Bridal Shower 101: Hosting, Etiquette, Party Planning, Gifts and More

Bridal Shower 101: Questions answered on hosting, etiquette, party planning, gifts and moreSo who hosts the bridal shower and who is responsible for the cost? Who should be invited and how many bridal showers is too many? How much should you spend on a shower gift—and do you have to send one if you aren’t attending? Should we surprise the bride? Can the groom attend? You’ve got questions about etiquette, themes, games, food, hosting and attending a bridal shower—we’ve got answers.

The Basics

Who hosts the bridal shower?
The bridal shower is traditionally hosted by the maid of honor, the bridesmaids or a family friend or relative of the bride. A lot of factors come into play: where is the ideal location for the shower, when will most people be able to attend, who is financially able to host the party? A good rule to remember: Hosting a shower is a choice, not an obligation. If the maid of honor has offered to host the shower, she may ask the rest of the bridesmaids to cohost—but they do not have to say yes. Other relatives or friends may also offer to throw a bridal shower and the bride may accept or decline. In the past, it was considered a faux pas for a direct member of the bride’s family to host as this was seen as “present grabbing.” But even the maven of manners herself, Ms. Emily Post, now says that it’s perfectly fine for your mother or future mother-in-law to throw the shower.

Who should be invited?
The bride should provide the host with a guest list. Important to note: Only ladies who are invited to the wedding should be invited to the shower. Though you may be tempted to invite the friends who didn’t make the wedding list cut to your shower, this is considered rude and puts friends in an awkward position. You’d basically be saying “please get me a present, but sorry, you can’t come to the wedding.” Showers are generally attended by a select group of close friends and relatives, so you should not invite every woman who is attending the wedding.

Who pays for the bridal shower?
The host is responsible for paying for the shower. This goes back to our rule on hosting being a choice, not an obligation. If the bridesmaids have agreed to cohost, they should split the costs of the shower…but they are not hosts by default. This differs from how bachelorette parties are handled—typically each attendee pays her own way at a bachelorette party, chipping in for food, drinks and whatever activities are going down. At a bridal shower, whoever is throwing the party is expected to pick up the bill.

What is my role as a bridesmaid in terms of the shower?
You may choose to cohost a shower…or not. If the bride has multiple showers, you will probably be invited to all and if it is possible for you to attend them, you should. (See below on gifting for multiple showers.) If you don’t live geographically near the bride, you should only attend one shower…if that. I personally make it a rule to only buy two plane tickets per wedding—one for the wedding itself and one for a bachelorette and/or bridal shower. Air travel is expensive and friends get that. If the bachelorette is not being held the same weekend as the bridal shower and you are financially unable to or uncomfortable with attending both, talk to the bride and pick one. All of my friends have 100 percent understood this and have wanted me there for their bachelorette weekends—and we usually choose to throw a small shower during the bachelorette weekend anyway, even if the bride has had other showers with family or local friends.

When and where should the shower be held?
The bridal shower is usually held three months or less before the wedding. Consult with the bride and bridal party to pick a convenient date. I recommend that the bridal shower be no less than one month before the wedding. The bride is going to have a lot of details to attend to in the last month before the wedding and will appreciate having her weekends free. As to location, showers are most often held at the home of the host, but can also be held at a restaurant or winery, in a park, at a hotel, or really anywhere you like. Just keep in mind that no matter where you hold the shower, the host still must pick up the bill. You can’t ask guests to pay for an activity at the shower.

What should you do at a bridal shower?
Many people choose to host a shower at home, serve food and drinks and play a game or two. You can also plan an activity, such as a cooking class or crafting session, or have the shower at a special location, like a winery or day spa. Plan a party that appeals to the bride’s tastes and interests. Don’t just go through the motions of “bridal shower traditions”—make it special and personal to her. Throw the kind of party you want to attend!

Can you have more than one shower?
Yes, you can—on one condition. With the exceptions of your bridesmaids and direct relatives (mother, mother-in-law, sisters, grandma), the guest lists should not overlap. If multiple people offer to host showers, you are welcome to accept, but they should be from different spheres of your life and plan to invite different groups. Perhaps your aunt wants to throw a shower for your extended family and invite your mother’s close friends, but your bridesmaids want to throw a shower for your college girlfriends to attend. If two people who would invite the same guests offer to host the shower, politely decline one offer (“Oh, that’s so wonderful of you to offer, but my MOH has started to plan already. I can’t wait to see you there!”) or see if the two would like to host together.

