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What Is a Bridal Shower? Everything You Need to Know

by Joy Editors
What Is a Bridal Shower? Everything You Need to Know

There are a lot of celebrations associated with weddings besides the nuptials themselves. There’s the engagement party, bachelorette party, and bridal shower, to name a few. But what is a bridal shower exactly? Who throws the bash, who is invited, and what is the etiquette? Consider your questions answered with this helpful guide that explains the ins and outs of a bridal shower.

What Is a Bridal Shower?

Bridal shower tablescape with pink glass tea lights and flowers

Traditionally, a bridal shower is a gathering to celebrate the bride-to-be. Although bridal shower themes and venues have become more varied in recent years, there are a few common threads. They are typically daytime events held on a weekend afternoon and attended by women who are close to the bride. Traditionally, guests bring gifts to help the bride set up her new home. Personal gifts like lingerie, jewelry, and family heirlooms from close relatives are also common. Brunch or lunch is usually served, and oftentimes wedding-themed games are played.

Who Hosts the Shower?

The mother of the bride or maid of honor typically plan and host the bridal shower. Other close female family members — like aunts, grandmothers, and the mother of the groom — might also help plan and foot the bill. Bridesmaids are often enlisted to help plan and decorate for the event, as well. They might chip in with things like games, prizes, desserts, and decorations.

If you fall into one of these categories, reach out to the mother of the bride or bridesmaids to offer your help. Just be sure to communicate openly so that different people aren’t planning multiple bridal showers at once.

Who Is Invited?

Traditionally, bridal showers are women-only events. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for Jack and Jill showers. In this case, men and women are invited. Either way, everyone invited to the bridal shower should also be invited to the wedding. That said, every person invited to the wedding doesn’t need to be invited to the shower.

Unless you’re planning a surprise party, ask the bride about who she would like to see on the guest list and the scope of event she would like. The maid of honor, bridal party, mother of the groom, aunts, grandmothers, and close female cousins are typically at the top of the guest list. Some women also like to invite close female friends and coworkers.

If the shower is a surprise, the mother of the bride and maid of honor should coordinate a guest list they think the bride would want. The number of guests will depend on the bride’s circle of friends and family size. It can span from an intimate affair of 10 to a large celebration with dozens of guests.

What Is the Groom’s Role?

Unless you’re having a Jack and Jill bridal shower, the groom does not need to attend the bridal shower. However, it’s not uncommon for the fiancé to make an appearance towards the end of the event to say thank you. After all, many of the gifts are for him, as well. He and other close male family members may show up and say their hellos before helping to carry gifts to the car.

When Should You Schedule the Shower?

The bridal shower should take place between three months and three weeks before the wedding. Keep the bride and her guests in mind when selecting a date. For example, if many female relatives live out of town, you might want to plan a date that gives them more advanced notice. Or, if the bride is doing most of the wedding planning on her own, she’ll probably want to be free for the month leading up to the big day.

You’ll also want to confer with the bridesmaids to see when the bachelorette party is occurring. In most cases, you’ll want to make sure these dates don’t collide. But there may be instances when you will want to combine weekends, like if many bridesmaids will be traveling from out of state. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to make sure the bride has finished her registry before invitations are sent out.

Where Should It Be Held?

The bridal shower can be at a local restaurant, family member’s home, or at an outdoor venue, like a park gazebo. You might select a location to coincide with a specific theme, such as a brewery or a baking school.

When it comes to location, it depends on where the bride and her guests live. If the bride lives near her hometown, it’s probably a good idea to have it locally. If she lives out of state but most of her guests still live near her hometown, it may be best if the bride is the one to travel.

What Happens at a Bridal Shower?

What is a bridal shower? A place to gather the bride's loved ones

There is a new trend in bridal showers to include activities. For example, you might have a wine and paint day or make handmade signs. The most common showers, however, still involve an afternoon brunch or lunch. Some involve a theme, like an afternoon tea party, but it isn’t required.

After lunch, there are usually bridal shower games played. You can purchase printed games that quiz guests about the bride and groom. Or, the bride can be in the spotlight while the guests watch.

A fun and affordable option is a Newlywed Game-style quiz. You can ask the bride questions you’ve already asked the groom. For every one of her answers that doesn’t match her fiance’s, she has to add a stick of bubble gum in her mouth. This could lead to a mouthful of gum and plenty of fun photos. For large groups, consider a team game like a wedding dress design challenge from toilet paper. Get creative, and there are bound to be a lot of laughs.

Following games and dessert (or during), the bride will open gifts from her guests. Be sure to have a bridesmaid on hand to write down who gave what, so the bride can write thank you notes later.

What About Gifts and Favors?

Bridal shower cookies

Usually, the bride and groom will register for wedding gifts. This can be at a department store, home store, or on an online registry. Most shower guests will shop the registry for their bridal shower gift, but it isn’t required. If you know the bride well, feel free to go off registry to get something personal you think she’ll love. Be careful with gifts like lingerie if you aren’t sure of her size and style preference.

Another option is to purchase a gift off of the registry and then personalize it with a few extras. For example, get those Champagne flutes she asked for and wrap them alongside a bottle of bubbly and a box of her favorite chocolates for a date night in a box.

Bridal shower favors are a nice touch, but they aren’t a must. If you opt to give favors to attendees, don’t overdo it. Select something edible, like personalized cookies or colorful cake pops. Beauty and bath products are another way to go — everyone loves great-smelling bath salts.

Team Bride: Showering the Guest of Honor

Bridal shower paper cut-outs

There are a lot of wedding events surrounding the big day, and a bridal shower is a fun one for all of the ladies involved. (And sometimes the guys, too.)

When all is said and done, what is a bridal shower? It’s a pre-wedding party to gather the bride’s closest family members and friends for an afternoon in her honor. Guests will enjoy food and drink together, bring gifts, play games, and socialize before she ties the knot.

If you aren’t sure about a shower’s theme or etiquette, reach out to the mother of the bride or maid of honor. Chances are they are the ones working behind the scenes to ensure the bride has a special celebration she’ll never forget.

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