Like most wedding-related events, the bridal shower is an exciting celebration that raises many etiquette questions. After all, you’re navigating a social situation entrenched with tradition. Plus, things can quickly get dicey once gifts are involved.
But brides, hosts, and guests shouldn’t worry. The bridal shower is evolving and now comes in all shapes and sizes.
This doesn’t mean that anything goes, though. There are still a few guidelines and etiquette rules that ensure showers go off without a hitch, and that everyone has a great time.
Ahead, we’ll answer the most frequent bridal shower etiquette questions and outline the best practices for throwing a joyful, inclusive shower. So keep reading and get ready to honor a bride-to-be with a pitch-perfect celebration.
What is a Bridal Shower?
A bridal shower is a party where female friends and relatives give presents to a bride-to-be. Most gifts are related to creating a home with her new spouse, and there’s typically light food, drinks, and a relaxed, classy vibe.
Guests of all ages attend the bridal shower, and it’s typically a daytime event.
The Bridal Shower Tradition
Bridal showers date back to the 16th century, when community members would offer gifts to a young bride who didn’t have dowry money.
But the celebration we’re more familiar with today took form in the Victorian era, when tea parties became commonplace, and weddings started becoming more extravagant affairs.
The Bridal Shower evolved to include registries, pricier gifts, and larger groups of people, but its core idea remains the same: it’s a chance to celebrate a bride-to-be and give her items that will be useful in this new stage of life.
What Happens at a Bridal Shower?
The biggest event at any bridal shower is gift giving. After all, that’s what the party is all about. Guests will typically gather around the bride as she opens her gifts and shows them off.
Since this is the most significant moment of the shower, you’ll likely save it for close to the end. Before opening gifts, you may enjoy food and beverages, play a few bridal shower games, and simply socialize as a group.
When Do You Throw a Bridal Shower?
A bridal shower typically takes place 2 to 12 weeks before the wedding date. This ensures that it’s close enough to the wedding to feel exciting, but not so close that the bride is overwhelmed with to-do lists.
Who Pays for Bridal Shower?
Whoever is hosting the bridal shower should pay for it. This could be the Maid of Honor, the mother of the bride or groom, or a coworker or boss.
It’s also ok for hosts to work together to plan and fund a bridal shower. But it’s not ok to take up a collection from guests or ask the bride to help pay for it.
Bridesmaids sometimes offer to help pay for the bridal shower if the maid of honor is hosting, but it shouldn’t be expected or demanded.
Who Do You Invite to a Bridal Shower?
Bridal showers typically include the bride’s female relatives of all ages (cousins, aunts, grandparents, etc.), female relatives from the groom’s side, friends, and coworkers. Sometimes the bride will have one single shower that includes everyone she knows, or she’ll have multiple smaller ones with different hosts.
Ask the bride if anyone else is throwing her a shower so you’ll know what kind of invite list to create.
When to Have a Bridal Shower
You should consider both the season and time of day as you plan when to have your bridal shower. If you prefer an outdoor garden party or a summertime backyard BBQ, you’ll want to aim toward the warm months. But it’s totally fine to have an indoor shower any time of the year.
If you plan to serve a full lunch or heavier finger foods, aim for an 11 or 12 start time. If you are only serving beverages and light snacks, then a 1:30 or 2 PM start time will be ideal. That way everyone comes after lunch and leaves before dinner.
A brunch shower should begin around 9:30 or 10 AM.
Where to Have a Bridal Shower
The most common place to have a bridal shower is at the host’s home, but sometimes the host will source another area. This could be because she doesn’t like entertaining in her house, it won’t accommodate enough people, or the bride pictures a shower in a separate location.
Here are ideas for where to have a bridal shower:
- A community center
- An event room at a hotel
- A park pavilion
- A friend’s home
- A room in a restaurant or tea room
What Do You Do at a Bridal Shower?
Bridal showers are all different but include most of the same activities.
Here is what you can expect to do at a bridal shower:
- Eat light food
- Drink (some showers serve alcohol while others don’t)
- Play bridal shower games
- Talk about the wedding plans
- Open gifts
Some showers simply have the guests gather together for a toast or introductions instead of playing games. And some brides don’t open the gifts in front of guests. Consider the bride’s personality and your group size as you determine what’s best for each shower.
What Do You Wear at a Bridal Shower?
Dressy casual attire is best for bridal showers. This could mean really nice jeans, but slacks, dresses, or jumpsuits will be better. Be sure to wear nice shoes or sandals and have fun with cute accessories.
