keep everyone’s addresses and emails logged using our guest list planner.
Choose your catering style.
The size of your guest list will help determine how you structure your menu. If you’re opting for an intimate affair, consider doing a full meal. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a party with upwards of ten people, you may want to opt for cocktail style eats. It’ll save money and won’t leave you with mountains of dishes to wash.
Stock the bar
Having a healthy supply of champagne, cocktails and mocktails on hand is essential. If you want to go that extra mile, craft a signature drink for the celebration featuring the bride’s favourite flavours.
Get to decorating
Before your bash begins, you’ll want to decorate the space. You don’t need to go crazy with your credit card, just buy a few bits and bobs to give it some character. If you’re going with a theme, you’ll want a few decor items that reflect it. Maybe you’re hosting a French-themed affair? Dress the place up like a patisserie with pastel balloons and bunting. In the market for more of a boho vibe? Consider filling your venue with geodes, crystals and throw pillows for seating. Tip: set the mood with our ultimate bridal shower playlist.
Plan bridal shower games
Avoid dull moments and awkward silences by having a few fun games planned out. No, this does not mean you should bust out UNO, Operation or Monopoly – it means you should get creative. The newlywed game, bridal Pictionary, bridal bingo and vow mad libs should keep your guests thoroughly entertained. This has the added benefit of working as an icebreaker for your guests.
Set up a gift area
Unlike engagement parties, bridal showers involve gifting. Have a designated table prepared for the presents to help keep the gifts from going missing or getting damaged during the bash. When the time comes for the bride to open them, keep a running list of all the presents and who they’re from so that the bride knows who to send thank-you cards to.
Craft a ribbon bouquet
Once the bride has opened all her gifts, collect the ribbons from the gifts and create a ribbon bouquet. This is traditionally used during the wedding rehearsal in lieu of a real bouquet. It’s also a fun keepsake that’ll help the bride remember her shower.
Prep a toast
Before your party wraps, you’ll want to give a brief toast to thank your guests for coming and to congratulate the bride on her impending nuptials. Don’t feel the need to add in anecdotes or quotations, just keep things short and sweet.
Pass out your favours
What’s a bridal shower without party favours? You don’t have to buy anything extravagant, just a little gift to commemorate the day. If you’re particularly strapped for cash, this is a great opportunity to show off your DIY skills. Bake homemade treats, make personalized jewellery or simply take the time to handwrite thank you cards for all your guests.
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Three (or More) Months Before
- Talk to the bride. Does she want all women or coed? Afternoon tea or a Saturday night soiree? Does she want a particular bridal shower theme, style or colour? Does she want to gather at a fun restaurant, quaint tea salon, her parents’ patio, a spa or your apartment? While most of the bridal shower details and decisions will be up to you, plan according to her input.
- Set the date—shoot for a month or two before the wedding. If certain bridesmaids and important family and friends can’t convene until a few days before, hold off until then.
- If the bridal shower will take place at a tea salon, private dining room, restaurant or nightclub, make the reservations as soon as possible.
- Create the guestlist for the bridal shower. And take note: Anyone you invite to the shower must also be invited to the wedding.
Two Months Before
- Send a save-the-date email or call important guests to see if there might be any scheduling conflicts.
- As a courtesy, call any guests who’ll have to travel some distance to attend—they’ll appreciate the advance notice.
- Confer with the bridesmaids to establish a budget.
- Purchase bridal shower invitations or materials to make them. (Hint: Minted makes it easy to order beautiful invites online.)
- Hold a brainstorming session to finalize decisions about table linens, flowers, menu, decorations, favours, music and activities.
- Order special menu items through the bakery or caterer, and rent linens and other equipment from a rental company, if necessary.
- Compile addresses for the guest list.
- Make a detailed to-do list and assign tasks.
One Month Before
- Assemble and address invitations. Don’t forget to include information about the couple’s registries. And, if it’s a theme party, provide proper gift-giving instructions.
- Mail invitations.
- Shop for decorations, paper goods and other party props—The Knot Wedding Shop is an awesome place to start.
- Purchase favours.
- If guests have offered to bring desserts and other treats, email or call to confirm what they plan to bring.
Two (or More) Weeks Before
- Place the flower order.
- Buy your shower gift for the bride.
- Make a shopping list for the food and drinks. Buy any hard-to-find ingredients.
- Purchase spirits, if you’re having cocktails.
- Pick up any baskets, CDs, cake stands, audio equipment or serving ware that friends or neighbours have offered to lend.
One Week Before
- Confirm reservations.
- Confirm orders and delivery times.
