How to Plan a Bridal Shower
Your best friend (or sibling, daughter or cousin) is getting married and you’re wondering how to plan a bridal shower. Not to worry! It doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. Read our breakdown of bridal shower responsibilities, get up to speed on the timeline and run with our awesome bridal shower ideas. Let’s get started!
How to plan a bridal shower: 11 common questions
1. Who throws the bridal shower?
Traditionally, this duty falls to the maid of honor and the bridesmaids. But the rules have relaxed. Today, showers are planned by the mother of the bride, mother-in-law, family members, or friends. Often, planning is a team effort that includes a combination of family and friends.
2. Who pays?
Whoever plans the event is responsible for the cost. Guests bring gifts but aren’t expected to help pay the tab.
3. When is the bridal shower thrown?
Four to eight weeks before the wedding is the sweet spot. Saturday and Sunday are still the most popular days for the event, and any time of day is acceptable. Late-morning brunch, an afternoon luncheon, or early-evening dinners are all reasonable options.
4. When do you start planning?
To keep yourself organized and calm, start planning at least three months before the event.
5. Where do you host the bridal shower?
The shower can take place anywhere. Some options to consider: the home of a wedding party member, restaurants, breweries, banquet halls, wineries, spas, and local, state, or national parks.
6. Who gets invited?
Bridal showers include the bridal party, immediate and extended family of the bride and groom (mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins), and close friends. Traditionally, the shower invite list was women only, but today people plan Jack and Jill showers that include the groom, and close male friends of the bride and groom. Rule of thumb: Everyone invited to the shower should be on the wedding guest list too.
7. When are invitations sent?
Send invites (by mail or email) approximately six to eight weeks before the shower date.
8. How long is the bridal shower supposed to last?
Between two to four hours. The length depends on how much you have planned and the size of the guest list.
9. What happens during bridal showers?
This is a time to celebrate the upcoming nuptials and share gifts that help the couple launch their life together. The event usually includes good conversation, good eats, and time for the bride to open the presents to a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’ Many bridal showers also include fun games, or other activities, such as wine and painting or a few hours at the spa. You’re in charge of planning, so what people do is orchestrated by you.
10. Do you need to serve a full meal?
No. You should provide food, but your offerings can be as simple as cookies, cake, and tea. If you have the desire and the budget, however, you can go extravagant with a full, multi-course meal.
11. How do I keep track of the gifts the bride receives?
Designate a bridesmaid or trusted guest to write down each gift with the name of the giver. This makes sending out thank-you notes much simpler. If you’re feeling ambitious, get ‘thank you’ cards, print or write out addresses on the envelope, and affix a stamp—all she has to do is write the notes and drop them in the mailbox.
Bridal shower timeline and checklist
Here is a sample timeline to help keep you on track from start to finish. This timeline can also double as a checklist to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Three months before:
Set a date. A bridal shower can be as early as six months before the wedding, or as late as two weeks prior. Earlier is better, as the bride will have a lot on her plate when the wedding approaches.
Talk to the bride. Unless you’re planning a surprise shower, speak with the bride about themes, foods, and decor. The event planning is up to you, but it’s nice to have a bit of bridal input.
Create the guest list. Obtain the information from the bride. As you create the list, collect addresses (physical or email) for guests.
Make reservations. If you’re not hosting the event at someone’s home, choose and reserve the venue as soon as possible.
Create invitations. Invitations should include the bride’s name, date and time of the event, location, RSVP information, and the name of the host. Include the couples’ wedding website URL and wedding registry information. Then create your own invitations with all of the pertinent information included.
Two months before:
Gather your posse. Don’t carry the full weight of planning on your shoulders. If you’re the MOH, gather the bridesmaids together. If you’re the mother of the bride or mother-in-law, solicit help from a few friends or relatives (who will be invited, of course). Even two heads are better than one, so select a planning committee and get to work.
Pick a theme. It can be as simple as afternoon tea, or as involved as a Hawaiian luau. Consider your location, budget, and the time you have to devote to planning before you go all out with a creative idea.
Send the invitations. Send by email, mail, or both to make sure word gets to everyone on the list.
Plan the menu. Choose foods that fit the theme (in other words, don’t plan a pasta bar for a Cinco de Mayo-themed event). Pick foods you know the bride loves. Speak with the restaurant or caterers, and the bakeshop to finalize the menu details from finger foods through dessert.
One month before:
Get the games rolling. Bridal shower games can be simple or detailed. Of course you’ll create a gift-bow-bouquet, but you probably need more than that. Plan games that are interesting, fun, and get the guests involved. (More on this below!)
Purchase party favors. These can be inexpensive, simple gifts, or luxurious souvenirs. Decorative soaps, custom candies, personalized sunglasses (for the beach wedding to come!), and mini champagne bottles are all fun and festive.
Check in with the team. Get with the girls (or boys) and check the progress of their assigned duties. Offer to pitch in if they need help.
The week of:
Confirm RSVPs and finalize guest count.
Confirm venue and vendors.
Confirm delivery times.
Organize games and assemble favors.
Shop for food if you are hosting at your home, or in charge of bringing food. If you have guests bringing dishes, confirm that they are still prepared to contribute.
Touch base with the committee to ensure everyone is prepared.
Create a checklist for yourself and carry it wherever you go. If you complete a task on your lunch hour (got those invitations out!) check it off the list and consider yourself awesome.
