What should I expect at a bridal shower?

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There are a lot of celebrations associated with weddings besides the nuptials themselves. There’s the engagement party, bachelorette party, and bridal shower, to name a few. But what is a bridal shower exactly? Who throws the bash, who is invited, and what is the etiquette? Consider your questions answered with this helpful guide that explains the ins and outs of a bridal shower.

The bridal shower is one of the essential wedding kickoff events. It’s a bash that brings together close friends and family of the bride to celebrate her upcoming nuptials with presents, champagne and activities – making it a blast for all parties involved. While the day should be filled with fun and games, you don’t want to forget about manners. From crafting the perfect guest list to sending out those thank-you cards ASAP, there are a few things you’ll want to remember.

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What Is a Bridal Shower?

Traditionally, a bridal shower is a gathering to celebrate the bride-to-be. Although bridal shower themes and venues have become more varied in recent years, there are a few common threads. They are typically daytime events held on a weekend afternoon and attended by women who are close to the bride. Traditionally, guests bring gifts to help the bride set up her new home. Personal gifts like lingerie, jewellery, and family heirlooms from close relatives are also common. Brunch or lunch is usually served, and oftentimes wedding-themed games are played.

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Who Hosts the Shower?

The mother of the bride or maid of honour typically plans and host the bridal shower. Other close female family members — like aunts, grandmothers, and the mother of the groom — might also help plan and foot the bill. Bridesmaids are often enlisted to help plan and decorate for the event, as well. They might chip in with things like games, prizes, desserts, and decorations.

If you fall into one of these categories, reach out to the mother of the bride or bridesmaids to offer your help. Just be sure to communicate openly so that different people aren’t planning multiple bridal showers at once.

Who Is Invited?

Traditionally, bridal showers are women-only events. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for Jack and Jill showers. In this case, men and women are invited. Either way, everyone invited to the bridal shower should also be invited to the wedding. That said, every person invited to the wedding doesn’t need to be invited to the shower.

Unless you’re planning a surprise party, ask the bride about who she would like to see on the guest list and the scope of the event she would like. The maid of honour, bridal party, mother of the groom, aunts, grandmothers, and close female cousins are typically at the top of the guest list. Some women also like to invite close female friends and coworkers.

If the shower is a surprise, the mother of the bride and maid of honour should coordinate a guest list they think the bride would want. The number of guests will depend on the bride’s circle of friends and family size. It can span from an intimate affair of 10 to a large celebration with dozens of guests.

What Is the Groom’s Role?

Unless you have a Jack and Jill bridal shower, the groom does not need to attend the bridal shower. However, it’s not uncommon for the fiancé to make an appearance towards the end of the event to say thank you. After all, many of the gifts are for him, as well. He and other close male family members may show up and say their hellos before helping to carry gifts to the car.

When Should You Schedule the Shower?

The bridal shower should take place between three months and three weeks before the wedding. Keep the bride and her guests in mind when selecting a date. For example, if many female relatives live out of town, you might want to plan a date that gives them more advanced notice. Or, if the bride is doing most of the wedding planning on her own, she’ll probably want to be free for the month leading up to the big day.

You’ll also want to confer with the bridesmaids to see when the bachelorette party is occurring. In most cases, you’ll want to make sure these dates don’t collide. But there may be instances when you will want to combine weekends, like if many bridesmaids will be travelling from out of state. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to make sure the bride has finished her registry before invitations are sent out.

Where Should It Be Held?

The bridal shower can be at a local restaurant, family member’s home, or an outdoor venue, like a park gazebo. You might select a location to coincide with a specific theme, such as a brewery or a baking school.

When it comes to location, it depends on where the bride and her guests live. If the bride lives near her hometown, it’s probably a good idea to have it locally. If she lives out of state, but most of her guests still live near her hometown, it may be best if the bride is the one to travel.

Bridal Shower Basics

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.

Perfect Timing

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.

Who’s Invited?

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.

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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.

Girls Only?

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.

Bridal Shower Etiquette For Guests

Now that Valentine’s Day has passed, chances are you know at least one happy couple that is newly engaged. It’s only a matter of time before the bridal shower invitations start arriving in the mail, giving you the opportunity to flex your social muscles. Whether you love bridal showers or hate them, you’re probably going to be expected to attend at least a couple. Need a crash course on bridal shower etiquette for guests? Here’s a quick guide to help you get through the party.

One Bride, So Many Showers

Many brides have multiple bridal showers with different guests; for example, she may have a shower with coworkers, one with close friends and one with family members. If you’re related to the bride or you’re in the wedding party, you may find yourself with invitations to two or more showers.

If you’re attending multiple showers for the same bride, you only need to bring a gift to the first shower. However, if you don’t want to show up empty-handed, consider taking a small bouquet, a handmade gift or some baked goodies.

Wedding Shower vs. Bridal Shower

Traditionally, showers are women-only events in which the groom may show up at the end to meet the guests and give a small gift to the bride. In recent years, however, coed showers have become more common, especially for couples that have opted for a destination wedding or an informal City Hall ceremony.

Generally speaking, a bridal shower is still attended exclusively by women with gifts given specifically to the bride. A wedding shower may include both men and women, and gifts are typically for the couple. Unfortunately, the two terms may be used interchangeably, which can be confusing for guests. As with any party, only those who are specifically invited should attend.

