What's the Difference Between a Bridal Shower and a Bachelorette Party?

These two pre-wedding events celebrate the bride-to-be in different ways.
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
The Knot Contributor
  • Heather contributes wedding, honeymoon, travel and relationship content for The Knot and WeddingWire.
  • Heather also writes for publications including Apartment Therapy, StyleBlueprint, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles and The Everygirl.
  • She holds a degree in Art History and Architectural History from the University of Virginia.
Updated Oct 04, 2021

One of the best parts about getting married is the plethora of celebrations in the months leading up to your big day. Two of the most important events that occur before you walk down the aisle are the bridal shower and the bachelorette party.

Wondering about the differences between a bridal shower vs. bachelorette party? These two events are both distinct ways for the bride-to-be's family members and friends to celebrate her upcoming nuptials and shower her with love.

To help you figure out what you can expect from your bridal shower and bachelorette party, we've broken down the differences, including who's invited, who hosts each event, the timing of each celebration and more.

The Difference Between a Bridal Shower and a Bachelorette Party

You likely have preconceived notions about what a bridal shower and a bachelorette party look like. For example, you might think a bridal shower is a pearls-and-sundresses event with tea sandwiches and polite conversation, whereas a bachelorette party is a raucous, alcohol-filled bash in Las Vegas.

Sometimes, this is exactly how they play out. But oftentimes, these two celebratory events look entirely different depending on how the bride-to-be wants to spend her last single days with her closest friends and family.

Below, you'll find a breakdown of what differentiates the two events.

What You're Celebrating

"A bridal shower is for family and friends—it's a day to celebrate becoming a bride," says Ashley Paul, a wedding planner and floral designer with C & A Event Planning. "Oftentimes, a bridal shower is a Pinterest-inspired event. Enjoy a low-key afternoon of delicious food, baked goods and wine with your close friends and family."

Bridal showers might include games, gift-opening and short speeches from loved ones. Traditionally, showers have a more refined ambiance and a set flow of events.

A bachelorette party, on the other hand, is all about bringing your closest friends together for a night out or a weekend getaway that's focused on having fun in a way that's uniquely "you." Maybe that looks like staying in to play rowdy party games and drink too many spiked seltzers. Or, perhaps you want to rent a beach house and have a calm, relaxing weekend with spa treatments and a personal chef. Or, maybe you do want a big Vegas bash. At the end of the day, this celebration is all about you.

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Who's Invited

The bridal shower guest list includes the bridal party, family members on both the bride's side and her partner's side, and close friends who are on the wedding guest list. There can be several bridal showers over the course of an engagement, some of which have larger guests lists and others that are more intimate.

The bachelorette party guest list will likely be much smaller. It includes bridesmaids, bridesmen and only the bride's closest friends and family members—those who you don't mind knowing all of your secrets. (Read: Your future mother-in-law probably won't make the cut for this one.)

Who Hosts the Event

As the bride, you're relieved of all hosting duties for pre-wedding parties. After all, you're doing enough for the wedding day. Traditionally, the bridal shower is hosted either by the maid of honor and some members of the wedding party, or a group of the bride's close family members, such as her mother, sister, aunt, grandmother or mother-in-law.

In some cases, the bride's friends will host a more casual bridal shower (or a couples wedding shower), whereas the family will host a more formal and traditional bridal shower, perhaps a tea party or brunch.

While you won't be involved in hosting or planning, you can make life easier for your hosts by providing them with guest lists, addresses, wedding registry information and anything else they might need.

When It's Held

Timing depends on schedules (especially if travel is involved) and venue availability, but there are some general guidelines to follow regarding timing.

The bridal shower is hosted anywhere from a few weeks to a month or two ahead of the wedding. This is one of the last events before the actual wedding day, and it's often a daytime affair held in the late morning or early afternoon.

A bachelorette party usually occurs a couple stress-free months ahead of the wedding, before the bride is too busy with last-minute details for her big day. The bachelorette party can either be a single night out or a weekend getaway.

What to Wear

While bridal showers aren't always the same, they're typically dressier events. (If there was ever a time for that Lilly Pulitzer dress, this is it.) The bride often wears a white dress, but you should wear whatever you feel most comfortable in, whether that's a bright blue dress or a floral jumpsuit.

Bachelorette attire will vary depending on your plan. But if you have a bold night-out look you've been waiting to debut, this might be the perfect time. Oftentimes, the bride wears a little white dress for the night out.

What to Bring

Bridal showers are centered around gift giving. Bridal shower gifts are typically registry items that will help the couple set up their new life (and home) together. However, it's not unusual for people to go off-registry and gift the bride something sentimental.

Although this day is about celebrating the bride's future life as a married woman, it's also about celebrating her as an important person in each of the guests' lives.

Bachelorette parties aren't always gifting occasions, but they can be a great time to host a mini-shower if attendees are unable to make the bridal shower due to distance or availability.

Bachelorette party gifts are often a bit saucier—think sexy honeymoon lingerie you'd rather not open in front of your future grandmother-in-law.

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