11 bridal shower themes you’ll fall in love with
Simple and sweet, elegant and refined, or way outside of the box, choose a theme that speaks to the couple. Did they get engaged in Paris? Throw a Parisian bridal shower with a pink, white, and black color scheme, macaroons, and mini Eiffel Tower favors. Are they wine connoisseurs? Plan a wine-tasting with charcuterie, fruit and cheese boards, and grapevine decorations.
You don’t need a large budget to create something spectacular; all you need is your imagination and helping hands to pull off any of these themes.
1. Couples or Jack and Jill. As already mentioned, this is a modern and popular shower style. Invite the happy couple and their close friends and enjoy a co-ed party. Choose a theme both enjoy, such as sports, wine, or travel.
2. Culinary-themed. Ask guests to bring a printed copy of their favorite family recipe to include in a decorated three-ring binder with sheet protectors. Or, plan a cooking class shower where guests prepare a recipe with a local chef.
3. Afternoon tea. Always a classic, always a good time. Serve a variety of artisanal teas, cucumber sandwiches, scones, and cookies. Go traditional with lots of flowers and ceramic tea cups, choose a boho theme with pillows on the floor for seating, or host a whimsical Mad Hatter soiree with white-rabbit decor.
4. Sweet abundance. Celebrate love’s sweetness with a candy- or dessert-themed shower. Offer pretty bowls of candy-coated chocolates in colors to match the wedding scheme, or customize them with a sweet message. Set up a DIY ice cream sundae or Belgian waffle bar. Don’t forget to include sugar-free options for those with dietary restrictions.
5. Tropical or beach-inspired. Inflatable palm trees and pink flamingos channel the island vibe. Serve mixed drinks and foods that start with a base of pineapple, coconut, and banana. Use a pink, yellow, and orange color scheme with lots of greenery thrown in for fun.
6. Kentucky Derby. Perfect for an early-May shower, but fun any time of the year. Ask guests to wear extravagant hats and offer a prize for the most outrageous. Serve mint juleps in mason jars, fried chicken fingers, and mini pecan pies. Let horseshoes and southern charm dominate the decor.
7. Simple Swiss cross. Based on a minimalist concept, a Swiss cross bridal shower is black, white, and oh-so-trendy right now. Also known as a Swiss plus, it’s a symbol of hope with Nordic, Swiss, and Swedish origins. The decor is simple and sticks to the black-and-white theme. Add natural wood accents to kick things up a notch.
8. Bring a bottle for the bar. The couple who has everything, but loves to entertain, will appreciate this theme. Everyone brings a bottle, mixers, accessories, or glasses to stock the home bar.
9. Pajama party. Change into PJs, order pizzas, put out fun snacks, and watch a wedding rom-com (Father of the Bride, Wedding Singer, Mamma Mia!) or two. Make it even cooler with an actual sleepover and brunch the next morning.
10. Casual affair. Jeans and sneakers in the backyard for a BBQ is about as casual as it gets. This is for the bride who doesn’t like a fuss but wants to spend quality time with friends and family before the big day.
11. Destination bridal shower. An overnight trip is exciting and fun. Head to the beach, a cabin in the woods, or a nearby city. A change of scenery can add another level of excitement to the event.
6 games that your guests will actually play
Bridal shower games can be the best—or worst—part of the event. Be sure to match the games to the bride and her style, and keep this portion of the shower brief—some crowds prefer noshing and socializing. Check out these simple and fun ideas, and don’t forget to have plenty of small prizes on hand for the winners.
1. Photo challenge. Collect pictures of the bride and groom at various points in their lives. Number each one and pin it to a corkboard. Hand out pencils and paper and let guests guess the age of the bride and groom in each picture. Whoever has the most right, wins.
2. Bingo. Print blank Bingo cards and have guests fill in the squares with gifts they think the bride will receive. Guests mark their cards with stickers or markers as the bride opens her presents. The first one to five in a row wins.
3. Purse scavenger hunt. Make a list of everyday items people carry in their purse and include a few unique possibilities for fun. Options for the list: phone, pen, receipts, business cards, sunglasses, gum, mascara, lotion, feminine products, phone charger, nail polish, a penny, receipts, pepper spray, lip balm, paperclips, and hairbands. Whoever has the most items wins.
4. Guess that line. Print out a list of famous quotes from romantic movies (e.g., “You had me at hello.”) and guests can guess the movie.
5. How much does the bride know? Compile a list of questions that you will ask the bride about the groom. Sample questions include:
What was the groom’s first job?
What is the groom’s favorite dessert?
If the groom could meet one person, who would it be?
Each guest guesses how many questions the bride will answer correctly. Ask the bride the questions during the shower, and have the grooms prepared answers handy. Whoever has the right (or closest guess) wins.
6. Name that couple. Print pictures of celebrity power couples. Ask guests to identify both people in the photos. As usual, the guest with the most correct answers wins.
Activities other than games
You can swap out the games for a unique activity or performance—or offer both! Some possibilities:
Tarot card reader.
Manicures and pedicures.
Cocktail mixologist. Guests learn a new signature cocktail.
DIY artisans. Painting, etching, and ceramics are hot right now.
Rent or create a photo booth. Guests can use props to take fun photos. Print extras so guests can take them, and the bride can have a copy too.