Bridal Shower Ideas and Planning.

Bridal showers are rituals that should be savored as ways to honor brides before they get swept up in all the preparation for their weddings.

Nowadays, showers can take many forms - from elegant potluck lunches and high teas with fine china to hiring a yoga instructor for a catered sushi party or organizing a bridal hike with trail sandwiches and tarts.

Whatever the venue, thoughtful planning is important for a relaxed and memorable time.

There's no fixed rule on who hosts showers, but traditionally it's a close friend or relative outside of the immediate family. While select co-workers may attend, there can also be a separate party organized at the office. Additionally, future in-laws may want to host a get-together to make introductions.

Shower hosts should coordinate with brides on party dates and times, as well as whom to invite. Likewise, hosts should get bridal approval of party themes, which signals to guests what kind of gifts to bring - like lingerie, linens, baking accessories or perhaps camping equipment - and if there's a bridal shower gift registry at a store. In lieu of gifts, brides can also opt for donations to a favorite charity.

At this point in planning, a bride can take a step back and enjoy the anticipation of their shower. The next step is for a host to select bridal shower invitations that will set the tone for the entire party. The invitations should be mailed a week after the wedding invitations, which themselves are ideally posted 6-8 weeks ahead of the ceremony.

Aside from containing all necessary information - time, date, 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 bulletin board.

Showers become more special when guests participate. If it's a dessert shower with coffee and champagne, ask people to bring their favorite homemade pie, cookie, trifle or cake and accept offers to bring cases of bubbly or bags of freshly roasted java from others.

If it's a potluck party, ask guests to make one of the bride's favorite foods, or perhaps a menu could be built around a honeymoon destination. To avoid getting too many appetizers and not enough main courses, keep track of who's bringing what.

Additionally, ask guests to email their recipes ahead of time with a photo of themselves with the bride to create a shower cookbook in advance of the party for everyone.

Whatever the venue, the best decorations are simple, like bouquets of helium balloons and sprays of flowers on the buffet table in colors of the upcoming wedding. For table settings, nametags affixed around a medium beeswax candle or potted herb double as party favors.

Finally, just like with children's birthday parties, it's good form (and a big help for a bride) to ask someone at the shower to keep a list of what's given and by whom. Hosts can also help out by providing brides a list of guests and addresses, along with a box of thank you cards.

Need more inspiration? You'll find plenty among our exclusive selection of bridal shower invitations.