Bridal Shower 101: The Ultimate Guide for an Unforgettable Shower

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Are you a maid of honor hosting a bridal shower? This article will answer your questions and provide you with all the tips you need to host an amazing bridal shower. Avoid the common planning mistakes and create an amazing celebration for the bride-to-be. From the basic pre-wedding party planning to invite etiquette, we outline the 101 on how to handle everything. The host and bride can plan the party together or make it a surprise! 

What is a Bridal Shower?

What is a bridal shower? The traditional meaning of this event is to celebrate the bride-to-be and her upcoming wedding. A bridal shower is generally held during the day as an event for ladies only. Guests shower the bride with gifts for her new home and life with her significant other. 

When to have a Bridal Shower?

When the bridal shower is held is entirely up to the bride and her bridal party. However, it is commonly held three months to two weeks before the actual wedding. The bride and bridal party should pick a date that will be convenient for the bride and her guests. This could be a date that coincides with another event, such as the bachelorette party or when out of town guests are able to make a trip to the event. Or, if the bride lives out of town, a date she is able to make it to the event. 

Where should you hold the Bridal Shower?

When it comes to hosting a bridal event, there are so many venue options. Having the shower in the bride’s hometown is a great idea if she still lives close to home. If she has moved away, it will generally be easier for the bride to travel to her own shower if everyone else still lives locally.

Other than where the bride lives, there are a few other factors to consider when picking a venue location. The host’s budget will largely factor into the final decision. If there is a large enough option, holding it at a friend or family member’s home or a large backyard (weather permitting) will certainly save on venue costs. If the host has a bit of a larger venue budget, then search for a local restaurant or community venue. You can also host a themed event and choose a venue such as a wine tasting room, cooking school, or art gallery. 

Who hosts and pays for the Bridal Shower?

While there is no hard and fast rule as to who is responsible for the bridal shower, it generally falls on the shoulders of the bridesmaids, the mother of the bride or groom, or other close female relatives. No matter who the responsibility falls on for hosting a bridal shower, just be sure to have clear communication between all parties. You don’t want to end up with more than one shower being planned (although I’m sure the bride wouldn’t mind some extra gifts). 

Who to invite to Bridal Shower?

The great thing about putting together your bridal shower guest list is that you can use the list you already have from the wedding. The guest list for the shower, as with any other type of pre-wedding event, should only include individuals that are invited to the wedding. When it comes to the bridal shower, think about all the women that are invited to the wedding; bridesmaids, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and friends. 

Unless you are already having a small wedding, the amount of guests for the shower should be limited. When it comes to bridal shower invite etiquette, the maid of honor and mother of the bride and or groom should work together with the bride in the planning process. Unless, of course, the shower is a surprise. If the event is a surprise, then the hosts should work together to invite those guests they think the bride would want to come.

If you are invited to the party, don’t forget to bring a cool bridal shower gift for the bride-to-be

How should you invite them?

Bridal shower invite etiquette can vary depending on the bride’s and or hosts preferences and budget. Stationary for pre-wedding events can range from simple to high-end and elegant. There is something for every budget and style. 

While there are endless options of stationary to choose from, there are less options on how they get sent out. For the actual shower event invite, an old-fashioned post is recommended, so make sure you have enough stamps! If you are also including save the date invites, it is perfectly acceptable to send out an email or social media invite.  

What is supposed to happen at a Bridal Shower?

1. Setting up the gifts! 

Guests are strongly encouraged to bring gifts for the bride and her soon to be husband to the shower event. You should have a station set up for guests to place their gifts when they arrive. There is generally a set time that the bride will sit down in front of the guests and open her gifts.

You can easily create a lovely area for guests to leave their gifts by placing a nice tablecloth over a table. Don’t forget to include a nice card holder for guests who would rather give money and gift cards. There should also be someone in charge of keeping track of and writing down each gift and who it is from. This will make writing the thank you cards much easier when you can include a personalized thank you.

2. Create a beautiful ribbon bouquet. 

Pick an individual from the wedding party to collect all of the bows from the bride’s gifts. She will then be in charge of creating a beautiful ribbon bouquet. While this might seem like just one more thing to check off the shower to do list, there is more to it. Not only is this a fun task, it is a tradition for the bride to carry the ribbon bouquet down the aisle during the rehearsal. 

