If you're hosting the party, read these tips before you start planning.
Photography: Jana Williams
Do you have the honor of prepping for and pulling off a bridal shower for your best friend? Congratulations, it's a fun task! It's not all favors and games, though—you're definitely going to be put to work. Hosting a bridal shower is an involved assignment, so it's important to go in prepared before you begin planning. Whether you're throwing one all on your own, or you're partnering with some of the bride's other friends or family members to have one or more parties, read up on what it takes to pull the whole event together.
We're making it easy to host the event that you and the bride have been dreaming of. This go-to guide walks you through everything you need to consider, prepare for, and accomplish before and during the bridal shower. From gathering the troops (you're likely going to need some help!) and compiling a guest list to setting a date and choosing a theme, we've covered everything on your to-do list. You're also going to need to budget, spread the word, select a location and activities, and keep track of important information for the leading lady. Don't worry—we're explaining how to do those, too.
Read on for advice—including tips and etiquette rules to follow—for hosting a bridal shower. We've provided a basic overview of everything that's on your plate as a hostess, so that you can go into the planning process feeling confident, prepared, and totally up-to-speed. The bride will thank you for reading up!
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Anyone can throw a shower in honor of the VIP, and there's no decorum that reserves the "first right to host" for the mother of the bride, female family members, or bridesmaids. To take the lead, you simply need to raise your hand.
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Gather Your Troops
These celebrations are typically thrown by groups so that no one hostess has to cover the entire price tag or singlehandedly manage the logistics. Often, a bride has more than one shower thrown for her, so reaching out to co-planners (for example, the bride's aunt or a friend of yours also on the master guest list) might lead to an invite to join in on a shower already in the works. The size of the shower's guest list will determine the number of party planners you need on your team. Try for a ratio of about one hostess for every five to seven ladies, but the scope of the event is the true determinant of the number of hands you need.
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This pre-wedding affair takes place one to three months ahead of the main event. Consult with the bride for the day and time that best suits her schedule (after all, if she can't make it, then the party's off!). She may also synchronize other pre-wedding activities that require bridal party attendance, like the bridesmaids' dress fitting, to conveniently fall on the same weekend.
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Form a Guest List
During the conversation with the bride about when to celebrate, you should also discuss whom she'd like to invite. Remind her that the guest lists must be different for each shower to ensure people don't get partied out (or sick of buying presents). The exception to that rule: her mom, future mother-in-law, sisters, future sisters-in-law, and sometimes attendants are usually invited to every shower. Above all else, remember that invitees must be drawn only from the master wedding guest list, and you and your cohosts should feel comfortable and confident in the final count, from a money and time perspective.
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Build a Budget
Have a money discussion before diving deep into planning. While there's no hard-and-fast number to stick to, a typical shower may allot $30 per person, but that number could go up to thousands of dollars for a grand affair. Be honest about what you can and can't pull off, remembering the wedding day should be the bride's biggest bash of all. Don't try to trump it!
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The hostesses decide whether to arrange a brunch, a tea, cocktails, a sit-down dinner, or, as is becoming more and more popular, a group activity, like a cooking class. Picking a theme adds cohesion to the event and will facilitate other planning decisions, including choosing the location, styling the décor, and if desired, packaging favors for guests. One popular option is the "round-the-clock" shower, where everyone is assigned a time of day and asked to select gifts accordingly—for example, a coffeepot for 7 a.m. or a duvet for midnight. Consider the woman of the hour—is she a tunemaster, fashionista, crafter, foodie, or literary nut? Build from the bride's preferences, and seek her input as necessary, but leave some element of surprise.
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It's traditional to send shower invitations by mail (and it's fun—who doesn't love getting a personal letter?). The hostess should send invites no later than one month before the celebration, but an emailed save-the-date is completely appropriate, particularly if some recipients are out-of-towners and need to make travel arrangements. Although relatives and hostesses can pass registry info by word of mouth, mailed invitations may include this information. The bride's mother may not agree with us, but today's accepted sentiment is that the point of a shower is to give presents, so make it easy for guests to get shopping.
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Whether day or night, these shindigs usually last three to four hours—enough time for an activity (like a wine course from a sommelier or a get-to-know game), opening gifts, and a chance to eat. While it's not required for the hostess to give favors to guests as they depart, it's becoming more and more common, especially when a shower has a theme or activity that the token can tie into. Invitees at a garden party brunch could receive a miniature potted herb, or those who attend a game night can leave with a board game. The traditional big finish of a shower is when the fiancé arrives (usually with flowers in tow), just after his bride opens gifts. This custom is the perfect opportunity for unacquainted guests to meet the lucky guy and makes a memorable photo-op for the couple.
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The bride will surely want to send a thank-you note to each gift giver. Showing gratitude will be a breeze for her if you assign someone to jot down the full name of the partygoer and the present purchased as the bride opens each package. The master gift list can also be created electronically, but note that typing away on a laptop or tablet during an intimate event can seem obtrusive. Assess the room before deciding to put pen to paper or fingers to keys.
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