Bridal Shower vs. Bachelorette Party: What Makes Them Different?

Every prewedding celebration isn’t the same.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Apr 15, 2024

One of the best parts about weddings is the fun celebrations that lead up to the big day. But before you book a bridal shower venue, pick a theme or decide on a menu you need to know the differences between a bridal shower vs. a bachelorette party. These two events have distinct ways for the bride-to-be's loved ones 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 who's invited, what to wear to each, the timing of each celebration and much more.

In this article:

What Is a Bridal Shower vs. a Bachelorette Party?

A bridal shower is a prewedding event, traditionally hosted by the mother of the bride or maid of honor, where friends and family celebrate the bride and her upcoming wedding. Typically the guests are all female (even though in recent years couples have opted for co-ed showers) and the affair includes food, drinks and wedding-related games. A bachelorette party is another prewedding event that honors the to-be-wed involving any (chill or wild) activities the bride desires or the MOH and friends plan. This party traditionally has the bride's female wedding party members and close friends in attendance. All that said a bridal shower and a bachelorette party aren't the same but they are similar.

Do You Have a Bridal Shower or Bachelorette Party First?

If you're wondering, "Is the bridal shower before the bachelorette party" the answer is that it depends. When the two events are held is determined by everyone's schedules (especially if travel is involved) and venue availability. Below are the general guidelines to follow when you're trying to decide on a date.

When to Have a Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Party

There's no best time for a bridal shower, but we recommend hosting anywhere from two to three months before the wedding so you can avoid putting too much on the bride's plate during the final stretch. We also suggest you have this event at least two weeks before the bach party so guests can get to know one another ahead of time and everyone can get a break in between. This is often a daytime affair in the late morning or early afternoon.

Still on the fence about whether to have the bridal shower before or after bachelorette celebrations? Some industry experts advise bachelorette parties to happen a couple of months ahead of the wedding before the bride is too busy with last-minute details for her big day. But we discovered from our internal bach party study that 43% of bachelorettes are within two weeks before the wedding. The bachelorette party can be a single day/night out or a weekend getaway.

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Welcome sign at bridal shower
Photo: Aguiam Wedding Photography

The Differences 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, and a bachelorette party is a raucous, alcohol-filled bash in Las Vegas. Sometimes, this is how they play out but these two celebratory events look entirely different depending on how the bride-to-be wants to spend time with her closest friends and family. Below, you'll find a breakdown of what differentiates the bridal shower vs. the bachelorette party.

What You're Celebrating

A bridal shower is a time for family and friends to celebrate their loved one becoming a bride. You should expect lots of tasty food, desserts and drinks. 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 vacay 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 spiked seltzers. Or, perhaps you want a themed bach party where you rent an oceanside house, buy matching swimsuits and have a calm, relaxing weekend with spa treatments and a personal chef. At the end of the day, this celebration is all about you.

Who's Invited

The bridal shower guest list includes the wedding party, family members on the bride's side and her partner's side and close friends. The bridal showers can have a large guest list and be more intimate. The bachelorette party guest list will likely be much smaller. It includes the wedding party and only the bride's closest friends and family members. (Read: Your future mother-in-law probably won't make the cut for this one.) Don't forget to use The Knot's Guest List Manager when sending invitations so you can invite certain guests to different events in a few easy steps. But if the attendees for the bridal shower and bach party are the same, consider combining the two events since it'll save you time and money.

What You Wear

While bridal showers aren't always the same, they're typically dressier events. The bride's bridal shower outfit is often white to match the traditional wedding look, but that isn't a fashion rule everyone has to adhere to. There's most likely a dress code for the event so a guest's bridal shower outfit should always address those requests then they can focus on being comfortable in something fit for an upscale brunch or luncheon.

Bachelorette attire will vary depending on the itinerary. If it's a bach weekend, the bride usually wears white in various outfits that reflect a certain theme while the partygoers wear whatever the dress code says, if there is one.

What You Bring

Bridal showers are centered around gift-giving––that's half of where the "showering" part comes into play. Typically, bridal shower gifts are registry items that help the bride or couple set up their new life together. However, it's not unusual for people to buy items not on the registry. 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 guest's life.

Bachelorette parties aren't always gifting occasions, but they can be a great time to host a mini-shower if attendees weren't able 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 in-law.

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