A bridal shower is a great way to celebrate an engagement with the women closest to the bride, and it poses an opportunity for those women to memorialize the engagement with gifts and celebration. In more traditional weddings, the maid of honor plans the bridal shower with assistance from the bridesmaids. However, any member of the bridal party can certainly throw the shower. Sometimes, this can make a party more memorable, as it relies less on arbitrary tradition, and rather on who knows the bride’s tastes best and enjoys hostessing.
Invitations, General Planning & Etiquette
The date of the bridal shower should be about four to six months before the wedding date. If there will also be an engagement party, you’ll probably want to throw the bridal shower closer to the date of the wedding than the engagement party.
Generally, it is a good idea to send paper invitations for a bridal shower, though if you envision a very informal gathering of the bride’s closest friends and family, an online invitation such as an Evite or a Paperless Post will suffice. Make sure that invitations are mailed or emailed at a very minimum of three to four weeks in advance. One of the most memorable events of a bridal shower is when the bride is “showered” with gifts. It might be a good idea to include bridal registry information on the invitation, so guests have some guidance as to what to gift to the bride. Whomever in the bridal party will be planning the shower can also informally welcome all of the invitees to pool together to buy the bride one large gift rather than individual gifts.
The host of the shower may also want to throw a surprise bridal shower, and this will likely create a particularly memorable experience for all involved. It is hard to soon forget the surprised look of the bride’s face when she finds her friends and family gathered together on her behalf. It may be helpful to split the bridal shower planning and tasks amongst bridal party members, especially if there are many items on the agenda or if you’re planning a very large shower.
Theme, Location, Food & Drink
Your theme and location are going to be essential to making the bridal shower memorable. Here are some theme/location ideas to get you started brainstorming:
- Spa Day—This is a fairly common shower idea, though it may not be the best choice if you’re inviting both men and women. Regardless, most everyone will find a spa day with friends memorable and enjoyable.
- Night on the Town—This type of bridal shower likely requires the least planning, though the more you do, the more exciting the event can be. For this theme, you may want to consider reserving a limo or two to drive the invitees around, and you may want to have champagne on hand so everyone can toast to the bride. This is also a great option for brides that may not want to make a big production of the shower and don’t care so much for tradition. You may even want to consider arranging dinner for all guests at the bride’s favorite restaurant. If it’s a large group, you could talk to the restaurant in advance about potentially reserving space for the party.
- Cocktail Party—This is another “relaxed” option, in which people can have fun in a manner that’s familiar to them. Instead of bracing themselves for potentially cheesy games and activities, all guests will be relieved to enjoy this memorable and low-key bridal shower.
- Wine & Cheese Party—This great option for both larger and smaller groups, and again if both women and men will be attending, this is a perfect choice. It’s a nice, classy way for everyone to gather together, and it’s perfectly gender-neutral.
- Quiet Home Gathering—This is a more traditional site for a bridal shower, though of course, you can make it as traditional as you wish. You can even have a slumber party with the bridal party, sixth-grade style, if you want!
- Day at the Beach & Tennis Club—If the bride is on the athletic side, tennis might be a fun way to spend the day. With the added bonus of being on the beach, it’s virtually built-in décor for the party.
- Garden Tea Party—Why not have a lovely garden party with tea? It could fulfill some childhood fantasies for the bride and will be memorable and loved by all the guests, up to and including the bride’s mother. If you don’t have a garden, a deck or a yard can certainly be used as a substitute.
Above all, you’ll want the party to reflect the bride’s idea of a good time with her friends and family. As long as you remember that, you are guaranteed to throw a memorable bridal shower. The planning should also fall on the shoulders of the bridal party, so the bride does not associate planning minutia with her memory of the shower.
Lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert are all excellent options to serve at the party, though your food and drinks will largely depend on what makes sense for the party theme and location. Of course, you’ll probably want to have some champagne or wine, in case anyone wants to make a toast. Though, if your party is already cocktail-centered, you might be okay to skip it.
Games & Party Favors
Games can sometimes be too much for guests, though you shouldn’t feel deterred from including activities and games if you think the bride will enjoy them. Steer clear of any games that might embarrass anyone present or make someone feel uncomfortable. For example, you should remember that the bride’s mother will likely be present, so be sure all games are suitable for the entire group.
If you do decide to play games, consider giving out prizes like wine, picture frames, candles, perfumes, and gift cards. Otherwise, these sorts of things can be handed out as party favors. Another party favor or “thank you” idea is to have a photo station or hire a photographer so that the bride and guests can take photos at the party. Afterwards, the bride can email or print out photos and send them with her thank-you cards and/or emails.