Everything to Know About Hosting a Bridal Shower

Who pays for the event? And when should it take place? Find out here.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Aug 18, 2021

Getting married is a milestone worthy of celebration, so it's no surprise that there are typically more parties than just the big day itself. Traditionally, a number of events take place in the months leading up to the wedding day, including the engagement party, the bachelorette party, wedding showers and the rehearsal dinner. In the past, the bridal shower was often hosted by the bride-to-be's close family members or the maid of honor and the bridesmaids. Today, though, there are no rules when it comes to this prewedding party. More couples are opting for joint or co-ed celebrations to enjoy together that defy outdated traditions. So, as the host, you might be curious to know the important wedding shower etiquette rules to follow.

If you're tasked with throwing a bridal shower for your best friend or a family member and find yourself wondering "What is a bridal shower, really?" or "When should I host the bridal shower?" this is the one planning guide you need to read. In addition to defining exactly what a wedding shower is, we explain who should host, when the event should take place, and much more. Read up on the most common bridal shower etiquette questions to start planning an event your guests will love.

What is a bridal shower?

Before you can host a great bridal shower, it's important to know what the event is all about. At its core, the wedding shower is another event for friends and family to celebrate the to-be-weds before the big day. Guests bring gifts, hosts often organize games and activities, and everyone has a chance to mingle with each other in a fun, relaxed environment. It's often a daytime soirée held in the afternoon or early evening, though late-morning bridal shower brunches are popular as well.

In lieu of a formal sit-down meal, it's common for hosts to provide appetizers and light bites (like finger sandwiches, hors d'oeuvres, fruit and veggie platters and desserts) as well as champagne or mimosas, cocktails and wine.

Today, the order of events at a wedding shower is up to the host and the couple. Since this party doesn't have to be a surprise, hosts are encouraged to work with the to-be-weds to create an itinerary that includes everything the couple wants to do. Since wedding showers are becoming more innovative and personalized, the couple may prefer a unique group activity, like a cocktail-making class or wine-tasting event with their close friends, instead of a traditional shower. On the other hand, they might envision a specific bridal shower theme, like a Bridgerton tea party or Breakfast at Tiffany's brunch, so consult with them first to start planning on the right track.

Who throws the bridal shower?

Given its gendered history, the bridal shower was commonly hosted by the mother-of-the-bride, the bride's close family members, or the maid of honor and the bridal party. Today, though, there are no rules that dictate who plans the bridal shower. The bridesmaids and groomsmen can collaborate with the couple's parents to host a joint event, or it can be planned by close friends who aren't in the wedding party. The most important factor to note, though, is that the shower is rarely (if ever) planned by the couple.

If you're a member of the wedding party or you're a close relative of the to-be-weds, the couple might ask you specifically to take over hosting duties. Or, you can always start collaborating with friends and family members to start planning details as soon as possible. Communication is key when it comes to hosting a bridal shower, so keep in touch with the couple's family and wedding party members to ensure that everyone is on the same page in the weeks leading up to the event.

What happens at a bridal shower?

What happens at a bridal shower is up to the hosts and the couple. It is recommended to plan activities for guests to enjoy throughout the event. You might consider having a few printable bridal shower games, like Bingo or trivia, to keep guests occupied. It's also common to leave blank cards scattered around the venue for guests to leave marriage advice for the guests of honor. Depending on the time of day, you could offer a light meal, like brunch or lunch, though this isn't always a requirement. (Check out this guide to bridal shower food etiquette to learn exactly what hosts are responsible for.)

In the past, proper bridal shower etiquette indicated that the to-be-weds were to open gifts in front of guests, but that's not the case today—especially if the couple feels uncomfortable doing so. Instead, bridal shower gifts can simply be collected onsite and given to the couple after the party ends.

If you're looking for even more bridal shower ideas to keep guests busy, there's no limit to what you can plan. Organize a photo booth with fun props for Instagram-worthy moments, create a collaborative music playlist, or plan an interactive activity like a flower arrangement class or a dessert decorating contest. Not only are these unique ways to keep your guests engaged, they come with built-in bridal shower favors too. The more creative you are, the more memorable your event will be, so don't be afraid to aim high with your plans.

Where should you host a bridal shower?

The setting of the wedding shower depends on the style of the event and the host's budget. It's perfectly acceptable to host the event at someone's house or backyard, especially if they live near the couple and the majority of guests. In addition to being a budget-friendly venue, someone's home is especially fitting if you plan to DIY the decor and the menu. Hosts working with a bigger budget could also rent out a restaurant or an event space for the couple's shower. (Pro tip: You can find plenty of local venues for your wedding shower by using The Knot Marketplace.)

Keep in mind that destination locations are more frequently associated with the bachelorette party. And since the bridal shower guest list is traditionally a bit larger than the bach bash, it's important to choose a location that's centrally located for most guests. Work with the couple to pinpoint an area that's logistically feasible for attendees.

When is the best time to have a bridal shower?

Wedding showers are almost always held before the big day. Traditionally, it's recommended to host the bridal shower anywhere between five months and two weeks before the wedding. Of course, it's crucial to consult the couple's prewedding timeline to pick a date that fits into their schedule and doesn't clash with outfit fittings, planning deadlines or other wedding events. A few weeks after the couple gets engaged—once they've soaked up their status as fiancés and started actively planning their big day—collaborate on selecting a wedding shower date to give yourself ample planning time.

Who typically gets invited to a bridal shower?

If you're not sure who gets invited to a bridal shower, it's always best to consult the couple to confirm their VIPs are included. The bridal shower guest list typically includes the couple, their parents and family members, the wedding party, and close friends. Think of the wedding shower as a happy medium between the engagement party and the bach party—just confirm that everyone invited to the shower is also invited to the wedding ceremony and reception.

When you're ready to send out bridal shower invitations, we've got you covered. Head over to The Knot Invitations to browse hundreds of customizable designs for this special prewedding event. As you're designing the stationery, it's important to note that bridal shower invitation etiquette is different from formal save the dates and wedding invites. Since a wedding shower is traditionally a gift-giving event, guests are encouraged to bring a present for the couple. (The only exception is if the couple explicitly requests no gifts at their event.) To make sure attendees don't show up empty-handed, hosts are encouraged to include the couple's wedding registry information on the invitations. And, to make your life even easier, we've compiled bridal shower invitation wording ideas right here. By following these expert tips, you'll have everyone RSVP-ing "yes" in no time

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