Engagement party, rehearsal dinner, wedding reception, first look, first dance — there are a lot of parties and special moments to look forward to before, during, and even after the wedding (hello, honeymoon!). That being said, it can be hard keeping track of what each of these celebrations entail. It’s even more difficult to understand how certain traditions have evolved over time.
So, where does a wedding shower fit in? This gender-inclusive, pre-wedding party allows loved ones to celebrate with soon-to-be newlyweds before your big day. Here’s everything you need to know about having a wedding shower, including how to make it your own.
What is a Wedding Shower, Anyway?
For starters, a wedding shower is simply a celebration that takes place in the months before exchanging vows. Think along the lines of a brunch, tea party, or some other sort of party that happens before the big day.
Traditionally, wedding showers have been called bridal showers and have been exclusively for, you guessed it, the bride-to-be. But, if a coed situation is more your speed or there’s no bride involved at all, a wedding shower might be just the thing.
Wedding showers are a chance for family members, friends, and others on the guest list to shower one or both of the soon-to-be-weds with love. You’ll make fond memories that will last a lifetime, and maybe even receive a few thoughtful wedding gifts before saying “I do.”
Different Types of Showers
You might be wondering: Are there any differences between a wedding shower and a traditional bridal shower? And what about a couple’s shower?
If you and your partner are both the guests of honor, a couple’s shower and a wedding shower are basically the same, just with different names. Like one name better than the other? Call it that. The important thing is that you are happy, excited, and comfortable — that’s the idea of a wedding shower in general. You make the rules!
As for the differences between a bridal shower and a wedding shower, the best way to think of it might be in terms of vibe. Bridal showers have gotten a bad rap for being stuffy, pastel-colored, exhausting events. A guest list of female friends and bridal shower games such as toilet paper wedding dresses often come to mind.
Couples have started to have more fun with planning this pre-wedding party. Think fewer tea cakes and more cocktails — but, of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Remember, you and your partner are in charge when it comes to the vibe of your wedding shower.
All About Timing
We’ve mentioned a lot of events that take place from the moment of engagement all the way through the honeymoon. Most are pretty distinct, but two that often create the most confusion are the engagement party and wedding shower. Let’s break them down!
An important differentiator for engagement parties is timing. In addition to being exactly what it sounds like — a party to celebrate a couple’s engagement — this is typically the first pre-wedding soiree a couple will enjoy. This party can happen as early as the proposal! If you’re confident the answer will be “yes,” the big moment can end with a gathering of all your closest family and friends.
For those who are feeling a little more cautious going into the proposal, an engagement party can also happen a few weeks or months after the engagement, but usually still well in advance of the wedding. Delayed timing is also a safe approach if you want your soon-to-be spouse to have more input in planning the event.
While engagement parties happen within a few months of popping the question, showers should happen within a few months of the wedding. Two or three months prior to the big day is customary — it’s not so close that wedding guests experience deja vu when they get to the reception, but not so far off that they’re still thinking about the engagement party, either.
Who’s on the Guest List
As always, this is about what makes you and your partner happy, so invite whoever you want to invite. Close friends, close family, not-so-close family members, loved ones — the number of guests is up to you. As it’s customary to bring gifts to a wedding shower, it might be helpful to keep in mind that the number of RSVPs will translate to the number of thank-you notes you’ll need to write.
Because a shower typically happens close to the big day, you may also want to limit your guest list to those who received wedding invitations. That will help avoid hurt feelings. “Good enough to come to the shower, but not the wedding,” is the last thing you want to hear before you exchange vows.
On the other hand, if you’re having a small ceremony and reception, a wedding shower is a great way to include folks who won’t be there to watch you say “I do.” As with everything, just be tactful about how you communicate that message. Weddings can be expensive, and most everyone will understand that. A little note that communicates the intimacy of the ceremony but a desire to still celebrate your love will go a long way.
Organizing (and Paying For) a Wedding Shower
Let’s get this out of the way first: You will not typically host your own wedding shower. Wedding planning takes up enough time as it is, from booking your vendors to making sure your wedding website is always up-to-date. Let someone else throw you this party.
Traditionally, it’s customary for the maid of honor to take on the responsibility of hosting and paying for the event. But why not use this opportunity to get the entire wedding party involved? (It’s probably more cost-effective, too!)
Involving the whole group means more minds who can help remember special things about your relationship and create an event that truly celebrates your time as a couple. But remember that more people also means more opinions, which can sometimes be tricky. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and to nudge for simplicity, if that’s what you want!
That also goes for expenses. If the vibe is more upscale, having more people involved can offset those costs. But if you’re more into backyard barbecues, let your loved ones know before they start spending on an over-the-top affair.
One of the easiest ways to create confusion that might result in mismatched expectations is a failure to communicate or to let people act on assumptions alone. There’s a big difference between being demanding and being communicative, and the latter is one of the most helpful things to be during this time!
Party Time: Wedding Shower Activities
Now for the really fun part: the party!
If you want the afternoon tea energy that traditional bridal showers are known for, embrace it. But don’t let yourself be limited by the ways of the past, either.
While a lot of factors will impact the kind of shower you have — time of day, your location, whether you care about what’s trending — nothing is off the table when you (gently) toss the rule book out the window. Here are a few unique wedding shower ideas that will deliver a good time for you and your guests.
- Wine tasting: Take the adventure outside! A vineyard is a great place to host a pre-wedding gathering. Bonus points if it’s a vineyard you’ll be sourcing wine from for your reception. It’s like a little teaser for what’s to come. Plus, many wineries will let you bring your own food on-site, so hosts can splurge on the vino and save on the apps!
- Trivia: A little mild embarrassment is good for everyone now and then, and trivia is the sweetest kind of embarrassment there is. Playing a game of “Jeopardy!” where your relationship details comprise the clues is a fun opportunity to walk down memory lane. It’s also a great way to get everyone involved. When guests arrive, have them write down their own trivia questions and answers. That way, no one is left out when everyone sits down to play. (Just make sure someone reviews the questions before you start!)\
- Potluck: No, we don’t mean the kind where everyone shows up with nine versions of the same kind of casserole. This version of a potluck is all about you. From the dessert you shared on your first anniversary to cuisine from wherever you took your first vacation, each dish can be tied to specific moments or milestones in your relationship. For party favors, offer a little memento to remind guests of your love, such as your favorite movie night candy. Don’t forget a playlist of songs from concerts you’ve been to together to set the mood.
Remember, care and creativity will often go a lot further than your loved ones spending big bucks to do something fancy. There’s no limit to what a wedding shower can be or what you can do at one. Have fun!
A Note on Gifts
Gift-giving is customary at a wedding shower (but not necessary). Often, guests will browse your wedding registry to choose a gift, so it’s a good idea to have your list updated before save the dates are sent out for your shower. Be sure to register for a mix of items at different price points. While wedding gifts may be more lavish and include cash or gift cards, smaller-ticket items are perfect for a shower.
And before you feel any kind of guilt for receiving gifts at your shower, remember that guests won’t usually get to see you opening their wedding presents. Opening gifts at a wedding shower will also be a joyful experience for the gift-givers. People want to see the look on your face!
No matter which direction you decide to go with for your wedding shower, who you invite, or when it happens, the most important part is that you do things your way. Every moment leading up to your wedding should be one that brings you more joy, more love, and closer to your partner.