Bridal showers are customary in the United States and Canada and are becoming more popular around the world. They're a great opportunity to give the bride items for the couple's new household as well as an occasion for the female attendants to get to know each other better before the wedding day.
Planning and hosting a bridal shower isn't difficult or expensive if the bridesmaids can share the labor and costs. You can make it an elegant event or a cozy party, perfect for games and socializing. There are a few rules of etiquette you should follow, but generally, you can have the shower just how you want it, whether it's a theme party or simple luncheon with gifts.
Bridal showers are usually hosted by the Maid (or Matron) of Honor and the bridesmaids, close friends, or co-workers. Rules are relaxing a bit when it comes to close relatives. In the not-so-distant past, it would appear to be a quest for gifts but practicality prevails and it is now more acceptable for a variety of reasons:
Close relatives are likely to be attendants and should be given the opportunity to participate just as friends do. Logistics are also a factor when friends no longer live in the same city. It's simply easier to have someone living nearby to partake in planning and possibly provide their home for the location of the shower. This is also handy for the bride because she will be able to pack and move her gifts at her leisure.
The guest list shouldn't be unduly large, especially if more bridal showers are anticipated. Invitees should include all female attendants, mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom, other female relatives, friends, and perhaps close co-workers and business associates. Unless it is a surprise shower, it's a good idea to ask the bride for help compiling the list. This will help you avoid the faux-pas of inviting someone to the shower who will not be invited to the wedding.
Before you begin planning, there should be a consensus as to how the costs will be split and who will take care of what arrangements. Tasks can be divided by choice, but there will probably need to be compromises. Out-of-towners may not be able help plan but may be able to attend. The fairest way financially, is to split costs evenly and tell everyone to be prepared to settle up afterwards (although this should never be done when the bride is present.) To avoid any embarrassment, no purchases should be made until it is decided how elaborate or casual the shower will be, and all receipts should be saved.
Where you decide to hold the bridal shower may depend on the budget of the attendants. Choose a location that is comfortable and affordable. Anywhere that has a bit of privacy, space for everyone, a pleasant atmosphere, and is appropriate for serving refreshments will suffice. You may wish to have it at someone's home, rent space at a banquet hall, make reservations at the bride's favorite restaurant, or have it outdoors in a backyard or park. If you choose an outdoor location, have an alternate one ready in case of inclement weather.
Fancy or casual, you decide. However, you should choose shower invitations relevant to your theme and/or location. Pre-printed shower invitations (and ideas) can be found at any party supply store or you can make your own unique ones. Besides the obvious information, clearly state other relevant info on the invitations, including what type of shower it is, any alternate locations, and whether or not it is a surprise party. Send them out no less than three weeks in advance. Contrary to wedding invitations, you can add bridal registry information.
Consider picking up a matching set of thank-you notes when purchasing the invitations. Then, when the guest of honor opens her gifts, have an attendant make a list of who gave what, or she can write this down on each corresponding greeting card. This will be very helpful when it's time for her to write thank-you notes.
First and foremost, set an inviting atmosphere with finished tables. Cover them with tablecloths and top them off with small centerpieces consisting of party favors or treats. If you desire one large centerpiece, you can coordinate this with the type of shower or the theme. Need ideas? Include a basket full of kitchen gadgets for a kitchen shower, seasoning packets or condiments for a grocery shower, or collection of cleaning products for a spotless home.
For a general bridal shower theme, fresh flowers are the most popular choice and balloon bouquets are a crowd pleaser. Be creative. Scatter anything colorful and fun, like balloons, sachets, fans, candles, lollipops, or cookies. Take your pick from ribbons, bows, stringers, and confetti for adornment. Add extra elegance with placards when you know who will be attending. You can often find shower supplies at most places that sell greeting cards, online stores and (surprise) auctions, party supply stores, and sometimes hobby shops.
The time of day you hold the shower will help decide the menu and how to serve it. Typically though, food should not be the main focus of your party, even if it's at a restaurant. If the party is around meal time, it makes sense to serve a light meal such as soup, sandwiches and perhaps some horderves.
Finger foods and munchies on a tray are a nice alternative to a full luncheon and are appropriate for an afternoon or evening shower. If the ladies have a sweet tooth, consider skipping snacks and make it all about cookies, pastries, and fondue. Whatever you're serving, a cake is traditional bridal shower forte and should never be skipped. Beverages can be any mix of coffee, tea, punch, or wine.
This is an overwhelming time for the bride-to-be. There's so much activity she can't possibly remember every detail. This is certainly a time for you to make sure her memories are preserved with pictures of her bridal shower from start to finish. You probably can't take all of the pictures yourself and you should be in some of them, so have the attendants or guests take turns with the camera. You'll end up with an array of photos ready for a photo album or scrapbook. Now that's a perfect bridal shower gift!