Throwing a Wedding Shower

Amy Hoover
bridal shower

Hosting a wedding shower is a festive task that celebrates the bride-to-be - and sometimes the groom, too! Start planning early so you can get everything in order and throw festive fete that the bride and guests will gush about for months.

The Shower Hostess

Following traditional shower etiquette, it's the maid-of-honor who hosts the shower. However, bridesmaids often lend a hand when it comes to shower planning as well. Really, just about anyone can host a shower, from godmothers to friends to coworkers. If you want to host a shower and aren't in the bridal party, check with them and the mother-of-the-bride before you start planning in order to avoid duplicating guest lists and themes.

Coed Shower Hosts

Modern couples are often thrown coed showers. In this instance, it might be a family friend or distant (non-immediate) family member who hosts as couples. The maid-of-honor and best man might also get together to host a coed shower.

Who Shouldn't Host

Generally, the mother-of-the-bride and sisters (who are not serving as maid-of-honors) do not host the shower. That being said, with the expense and expanse of guests, there is no longer a hard-and-fast rule about who can't host. Consider your social circle and go with what feels best.

Set the Date

The date of the shower should be set early. This way, you can be sure you get the location and caterer (if hiring) and so guests have proper notice. Once you've decided to throw the wedding shower, speak with the bride about the best possible dates in her calendar. Check with both the mother of the bride and mother of the groom as well as bridesmaids.

You'll want to set a date that's a minimum of six to eight weeks away to allow time for proper planning.

Compile the Shower Guest List

The guest list for the bridal shower should include bridal party members, immediate family members, and close friends and relatives. If the shower is at work or hosted by a coworker, then include office mates on the guest list too. Get a list of invitees from the bride, or, if she is not involved in the shower planning, the mother(s) of the bride/groom and the bridal party.

Before finalizing the guest list, take a second look at the list. If someone important to the bride isn't on it, add them. Conversely, if there's someone who clearly wouldn't be able to attend (due to distance, expense, or other reasons), check to see if they should still be included.

Don't invite people who aren't invited to the wedding unless they specifically mention they'd like to be included in the festivities. For example, a coworker may express interest in attending a shower even if she is not attending the wedding. In this instance, it would be fine to include her. Use your best judgement.

Book the Shower Location

Once you have a general idea about the number of people invited, you'll be able to book the shower location. In many instances, the hostess opens her own home to guests for a casual celebration. Of course, you aren't limited to a party at home.

If space is limited, you want to host a more extravagant affair, or you simply don't want to host the shower at home, you have plenty of other options.

  • restaurant at bachelorette party
    Restaurants - Most restaurants have a room or partitioned area that can be booked; they will typically provide food and beverages as well. The restaurant could be a basic bar and grill, a Victorian tea room, or even an upscale Asian fusion restaurant.
  • Hotel conference rooms - Hotels often have large rooms available. They usually provide tables and chairs as well as linens. When the hotel has a restaurant attached, you might be able to book catering through them; otherwise, you'll need to bring in your own dishes/caterer.
  • Activity-based locations - If you're planning a coed shower or the shower's theme or activity is outside the house, you will need to coordinate with the location. For example, if you're holding a shower held at a baseball park, you will need to book a group outing.
  • Gardens and museums - Botanical gardens and museums may offer rental spaces for showers and other events. Call around to see if you can book an indoor or outdoor space at a local area.

As soon as the date is set, you'll want to book the shower location. Most locations will have other interested parties for various reasons, so start calling as soon as you can and put down a deposit.

Determine the Theme

garden party

You'll want to select a shower theme, graphic, or colors to plan the shower around. The theme doesn't need to be elaborate, but there should be some sort of cohesiveness to the event overall. For example, you might want to plan around a particular graphic (such as a wedding dress, doves, or intertwined rings) or around the wedding colors. Alternatively, you could have an extravagant tea party theme or a gift-giving theme, such as "time to stock the kitchen." If the shower is being held near a holiday, you could also make that the theme, like a Valentine's Day or Halloween bridal shower.

The theme should be selected prior to purchasing invitations and supplies. This way, you can be sure everything will work together to create a memorable event. It also makes future decisions easy because you've already narrowed down the choices.

Send Invitations

Invitations should match the tone and theme of the event. Look for invitations in colors that will match the rest of your decorations or the bridal party colors.

  • Design - If you're planning a casual ballpark get-together, then you can pick something festive and fun. But, if it's a formal affair in a hotel ballroom, you'll want to select an invitation that reflects the elegance of the event. Free unique invitations can be dressed up when printed on cardstock and embellished with ribbons.
  • Wording - Use bridal shower invitation wording that lets guests know who the shower is for, where to go, and when it occurs. Don't forget the RSVP information.
  • Mailing date - Send the invitations at least a month prior to the shower so guests have time to make plans. RSVPs should be two weeks to 10 days prior to the event - or whenever the caterer (if using) needs the final number.

