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bridal shower basics

Bridal Showers: The Basics

Here's everything you need to know about throwing a shower the bride won't forget.

Photo: Hilary Hopkins Photography

Traditionally, a shower is a party for the bride and her closest female relatives and friends, where she is "showered" with love, good wishes, and gifts. Where to start to tackle the task? Don't fret. We've got shower-planning basics nailed down to ten easy tips.

Who Plans It

Shower hostess is in the honor attendant's job description -- but she should ask for help from the other bridesmaids, the bride's sis, even the bride's mom. Emily Post types might tell you moms shouldn't plan a shower because it looks like she's trying to get gifts for the bride, but lots of mothers are very involved in helping with this party -- especialy when her daughter is the host. Enlist anyone with the time and energy.

Pick the Right Date

A shower can take place six months before the wedding or it can be the week before. It can be a surprise for the bride -- or not. Up to you. Depending on where most of the guests live, you may need to schedule it far in advance so everyone can make their travel plans. If most people are local, you'll have more options. Once you've picked a date, set up a planning schedule. Brainstorm as a team about the party -- themes, locations, and entertainment -- early on. Divvy up tasks such as getting/sending the invitations, making the decorations, and coordinating the menu.

Decide On the Budget

Before you start fantasizing about a full spa treatment for fifteen, determine who is paying for this shindig and how much it is going to cost. For fancy fetes, it's kosher to ask all the bridesmaids to help out. Be clear about what everyone owes from the very beginning, though. And make sure all dollar exchanging takes place in advance.

tip

You can be as creative as you want about where to have it: a picnic at the park, a backyard barbecue, and Italian restaurant, a hotel salon, a botanic garden, a bakery.

The Idea

Is the bride a traditional tea party type of girl? Would she be thrilled about a cozy shower at home, or is she expecting the works in a hotel ballroom almost the size of her reception hall? Does she have specific passions (art, gardening, traveling, the color pink) that might lend themselves to a special shower? Keep in mind that themes often make planning easier -- and more fun, because you can use your imagination to add special touches to the invitations, gifts, food, and entertainment.

The Location

You can be as creative as you want about where to have the shower. A list of options: a picnic in a park or at the beach; a backyard barbecue; an Italian restaurant; a hotel salon; a botanic garden; a bakery. Keep in mind that party spaces get booked early in busy seasons, like during the holidays. Call about availability before you get your heart set on something. And obviously, prices may be a factor.

The Guest List

Everyone invited to the shower should also be invited to the wedding. Ask the bride to help out with the shower guest list. If it's a surprise, consult with her mom, groom, or sister. If it's a bridal shower (just the girls), make sure the bride's and groom's close female relatives are invited, as well as all the women in the wedding party and the bride's close girlfriends. If it's a couple shower, make it a coed guest list.

>> See more on coed bridal showers.

The Gifts

It's a good idea to suggest that the bride and groom register for gifts prior to the shower. In the shower invitations, include information about where guests can purchase presents. (Yes, this is okay etiquette-wise.) If you want guests to bring gifts in keeping with a theme, include special instructions. Just make sure there are related items on the registry so the soon-to-be newlyweds don't get unwanted gear. Investigate any special discounts you can pass on to shower-gift buyers.

The Invitations

Don't feel like you have to go nuts with the invites. They should reflect the formality (or informality) and theme of the shower, but they can be as simple as those cute ready-made cards available at any card store. Make sure guests RSVP to someone (the MOH, the bride's sister) by a date that's at least a few weeks before the shower. If many guests will be coming from out of town, mail the invitations at least two months before the party -- if not earlier -- so those who need to can make travel arrangements. If it's an in-town thing, four to six weeks should be enough time.

Make a Menu

If you're having an at-home shower, think about having the party catered -- food can be anything from a five-foot hero to fried chicken and potato salad to dim sum. If you're doing a theme shower, make the food match. Are the bride and groom honeymooning in Venice? Do an Italian theme with a full-on pasta bar. Don't forget hors d'oeuvres -- be it bowls of pretzels and chips, crudites (raw vegetables and dip), or the bride's mom's famous mini-pizza rounds! For dessert, serve cake, and/or pastries, cookies, pie, ice cream -- either homemade or supplied from the yummiest bakery in town. If you're having the shower in a banquet hall or restaurant, work with the manager/host to come up with a delicious menu. Keep in mind the bride's taste and any special guest needs such as vegetarian or kosher dishes.

The Entertainment

Primary activities at any shower: eating, laughing, and gift-opening. One bridesmaid (often the MOH) should keep track of which guest gave which present, and another should make sure cards stay with the right boxes -- then thank-you notes won't be a nightmare for the bride. Background music (in keeping with the theme, if it lends itself) is a good idea and some planned activities will keep the party moving at a nice pace.

>> Check out Bridal Showers: A Complete Guide to Games.

-- Tracy Guth

See More: The Bridal Shower