Gracefully Declining an Invitation

If you find yourself with a shower invitation for a day that you are unavailable, for a bride that you don’t know, or whose wedding you weren’t even invited to, it is completely acceptable to decline. Just be sure to acknowledge the invitation and RSVP properly.

A good rule of thumb is to send your RSVP in the way that you were asked. If the invitation was sent electronically, an email declining the invitation is perfectly acceptable. If you received an invitation in the mail, send your RSVP the same way. If you know the host or the bride well, consider going the extra mile by also calling and expressing your regret.

Choosing a Gift

Nearly every couple makes a wedding registry, which helps cut down on duplicate gifts and guide the givers in choosing something that the couple needs or wants. However, remember that registry item are merely suggestions, not obligations. Deviating from the registry to purchase a thoughtful gift selected specifically for the couple is a great way to celebrate the new marriage. If you’re looking for a truly personal gift, check out the Soundwave Art selection of metal wall art, canvas, prints and acrylic blocks. A peek at the couple’s registry can guide you in choosing a colour scheme or style that will match their décor, and then the gift can be customized with the message of your choice.

What Happens at a Bridal Shower?

There is a new trend in bridal showers to include activities. For example, you might have a glass of wine and paint day or make handmade signs. The most common showers, however, still involve an afternoon brunch or lunch. Some involve a theme, like an afternoon tea party, but it isn’t required.

After lunch, there are usually bridal shower games played. You can purchase printed games that quiz guests about the bride and groom. Or, the bride can be in the spotlight while the guests watch.

A fun and affordable option is a Newlywed Game-style quiz. You can ask the bride questions you’ve already asked the groom. For every one of her answers that doesn’t match her fiance’s, she has to add a stick of bubble gum in her mouth. This could lead to a mouthful of gum and plenty of fun photos. For large groups, consider a team game like a wedding dress design challenge from toilet paper. Get creative, and there are bound to be a lot of laughs.

Following games and dessert (or during), the bride will open gifts from her guests. Be sure to have a bridesmaid on hand to write down who gave what, so the bride can write thank you notes later.

The host will probably put together a fun game or two

Even though they sound cheesy, bridal shower games are still the norm, and you can expect that whoever’s hosting will have thought of at least one or two games that everyone can play. If you hate the idea, be sure to ask the host to skip them explicitly. That’s fine, but you will have to ask. 

People will dress up

Whether you put a dress code on the invitation or not, most women know to dress up for a shower. Expect cocktail dresses for younger guests and suits for older ones. Some women may wear black pants or skirts and blouses. Many will wear heels and statement accessories. As the bride, you should consider wearing white or something that makes you stand out as the bride. 

  1. People will want to drink–even mid-morning. This is a special occasion, and people will come ready to party. And that includes drinking. Keep it basic with bottles of wine or do something sweet like a mimosa or bloody mary beer. Cheers! 3. People will want to drink–even mid-morning. This is a special occasion, and people will come ready to party. And that includes drinking. Keep it basic with bottles of wine or do something sweet like a mimosa or bloody mary beer. Cheers!

There might be activities, too. 

In addition to games, a recent trend is for bridal showers to have activities like flower arranging, wreath making or decorating something (like a tray!) for the couple’s home. Crafts are optional, but they’re certainly possible. If you like the idea of a craft, find one on Pinterest and suggest it to the host! 

There will be toasts. 

There will be heart-warming speeches from the women who have known you the longest in your life. There might even be something like a photo slideshow. It’s sweet–even for those of us that don’t like to be in the spotlight for too long. 

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You might need to open gifts in front of everyone. 

Shy girls might cringe at the thought–but it’s pretty standard for the bride to open gives in front of everyone. Expect oohs and aahs. Turn up the reactions and remember to thank everyone profusely. There is usually a lot of time and thought put in to shower gifts.

Usually, the bride and groom will register for wedding gifts. This can be at a department store, home store, or on an online registry. Most shower guests will shop the registry for their bridal shower gift, but it isn’t required. If you know the bride well, feel free to go off registry to get something personal you think she’ll love. Be careful with gifts like lingerie if you aren’t sure of her size and style preference.

Another option is to purchase a gift off of the registry and then personalize it with a few extras. For example, get those Champagne flutes she asked for and wrap them alongside a bottle of bubbly and a box of her favourite chocolates for a date night in a box.

Bridal shower favours are a nice touch, but they aren’t a must. If you opt to give favours to attendees, don’t overdo it. Select something edible, like personalized cookies or colourful cake pops. Beauty and bath products are another way to go — everyone loves great-smelling bath salts.

There are a lot of wedding events surrounding the big day, and a bridal shower is a fun one for all of the ladies involved. (And sometimes the guys, too.)

When all is said and done, what is a bridal shower? It’s a pre-wedding party to gather the bride’s closest family members and friends for an afternoon in her honour. Guests will enjoy food and drink together, bring gifts, play games, and socialize before she ties the knot.

If you aren’t sure about a shower’s theme or etiquette, reach out to the mother of the bride or maid of honour. Chances are they are the ones working behind the scenes to ensure the bride has a special celebration she’ll never forget.

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