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Not sure where to get started planning a bridal shower?  Here’s how to throw the perfect, memorable party to celebrate the bride, from start to finish.

how to plan the perfect bridal shower

A bridal shower is a special pre-wedding party that is all about celebrating the bride-to-be.  It’s not only one of the first pre-wedding events, it’s also a great time for family and friends from both sides to get to know each other while enjoying great food, fun, gifts and even games!  If you are feeling a little stuck and need some simple tips and ideas, consider this the all-inclusive place for everything you need to get started.

Whether you are planning your first bridal shower ever or you’re an experienced party planner looking for a few bits of advice, this bridal shower planning guide walks you through the party planning process from start to finish.

Before you plan a bridal shower, there are a few things you must know…

what to know about a bridal shower

Who is Responsible for throwing (and paying for) the Bridal Shower

Traditionally the bridal shower is thrown (hosted) by the Maid of Honor.  Longstanding traditional etiquette actually frowns upon a family member hosting the bridal shower because it’s like the family asking for gifts but today family hosted bridal showers are quite common.  The point here is for those potential hosts (Mother of the Bride, Maid of Honor, etc.) to communicate to make sure no one is stepping on anyone else’s toes.

While surprise parties can be great, the best option is to also have the bride play a role in the planning process.  There is more about this below but she is the best person to provide a registry, guest list and ideas for themes or event style.

When it comes to who pays, traditionally for an informal or more casual event, the host (or the one who plans the party) is responsible for paying for the event.  For a more elaborate shower, it is appropriate for the host to bring in the help of the bridesmaids early on in the planning process so they can also contribute financially.  

There are a few instances where it is appropriate for each guest to pay for their own portion of the shower.  This would include showers held at a restaurant for example.  Another example would be if you are panning the shower at a spa.  In either example, it is very important to make it clear on the invitation that the guest attending will have to pay for their own experience such as a shower at a restaurant you might say something like “Gather with us to celebrate with a Dutuch Lunch (average entree cost about $15) followed by drinks and cake.  

For a shower at a spa, you may want to include wording similar to “We have reserved a room at “X” Spa.  Call the spa directly at 555.555.5555 to book your appointment.  Instead of a gift, please bring $30 to pay for the bride’s treatments and send her on her way with a spa gift certificate for after the big day.”

Who Gets Invited to a Bridal Shower

Who gets invited to the bridal shower will vary from party to party but there is one rule that EVERYONE must follow.  Whether you are the Maid of Honor, Mother of the Bride or someone else in the life of the bride-to-be,  it is of the utmost importance that everyone you are inviting is also invited to the wedding.  This is by far the most compelling reason to have the bride involved with at least some aspect of the bridal shower planning.  

While it is becoming more and more common for co-ed “couples showers”, traditional showers include close family family and friends of both the bride and the groom plus the bridesmaids.  If you aren’t sure about whether to include the guys or stick to just the ladies, the best thing to do is ask the groom to see if he would be comfortable attending a shower.  If he’s game then ask him for his “male” guest list too.

what happens at a bridal shower

What Happens at a Bridal Shower?

A bridal shower is traditionally a ladies-only celebration for the bride, her bridesmaids and close family and friends from both sides of the family.  Close family often includes people like grandmothers, aunts and cousins.  

In general, bridal shower activities include things like a meal of some kind.  This can be either a formal, sit-down meal or more of a buffet or hors d’oeuvres.  In addition to enjoying good food, bridal showers also typically include time to mingle, some fun, lighthearted games and of course the gift giving time where you really spoil the bride.  The bride typically opens all the gifts and these gifts are generally items purchased from the couple’s wedding registry.

Bridal shower theme vary widely but most often reflect a similar color palette or theme of the wedding the bride is planning or a theme that showcases interests or something special about the bride being honored.

For example, we recently worked with a client that was planning a bridal shower at the bride’s favorite French restaurant so the party is benign planned as a fun, Paris themed event with fun, Eiffel tower invitations to match!

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Now that you know what a bridal shower is and what typically happens at the event, it’s time to start planning.

From beginning to end, this is how you plan a bridal shower; from booking the perfect venue to picking the right theme and all that follows.


How to Plan a bridal shower.

Start by deciding on a budget.

Before picking a theme, a venue or any food, you must start by figuring out how much you have to spend on the party.  Traditional etiquette would be that the host of the party is who pays for the party.  That means that while you love the bride and want to go all out to celebrate this special time for her, you need to be realistic and choose a budget that is going to be doable.

Bridal showers typically are planned by the Maid of Honor with the help of the bridesmaids.  They can also be planned by the mother of the bride.   It’s best to coordinate with all involved and if the bridal party is all planning together then it’s OK to ask that everyone commit to contribute to the cost.  The key is to establish this FIRST.

Set the Date

The bridal shower should take place somewhere around 2 months before the wedding.  That means that you should start planning the shower at least 4 months out from the wedding or even up to 6 months depending on the time of year, type of venue desired, bride’s schedule, etc.

While it’s nice to plan a surprise for the bride, it’s best that she knows so that you can make sure she’s available that day.  She is the reason you are having the party in the first place so she has to be able to attend.  Checking with the bride is also important to make sure the date works for close family members.

