Your Ultimate Bridal Shower Checklist for Celebrating the Bride-to-Be
Do you have the honor of prepping for and executing a bridal shower for your best friend? Congratulations—it's a fun task! It's not all favors and games, though. Hosting a bridal shower is an involved assignment, so it's important to enter the planning phase fully prepared. Whether you're throwing a shower all on your own or partnering with some of the bride's other friends and family members to organize the pre-wedding party of her dreams, you'll need to understand exactly what it takes to pull the whole event off.
Luckily, we're here to help. The following bridal shower checklist makes hosting this type of celebration a breeze. This handy 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 going to need some help!) and compiling a guest list to setting a date and choosing a theme, we've covered everything that should be 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've explained how to do those things, 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 and your team for doing the research and going the extra mile, as will her guests.
Anyone can throw a shower in honor of the VIP, and there's no rule that reserves the "first right to host" for the mother of the bride, female family members, or bridesmaids. In fact, sometimes these parties are thrown by groups so that no one hostess has to cover the entire price tag. To take the lead, you simply need to raise your hand.
Should You Hire a Planner?
Depending on the size and style of event you have in mind, it may be helpful to hire a planner. "Having a reputable planner to help your host with the planning and logistics (and sometimes even the décor) ensures a good time is had by all," says planner Jacin Fitzgerald, "even the ones throwing the event." She also says if your host has hesitations about timelines, tracking RSVPs, or who's in charge of what, a planner will help this person stay on track.
Pick a Venue
Although no place is off limits for a bridal shower, Emily Reno of Weddings and Events by Emily says there's nothing wrong with throwing a shower at someone's home. The money you save, she says, can be allocated to other areas of the shower including a caterer and decorations. However, if you do choose to throw the party elsewhere, Reno suggests it's best to look for a place that reflects the style that you have in mind for the shower. That way, you can save money on décor.
Set a Date
There are many factors to consider when choosing a date for your bridal shower: weather, time of year, and time of day, to name a few. Fitzgerald suggests that all of these should be considered before a date is selected. The pro also adds that it's also important to pick a day where the most people will be able to attend. "But don't go so crazy trying to please everyone that you lose sight of the event itself," she says. "As long as the bride and the VIPs (family, bridal party, etc.) are able to attend, the party will go on."
Make a Guest List
During the conversation with the bride about when to celebrate, you should also discuss who she'd like to invite. Remind her that the guest lists must be different for each shower (if she's having more than one!) 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.
Fitzgerald says you can save some money by calling on family members to get involved. "Whether it's asking Aunt Mae's to bring her famous breakfast casserole or Grandma to make a cheesecake, people want to get involved somehow," she says. "If you divvy up the menu, you can save money on the food and allow more money to be spent on décor or favors." When thinking of where to splurge and where to save, Fitzgerald says it's necessary to take guest's and the bride's experience into account. "If everyone is having a good time and is comfortable, it will be a completely successful event."
Choose a Theme
It's up to the hostesses to decide whether the event will be a brunch, a tea, cocktails, or a group activity, like a cooking class. Picking a theme adds cohesion to the party and will facilitate other planning decisions, including choosing the location, styling the décor, and picking the favors. 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.
Establish a Dress Code
Depending on the theme of your day, you might need to establish a dress code says Jill LaFleur of LaFleur Weddings. Sometimes, it makes it more fun for everyone, she adds. "A spa day bridal shower may call for the ladies to come in their favorite robes and slippers for instance," she suggests. "A cooking class may require you to supply some personalized aprons and/or chef's hats. If you're planning a garden party, you may ask that they all wear their favorite floral print." However, if your dress code means your guests have to go out of their way to buy something, you may want to hold off.
Select the Right Decorations
The first step to choosing decorations, says LaFleur, is to establish how much you're willing to spend on dressing up your location. To compensate, the planner recommends picking a venue that already fits your theme. If you do decide to decorate, make sure it's impactful and embellishes your theme, she says. "Don't forget music to fit the theme and add to the ambiance!"
How Long Should It Be?
Whether day or night, these events 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 time to eat. "Remember the wedding is coming up and this is meant to be a fun day with your family and friends to share your joy as a bride to be," LaFleur explains. "Sometimes the simplest showers are the most memorable as it becomes about the guests rather than the event."
When it comes to keeping guests entertained during a bridal shower, Reno suggests getting creative. "I'm seeing less traditional bridal shower games and more interactive activities," she explains. "My brides are loving photo backdrops, lounge seating, make-your-own cocktail bars, and are hiring professional photographers."
Reno says figuring out what food to serve all depends on the time of the shower. "If it is a brunch style shower multiple food stations or a brunch buffet might be fitting. If it is a nighttime affair a sit-down meal may make more sense," she explains. "I am finding that women at showers tend to love small plates and heavy hors d'oeuvres." Another benefit of offering small bites? Reno says it gives you the opportunity to serve more food options, which will please your guests.
While cakes are a wedding staple, Reno suggests saving the big treat for the big day and serving smaller desserts at this pre-nuptial party. "Most of the time I find that women at showers do not eat the cake," she says. "I would suggest opting for a dessert bar or multiple small dessert bites." Serving smaller confections is also another way to budget wisely.
Who Should Give a Toast?
If you're acting as the bridal shower's host, you might want to consider giving a toast as everyone gathers around for the meal. These speeches (like those given on the wedding day) should be kept short and heartfelt. Other people who may want to consider saying a few words? The bride herself, the maid of honor, the mother of the bride, and the mother of the groom.
When selecting favors for your bridal shower, Nora Sheils of Bridal Bliss suggests picking something that guests will be able to use. Some of her favorite ideas? Mini bottles of Champagne, macarons, chocolates, and even donuts. However, she has seen some hosts think out of the box by contributing to a charity of the bride's choice. The planner also suggests spending a minimum of $5 per person if you do choose to pass out favors.
Gifts are a welcome aspect of any bridal shower. However, depending on the bride, it might be better to save the gift opening until after guests have left, Sheils says. Instead, the planner recommends opening them with a smaller group of close friends and family or even with just the bride and her fiancé. "Regardless of when you open, make sure you are tracking who gave what," she notes.
Sheils stresses the importance of thank-you notes—they let your guests know their gift was received and that you're grateful for it. To ensure your guests receive them before the wedding, be sure to send them out no later than two weeks after the shower. If writing these cards feels like a daunting task, Sheils recommends splitting it up (do a few every day!) as much as possible. And, to keep everything organized, she also advises making a spreadsheet or digital note with the names of your guests, along with who gave you what gift. "Having this doc accessible on your phone means you have no excuse for forgetting to log a gift or a thank-you note."