What Is a Bridal Shower: Planning and Etiquette Advice (2024)

There are a number of pre-wedding events that happen before the big day, but few are more exciting than the bridal shower. A time when female family members and friends gather to celebrate the bride-to-be and help prepare her for married life, the bridal shower is a chance for the woman of the hour to spend quality time with the most important ladies in her life and prepare for her future as a newlywed. And though bridal showers have been happening for a very long time, the etiquette for these affairs has certainly changed over time. To help you understand exactly what to expect from these events—whether you're the hostess or an attendee—we talked to etiquette expert Diane Gottsman and asked her to share exactly what happens at a bridal shower and how to plan the perfect party.

Meet the Expert

Diane Gottsmanis a national etiquette expert, author ofModern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder ofThe Protocol School of Texas.

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that this is meant to be a fun, lighthearted celebration. "A bridal shower is designed to shower the bride with good wishes, congratulations, and some gifts," Gottsman says. That doesn't mean it can be thrown together in a flash, though, or that guests should treat it as an ultra-casual event. If you need help demystify any aspect of the bridal shower—from finding a location and choosing decorations to selecting a gift the woman of honor will love—this guide has got you covered.

Ahead, everything you need to know to plan the perfect bridal shower.

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What Is a Bridal Shower: Planning and Etiquette Advice (1)

What Is a Bridal Shower?

A bridal shower is a party thrown in honor of a bride-to-be, and it's generally held anywhere from a few months to a few weeks before the wedding. Female family members and friends gather to celebrate the bride ahead of her nuptials, play games, give advice, and gift her the essentials she'll need to start married life. The origin of the bridal shower dates back to 16th-century Holland, when a young girl's father refused to provide a dowry for a marriage he disapproved of. The town got together and offered small gifts to help her start her home without the dowry money. The core of the tradition has somewhat held up over the years, and today, we typically shower couples with gifts for the home.

It's important to note that bridal showers and wedding showers are not the same. The latter have gained popularity as a more inclusive iteration of the bridal shower. Whereas a bridal shower is traditionally a pre-wedding event saved for the bride and her crew of female friends and family, a wedding shower is a co-ed festivity.

Bridal Shower Etiquette

Technically, there's no right or wrong way to throw a bridal shower, but this doesn't mean there aren't generally established etiquette guidelines. Here, we've answered the biggest etiquette questions so you can avoid a bridal shower faux pas as either a hostess or a guest.

What Happens at a Bridal Shower?

"Depending on the taste of the bride, the host can have some entertaining games for the guests to play or skip the games altogether," says Gottsman. The general outline is usually the same: food, drinks, and an opportunity for the bride to open gifts surrounded by guests. You can stick to bridal shower traditions like gift bingo or designing wedding dresses using rolls of toilet paper, or you could plan an activity-oriented shower like a spa day or a calligraphy lesson. Don't love the idea of opening gifts in front of everyone? Speak up! Those gifts could be set aside so you can open them at home with your future spouse.

What Does the Groom Do?

Speaking of your partner, they often arrive toward the end of the shower (with flowers in tow) to quickly greet the guests before they depart. It's a sweet way to include them in your celebration as well as guarantee help getting those gifts home.

When Should a Bridal Shower Take Place?

The bridal shower should take place at some point before the wedding; while there's no set rule on when it has to happen (some women like to have it the week of the wedding so that guests don't have to travel twice), bridal showers generally occur anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before the wedding. If you're hosting, choose a date that is convenient for both the bride and the most important guests of choice. To accommodate everyone's schedules, that might mean hosting something a little further in advance or planning it to coincide with a trip home or another get-together, such as a bachelorette party in the evening following an afternoon shower.

Who Throws a Bridal Shower?

Traditionally, the bridal shower was hosted by the maid of honor and bridesmaids, not the mother of the bride or her future mother-in-law. Why? Because an event being hosted by a bride's mother, mother-in-law, or any relatives made it appear as if the woman of honor and her family members were asking for gifts. Luckily, times have changed. Today, it's extremely common and perfectly acceptable for anyone—including the bride's mom—to host this celebration. Ultimately, anyone who is close to the bride and feels up to the task should feel empowered to organize this event; just be sure to communicate your plans to the bride and any other key players early on to ensure that two events aren't being planned.

If family members aren't available to plan, the bridesmaids should step in to take care of some of the arrangements.

Should the Bride Be Involved in the Planning Process?

Unless it's a total surprise, the person being showered will generally provide some basics that they'd like at their event. The host will ask about preferred themes, guest list details, date, time, location, activities, and other ideas to get a sense of where to start. It's up to the host or hosts to use that input to bring the shower to life.

Who Gets Invited to a Bridal Shower?

As with other pre-wedding events, the guest list should be limited to people who are also invited to the wedding. "You can invite whomever you would like from the wedding guest list. Keep the guest list small and manageable, don’t have too many showers, and don’t invite the same people to multiple showers," says Gottsman. "If someone is not invited to the wedding, they should not be invited to the shower."