What about a work shower?
Work showers are the exception to the “must be invited to the wedding” rule. Generous coworkers may offer to throw a shower for you, either during work or after hours. In this case, it is understood that you won’t be inviting all the shower guests to the wedding. Work showers are often much more casual than a regular shower—gifts may be much smaller or everyone may go in on a gift card for the bride.

Should the shower be a surprise?
My feeling on this is no, the bridal shower should not be a surprise. Brides want to look beautiful at their showers. They want to pick out a pretty dress and maybe even get their hair done. They do not want to be coming home from the grocery store in their sweats to find 30 people in their house. If you really want to surprise the bride, tell her the date and time of the shower and keep the details a secret. That way she can relax knowing she’ll look good. Even if you go this route, I think you should consult her on guest list. She may be disappointed that you didn’t include certain friends or you may inadvertently offend someone by overlooking a touchy relative. Keeping the theme, location and events a secret will be enough of a surprise.

Can I throw a co-ed shower?
Of course! Choosing to throw a co-ed shower is a personal decision for the bride and groom. One of my favorite co-ed shower ideas is a field day competition—heck, I’d do this with just girls too! But pitting the bridesmaids against the groomsmen in sack races and capture the flag? Yes, please!

Can the groom come to the shower if it’s not co-ed?
It’s my feeling that the groom should not come to the shower if it’s not co-ed. I think people look forward to getting to spend time with just the bride—and part of the fun of getting her away from her fiance is being able to dish about him when he’s not around. That said, it has become a bit of a modern tradition for the groom to make an appearance at the end of the shower and bring the bride flowers. If you do this, be sure to say hello to all the guests—don’t just show up, wave and then bolt. This can be a good opportunity for guests who have never met the groom to get to know him a bit before the wedding day.

Can I have a “no kids” rule at my shower?
Of course you can! It’s your shower. If you think kids will be a distraction, know that certain guests do not have well-behaved children or just want some adult fun time, reach out to those with children to let them know the party will be adults only. If you go this route, make sure there are no exceptions—if your friend can’t bring her holy terror of a son, your sister can’t bring your adorable niece.

Themes and Party Planning

Should the bridal shower have a theme?
Themes are an easy way to give you direction when you are planning the shower, but you can also choose a color or pattern as the inspiration for your decor. Just concentrate on creating a party that fits the bride’s personality, whether that means a casual backyard fiesta or a modern sparkly soiree.

What are some good shower themes?
When it’s time to choose a bridal shower theme, think about your friend’s interests and passions and see if one would translate into a great bridal shower theme. Don’t throw a tea party just because it’s the first idea that pops into your head—go for the tea party theme if your friend can’t get enough of all things British, brews her own loose tea or collects vintage teapots. Need some inspiration? We’ve got 21 spectacular bridal shower themes for you right here or check out some of the real bridal showers featured here.

Should I send out printed invitations?
That’s up to you. Most bridal showers I’ve been to have had a printed invite. It’s a nice keepsake and doesn’t have to be too expensive. You can find beautiful shower invitations on Wedding Paper Divas or through some amazing Etsy vendors. If you don’t choose to use printed invites, I love Paperless Post for chic digital invitations. Whether you go digital or physical, invitations should be sent out about one month before the shower.

Gifts

What is traditionally given as a bridal shower gift?
Many bridal showers have a present theme, such as lingerie, cooking, home goods, bar supplies or items for the honeymoon. Group gifts are also popular at bridal showers. You can go in with the other bridesmaids to schedule a year of date nights or put together a wine basket with poems attached for notable events in the couple’s first year of marriage. If there’s no shower theme, you can always choose something from the bride’s wedding registry.

How much should I spend on a shower gift?
This is a personal decision, but my recommendation is to shoot for the $30 to $50 range. Another lovely (and inexpensive) shower gift is to create a friendship scrapbook for the bride. Before the shower, each guest decorates a scrapbook page with their favorite pictures and memories of their friendship with the bride. On shower day, the pages can be slid into an album to create a wonderful keepsake for the bride.

As a bridesmaid, I’m attending multiple showers. Do I need to bring a gift to all of them?
No, you do not (and should not). Bring a gift to the first shower you attend. After that, your presence is all that’s required. If you feel weird showing up empty-handed, bring a card to the other showers with a funny or sweet note to the bride.

