Planning a Bridal Shower 101

Planning a bridal shower

Ever seen the movie Bridesmaids? If so, you might have cringed at the hilarious, over-the-top bridal shower scene. Enormous chocolate fountains, puppies as party favors, and a trip to Paris sent main character Annie famously over the edge of insanity. While the bridal shower hostess likely won’t be going to that sort of extreme, planning a bridal shower can still be intimidating.

Planning a bridal shower

Key responsibilities for bridal showers include: Sending invitations, choosing a central location, organizing food and decorations, and brainstorming games that (hopefully) aren’t lame. These decisions can be stressful if you don’t have a roadmap. To take some of that stress off your shoulders we’ve put together a comprehensive list that will answer all your burning questions and give you plenty of ideas to plan the perfect bridal shower.

Who Throws the Bridal Shower?

The maid of honor typically throws the bridal shower, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Any other bridesmaid or friend of the bride may take on this responsibility, especially if the maid of honor is a family member. Older guests may still consider it poor etiquette for the family of the bride, particularly the bride’s parents, to host a bridal shower since it gives the appearance that they are asking for gifts.

planning a bridal shower

While it’s becoming more socially acceptable for the bride’s sister or aunt to throw a shower, we still think it’s best for the bride’s best friends to step up to the plate when it comes to the shower and let the bride’s family fall into the role of “consultants” rather than hosts. A notable exception is a family bridal shower where only family members are invited. Under no circumstances should the bride host her own shower.

Tip: Bridal shower planning works best when two to three friends of the bride host the shower together and divide up the responsibilities and expenses evenly.

When to Have a Bridal Shower

The ideal time to throw a bridal shower is 2 to 3 months before the wedding. This is the sweet spot when the wedding date and surrounding festivities have typically been finalized, but those dates are far enough in the future that none of the guests feel burdened by too many events at once. Unless it’s a particularly short engagement, 2 to 3 months is also generally far enough away from the engagement party to not place a similar burden on guests.

Tip: While you’ll rarely find a date that accommodates everyone’s schedules, the most important factor in choosing when to have a bridal shower is the availability of the bride-to-be’s family and bridesmaids.

Choosing Bridal Shower Invitations

Choosing invitations is the fun part of planning a bridal shower. We recommend steering clear of email invitations and sending actual, physical invitations. This is simply because bridal showers are associated with weddings, which are serious, life-changing moments for the bride and groom. Weddings call for a greater measure of formality — even if the bridal shower itself is informal. Not only does everyone love receiving invitations in the mail, but physical invitations are also harder to miss than email invitations, which might accidentally end up in junk email or buried by other emails.

bridal shower invitations
Blush & Faux Gold Glitter Bridal Shower Invitation from Invite Shop

Tip: Choose a bargain invitation website like Invite Shop, which offers some of the lowest prices in the industry without sacrificing quality. Invite Shop lets you choose from beautiful, contemporary designs for bridal shower invitations or design your own bridal shower invitations from top to bottom.

When to Send Bridal Shower Invitations

Bridal shower invitations should be sent out no later than 4 weeks in advance, although 6 weeks is preferable. If the shower will include numerous out-of-town guests who will need time to make travel arrangements, consider sending that segment of the invitations out 8 weeks in advance as a courtesy. Request that those invited RSVP 2 weeks before the event so that the host will have plenty of time to plan for seating and food.

bridal shower invitations
Delicate Floral Garden Frame Bridal Shower Invitation from Invite Shop

Bridal Shower Guest List

Bridal showers are generally reserved for the bride’s nearest and dearest, so limiting the guest list to the bride’s closest female friends and family members is appropriate. A bridal shower with 15-20 people is a good target, although you may need to make an exception if the bride has a big family or a large, tightly-knit group of friends. The guest list may be even shorter if the bride is planning a small, intimate wedding.

It’s rude to invite someone to the bridal shower who is not invited to the wedding. You can avoid this embarrassing predicament by consulting closely with the bride regarding the guest list. The most important people to invite are the maid of honor, bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom, close female family members, and the bride’s closest friends. If someone who is not close to the bride expresses interest in attending the shower, consult with the bride as to whether the person should be included.

Tip: Try to trim the list of co-workers, distant friends, and acquaintances to keep the event intimate.

Bridal Shower Venues

bridal shower venues
via Mason Jar Moments

The best place to host a bridal shower is at someone’s home who is planning or attending the shower. Unfortunately, sometimes the main shower guests are small apartment dwellers and a large home isn’t readily available. This is one of the reasons consulting the mother of the bride is helpful. She may have a friend who is willing to open their home for a few hours so that the shower can take place. Another option is the common room of an apartment complex or the meeting hall of a church, nonprofit, or community center. On many occasions, these spaces can be reserved for cheap or free.