The bride typically wears white to the shower, but she doesn’t have to.
How Long do Bridal Showers Last?
A bridal shower typically lasts about three hours. That’s enough time to mingle, play games, and open presents. If you have a venue for a limited time, consider booking it for at least 4 hours to ensure you don’t feel rushed.
How to Send a Formal Bridal Shower Invitation
Ask the bride for a list of invitees. She’ll likely have everyone’s addresses since she’s gathering them for her wedding. You can purchase or design an invitation that matches the shower’s theme, and be sure to include all the details, like the time, location, and where the couple is registered.
Also include the host’s phone number and an RSVP deadline.
For more casual showers, it’s ok to send a thoughtfully created e-vite, but if it’s within your budget, a formal, mailed invitation is always a nice touch.
When to Send Bridal Shower Invitations
Your invitations should go out about four to six weeks before the wedding shower. Give it even more time if you’ll have out-of-town guests or a larger group. Make the RSVP deadline about two weeks before the party.
Appropriate Gifts for Bridal Showers
Gifts are the headlining attraction of a bridal shower, so you should definitely put thought into what you bring to one. Check out the bride’s registry and look for items within your budget.
You can go in as a group for a larger item, put together a gift basket with a few smaller things, or pick out the one perfect gift that works in your budget.
Here are a few ideas for bridal shower gifts:
- Kitchen appliances like a toaster, stand mixer, or air fryer
- Dishes or china
- A vacuum or Roomba
- Gift cards for restaurants or food delivery services
- Decorations, like picture frames, vases, and art
- Organizational items, like food storage, baskets, and hangers
- Cups, mugs, and glasses
Roles Bridal Shower Guests
Each person at the bridal shower plays an important yet different role. If you’re wondering what to expect from shower guests, or what you should do as a guest, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn about the key people at a shower and what they should plan to do.
On the shower day, the Bride’s job is to dress in something she’s excited to wear, then show up and enjoy. If it’s a large group, she may need to put some effort into helping everyone mingle and get introduced. And she’ll need to be ready to open presents when the time comes.
Ahead of time, the bride can help the host put together a guest list and make her wedding registry so everyone knows what to get her.
Mother of the Bride
Traditionally the Mother of the Bride wouldn’t host the bridal shower since it seemed like any gifts would also benefit her. But these days, brides are much more independent from their parents, and it’s acceptable for the bride’s mother to serve as host.
If she is not the official host of the shower, she can attend and be a positive presence. She can also offer to pay for some of the party if she wants to, but the host should never expect anyone else to help pay.
Mother of the Groom
It’s very common for the Mother of the Groom to throw a bridal shower. As the host, the groom’s mother should manage the guest list, location, food and drink, and games. She’ll also need to send out invitations and decorate.
If the groom’s mother is not hosting the shower, she can still offer to help with any of the tasks. She can also help the host manage her side of the family – for example, if she needs to gather addresses, help give directions, or make sure everyone is comfortable and introduced.
The Groom typically sits out the bridal shower. However, “Jack & Jill” showers are becoming more popular these days. If that’s the case, the groom will attend the entire party as a guest of honor alongside the Bride.
If it’s a ladies-only event, then the groom can still participate by showing up at the end and thanking everyone for their gifts. He can also help the bride pack up her presents and share an especially warm thank you to the host.
Maid of Honor & Bridesmaids
Sometimes the Maid of Honor will serve as host of the bridal shower, in which case she’ll manage the entire event from planning to the end. The bridesmaids don’t have to contribute to the celebration financially or actively, but it is a nice gesture to offer.
Bridesmaids can help manage the friends of the bride, they can help with decorations or a potluck-style meal, and they can help the bride get ready for the party.
The Maid of Honor may keep a list of gifts for thank you cards, and the bridesmaids can help carry items out to the car after the shower.
If the bridesmaids or Maid of Honor are attending multiple showers, they don’t need to bring a present to each one. They can get something small like wine or chocolates if they don’t want to show up empty-handed.
Planning a Bridal Shower in 18 Steps
Planning a bridal shower can seem overwhelming at first. After all, there is so much to do, and you want it to be a nice time for everyone. Luckily, you can follow easy steps to ensure your shower is well-organized and completely enjoyable.
- Ensure you should host the bridal shower. Are you a close friend, family member, or coworker of the bride? Anyone can host a bridal shower, but if it is a repeat event with all the same guests, it may not be necessary.
- Create your guest list. Work with the bride to get a number of guests and a list of their names and addresses.