- Confirm RSVPs.
- Assemble and gift wrap favours.
- Buy groceries.
- Create a mental floor plan to facilitate decorating and setting up.
- Organize shower games and activities.
One Day Before
- Prepare any menu items that can be made in advance (or just do prep work).
- Receive and set up equipment, assemble decorations and favours, and settable(s).
- Touch base with the bridesmaids—confirm who’s bringing what and ask them to arrive early to help.
- Run any last-minute errands.
What to do during the bridal shower
Set up a station for bridal shower gifts.
Unlike engagement parties where gifts are optional, guests are usually required to bring a gift to the bridal shower. There is a set time where everyone will sit down with the bride as she opens the presents. In order to make sure no gift goes misplaced, create an area where guests can place their gift as they arrive, such as on a table or in a traditional “wishing well.” You can easily set up a picnic table and drape some linen or fabric on top if you need to create your gift station, too! Just make sure as the bride is opening each gift, you record which gift is from who, so she can easily write her thank-you notes!
Create a ribbon bouquet.
As the bride-to-be is opening up her gifts, have a member of the wedding party collect all of the ribbons to create a pretty decorative bouquet. This isn’t just a pretty keepsake or a check on the how to plan a bridal shower list, and it’s a tradition for the bride to carry the ribbon bouquet from her shower down the aisle during the wedding rehearsal.
Prepare a toast to the bride.
You’ll need to say just a few words during the bridal shower party to thank guests for coming. This also is the perfect time to congratulate the bride-to-be officially. The toast doesn’t have to have to be too formal or too long, just something short and sweet where you introduce yourself and also say some encouraging words.
Pass out favours to the bridal shower guests.
Lastly, it is always a good idea to give out some kind of favour as another way to say thanks. Bridal shower favours can range from something edible like a frosted cookie to something wearable like personalized sunglasses. There are a lot of options that can work for any shower theme, and guests will love being able to take home the gift too!
How to plan a bridal shower: common questions
Whoever plans the event is responsible for the cost. Guests bring gifts but aren’t expected to help pay the tab.
When is the bridal shower thrown?
Four to eight weeks before the wedding is the sweet spot. Saturday and Sunday are still the most popular days for the event, and any time of day is acceptable. Late-morning brunch, an afternoon luncheon, or early-evening dinners are all reasonable options.
When do you start planning?
To keep yourself organized and calm, start planning at least three months before the event.
Where do you host the bridal shower?
The shower can take place anywhere. Some options to consider: the home of a wedding party member, restaurants, breweries, banquet halls, wineries, spas, and local, state, or national parks.
Who gets invited?
Bridal showers include the bridal party, immediate and extended family of the bride and groom (mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins), and close friends. Traditionally, the shower invite list was women only, but today people plan Jack and Jill showers that include the groom, and close male friends of the bride and groom. Rule of thumb: Everyone invited to the shower should be on the wedding guest list too.
When are invitations sent?
Send invites (by mail or email) approximately six to eight weeks before the shower date.
How long is the bridal shower supposed to last?
Between two to four hours. The length depends on how much you have planned and the size of the guest list.
What happens during bridal showers?
This is a time to celebrate the upcoming nuptials and share gifts that help the couple launch their life together. The event usually includes good conversation, good eats, and time for the bride to open the presents to a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’ Many bridal showers also include fun games, or other activities, such as wine and painting or a few hours at the spa. You’re in charge of planning, so what people do is orchestrated by you.
Do you need to serve a full meal?
No. You should provide food, but your offerings can be as simple as cookies, cake, and tea. If you have the desire and the budget, however, you can go extravagant with a full, multi-course meal.
Check out our extensive list of Hens Party Ideas for your bestie.
How do I keep track of the gifts the bride receives?
Designate a bridesmaid or trusted guest to write down each gift with the name of the giver. This makes sending out thank-you notes much simpler. If you’re feeling ambitious, get ‘thank you’ cards, print or write out addresses on the envelope, and affix a stamp—all she has to do is write the notes and drop them in the mailbox.
Traditionally, a bridal shower is an all-female celebration for the bride, her friends/bridesmaids, and close female relatives from both sides of the family, such as grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. Activities usually include a mix of eating (either a seated meal or casual hors d’ oeuvres), playing games, and time for guests to mingle with each other. The main event is when you shower and spoil the bride—in other words, she opens her gifts, which are typically items that guests have purchased from the couple’s wedding registry. Many bridal showers are themed to reflect the bride’s interests, whether that means a vintage-style tea party or a tropical island-themed celebration.