Our Favorite Bridal Shower Ideas

The best showers go way beyond just small talk and opening gifts. A great bridal shower speaks to the to-be-wed's personality and gets all of the guests involved while talking, laughing and sipping on something sweet. These themes do just that—and there's one for every type of bride.
by Simone Hill
  1. Wine Tasting Bridal Shower

    Wine tasting bridal shower
    photo by Kaboompics

    What it is: A wine pro or sommelier teaches the group how to taste at home or at a wine bar or vineyard. Choose a theme for the wine, like all vintages from the year the couple started dating or wines from wherever the couple is going on their honeymoon.

    Best for: The bride who likes to sip; it's also best with smaller parties.

    Planning tip: If you're planning to buy the wine yourself, follow this handy guide: Assume every bottle holds eight tasting servings. So, if you have eight guests and you want to taste four different types of wine, you'll need one bottle of each. After the tasting, figure about half a bottle per person.

    Potential pitfall: Underage guests (like the bride's 18-year-old sister) or nondrinkers may feel left out. Because it's an alcohol-centric party, you'll need to provide a safe way for the more festive guests to get home, if needed.

  2. Cooking School Bridal Shower

    Cooking bridal shower
    photo by Marisa Holmes

    What it is: A chef-led culinary learning—and eating—experience. Call in a chef to give a lesson on making quick, delicious appetizers.

    Best for: The bride who considers herself a real foodie or who eats out all the time but wants to get better in the kitchen (and actually use all those pots and pans she's registered for).

    Planning tip: Look around for restaurants that have cooking classes or chefs that make house calls.

    Potential pitfall: Oftentimes only evenings are available. Guests will most likely have to stand for the demos, so if the bride has a lot of older relatives, consider setting up a few tables and chairs for those who want to watch demonstration from afar.

  3. A Charity Bridal Shower

    Charity bridal shower
    photo by Person + Killian Photography

    What it is: Instead of bringing traditional gifts to the bridal shower, guests bring a donation (canned food, old clothing or even cash) to benefit the couple's favorite charity.

    Best for: The couple who has lived together for a while, so they already have traditional shower gifts (cookware and bath linens) and would prefer to pay it forward instead. It could also work for anyone who would rather not be the center of attention at a gift-giving extravaganza.

    Planning tip: Instead of favors, continue the theme by making donations to a charity of the couple's choosing.

    Potential pitfall: There will always be those who feel obligated to buy a gift for the shower. Don't discourage them, but point out that the couple may not use the item if it's something they already own.

  4. A Honeymoon Bridal Shower

    Honeymoon inspired bridal shower
    photo by Sarah Gormley Photography

    What it is: Whatever country or city the couple is headed to inspires the theme, and guests bring gifts the couple can enjoy on their honeymoon—for day and night. Group gifts, like certificates for massages or gourmet dinners at their honeymoon destination, are genius.

    Best for: The travel-obsessed bride. It's also great for the couple who is paying for the honeymoon themselves (and could use some extra perks).

    Planning tip: Play up their honeymoon destination: If they're headed on a road trip to the Grand Canyon, decorate with cacti and serve Southwestern favorites, like mini-tacos and sangria. If they're off to Paris, then have everyone wear berets, sip champagne and nosh on madeleine cookies. For travel-inspired décor use maps of the destination for place mats, passport holders as favors and invitations that look like boarding passes.

    Potential pitfall: When guests hear "honeymoon shower," some may immediately think of an R-rated soiree. Instead, call it a travel shower, so it's more appropriate for a range of guests. Tweaking the name will also steer the gift giving away from presents that would be much better suited toward the bachelorette party.

  5. An Artful Bridal Shower

    Watercolor bridal shower
    photo by Alexandra Wallace Photography

    What it is: Enroll in art school with a painting, drawing or sculpture class. If you prefer to look at art instead of make it, host a party in a gallery instead!

    Best for: Anyone really, but this type of shower is especially for someone who has a keen eye for design or could use a new piece of art for their home.

    Planning tip: Not only are pretty watercolor details on desserts and décor trendy, they fit right in with the artistic theme. Use tiny easels as place cards and serve appetizers on wooden paint palettes.