3. Say a small toast

Don’t worry, you can save your big toast for the actual wedding. Use the bridal shower as an opportunity to introduce yourself and thank guests for coming to the party. This is also a great chance to congratulate the bride on her nuptials. It doesn’t have to be anything long-winded or formal, just a simple toast. 

4. Don’t forget the party favors!

Every shower should include bridal shower party favors for guests as another way to say thank you for attending. Favors can range from simple, edible treats to small, personalized items. Whether or not your shower has a theme, there are many options available for shower favors that your guests will appreciate. 

How long should a Bridal Shower be?

General bridal shower rules dictate that an event typically will last 2-4 hours and unlike the wedding, is not an all-day event. You have a wide variety in the times that the shower can take place. You can either do a brunch and hold the event earlier in the day, or a lunch served in the afternoon. 

  • How long the event actually lasts will depend on a few variables. 
  • What type of activities are planned? 
  • How many games are planned? 
  • How long will it take for the bride to open her gifts? 

While some of these you can plan for, others you can not. Be sure that the venue is available for a longer period of time than the actual party to plan for lingering guests and time to clean up. When you are the one hosting the event, you can determine the time frame and set the tone for the party when guests arrive. 

How to plan a Bridal Shower?

Just like planning the wedding, it can be helpful to have an outline when planning pre-wedding events. Here are 10 steps to planning the bridal shower:

1. Determine your budget. 

Before you do anything, first determine how much you are willing to spend on the shower events. Traditionally, the host foots the bill. So make sure you pick a budget that you are comfortable with. While you might want to spoil the bride, you don’t want to break the bank just to afford a lovely shower event. The bride-to-be will appreciate everything that you are doing for her. 

While you might be the one responsible for the bill, don’t be afraid to ask others in the wedding party if they would like to chip in, but don’t make them feel obligated. 

2. Set the date

Planning ahead is key in putting together a great party. It is recommended to start the planning process at least six months in advance. Make sure that you confirm the date with the bride (or her significant other if it is a surprise) to ensure that the date and time will work. Six months gives you enough time to find a venue, send out invites, and make sure you have everything on your checklist completed. 

3. Put together the guest list

You are going to need to recruit some help for this task. After you have the when all squared away, it’s time to figure out the who. If the bride is involved in the planning process, ask her for a list of names and home addresses. If you are going to send out digital save the date reminders, don’t forget to ask for email addresses as well. 

While the amount of people invited can greatly vary, the general amount ranges from 30 to 50 guests, depending on the size and location of the venue. Don’t forget, if they are invited to the bridal shower, they should also be invited to the wedding. This includes kids and younger guests, so be sure to clear the list with the bride or other host before sending out invites. 

4. Location, location, location

While it is unlikely that everyone will make it, you should plan for a location that will accommodate every guest you invited. When the date has been set and you have an approximate headcount, you should start to narrow down your venue options. While traditionally, bridal showers are hosted in someone’s home, this option doesn’t always provide enough room. 

There is a wide variety of venues to host shower events. This includes community centers, restaurants, private banquet rooms, and churches. Just be sure that it is a venue that also speaks to the bride’s interests, such as an art studio or brewery. There are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure there is enough parking. 
  • It is easy to find and get to.
  • It is big enough. 
  • Has handicap accessibility, if necessary.

5. Choose a theme

While it is not required to have fun bridal shower themes, it can certainly make things easier when it comes to planning and decorating. Having a theme can add some flair to the food options, invitations, and of course, decor. Have fun and get creative with the theme you pick. Whatever theme you go with, it should complement the bride’s interests and personality. Here are a few fun theme options to get those creative juices flowing. 

  • Brunch and bubbly
  • Rustic or boho
  • Wine tasting
  • Flower arranging
  • Donuts and diamonds
  • Tacos
  • Disney
  • Or even after her favorite movie or T.V. show (did someone say Game of Thrones?)

Related post: Cheap Bridal Shower Decorations

6. Send out the invites

Bridal shower invites should go out to guests six to eight weeks in advance, so plan accordingly. Make sure you have everything planned, finalized, purchased, and then mailed out. 

Sending the invitations out six to eight weeks in advance will give guests enough time to clear their calendars, find the perfect gift, and RSVP to your invite. 

Related post: Bridal Shower Invitation Wording Etiquette

7. Plan the menu and stock the bar 

Once you have an idea as to how many guests will actually be attending, it’s going to be time to start planning the food and drinks. When it comes time to pick out menu items, make sure you go with options that the bride will like and are simple to serve. Bite size and finger foods are a great option. 

