Wedding Planning Guide
bridal showers 101
Photo: Ciera Design
Bridal Shower Basics
With all the rules and etiquette surrounding weddings, expressing your gratitude to your guests is probably the most important. Here are some guidelines for who to send thank you cards to, and when to send them.
A bridal shower is a celebration that honors the bride and her upcoming marriage. It’s also traditionally an opportunity for guests to give her gifts to help set up her new home. Nowadays, bridal showers can take many forms and themes, from elegant high tea luncheons to a group cooking class or casual co-ed gathering with the groom-to-be and his pals in attendance, as well. Whatever you decide, thoughtful planning will ensure a relaxed and memorable time for all.
Bridal Shower Etiquette
Who Hosts the Bridal Shower?
Though there’s no fixed rule on who hosts the bridal shower, these days, it’s often thrown by the bridesmaids, a close friend, or close female relatives. Sometimes work colleagues opt to throw a separate shower organized at the office; additionally, future in-laws may want to host a get-together to make introductions. The key is to let individual circumstances be your guide when determining who should serve as host.
Decide on a Bridal Shower Date & Theme
The bridal shower usually takes place anytime between six months to a week before the wedding; it’s important to check with the bride first on any preferred party dates and times. Also, if depending on where most of the guests live, you may need to schedule it far in advance so everyone can make travel plans.
It’s also a good idea for the host to get the bride’s approval on the bridal shower theme, which signals to guests what kind of gifts to bring—i.e., lingerie, linens, kitchen or baking accessories, or camping equipment—and if she’s created a gift registry. Or, in lieu of gifts, brides may opt for donations to a favorite charity.
When it comes to the invitation list, let the couple weigh in and provide you with a guest list and each person’s email and mailing address. Everyone invited to the bridal shower should also be invited to the wedding.
Ordering & Sending Bridal Shower Invitations
The next step is for the host to select bridal shower invitations that will set the tone for the entire party. The invitations should be mailed six to eight weeks before the shower date, depending on how many out-of-town guests are on the invite list. Aside from containing all necessary information—date, time, location—invitations might ask guests to bring memories of the bride to share during a toast, or early photos of the guest of honor to post on a pinboard. Make sure guests RSVP to one person (the maid of honor, for example), to keep numbers organized. Also, spread the word about where the bride is registered by including this information on the bridal shower invitation.
What’s a Couples Shower?
If the soon-to-be-weds prefer to celebrate together, a couples shower includes both their families and friends. While there are no set rules around this shower idea, keep in mind the co-ed guest list when planning the theme, menu, and activities, and make it clear on the invitation so guests know what to expect.
Advice for the Host
Get guests involved.
Showers are fun for everyone when the guests have something to do. If the party theme revolves around desserts, ask guests to bring their favorite sweet treat to share or a bottle of bubbly. If it’s going to be an afternoon luncheon, then build the menu around a theme and invite guests each contribute a dish. To avoid getting too many appetizers and not enough main courses, keep track of who's bringing what (via a shared Google spreadsheet, perhaps). Throwing a cooking-themed shower? Ask guests to email favorite recipes ahead of time along with a photo; then combine everyone’s contributions into a meaningful shower cookbook for the bride to take home.
Keep decorations simple.
Whatever the venue, the best decorations are simple, like elegant floral arrangements on the main tables and fun gold or silver mylar balloons spelling out “love” or the bride’s names. If you’re planning to give guests a party favor, think of something that works double-duty–say, a scented candle that you can tie each guest’s place card around, or a potted succulent that doubles as an escort card.
Keep track of gifts.
Finally, it's good form (and a big help for the bride) to ask several people at the shower to help the bride keep track of gifts. The best way? Create a gift-opening assembly line—here’s how it works. One person brings the bride a gift to open (and then takes the opened gift to a designated spot where it will later be packed in the car); another friend can dispose of the torn wrapping paper while another gathers ribbons to create the traditional rehearsal bridal bouquet; lastly, another friend needs to keep a list of who gave what gift so the bride does not have to rely on her memory when writing thank-yous. It’s also a thoughtful touch if the host provides the bride with a list of all the attendees and their addresses at the end of the party, along with a box of thank-you cards.
Bridal Shower Planning Checklist
Our handy guide to throwing a fabulous wedding shower
3+ months in advance:
- Coordinate with the bride or couple on the shower date and guest list. Check with important guests like bridesmaids and close family members to avoid any scheduling conflicts, as well as any out of town guests who may need to arrange travel.
- Coordinate with the bride or couple on the theme. They may have ideas for the kind of celebration they would like (or wouldn’t like).
- Decide on a party venue. Arrange any restaurant reservations or park permits well in advance; if you’d like to host the party in someone’s home—say, the bride’s aunt’s house or at her cousin’s—then be sure to make arrangements with the homeowner well in advance.
2 months in advance:
- Enlist the bridal party to help plan the decorations, activities, and menu. Delegate tasks like contacting vendors, creating a playlist, and bringing specific dishes.
1 month in advance:
- Order and send bridal shower invitations. Include registry info or the theme to help guests choose a gift, as well as anything else they should bring, such as photos, food or drinks, or letters for the guest of honor.
- Buy or make decorations and favors.
- Order thank-you cards for the bride.
Two weeks in advance:
- Order flowers.
- Rent or borrow servingware, audio equipment, extra tables and chairs, and anything necessary for your planned activity.
- Buy a gift.
One week in advance:
- Buy ingredients for food and drinks.
- Confirm deliveries, reservations, and RSVPs.
The day before
- Prep food and decorations.
- Confirm with guests what they’re bringing.
- Run any last-minute errands.
At the shower:
- Keep track of gifts for the bride—save the guest list and addresses for thank-you cards.
- Save ribbons to create a bow bouquet for the bride to use at the ceremony rehearsal.