    Potential pitfall: Art classes can have a high price per person, so see if you can negotiate a group rate or bring in an independent instructor to your home.

  6. A Bartending School Bridal Shower

    Bartending cocktail bridal shower
    photo by Philip Ficks

    What it is: This type of shower is best suited towards a classy cocktail hour instead of a more casual daytime get-together. Hire a local bartender—from your favorite bar or from a bartending school—to come and show you how to make some fun cocktails.

    Best for: The super-chic to-be-wed who prefers cocktail dresses to sundresses.

    Planning tip: Just in case the socializing doesn't pick up right away, have some icebreaker tricks on hand. Doing something as simple as putting Mad Libs about the bride around the room can help encourage guests to get talking.

    Potential pitfall: An old-fashioned mother of the bride may not feel comfortable in this swanky setting. She may warm to the idea if you still plan to include at least one or two traditional shower details, like the gift opening or a classic shower game. Figure out a way to involve her too—perhaps she could choose the menu.

  7. A Pot Luck Bridal Shower

    Pot luck bridal shower
    photo by June Bug Company

    What it is: Even if they already own the basics, modern to-be-weds can always use a little help in the kitchen. The twist? Instead of catering, everyone gets involved--guests bring favorite dishes (along with the recipe for what they bring).

    Best for: Someone who loves to cook—and eat! And it's better for a smaller group of guests who are eager to pitch in.

    Planning tip: Make or buy a cute recipe box to collect the recipes to give to the bride at the end. Or set a theme for the dishes, like a particular cuisine (Mexican, Chinese, Thai or French), or each guest could bring a twist on a classic, with names like "Not-Your-Mother's Meatloaf." For a little competition, turn it into a chili cook off.

    Potential pitfall: Not having enough food. To avoid running out and leaving everyone hungry, you'll have to be super-organized and plan for more food than you think. If Bridesmaid Betty's baked ziti ends up a little too baked (a.k.a. burnt), you want to have a backup entrée just in case.

  8. A Destination Bridal Shower

    Destination bridal shower
    photo by James Christianson Photography

    What it is: First, showers moved out of the home and into restaurants and country clubs. Now, they're traveling even farther—a weekend away at the beach or in the country.

    Best for: A small, close group traveling from all over the country.

    Planning tip: If you're worried about filling all of that time, plan the trip around day-long activities, like a private vineyard tour or spa treatments.

    Potential pitfall: It's not going to be easy to pinpoint a weekend or overnight when everyone can get away. There's no way around it: a destination shower will be more expensive than a regular shower, so consider combining the shower, the bachelorette party and bridesmaid luncheon all in one weekend instead of having your bridal party travel for multiple events.

  9. A Couple's Shower

    Couple's shower
    photo by Jim Franco

    What it is: We're so over the idea that showers are just for brides! That's why we love the idea of a couple's shower, where anyone who is close to the couple (regardless of gender) can attend. It can range from an afternoon barbecue to a cocktail party at your favorite restaurant or bar.

    Best for: Couples who like to do everything together and don't care about sticking to tradition.

    Planning tip: You should still make time for gift opening, and tweak games and activities so they're less "bride-centric" (like having wedding-themed Pictionary) and more inviting for everyone, or ditch the games altogether.

    Potential pitfall: The guest list will be longer, so costs will go up. And some of the single bridesmaids or groomsmen might feel a little funny if they don't have a date.

  10. An Outdoorsy Bridal Shower

    Bicycle outdoor bridal shower
    photo by Shutterstock

    What it is: Kick off with a small party, say, brunch at someone's house, open gifts, and then do some outdoorsy activity, like a hike or bike ride. Sure, it's a little unconventional, but it can definitely work for the right crew.

    Best for: If the to-be-wed always has her gym bag with her and would rather bike or jog home from work than get in the car.

    Planning tip: Make the activity optional and for all ability levels. Her grandmother will likely be bummed if her bad hip keeps her from walking hills, so look for something that everyone can do.

    Potential pitfall: As with any outdoor activity, you have to watch the weather and be prepared with a rain plan (indoor rock-climbing anyone?).