Does the bride have to open all the gifts at the shower?
I had so much to say about this that I wrote a whole post about it. Short answer: Yes, you need to open the presents while the guests are there so that you can thank them, but you don’t have to make it boring. No one likes watching people open presents for two hours. It is the worst part of bridal showers. So here are some ideas for making the present unwrapping portion of your party less painful for your guests.

If I’m not able to attend the shower, should I still send a gift?
If you can’t attend the shower, you are not obligated to send a gift. If you do want to send something along, I love this idea for a mail-away shower in which guests who couldn’t attend all sent a book they thought would be useful to the bride, with topics ranging from cookbooks to personal finances.

Should there be party favors for the guests?
A small favor is lovely if possible and it doesn’t have to be expensive. My recommendation for choosing a bridal shower favor? Don’t brand it with the bride’s name or wedding date. I know that a lot of people choose to do this, but I never end up using these gifts because I don’t want to advertise your wedding around my house. That would be kinda weird. Make shower favors something I’ll actually enjoy or use. For a cooking shower, a nice wooden spoon is a perfect and useful gift. At a tea party, send me home with a fragrant bag of Earl Grey leaves. You can always add a tag to the gift with “Trisha’s Bridal Shower” to tie in the shower theme. I’ll snap a pic of your cute wrapping and get to enjoy my gift long after the party.

Games

Do we have to play games?
No, you don’t. (Everyone’s like, “WHAT?!?”) It’s true that most showers incorporate games, but there’s no shower goddess who’s going to rain fire down on your party if someone doesn’t get wrapped in toilet paper. Think about incorporating an activity, like wine tasting, a spa treatment or pottery painting, instead of the typical shower games. Or just eat, drink and chat it up—what lady wouldn’t be into that!

What are some fun bridal shower games?
A classic and actually truly enjoyable bridal shower game is the Fiance Quiz. I legitimately always enjoy this game because it’s amusing and you learn a lot about the groom. And I have 5 other bridal shower games (that don’t suck) for you as well. Remember that people want to eat, drink, and chat, not have a regimented schedule of enforced games, so just choose a few to sprinkle in. And have prizes! People are more likely to take interest if there’s chocolate involved.

Food
Bridal Shower 101: Everything You Need To Know About Hosting, Etiquette, Party Planning, Gifts and More

What kind of food should be served?
Yum-yum kind! Ok, but serious answer. Bridal showers are usually held in the morning or afternoon, so plan your menu accordingly. Buffet style is common to allow guests to mingle and chat, but a seated meal works for a tea party or showers held at a restaurant. And we are ladies, and ladies like sweets, so please serve us dessert as well.

Is alcohol served at a bridal shower?
It’s perfectly fine to serve alcohol at a bridal shower (but not mandatory…unless it is my bridal shower, in which case break out the champagne!). Mimosas are lovely for brunch and wine or a signature cocktail is delightful for lunch. Serve what feels right for your bride.

This post contains a few affiliate links. All products are selected because we love them—if you love them too, you’re helping support Ultimate Bridesmaid. So thanks! 

9 thoughts on “Bridal Shower 101: Hosting, Etiquette, Party Planning, Gifts and More

  1. Christine

    Does a person on the brides side having a shower have to clear the party date with the mother in law to be

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Everything a First-Time Bridesmaid Needs to Know | Ultimate Bridesmaid

  3. N

    Help… I’m the aunt of the bride and am giving a shower. I’ve been invited to a shower given by another aunt, should I attend?

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Bridesmaid Etiquette Bridal Shower Gift | Carol Dress Designs

  5. Pingback: Hosting A Bridal Shower | Online Cheap Hosting

  6. Pingback: Don’t Sweat the Bridal Shower

  7. Kate

    I just attended a shower where the bridesmaids that threw it had no idea how to act! They weren’t sure when to serve the food, how to cut the cake, when to open the gifts. It was very awkward. They even grabbed their plates first to chow down and left the guests waiting on them to get their plates of food. I think young people need an etiquette class on how to do things like throw showers, write thank you notes…etc. They don’t have a clue!

    Reply
  8. Ginno Moriya

    Very well explained, Nice Blog! I have never ever read this interesting and useful stuff. I will surely StumbleUpon this blog. I will follow this tips on my daughter’s marriage.

    Reply

Leave a Reply