If You're Hosting a Bridal Shower, Read This
In charge of planning the shower? Here's a handy guide to answer all your etiquette questions and planning concerns.
Anyone tasked with hosting a shower for the bride (or couple) will naturally encounter a few etiquette and planning questions along the way, whether it’s their first or fifth time doing the honors. Here are the handiest tips and answers to common bridal shower etiquette questions that every good host should know.
Who’s actually supposed to host?
Traditionally, the maid of honor, entire wedding party, a family friend or the in-laws were expected to play host. It was originally thought to appear gift-grabby if members of the bride’s immediate family, like her mom, planned and hosted—but that’s not really a thing anymore. However, since the mother of the bride might be up to her ears in wedding details, she might prefer to take on a supporting role. Really, it comes down to who wants to throw the shower—the bride’s aunts, in-laws, family friends, college roommates or even coworkers—as well as who lives where.
Who gets an invitation?
As for the guest list, the only rule you need to adhere to is this: Anyone invited to the shower should also be invited to the wedding. After that, the bridal shower guest list can derive from the bride’s preferred vibe and the host’s budget. Small, intimate and ladies only? Invite her wedding party, closest friends and relatives, and her partner’s female relatives. For a couple’s or coed shower, this circle can obviously be widened to accommodate the couple’s ideal group. Also, it's totally normal to have multiple bridal showers as well to include loved ones in different states or locations.
Should the bride be involved in the planning process?
Unless the bride specifically says, “Surprise me,” you can safely assume she has at least some sort of opinion on the matter. While whoever’s hosting will ultimately take the reins, discuss key points with her like the logistics (date, time and place) and atmosphere (mid-afternoon tea with the ladies or a coed dinner in a private room?). She might prefer to celebrate with some sort of theme—or be strictly averse to themes of any kind. In short, you won’t know until you ask her, and once you do, you’ll have a solid jumping-off point.
Does the bride need to bring a thank-you gift for the host?
A nice, handwritten thank-you note would be perfectly acceptable, but many brides also choose to show their gratitude with a small gift, like a flower arrangement, box of treats, or lunch out on the town.
If dining out, who should pay?
Let’s say two friends of the bride are cohosting a bridal shower meal at a restaurant. Should the two of them foot the bill, or should the rest of the party (excluding the bride) cover their share as well? This isn’t quite like the bachelorette party where guests pay their own way and even chip in for the bride’s expenses too. The polite thing for the cohosts to do is pay for it. If an entire meal is biting off more than they can chew (which is totally understandable), consider a pared down event like a light tea, wine and apps, cake and prosecco or a self-catered event at someone’s home.
What happens if the bride doesn’t want a shower?
As the maid of honor (or other close loved one) it’s your job to be there for the bride, listen to her wishes and act accordingly. After making sure she’s really sure about nixing the shower thing, move on and consider it a blessing—one less thing on your to-do list! But, we get it, it’s completely natural to want to do something nice for her. Maybe suggest mani-pedis, dinner and drinks, or a fun brunch for two as a way to celebrate without all the pomp and circumstance.
When’s the best time to have it?
You should try to plan for the bridal shower to fall anywhere from five months to two weeks before the couple’s wedding date (that’s roughly based on a 12-month engagement timeline—but your couple’s schedule may differ). The shower is meant to get the bride and her entourage geared up for the main event with, well, a shower of love and gifts. Anything too close to the engagement could feel premature—the bride may not have asked her wedding party yet or fully processed her to-be-wed status. Logistically, whoever’s hosting needs enough time to budget, plan and curate the perfect guest list, while guests need time to RSVP, travel and find gifts. Anything too close to the wedding could add extra stress to an already hectic schedule, so it’s smart to allow breathing room between these events.