  11. A Craft Bridal Shower

    Crafting bridal shower
    photo by Kate Mathis

    What it is: The focus of the shower is to get hands on and make a DIY project. These days, there are tons of options, like flower arranging, painting ceramics or making valentines or ornaments if it's around a holiday.

    Best for: A creative and crafty crew that won't mind getting their hands dirty.

    Planning tip: Go to a class or have an instructor come to your home and walk everyone through making their own item. Buy pretty boxes and ribbon to wrap up each guest's finished product to take home.

    Potential pitfall: Avoid any crafts that will actually be used at the wedding, like DIY escort cards or programs (you're not inviting everyone over just to put them to work!). Make the craft something guests can take home as a favor. Another thing to keep in mind: Crafts are messy, so be prepared with cleaning supplies or pick a studio where they'll take care of cleanup for you.

  12. A Green Bridal Shower

    Green eco friendly bridal shower
    photo by The Nichols

    What it is: A shower with a small carbon footprint that's eco-friendly in every way—from the potted plant centerpieces to the gifts wrapped in recycled kraft paper. A garden or courtyard is a no-brainer for the setting, so nature can take center stage for the decor.

    Best for: The bride who sources all of her organic, fair-trade produce from the local co-op.

    Planning tip: To save on waste, send paperless invitations (with the help of a graphic designer) or use recycled paper and have your invitations printed with soy ink. Tree saplings, lavender sachets or soy candles make great eco-friendly favors. And hire a caterer who specializes in organic cuisine or cooks with locally grown ingredients and ask a local baker to make vegan treats for dessert.

    Potential pitfall: The key is to think eco-chic (not crunchy). Skip the burlap and go with crisp, white organic cotton tablecloths paired with matching napkins tied with twine.

  13. A Tea Party Bridal Shower

    Tea party bridal shower
    photo by Archetype Photography

    What it is: The most classic shower theme of all is usually held at home or in a teahouse. Just because it's a tried-and-true idea doesn't mean you can't put your own creative spin on it. Create a bohemian vibe with colorful lanterns and low-slung seating or something more quirky and whimsical (think: Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter!).

    Best for: The traditionalist or the prim-and-proper bride.

    Planning tip: Have guests get into the theme with their attire by encouraging them to wear hats, gloves and bow ties. Traditional fare, like tea cakes, cucumber sandwiches and fruit tarts, are always crowd-pleasers, and set up a loose-leaf tea bar for guests to create their own take-home favors.

    Potential pitfall: It can easily become stuffy, so lighten the atmosphere with an icebreaker, like whacking a teakettle-shaped piñata or a blind tea tasting, or get really elaborate and make it into a murder mystery tea party where everyone plays a role and the bride has to solve the case.

  14. A Pool or Beach Party Bridal Shower

    Pool party bridal shower
    photo by Amy & Stuart Photographers

    What it is: Everyone wears their swimsuits and sunglasses for a casual party by the water.

    Best for: A summer shower and a playful crowd who won't mind getting their hair wet.

    Planning tip: Tropical cocktails with bright umbrellas are basically required for this kind of party. Instead of the traditional shower games, rework the rules so you can play them in the water (think: The Newlywed Game meets Marco Polo).

    Potential pitfall: Some guests might prefer to just dip their feet in, so plan some on-land activities too. A lot of public beaches have restriction on drinks, so if you opt for a seaside affair, you may have to have a booze-free shower.

  15. A Beauty Makeover Bridal Shower

    Makeover bridal shower
    photo by Perez Photography

    What it is: The focus of the party is to get pampered (and try out some fun new beauty looks for the wedding!). Hit up a blowout bar or have in-home hairstyling, mani-pedis or facials.

    Best for: Anyone with an overflowing beauty bag, who's always looking for the best new products. It's perfect if you're planning to hit the town later that night for the bachelorette party.

    Planning tip: A make-your-own beauty product bar, like a custom lip color, body scrub or a perfume one, doubles as an activity and a favor.

    Potential pitfall: You don't want every minute of the shower spent getting primped and preened, so set up multiple stations and make sure to work with the stylists and beauticians to pick services that can be done quickly and for a large group.

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