Chances are you’ve heard the term before, you may have even attended one as a guest. But now that it’s your turn to be the party planner, you may be asking yourself what is a bridal shower?
More specifically, what’s the purpose of having one? What even goes on at one of these things?
We can tell you from personal experience that there is a ton that goes into planning the perfect bridal shower, but the first step is to know what they’re all about.
That’s why we’re giving you a full rundown on proper bridal shower etiquette by answering your most frequently asked questions. As an added bonus, we’re debunking some old-school bridal shower traditions by putting a modern twist on them instead!
What is a bridal shower?
To put it simply, a bridal shower is a celebration in honor of a woman who is about to get married.
It is typically thrown by the bride’s maid of honor and bridesmaids and attended by close female friends and family members.
The word “shower” comes from the custom of guests “showering” the couple with gifts for their marital home, a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s.
What is the purpose of a bridal shower?
Aside from celebrating the bride-to-be and showering her with gifts, the purpose of a bridal shower is to allow guests to meet and mingle before the big day.
Oftentimes, the bride and groom’s extended family members may not have met one another yet, so the bridal shower makes for the perfect occasion.
This gathering may also be the first time the entire bridal party can get together and meet face-to-face. If they have already met up before, the bridal shower just serves as another opportunity to get to know each other better.
Who pays for the bridal shower?
Bridal shower etiquette says that whoever throws the celebration is also responsible for paying for it. As we mentioned earlier, this usually falls on the maid of honor and the rest of the bridal party.
Depending on her overall budget, the maid of honor may choose to cover more of the expenses than her fellow bridesmaids. That being said, it is perfectly acceptable to have the entire bridal party split all associated costs evenly.
It is also very common for the mother of the bride and even the groom’s mother to pitch in where they can.
What happens at a bridal shower?
While no one celebration is the same as the next, there is a general rule of thumb to what goes on at a bridal shower.
Typically, the shower begins with greetings and introductions, then moves on to food and drinks.
As everyone begins to eat, drink, and mingle, you can explain any bridal shower games that will be played or introduce any activities you’ve planned for guests to participate in.
If the bride will be opening gifts during the bridal shower, have her begin about midway through the party so guests can leave on time without missing anything.
When should the bridal shower be?
Typically the bridal shower is held anywhere between two weeks to two months before the wedding day. Determining the optimal date depends on a variety of factors, especially if you have guests traveling from long distances.
We always recommend consulting with the bride and the rest of the bridal party to discuss possible dates and times that work best for everyone. The only real rule is to try to avoid major holidays or holiday weekends to decrease the chances of guests having prior commitments.
As far as actual timing goes, most bridal showers last approximately three hours and tend to begin anywhere from 11 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon.
Where should the bridal shower be held?
For some, this answer may be as easy as having a large enough home (and the willingness) to host the bridal shower yourself. It’s also possible that the mother of the bride, or a close female relative, will offer up their home. If neither of these options is available to you, the first step is to consider location.
The general rule of thumb is to hold the bridal shower in the bride’s hometown, especially if that is where the wedding is taking place. If it is a destination wedding or the bride is the one who lives far away, consider a location that is within driving distance of the majority of the guest list.
Depending on your budget and the size of the guest list, look into local restaurants or event spaces to rent out (wineries and breweries are fun alternatives as well!)
Who gets invited to the bridal shower?
Typically, all close female friends and family members (including the groom’s) are invited to the bridal shower.
That being said, it’s very important to keep your budget in mind when determining the size of the guest list. You’ll also want to keep in mind the two major etiquette rules when it comes to the bridal shower guest list.
Rule number one- everyone who receives an invitation to the shower must also be invited to the wedding. Rule number two- always consult with the bride because she has the final say on who makes the guest list and who does not.
When should bridal shower invitations be mailed out?
Whether you’re sending the invitations out electronically or by mail, be sure to have them on their way four to six weeks before the bridal shower.
The information included on the invitations should be as follows- the bride’s name; the date, time, and location of the event; any registry information; how and when to RSVP (your name, number, and/or email address).
We recommend asking guests to RSVP two weeks before the bridal shower, so you have plenty of time to make adjustments according to the final guest count.
Do all bridal showers need to have a theme?
Modern MOH is all about themed bridal showers, but that doesn’t make it an absolute necessity. Before you begin planning, sit down with the bride and ask her opinion on the matter.
Chances are she will already have an idea of what she wants her bridal shower to be like, so deciding to follow a theme may be as easy as that.
If your bride is unsure, or simply doesn’t have an opinion, consider hosting a classic brunch-themed shower- you can never go wrong with a bunch of bubbly!
Should the bride be involved in the planning process?
The bride should only be brought in for major decisions such as the date, the guest list, and the overall vibe. Other than that, she should be left out of deciding on minor details.
Finally, and this should really go without saying, the bride should never pay for anything relating to her bridal shower under any circumstances.
Old vs. New Bridal Shower Traditions
OLD: No boys allowed
NEW: Couples showers are in
One of our favorite trends taking over the bridal shower space is the rise of couples showers, aka coed or joint showers. Instead of making this pre-wedding party a girls-only event, a couples shower allows for the bride and groom to celebrate with both sets of friends and family before the big day.
OLD: Bride must open gifts at the shower
NEW: Bride can wait to open gifts at home
We’re here to put an end to this antiquated rule of etiquette. No longer must the bride sit and open every last gift in front of her guests. In fact, she doesn’t have to receive any bridal shower gifts at all (if that’s what she wants).
OLD: You must play bridal shower games
NEW: You can skip the traditional games
In bridal showers long ago, guests would be forced to wrap themselves in toilet paper for a few laughs and a prize. Today, you can totally skip the traditional games and opt for some fun alternatives instead. And if those just aren’t your bride’s thing, consider simply throwing a bridal shower that involves no extra thrills.
OLD: The bride MUST have a bridal shower
NEW: Bridal showers are not mandatory
The truth of the matter is, bridal showers themselves are not a necessity. Oftentimes brides may find the bridal shower to be an added source of stress as opposed to a relaxing celebration in their honor. So if your bride-to-be wants to skip this particular pre-wedding party, listen to her!