Your best girlfriend is on her way to the altar, and as a part of the bride’s inner circle, you’re filled with excitement. Along with that excitement, you now have a handful of roles and responsibilities before the big day. You know there’s no better way to honour your favourite bride-to-be than with a successful celebration. So, now is the time to brush up on your bridal shower etiquette. You can use our bridal shower etiquette guide to stay up to date with bridal shower trends, traditions and etiquette tips.
What Is A Bridal Shower?
A bridal shower is a celebration in honour of the bride-to-be that takes place before the wedding. Traditionally, the bridal shower celebration serves as an opportunity for guests to “shower” the bride with gifts. It’s important to know that there are no strict rules when it comes to planning the event. A bridal shower theme that embraces the bride-to-be’s unique personality and tastes are perfect. Despite rising trends and styles, many women are erring on the side of tradition and sticking to the classic bridal shower set-up. This consists of a ladies-only daytime event that honours the bride-to-be.
Who Throws The Bridal Shower?
These days, just about anyone can throw the bridal shower. However, the event is usually hosted by the maid-of-honour, bridesmaids, or the bride or groom’s mother. It’s also not uncommon for co-workers to host bridal showers. Because of this, brides regularly celebrate with more than one bridal shower.
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Traditionally, it was the maid of honour’s duty to host the bridal shower while the bridesmaids helped out with all of the planning. This is because it was bad etiquette for anyone related to the bride to host the shower. People used to believe it looked like the family was asking for gifts. However, don’t be too worried about this faux pas anymore. Regardless of who’s planning, bridal shower gifts are an expected part of the shower.
Before gifts are opened, and the event comes to life, it’s important to keep an open communication line between everyone involved in the planning process. This includes the bride-to-be. This way, everyone’s on the same page throughout the planning.
Who Pays For The Bridal Shower?
Typically, whoever is hosting the bridal shower will pay for the celebration. It’s poor etiquette to ask shower guests to contribute to the costs of the shower, so avoid doing so. If you are taking on the task of hosting the bridal shower, but are worried about financial obligations, you can ask to share the responsibilities and costs with other members of the bridal party. If that’s not an option, there is no need to worry. There are plenty of budget-friendly ways to host a shower. Create a celebration that focuses on the bride-to-be rather than an extravagant bridal tea party soiree. Rest assured that you can host a successful shower that the bride will love without breaking the bank and sacrificing this special milestone.
Where should you hold the bridal shower?
If the bride still lives relatively close to home, the shower can be held in her hometown. Does she live in another state? It may still be more convenient for the bride to travel to her shower if most of the guests live locally, instead of asking the entire guest list to hop on an aeroplane. The specific location depends on the type of shower and the host’s budget. It could be in a friend or family member’s home or backyard, at a local restaurant, or somewhere more specific if the shower has a theme (such as a cooking school or a wine tasting room).
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Bridal showers can be hosted almost anywhere, but they normally take place at the host’s home, a restaurant, banquet hall, or outdoor location. Other locations for bridal showers usually revolve around a planned activity. Typical activities include a pottery class, a wine tasting party, a cooking class, and more. No matter which bridal shower venue location you pick, you’ll want to consider a few important factors before making your final decision.
What happens at a bridal shower? How do bridal showers work?
The general outline is usually the same: Food, drinks, a few games, and an opportunity for the bride to open gifts surrounded by her guests. You can stick to bridal shower traditions like gift bingo or designing wedding dresses using rolls of toilet paper, or you could instead plan an activity-oriented shower like a spa day or a calligraphy lesson. Don’t love the idea of opening gifts in front of everyone? Speak up! Those gifts could be set aside so you can open them at home along with your fiancé. Speaking of your fiancé, they often arrive toward the end of the shower (with flowers in tow) as a surprise for the bride. It’s a sweet way to include him in your celebration, as well as help you get those gifts home!
At your bridal shower, you get to be the guest of honour as your closest female friends and relatives gather to girl-talk, eat and lavish you with a truckload of amazing gifts. Even though this is one party you won’t have to plan, it helps to know what to expect.
Hosts with the Most
The bridal shower is usually given by your bridal party or a close family friend. The total cost is often split among the maid of honour and bridesmaids, but mothers of the bride and groom often contribute financially, too, or offer to pay for something specific, like wine, the cake or party favours.
Showers typically take place on a Saturday or Sunday anywhere from two months to three weeks before the wedding. The exact time of day will be up to your hosts, but they’ll likely plan a brunch, a luncheon or an afternoon tea that lasts three to four hours.
Important: Only people who will be invited to the wedding should be included in the shower; a group of 20 to 40 guests is standard. Invitations should be mailed out six weeks before the shower date or earlier and must include the following: the names of the hostesses; the name of the bride (some shower hosts also include a “fiancé of…” line, as a courtesy to his family); the date, time and location of the party; whether it’s a surprise; special themes or instructions (see sidebar, right); a contact name and phone number for RSVPs; and gift registry information.