Here is an example of what you could do for a brunch themed party:

Stock the bar with mimosas and coffee beverages. Find fun brunch themed foods like mini waffles, donuts, and salmon toast. 

Other ideas include; build your own taco bar, or a tea party. 

You can either cook your own food or have something catered in. You could also save a ton and make it a potluck style and have guests sign up to bring a dish to pass. A fun addition to a potluck is to have guests bring recipe cards with them and make it a recipe swap.  

8. Plan and purchase decor. 

Once you have the shower theme all ironed out, it’s time to get to work on deciding and purchasing decorations. While decor can eat into a huge chunk of your budget, it doesn’t have to. There are many places online and locally that offer a wide variety of options. Here are a few ideas of decor items to help get you started:

  • Mylar balloons
  • Garland
  • Backdrops
  • Photo boards
  • Customized posters
  • Fresh or faux flowers
  • Photo props
  • Tableware

If you still need more inspiration, then head over to Pinterest. You can start to make boards way ahead of time to save your and your bride’s ideas. 

9. Plan out the games

Every bridal shower needs some good games! You can easily shop for decor and games at the same time. Games not only keep guests entertained, but they also provide them the opportunity to get those coveted door prizes. Try to plan the games around when there aren’t other activities, such as after serving food or before the bride sits down to open her gifts. 

Some of the most common and popular hilarious Bridal Shower games are wedding mad libs, bridal bingo, and trivia games about the happy couple. Of course, you can’t forget the ice breakers! A great place to find a ton of free printables is again, Pinterest. If you would like to have some custom ones made or are looking for something to fit your shower theme, check out the wedding-themed printables on Etsy. 

Related post: Hilarious Bridal Shower Games Your Guests Will Love to Play

10. Create a fun playlist

While this doesn’t happen at every shower event, it’s never a bad idea to have a great playlist. It’s nice to have that background noise for when people are eating, chatting, arriving, and leaving. Pick some fun songs about marriage and romance, just be conscious that they are age appropriate.

Bridal Shower planning checklist

Whenever you are doing wedding and pre-wedding event planning, it’s wise to have a checklist handy. So make sure you have a bridal shower checklist ready to go so you don’t miss anything.

It’s wise to have the tasks broken down by date or timeline that it needs to be done by. This checklist can start up to six months in advance, but generally around two to three months works well. 

How much does a Bridal Shower cost?

Again, this can vary depending on a great number of factors. You can set a total budget or a budget per guest. A budget per guest generally ranges between $15 to $40 per person. If you are budgeting per guest, you can easily determine a total budget once you get all of the RSVPs. 

What to write in a Bridal Shower thank you card?

After the party is all said and done, the bride isn’t finished just yet. There is still the matter of writing the guests thank you cards. While the actual process of writing a thank you card is simple, there are three things you should consider first to make the writing process a bit easier. 


1. How close are you to the guest? 

If you are pretty close to the guest, then make sure your message is heartfelt and personal. On the other hand, if you don’t know the guest well, keep it short and sweet. A simple thank you note is perfectly fine.

2. Did they physically attend the shower? 

If your guest was able to attend the shower, make sure you show them your appreciation and directly thank them for attending. If they missed it (but still sent a gift) then make sure you expressed that you missed their presence and thank them for the gift. 

3. Did they bring a gift to the shower?

While it’s not a rule set in stone that you need to bring a gift to a bridal shower, it is expected. However, whether or not they brought a gift, you should write a thank you note to thank them for attending. If they attended and brought a gift, make sure to specifically mention that and thank them for the gift. 

Here is a quick example of a nice thank you card!

Dear [name], 

I was so happy to see you attend my bridal shower! That means so much to me that you made the drive down here to celebrate with me. I wanted to thank you for the kitchen chalkboard, it will certainly make my meal planning easier (and prettier!)

Sincerely, [bride]

Final Thoughts!

While there are a lot of different things that go into planning a bridal shower, it doesn’t have to be stressful. From setting the date to finalizing the favors, you can plan an amazing bridal shower that will not only wow the guests, but the bride as well. Our complete guide to bridal shower planning should help you to make sure you have everything you need while minimizing any stress or mistakes. Make sure you keep the bride in the loop if she is part of the planning process and create a shower theme that she will brag about for years to come. 

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