- Establish a Budget. Unless someone has already offered to help pay for the shower, plan to pay for it all yourself. Do a little preliminary research, then establish a budget.
- Set a Date. You’ll want to ensure that the party’s date works for the bride and any key guests. It could be anywhere from one to three months before the wedding date.
- Secure a Location. Before sending out invitations, you’ll want to ensure you have a location set. This could be your home or a rented venue.
- Think of a Theme. It’s ok if your shower doesn’t have a theme, but many follow some kind of aesthetic. This can help guide your invitation and decoration decisions.
- Send out Invitations. Send out invitations about four to six weeks before the shower.
- Delegate Tasks. If anyone has offered to help with anything, from keeping track of RSVPs to picking up food on the day, keep a list of it so you can ensure everything gets done.
- Plan Decorations and Games. This is the fun part! You can choose decorations and games to make the bridal shower look and feel good.
- Plan the Menu. You probably won’t do much food and drink shopping until closer to the day, but you’ll still want to have everything planned so that when it’s crunch time, you can delegate the shopping or easily pick everything up in one trip. If you’re getting it catered professionally, you’ll want to book that as soon as possible.
- Get a Gift. The host does get the bride a gift at the shower unless she’s already given one at a previous shower.
- Confirm the Details. As the day gets closer, you’ll want to triple-check that everything’s covered. Share your to-do list with a friend so they can make sure you didn’t miss anything. And make sure the bride is excited about her celebration.
- Shop for Food & Drink. In the week leading up to the party, you’ll need to buy the food and drink, or confirm details with the caterer.
- Confirm the Bride’s Arrival Time. Make sure the bride arrives on time. Check with her to see if she needs a ride or any help getting ready.
- Decorate and Set Up. Whether you are at a rented location or your own home, you’ll likely spend the morning of the shower setting up your food, drink, and decorations.
- Enjoy the Shower. Since you put so much thought into things throughout the planning process, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the shower. Spend time with guests, eat the food, and honor the bride-to-be with gifts and attention.
- Clean Up. The bride shouldn’t have to help clean up after the party, but the host can accept help from guests who offer.
- Help with Thank You Notes. As an extra service to the bride, you can see if she needs help organizing or addressing thank you notes to her guests.
Best practices for an Amazing Bridal Shower
Each bridal shower is unique, but the best ones follow some basic guidelines to ensure everyone has a great time and the bride-to-be feels honored. Keep reading to learn the best practices for having an amazing Bridal Shower.
A bridal shower doesn’t have to be super structured, but it should be organized, especially during the planning process. The host should oversee all the details, even if she delegates them to helpful guests.
Write down tasks and shopping lists, and keep track of invitees and RSVPs. And on the day, a planned menu, a loose timeline, and some form of ice breaker will make sure that everyone can fully enjoy their time at the party.
2. The Right Number of Guests
Achieving a good group size for a bridal shower is a tricky balancing act. Too few people and the party may feel meek, but a large group can inhibit a welcoming environment and could cause gift-giving to go on too long.
You want to make sure that everyone within the bride’s circle is included, so check with her for the ideal invite list and guest count. Typically a group of 10-20 works well for a shower, but you may go smaller or bigger depending on the bride’s social circle.
3. A Welcoming Atmosphere
Like any party, you’ll want to ensure that everyone at the shower feels welcomed and included. Many showers have silly games to break the ice and involve everyone, but you could also simply invite guests to share stories of the couple or introduce themselves.
The host doesn’t have to micromanage each guest, but it’s nice to introduce people who don’t know each other and keep an eye on guests who may not know anyone except the bride.
4. Gift Giving
The main reason for a shower is to give gifts to a bride-to-be, so it’s fair to expect each guest (or group of guests) to bring a present to the shower. If the bride doesn’t want to receive gifts, it should be called a bridal luncheon or a no-gifts shower.
Most parties include a time when the bride opens all the gifts, but if the bride is shy or if it’s a big group, she may not open presents during the party. Either way, she should send a thank you card as soon as possible.
5. Honoring the Bride
The bride is the guest of honor at the bridal shower, so it should be centered around her. So hosts should consider the bride’s taste, social circle, and general wishes as she plans the shower.
On the other hand, a bride should be honored to receive a shower and shouldn’t micromanage its plans.
A Bridal Shower Everyone Will Enjoy
Bridal Showers are becoming more unique and modern, but they all still follow many of the same principles and practices. By focusing on the bride, understanding everyone’s roles, and having fair expectations for everyone, the shower will be one that the entire group can enjoy.