From figuring out the guest list to picking a theme the bride-to-be will love, here are the basic etiquette rules for planning a bridal shower.
First things first: who should host the party? According to tradition, a shower should not be thrown by the bride's immediate relatives, such as her mother, future mother-in-law, or sister, since it may leave an impression that they are asking for gifts. But this is changing and it's perfectly acceptable for a family member to host a shower these days. Quite often the maid of honor or another good friend hosts, or several people—often bridesmaids—share the responsibility.
It is common for a bride to have more than one shower; when this happens, the hosts should consult one another about guest lists to avoid duplication (though bridesmaids are typically invited, though not expected, to attend both). Showers are generally held from a couple of months to a couple of weeks before the wedding.
Regardless of who throws the shower, the host should be on hand—alongside the bride—to meet guests as they enter the party.
Whether your hosts are inviting 18 guests or 80, "the invites should go out a month to six weeks in advance," says celebrity planner and lifestyle expert Mindy Weiss. As for who makes the cut? Since showers are intended for the bride's nearest and dearest, every shower guest must already be on the wedding guest list.
Because it is understood that guests should bring a present to a shower, it is not appropriate to invite people whom you don't plan to include in the wedding. One noted exception is an office shower; it is not usually possible to invite all of your colleagues to the wedding, but they may want to help you celebrate nonetheless.
Shower stationery trends run the gamut from sweet and simple to high-end. "The options right now are truly endless—from letterpress to couture—and suit all budgets," says Weiss, who has thrown showers for celebs including Eva Longoria and Denise Richards. "There are so many more options than there used to be."
While there are no boundaries when it comes to selecting the stationery, the sending-it-out part is a little less flexible. We recommend snail mail only. That said, if a save-the-date seems necessary, an e-mail is still considered completely appropriate. For that, just turn to creative e-card sites like pingg.
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"The tradition of the groom showing up with flowers just before his fiancée opens the gifts is definitely back," says Weiss. Guests who haven't met the lucky guy before often look forward to this part of the shower for that very reason.
Other rituals that have been passed down from older generations are still common. A popular one: making a bouquet out of the shower gifts' ribbons and bows and using it as a stand-in for the real one at the wedding rehearsal. Old-school traditions, such as having something old, new, borrowed, and blue on hand, are still favorites of today's brides as well.
Creating a new tradition can add a layer of sentiment. Some ideas? Passing around old photos from the mother-of-the-bride's shower, or taking a snapshot with multiple generations of women.
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If you're hosting a shower where many groups of people are invited—from the bride's childhood friends to the groom's aunts—games can help people get to know each other. If the bride has specifically requested no bridal shower games, ask a few stealth assistant hostesses to make a special effort to draw everyone into the conversation. If the bride thinks a few games would be fun, try a few designed to get people to talk about themselves.
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By the time the shower invitations are sent, the bride should have already registered for gifts. While not necessary, providing the couple's registry information on shower invites is often welcomed by the recipient, who otherwise might not know where to start in terms of purchasing a gift for the party. Add a line like "Sarah and James are registered at Target and Macy's" at the end of the invite, after all other relevant details have been listed.
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Bridal shower attendees are often asked to satisfy gifting themes, from lingerie to kitchen to a personal interest of the bride. "'Round the Clock' showers can be particularly cute," suggests contributing editor David Stark of David Stark Design and Production in Brooklyn. "Everyone is assigned a specific time of day, and the gift should relate to it. Midnight, for instance, could be Champagne; three in the morning could be a 'Do Not Disturb' sign." If the bride will be traveling after the shower and would find it difficult to transport gifts, consider a shoe box shower; if each gift will fit in a shoe box, they should fit in a suitcase as well.
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Throwing a bridal shower is an especially generous act on part of your family and friends. While a handwritten thank-you note is acceptable, the bride-to-be may want to give a gift to the host—for example, tickets to a show or a spa gift box full of small luxuries.