Tip: You may want to explore your options at local businesses. If they keep to regular, 9-5 working hours, you may be able to use a large conference room after-hours for a bridal shower for cheap or free.

Bridal Shower Food & Drinks

bridal shower food

At a bridal shower, the dessert spread is often a focal point of the decor. A beautiful cake or a multi-tiered display of cupcakes or cake pops is typically a centerpiece. However, be careful not to focus so much on sweets that you forget to plan for savory food. When planning food, keep a few things in mind:

  • The number of people attending
  • Options for picky eaters
  • Possible dietary restrictions of guests
  • Healthy options

Consider having at least one food option that is dairy and nut free, as these are common allergens. As a courtesy, print small labels for foods that do contain these ingredients so that guests with allergies know to steer clear. While you can’t accommodate all picky eaters, one way to keep more of your guests happy is to avoid spicy foods or at least provide enough variety so that spicy isn’t the only option.

bridal shower food
Mini salads are a great healthy bridal shower option / Image via

If you are providing alcoholic beverages, such as champagne, make sure that you also make non-alcoholic beverages, such as sparkling white grape juice, available for those who do not or cannot drink alcohol. Alcoholic and “virgin” beverage options should be clearly labeled. Last but not least, having some bottled water on hand is never a bad idea.

Tip: For tight budgets, we recommend finger sandwiches cut into squares, rectangles, or other pleasing shapes, such as hearts. Chicken salad and turkey and cheese are great, affordable options. We also love these heart-shaped slices of watermelon we found over on the Craftivity Designs blog.

bridal shower food
via Craftivity Designs

Bridal Shower Decorations

Bridal shower decorations should be soft and tasteful. Fresh flowers are a lovely option both as part of the decor and as a bonus gift for the bride-to-be. Engagement photos or other photos featuring the bride and groom are also excellent choices to include in the decor. While tissue paper pom-poms can be bought pre-made, you can save yourself a lot of money by making them yourself. By using this great tutorial we found over on the Exclusively Weddings blog, you can make all the pom-poms you need to make the bridal shower festive for only $5.

bridal shower decorations
Coffee filter flowers via the U Create blog

Tip: Another beautiful option for DIY bridal shower decor are these coffee filter flowers we found over on the U Create blog. The crafter who came up with the idea used food coloring and tea to achieve a nice variety of colors for her paper flowers.

Bridal Shower Games

Quite possibly the most memorable part of the bridal shower are the games. You’ll want to plan at least two games to keep the shower lively and fun. We recommend having one active game that will inspire friendly competition and one passive game for guests who prefer to stay out of the limelight. This will help both extroverts and introverts have a great time at the shower.

bridal shower games
via Zen and Spice

Active games include: wedding-themed charades, wedding-themed scavenger hunts, the classic challenge of who can make the best wedding dress out of toilet paper, and wedding-themed karaoke. Passive games include: trivia about the bride and groom, “how well do you know the bride?” sheets, wedding bingo, or a “guess how many” game, where you have a glass jar full of Hershey’s Kisses and guests must submit their guess as to how many there are in order to win a prize.

Tip: Be careful not to plan too many games. Too much game time may mean some guests will need to leave before the bride-to-be has a chance to open gifts.

Final Details

A few details you should remember:

  • Have a designated table ready so that guests have a place to set their gifts.
  • When the time comes for the bride-to-be to open her gifts, have a notepad on hand and a designated person chosen who can write down who brought which gifts. This will make it much easier for the bride to send thank you notes later.
  • Recruit a couple people to help the bride-to-be load gifts into her vehicle after the shower is over. After all, some gifts, like dinner plate sets and microwaves, can be quite heavy!

Bridal Shower Checklist

Here is a simple checklist to make sure nothing is forgotten:

  • Choose a date and time that works for the bride-to-be and her guests of honor.
  • Establish a budget and determine how costs will be divided among hosts and organizers.
  • Reserve the bridal shower venue.
  • Finalize the guest list and gather addresses.
  • Send bridal shower invitations.
  • Meet with co-hosts and fellow planners to organize food, games, and decorations. Divide up responsibilities appropriately.
  • Purchase decorations or materials to make your own.
  • Purchase or prepare any materials or props needed for games.
  • Draw up a loose schedule for when games will take place and when the opening of the gifts will take place.
  • Confirm RSVPs.
  • Purchase, order, or prepare food and drinks once number of guests has been established.
  • Prepare any labels needed for food and drinks.
  • Decorate the venue and arrange food and drinks with labels.
  • Welcome the bride-to-be and her guests.
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