You've nailed down the basics, now here's how to take the pre-wedding party to the next level.
1 of 9
You set the date, firmed up who's hosting, and slimmed down the guest list. Now it's time to talk details because the small decisions are what will deliver a huge impact and make the bride-to-be's shower truly one of a kind, just like her wedding day!
Think about the woman of the hour—is she a fashionista, crafter, or a foodie? Build a theme based on the bride's preferences, and seek her input as necessary, but do leave some element of surprise.
And don't get too carried away. Throwing a pig roast in a Manhattan studio, just because the bride loves a good luau, probably won't go as planned. And know that practical can be just as fun. For example, try a honeymoon-themed party, where guests gift the bride with accessories, tools, and clothes fit for her first newlywed getaway. You could serve honey-flavored foods and play on the word "honey" throughout the party.
3 of 9
Lulls in conversation are inevitable when hosting guests from all walks of a bride's life (her college roommate Karen might have yet to meet her crazy Aunt Betty). Fill the air with on-theme songs to keep the energy up. Ask the bride to make a playlist of her favorite hits, or create a rundown based on the chart-toppers of every year since she was born. Another route is to let the groom create an original playlist, so he has a subtle—but sweet—hand in the day. You might also launch a playlist on Spotify, or another streaming service, a few weeks in advance of the party, and let partygoers subscribe and add songs—or simply listen in to get into the party spirit.
4 of 9
Instead of hiring a full wait staff, save money and keep things intimate by letting guests graze, serve, and seat themselves. The one exception? A person to man the drink station. Paying a mixologist or friend to serve a signature drink and work a light bar will keep guests where the action's happening—and not in line for a cocktail.
5 of 9
One All-Star Dish
Consider the theme and the bride's last-meal-on-earth dish to dream up a spread that packs flavor, style, and creativity—and doesn't break the bank. Let one dish steal the show. If the bride is crazy for barbecue, then order brisket from her favorite smoker and fill out the spread with condiments, biscuits, and sides bought from a local grocery store or made at home. Above, an ice cream bar stocked with artisanal pints was rounded out with generic candy, bought in bulk.
Swipe here for next slide
6 of 9
If even the mention of a "shower game," makes the bride cringe, a good alternative is a hands-on craft for partygoers. These DIY chalk coffee mugs played three parts in one shower: Guests created them as the activity (or "game"), sipped coffee (spiked with Bailey's!) from them while noshing on donuts, and took them home as favors.
Keep all her wedding-related images corralled in one virtual place, and she'll have both a wedding album to flip—and click—through for anniversaries to come.
Photography: Taylor Gage Photography8 of 9
A Surprise Appearance
Definitely invite the groom to show up when the party's nearly over, but not empty-handed. He can bring along a bouquet, a bottle of bubbly, or something for the crowd, like mini desserts, or his groomsmen if they live in—or are visiting—town. It's a fun way to follow tradition by keeping the shower ladies-only, then letting the boys and girls mingle later, without throwing a full on "couple's shower."
9 of 9
Gifts Sourced from the Bride's Registry
Presents shouldn't all be china and linens. But here's the catch: The woman of the hour should know what theme's coming, so she can stock her registry with relevant items that she also wants. Bridal showers are thrown about three months before the wedding, so her registry (if she's lucky!) will probably be slightly picked over by then. Give her a prompt to fill out her wish list.