For the bridal shower, this usually includes the bridal party and the couple's family and close friends. The number of people invited depends on how large the event is intended to be. If the shower is going to be a surprise, the maid of honor and the bride's mother should work together to come up with a guest list they think the bride will be happy with. Otherwise, they can have the bride assist them with the guest list and then keep the rest of the planning a secret.

When Should Bridal Shower Invitations Be Mailed Out?

Ideally, the invitations should be mailed out four to six weeks before the bridal shower, either by post or email. Make sure to include the bride's name, the date, the time, the location, registry information, a way to RSVP, and the names of whoever is hosting.

What's the Dress Code at a Bridal Shower?

A bridal shower can be as formal or casual as you want it to be, but it's best to at least include some sort of guide in the invitation. "There's not one particular dress code," says Gottsman. "But it's always better to dress up than down." If there's no indication of the event's formality, it may be more comfortable to show up overdressed than underdressed. If cohesion in your shower photos is important to you, it's a good idea to think about what the guests will be wearing and make a note somewhere within the invitation.

Where Should a Bridal Shower Take Place?

If the bride still lives relatively close to home, the shower can be held in their hometown. Does the bride live in another state? It may still be more convenient for them to travel to the shower if most of the guests live locally instead of asking the entire guest list to hop on an airplane. The specific location depends on the type of shower and the host's budget. It could be in a friend's or family member's home or backyard, at a local restaurant, or somewhere more specific if the shower has a theme (such as a cooking school or a wine-tasting room).

Should a Bridal Shower Have a Theme?

It doesn't have to, but it's a fun way to add some personality to the party. A theme could be as simple as cohesive, rustic décor, or you could go all out with a spa day. Some of our favorite themes include a bridal tea party, a Disney-themed shower, or a Parisian-influenced affair.

Does the Bride Need a Registry for a Bridal Shower?

Not necessarily. The actual wedding registry can also function for the bridal shower. If, however, it's a lingerie shower, that would require a separate registry should the bride want to register for specific lingerie. As a bridal shower guest, it is in good etiquette to purchase a shower gift from the registry.

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How to Plan a Bridal Shower

Have you been tasked with organizing a shower for the bride-to-be? Here, we break down exactly how to plan a bridal shower in ten simple steps.

Create a Bridal Shower Budget

The first step in planning a bridal shower is to create a budget for the entire process. This includes food, drinks, decorations, venue, rentals, event design, photography, videography, and any other vendors or expenses. Depending on the type of shower and what the bride wants, a typical bridal shower can cost anywhere from $10 to over $100 per person. These costs are covered by whoever is hosting the bridal shower, though sometimes bridesmaids or family members may offer to chip in.

Pick a Date

Consult with the bride to choose a date that works for them and fits the wedding timeline. Aim for a minimum of a couple of months before the wedding. Keep in mind other events of the wedding, like the bachelor/bachelorette party, which some couples plan for the evening of the shower day.

Create the Guest List

Get a must-invite list from the bride and work with that as you create the full party guest list. Have the bride double-check and approve the list before you send out invites.

What Is a Bridal Shower: Planning and Etiquette Advice (3)

Select a Theme

You may decide to opt out of a bridal shower theme, but if the bride is a wine lover or a cooking connoisseur, you might consider choosing a theme that follows suit. This will guide your planning decisions for the rest of the process.

Choose a Location

Often, the host will offer their home to hold the bridal shower. If this isn't an option, see if another guest or co-planner has an available space. You can also choose a venue that correlates with the theme, like a spa or a winery; host at a restaurant or hotel; or rent an Airbnb.

Send Invitations

Give guests as much notice as possible so they'll be able to attend the shower and purchase gifts. This should be done about four to six weeks before the shower date, which means you should start looking for and purchasing invitations at least a few weeks prior to then. It's also a good idea to include a line on the RSVPs for guests to note any dietary restrictions.

Set the Menu

The food will depend on the shower's theme and time of day. Hosting a brunch affair? Stock up on mimosas and breakfast foods. Whatever the menu, make sure it's something you know the bride will like and includes options for any food restrictions the guests note on their RSVPs.

What Is a Bridal Shower: Planning and Etiquette Advice (4)

Find Shower Décor

If you've hired a professional event designer, this part will be pretty easy for you. If you're decorating yourself, this is arguably one of the most fun steps in planning a bridal shower. Whether you're following a theme or not, think about what kinds of personal touches you can include for the bride. We love pretty floral and balloon installations—and don't forget a picture-perfect photo backdrop.

Plan Games and Activities

Games are a great way to break the ice when guests first arrive, especially if they are not already acquainted with one another. With a lot of traditional shower games, there is no purchase necessary—just a bit of creativity! If your budget allows, there are also tons of super fun shower games we love that are available on sites like Etsy.

Create a Playlist

Get everyone in the party mood with a fun selection of music. Ask the bride to send some must-have favorites to be included, and mix in a few love songs and upbeat tunes for background music.

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What Is a Bridal Shower: Planning and Etiquette Advice (2024)


What Is a Bridal Shower: Planning and Etiquette Advice? ›

"You can invite whomever you would like from the wedding guest list. Keep the guest list small and manageable, don't have too many showers, and don't invite the same people to multiple showers," says Gottsman. "If someone is not invited to the wedding, they should not be invited to the shower."