Hosts often wonder whether it's appropriate to include wedding registry information in the shower invitations. Traditional gift etiquette says to skip it, but it's becoming more common. Ask the bride and her mother what the norm is for their social circle.

Select the Menu

The food is an important part of any party, including a bridal shower. Caterers should be booked as soon as possible and if you're DIYing the food, you'll want to create a menu and write your shopping list at least a week prior to the event.

Catered Versus DIY

Catering service

Hosting a catered shower is likely the more expensive, but more hassle-free, option. If the shower will be held at a restaurant or hotel, it's likely you'll be using the restaurant catering services on-site. Check with them to find out options and when you need the final numbers.

You can also contact your own caterers to deliver dishes to your home or alternative location. You can usually select from having them do everything from make the food to serve the food to cleaning up to simply dropping off dishes that you serve yourself. The second option is often more cost effective while still allowing you to avoid time in the kitchen.

Making the food yourself allows you to serve family favorites, show off your gourmet skills, and control the budget. This is often better for a more casual get-together or an event with a buffet featuring finger foods. It's important you calculate how much food to make correctly, though, as you don't want to make too little.

Menu Ideas

Consider the time of day as well as the theme. For example:

Serve beverages such as classic party punch and be sure you have dessert options. You can't go wrong with making or purchasing a bridal shower cake. If you plan to purchase a cake from a bakery, book this as soon as possible as many small bakeries fill dates quickly.

Plan Games and Activities

bridesmaids celebrating

Most showers have a least one game or activity for the bride and her guests. This can be as simple as a game to match famous couples or be more elaborate, unique shower games like a scavenger hunt or fashion show. If the wedding shower is coed, plan bride and groom shower games that get both genders involved, like karaoke and cake feeding contests! Don't forget to pick up small prizes for the game winners, like nail polish, fast food coupons, or other small but useful trinkets.

Before making your final game or activity selection, you should consider the bride's (and groom's) feelings. If she is easily embarrassed, it's best to stick with simple, traditional worksheet games instead of making her front and center.

If you have bridesmaids or other friends/family who have offered to help plan the shower, you can request they help with the game portion. Just be sure you let them know in advance with a couple weeks' notice so they have time to come up with something fun.

Purchase Decorations and Favors

Decorations and favors should match the overall shower style.

Decorations

The amount of shower decorations needed will depend on both your location and theme. Themed decor usually means putting in a little more effort with additional ceiling and wall decorations to really pull it off, whereas a shower held at a fancy restaurant may not need much styling to make it look festive. At minimum, you'll need to pick up:

  • Tableware - Bridal shower plates and napkins can usually be purchased to match the invitations. Select coordinating cups and servingware. Pick up a tablecloth in the invitation design or complementary color.
  • Centerpieces - Floral centerpieces are always in style. They be as casual as handpicked daisies or as fancy as ribbon-wrapped roses; they can even match the season. Candle centerpieces are also a good option as long as the venue allows them. Of course, you can also create a party table centerpiece based on the theme or even style with modern wedding centerpieces at a luxury venue.
  • book and birdcage on a table
    Guest book and table - You'll want to have a guest book or photo mat with engagement picture available for guests to sign. This helps the bride remember who attended. Select one that matches the theme or use a nice journal with matching pen. Include some photos, tablecloth, and mini version of the centerpiece on the table to help make it stand out. It should be placed near the door.

Favor Ideas

The shower favor you give out should be a token that reflects the theme and your gratitude for everyone attending. Personalized favors should be purchased at least a month in advance, while simple favors with tags can be purchased or made the week prior to the shower. In fact, as long as the favor isn't edible, you can purchase or make them as far in advance as desired.

Finalize Your Plans

A few things will need to be done the week before the shower. Follow this checklist to be sure you have everything covered:

  • Call anyone who hasn't RSVPed to get the final head count.
  • Give the caterer your final count or write your grocery shopping list from the menu you selected.
  • Do a trial run of the game with your family and see how long it will take so you can plan the day's activities accordingly.
  • Set up a mock table to ensure your decorations look good and you have enough.
  • Check in with bridesmaids and family members who will help set up and tear down any party space.
  • Pick up some basic office and cleaning supplies that you might need the day of the shower: extra pens, tape, dust rags, paper towels, and trash bags.
  • Organize the game items, food table decorations and accessories, additional decorations and accessories, and favors together in separate bags or boxes. This way you know you have everything together. Label the boxes before you put them in your vehicle.
  • Ask a few bridesmaids or friends to snap photographs throughout the party. This way, you can keep everything running smoothly and the bride has the shower captured for her.

Plan to arrive at the location at least an hour prior to the shower's start. Set up a sign with balloons and an arrow at the edge of the road to indicate where guests should turn for the shower at least 15 minutes before the shower begins.

Throwing a Festive Shower for the Bride

Throwing a wedding shower is a gracious gesture. With a little planning, you're sure to pull off a memorable and festive event for the bride-to-be!

Throwing a Wedding Shower