Make the Guest List

It’s key to have the guest list finalized before deciding on the venue and to make the guest list it’s always best to start by talking with the bride about who she wants to include.  Not every female invited to the wedding will be invited to the bridal shower.  As mentioned above, this party is typically the closest ladies to the bride so the bride should have some input on who should be there.

As a general rule, the bridal shower should be a somewhat intimate event most often with about 30-50 people at a maximum.  Just make sure that anyone invited to the shower is also invited to the wedding.  (Another reason to make sure the bride is involved).

how to plan a bridal shower - book the venue

Book the Venue

With the guest list made, you now know what size of venue you will need to accommodate everyone comfortably.  Most traditionally, bridal showers are held at someone’s house but if you are inviting 50 people, that may not be possible.  Bridal showers can also be hosted at a restaurant, banquet hall or a location that reflects interest in the bride being celebrated.  This could be somewhere more unique like a park, spa or even an art gallery or museum.

If you still aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask the bride for her input.  She may have ideas that you haven’t even thought of.  Just be sure that wherever you end up choosing, it’s somewhere that will be easy to get to for guests as well as provide ample parking for everyone.


Decide on the bridal shower theme.

By now, it may seem obvious what the theme should be with your venue selected.  Like the example mentioned above at the French Restaurant, the theme completely fell into place but the theme can be anything or you don’t have to have one at all if that makes more sense.

A bridal shower theme is however the perfect way to bring a cohesive look and feel to the event from the bridal shower invitations to the food selections to the decor.  This is a great opportunity to be creative.  You can go super theme-y with something like a tropical theme or something more subtle like a brunch and bubbly theme or bridal tea party.  

Regardless of what you choose to use as your theme for the party, it should most of all be something that reflects the personality and style of the bride.

wedding dress bridal shower invitation

Purchase and Mail Out Bridal Shower Invitations

You should plan to mail out the bridal shower invitations about 4-6 weeks before the shower so you’ll want to find the perfect invite,  and get them ordered 6-8 weeks out.  You want to make sure you give yourself enough time to get them addressed and mailed out so your guests have plenty of time to make plans to attend, buy a gift and RSVP.

Finalize the Menu

Once you start receiving the RSVPs you are now ready to begin working out the menu items.  There aren’t really any rules for what foods to pick but it should all be things the Bride likes and to make it easy on yourself, it should all be items that can be easily served.

If you are planning to serve alcohol, it’s also time to finalize these details as well.  If you are going with the brunch and bubbly theme for example, you may want to plan for a fun mimosa bar with coffee and other drinks and then do foods like mini waffles with various sweet and savory toppings at another station.

If you are going with more of a bridal tea party then you may opt for a rainbow of macaroons and other sweet finger foods and mini sandwiches.

Depending on the budget you set at the beginning, you may opt for a catered menu, opt for making the food yourself or get the help of the bridesmaids and close guests to help pitch in.

Buy, Make and Collect the Bridal Shower Décor

This is where the party planning gets really fun!  With your theme selected and a menu finalized, it’s time to pull together all the décor elements that will bring the bridal shower together.  

You don’t have to go overboard with this because you’ll want to keep your budget in check.  At the same time, fun and festive décor like balloons, tassel garlands and even photo props or backdrops can go a long way and don’t typically cost a lot.  Candles, flowers and even thrift store finds can also be great options.  Consider a mismatched set of tea cups and saucers collected from flea markets and thrift shops.  Etsy and Amazon are also great places to find décor, favors, and so much more!

Plan the Entertainment

Traditionally at a bridal shower, at some point every gathers altogether and plays fun games.  The games may vary and for some, this isn’t their favorite part of the party so consider the guest list and try to plan games that won’t leave some feeling left out or excluded.  {link to shop games}  Games like bridal bingo or fun trivia about the bride (and groom) can be fun, not put guests under pressure and be a fun way to break the ice for those that may not know each other.

What to Do the Day of the Shower

The day of the shower should be pretty straightforward but there are a few tips to keep in mind to make the day go more smoothly.

Set up a Gift Table for Guests to Place their Gifts when they arrive

When setting up for the shower, be sure to establish a designated table or area for guests to drop their gifts when they arrive.  Label it with a table sign to make it even easier for guests when they arrive to know what to do.

Make a list of gifts and who the giver is as the Bride opens them

Make writing and sending thank you cards so much easier for the Bride by making a list of the giver and gift.  This simplifies the thank you cards because  the bride will have one simple list to use so she can send her gratitude to everyone properly.

gift ribbon bouquet

Create a Ribbon Bouquet

Using a paper place as the base, keep the bows and ribbons from all of the gifts to make a “ribbon / bow bouquet” that the bride can then use at the rehearsal.  The bouquet is often so pretty and a perfect keepsake from her shower but also serves her at the rehearsal as she walks down the aisle!

how to plan the perfect bridal shower

Planning the perfect bridal shower can be a lot of work and require a fair amount of time to get all the details just right.  It’s worth it when you see what a memorable and special day this event becomes for that special bride-to-be in your life.  While there is some cost and work involved, most of the time, the bridesmaids are there to help and by following the simple steps outlined above, the event is sure to be perfect!

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