What is the etiquette for bridal shower? ›

Hosts: Don't Invite Guests That Aren't Also Invited to the Wedding. Perhaps the number one etiquette rule, says etiquette expert, Lisa Mirza Grotts—also known as The Golden Rules Gal—is to only invite people to your shower who are also on your wedding guest list.

What not to do when planning a bridal shower? ›

  1. Don't confuse the bridal shower with the bachelorette party. These are two separate events. ...
  2. Don't post every aspect of the shower on social media. ...
  3. Don't invite anyone who isn't invited to the wedding. ...
  4. Don't give raunchy gifts at the bridal shower. ...
  5. Don't feel like you have to plan the whole shower yourself.
Aug 8, 2023

What advice to give at a bridal shower? ›

I thought I would share some of our favorite pieces of advice with all of you!
  • “Never go to bed angry.” ( This was a popular one!) ...
  • “Make time for one another.” “Make time for fun.”
  • “Trust your love.” “Remember why you got married to begin with.
Jul 26, 2016

Who is supposed to plan a bridal shower? ›

The Traditional Bridal Shower Host

The maid of honor traditionally takes on the role of chief shower planner. But she isn't a one-woman show: She relies on the bridesmaids to help her with planning logistics. On the day of, the girls run the party, making sure everything goes smoothly and that guests are taken care of.

Who should not host a bridal shower? ›

Traditional etiquette dictates that the maid of honor—not the mother of the bride—should host the shower. Nancy is a freelance writer for MarthaStewart.com. Some etiquette rules were meant to fade away into oblivion, like the one about family members of the bride not hosting her bridal shower.

Does the mother of the bride pay for the bridal shower? ›

In short, the host is the one who pays for the bridal shower—or at least some of it. Most commonly, this is the maid of honor, but the couple's relatives, friends or even the to-be-weds themselves can all pitch in to cover the cost of the wedding shower.

How long should a bridal shower be? ›

Weichelt says bridal showers should ideally last between two and four hours. Anything shorter and guests will feel like they didn't have a chance to spend time with the bride; anything longer and they'll be itching to head home. Three hours might just be the sweet spot, then.

What should guests not wear to a bridal shower? ›

The First Look ✨ Pastels, neutrals, florals, and bright celebratory colors are the way to go. And if there's going to be games opt to wear something comfortable. Avoid wearing white, black, or anything that may detract from the wedding festivities.

How many months before your wedding should you have a bridal shower? ›

Most bridal showers are usually held three weeks to three months before the wedding.

Does the mother of the bride help with a shower? ›

Traditionally, the mother of the bride does not give a shower for her own daughter. Usually, aunts or other family members pay for the shower. However, so many traditions have changed. If there is no one to pay for your daughter's shower, I don't see anything wrong with you giving her a shower.

What is the difference between a bridal shower and a wedding shower? ›

A bridal shower honors the member of the couple who identifies as the bride; for a wedding with two brides, it can honor either (or both). A wedding shower honors a couple—and, like a bridal shower, is planned by friends or family members of either partner.

Do you have to open gifts at a bridal shower? ›

The decision ultimately is yours. It could be a very special moment and nostalgic and it's totally fine to do it! But if it makes you uncomfortable and you'd rather spend the time doing another interactive activity with guests or mingling – that's fine too! Looking for an elegant venue to host your bridal shower?

What does mother in law give at bridal shower? ›

Consider heirloom-worthy serveware or a handmade book featuring your family's secret recipes. Alternatively, opt for items she'll likely need for the wedding. Think: a luxurious getting-ready robe, something blue or travel essentials for the honeymoon.

What does mother of bride pay for? ›

Traditionally, the bride's family assumed most of the financial costs associated with a wedding, including the wedding planner, invitations, dress, ceremony, reception, flowers, photography, and music.

How much is the average bridal shower? ›

That works out at $300 to $800 for a 20-person party but can go as high as $150 per person or $3,000 for a 20-person shower. Based on these estimates and an average bridal shower guest list of 35-50 people, a reasonable budget for a bridal shower is between $350 and $7,500.

Are you supposed to take a gift to a bridal shower? ›

In short, yes. If you're attending a bridal shower, you should always bring a gift with you to congratulate the bride. This is considered good bridal shower etiquette. Even if you're a part of the bridal party or wedding party, a gift is still necessary.

How much do you give for a bridal shower gift? ›

The Knot suggests an attendee should spend between 50 to 75 dollars on a shower gift. (However, if you also got the couple an engagement gift, the 20-20-60 rule can also apply—so your shower gift should cost 20 percent of your total budget.)

Is it OK to give money for a bridal shower gift? ›

Giving a cash gift is usually fine at either the shower or the big day, but actual gifts are typically the preference—especially if the bride is opening presents for guests to see. Gift cards are especially suitable for showers, while cash and checks are more common at weddings.

Is the man supposed to go to the bridal shower? ›

Should my fiancé attend the bridal shower? It's totally up to you and your fiancé to decide whether he will attend the bridal shower.


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