Places to Party
Traditional showers usually take place at the home of a relative or close family friend, or in a private room at a restaurant. Others revolve around an activity—guests might meet at a pottery shop to make and paint clay objects, a design studio for a flower-arranging class or a jewellery store where they can create their necklaces and bracelets. Nail salons and day spas are popular spots, too.
Guess what? Showers aren’t just for the bride any longer. Many couples today are feted with a coed “Jack & Jill” shower. It might be a cocktail party, a barbecue or drinks at a favourite nightclub. Not sure you want to forgo the all-female gathering? You don’t need to: Having one of each is perfectly okay, but try not to duplicate invitees so that no one feels she must buy you more than one gift.
You’ll spend the first part of the shower eating, drinking and mingling with your guests. The main event—opening gifts—usually takes place during coffee and dessert. You’ll take a seat in front of the crowd, and your bridesmaids (or other trustworthy volunteers) will hand you gifts to open. One bridesmaid will sit alongside you and jot down each gift and its giver—a helpful list to have when you write your thank-you notes. Playing games is optional—check out The Bridesmaid Guide (Chronicle Books), by Kate Chynoweth, for ideas. (Hint: “Wedding Night Preview” is a classic, and it’s always a hoot.)
What Do You Do At A Bridal Shower?
Most bridal shower guests spend time mingling, eating, playing games, and honouring the bride-to-be. As a guest, you’ll want to remember the celebration is all about the bride and her special day ahead, so most activities during the day will reflect this. Specific activities for a bridal shower include:
Your bridesmaids will likely host the party
Traditionally, the shower is thrown by a member or members of your bridal party. A family member or friend that’s not in the bridal party can also throw a shower in place of or in addition to.
Between 20-50 guests will be invited
Depending on the venue size, you can expect quite a few friends and relatives to RSVP. Typically it will be a mix of your friends, family, and fiancé’s family. Guests who are not invited to the wedding shouldn’t be invited to the shower.
Unless specifically noted as a coed shower, most bridal showers are female-only. While it is becoming more commonplace for friends to throw a couple’s shower for both the couple (where both males and females are invited), don’t assume men are invited unless it’s stated on the invitation.
Showers typically occur 2-3 months before the big day
And invitations will most likely be sent out four to six weeks before the event.
You can have more than one shower
You’ll likely have more than one friend or family member that will want to throw a celebration bash for you.
While it’s reasonable to celebrate multiple times and with various friend groups, make sure you’re conscious of who you’re inviting. You don’t want friends to feel obligated to attend all of your events.
Guests will bring gifts
Make sure that you’re registered prior to your shower, so guests can bring a gift from your registry if they desire.
There will be food
Your shower may be a brunch, lunch, or dinner. Depending on the time of day, light appetizers will likely be served.
Usually, champagne, beer, or wine will be provided.
You can wear white, but you don’t have to
Many brides choose to wear a white dress, jumpsuit, or romper to their shower. But, your attire choice is totally up to you.
There might be games
If you don’t want to play bridal shower games, make sure to tell your host beforehand. You’ll need to write thank-you notes to the host and guests.
While opening presents, make sure to have a friend jot down what each guest brought you. That way, you can write special and personalized thank you notes to each person who made your shower amazing.
Make sure the bridal shower venue you select will be able to accommodate the guest list. Whether you’re hosting an intimate gathering or a formal cocktail party, there should be room to fit everyone comfortably. Second, you should make sure that the venue has space for any planned games and activities. Finally, don’t forget that the host is usually the one who is in charge of picking up the bill so if you do decide to host the shower at a restaurant, spa, or other location you’ll want to consider added costs.
Lastly, I just wanted to throw this one out there. One of the biggest things to expect from a bridal shower is the proposition of a group gift, especially for all the bridesmaids to go in on together. I’m a total team group present, but if you don’t want to be stuck with the majority of the expense – if you do the buying – then make sure you remind the other girls of their contributions (if they agreed on it from the beginning) and what they owe. Clearly and deliberately. Yes, presence at the bridal shower is the biggest present to a bride, but signing up for a group gift means you’ll pay and not bail on it after the party. If it is also noted that if you DO decide to get a shared gift, you shouldn’t feel obligated to bring another single gift for the bride. Any/all gifts are generous and will be so appreciated, but you’re already probably spending a lot of money to be a bridesmaid, so don’t stress over the superfluous.
And lastly, next to the engagement party, the bridal shower is the best place to huddle up about the rest of the events – bachelorette, rehearsal dinner, etc. before the wedding. If you’re in the bridal party, you should stick around to the end of the bridal shower, at least, to hear out the bride or she should need to know about moving forward.