You can totally pull off a spur-of-the-moment shower—here's how!
Photography: Jana Williams
The trick to throwing a last-minute bridal shower is to make it appear like you've been planning one for months. If you're playing hostess for a party that's in 2-3 weeks, here's how to pull one off without losing sleep or sanity, breaking the bank, or letting down the woman of the hour (the bride!).
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MAKE A RESERVATION
Reserve a room or a table at a local restaurant, rather than booking a venue, gallery, or park for the celebration. And for that matter, take throwing the celebration at a home (yours, or another host's) off the table (unless your town is such a hot spot, or so restaurant deprived, that all eateries are unavailable). At a restaurant, the cost of food, staff, décor, and general overhead (from AC to bathrooms) is all accounted for in the final tab, meaning you can sidestep the logistics and budgeting that goes into conceiving a shower from the ground up. When searching for a restaurant, weigh the bride's preferences against the spot's style; the more defined the atmosphere (whether that's kitschy, chic, or retro) the more intentional hosting a shower there will seem (after all, you may be planning the shower last minute, but guests don't have to know that!). What's more? Centering a bridal shower around a meal makes the start and end times clearly defined, meaning guests won't be looking around asking, "What happens next?" Everyone knows how to enjoy a good meal, and it doesn't require much orchestrating on your end of things.
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Etiquette dictates that in addition to themselves, the hosts are only required to invite the bride's mother, the groom's mother, bridesmaids, and immediate female family members. In shaping up the remainder of the guest list, proceed with caution! The larger the guest list, the more there is to manage, and with two weeks' notice, there's too much to manage as is!
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It goes without writing that sending invitations by mail for a last-minute bridal shower is a no-no. Chances are, guests likely won't receive them in a timely manner, and even if they do, you certainly won't receive their RSVPs in time for the main event. A practical solution is to email invites to guests (plus, sites like Paperless Post and Wedding Paper Divas have tons of adorable, free templates available), then follow-up with a call or text to wrangle any remaining RSVPs two to three days before the shower … And at a restaurant, it's simple enough to change the size of your reservation without accruing fees (or sighs from the staff), so plan for 100 percent attendance and adjust the head count later.
Photography: Greer G Photography5 of 12
SUGGEST A DRESS CODE
Although you might not have the time to devise a one-of-a-kind theme, advising a color or prop to wear ups the thoughtfulness factor without the burden falling on you. Plus, the guests thinking, "But what will I wear?!" can rest easy knowing that trusty black dress of theirs is but an accessory to a straw hat, headpiece, scarf, or whatever add-on you encourage. If you need ideas, look no further than the wedding or honeymoon destination, the restaurant (if you're eating Mexican, ask guests to rock a sombrero, wear a festive necklace, or bring along a maraca), or time of year (summer might call for shades, while winter is prime time for a fuzzy hat or winter boots).
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Photography: Tec Petaja6 of 12
SHOP THE LOCAL SALE SECTIONS
Scope out the nearest mall or home goods stores for clearance décor to add color and personality to your table or private room. Here's what to keep an eye out for: table cloths, linen napkins, napkin rings, placemats, vases, a pillow to mark the bride's seat, and anything else that's simple, affordable, in season, and won't disrupt the restaurant's service or décor (you'll be the best gauge of the personnel). At minimum, restaurants will likely let you decorate the table with flowers, so snag a few eclectic vases to fill with stems.
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SERVE A PRIX FIXE MENU
Not only is a set menu more cost effective, but also at a shower specifically, it's all the more personal! Ask the bride to select two appetizers, three main courses, and two desserts from the restaurant menu, then submit the condensed listing to the restaurant to price out the cost per person (most eateries delight in serving a limited menu for large parties anyhow; you're doing them a solid). Plus, a prix fixe menu helps with conversation; guests won't be hunched over the menu trying to fine-tune their orders. And the service will be faster and better. To up the craftiness, type up the shower menu, print it, and glue the pages to a patterned or colored card stock. Better yet? Re-name the dishes something clever that relates to the bride to make the meal all the more special. The restaurant likely won't care if chicken Milanese becomes "Date-Night Chicken" (if that's the bride's go-to dish for nights in with the groom), so long as you fill them in on the euphemisms so that they can serve with ease.
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Just like the restaurant's dishes, scale back the cocktail list to three boozy offerings—one with whiskey or bourbon, a second with gin or vodka, and a third with tequila or rum—to serve at the shower alongside one virgin, water-based spritz (think soda with watermelon and mint, for example). And yes, you should dub them something festive on a custom cocktail list, to match the personalization of the food menu. If you're offering wine or beer, defer to the bride on what she'd like to serve. She'll basically walk into a party that's serving only her favorite drinks.
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Because no bridal shower is complete without a game, opt for one that you can pack up, set up, and explain in no time at all, like Catchphrase or a card-based game that involves everyone. At minimum, try "20 Questions" or even "Telephone," which are both old school, simple options that can still double as ice breakers.
Photography: Louis Delavenne | revolutionpix10 of 12
Send an UberBLACK car to pick up the bride for the shower, rather than having her ride along with mom or a friend. She'll feel like one glamorous guest of honor, no doubt. At the end of the party, surprise the bride by enlisting the groom to pick her up. When he arrives, he can pop inside, charm over guests, and then whisk her away. For bonus BFF points, order the groom something to-go and have it boxed up for when he arrives.
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Photography: Laura Murray Photography11 of 12
ASK GUESTS TO DROP A LINE
Delegating tasks is key to throwing a last-minute shower. Exhibit A: Ask each guest to pen a hand-written note of congrats or one that reminisces on a memory or escapade from years' past. Your job is to bring a folder, notebook, binder, or box to store the prized notes. You'll give the compilation to the bride as a souvenir. Exhibit B: Tap a handful of hosts (three max) to stand and toast the bride at the shower. While spontaneity is always preferable, you don't want to plan on a round of toasts, and then have no one raise a hand to raise a glass. Giving toasters a heads' up will certainly be appreciated, and that's one more free, heartfelt way that you'll look more prepared.
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Yes, you read that correctly: it's okay to give takeaways that aren't homemade, so long as you hit them with a little personality. For example, pick up coffee beans or spiced granola from a local roaster or bakery and pour about 6-8 ounces worth in tins or a kraft bag. Add a simple flourish, like ribbon, string, or tags, and you're good to go. Another easy alternative is to look to the restaurant for ideas. If the shower is hosted at an Italian restaurant, then send guests off with gourmet spaghetti sauce, for example.