What's the Difference Between a Wedding Shower and a Bridal Shower?
Showers are among the most popular pre-wedding events, giving guests the opportunity to celebrate one or both soonlyweds before the big day. In fact, according to our Real Weddings Study, 72 percent of respondents had a shower before their wedding day. You may have heard the terms "bridal shower" and "wedding shower" tossed around, but is there a difference between the two? Turns out, yes!
Simply put, a bridal shower is a party thrown for the bride, while a wedding shower is for the couple. "Essentially, a wedding shower is a modern twist on the traditional bridal shower," says Melissa Weiler of Persnickety Invitation Studio in York, Pennsylvania. "Historically, the bridal shower was an opportunity for guests—typically the female friends and family members of the bride—to help her assemble what she might need to set up her new home: kitchen items, linens and bedding, and china and flatware. Nowadays, with many couples already living together before the wedding, showers have evolved to become a celebration of the couple, shared by friends and family of both."
Want to learn more about these two types of pre-wedding parties? Here's the full rundown of the differences between a wedding shower and a bridal shower.
The first step of planning any shower is choosing the host or hosts. These loved ones will not only plan, but pay for, the majority of the shower. Here's who typically hosts each type of event.
The bridal shower is traditionally planned and hosted by the bridal party, led by the maid of honor. Family members hosting the bridal shower was discouraged, as it seemed like a direct plea for gifts. However, in recent years, the bridesmaids often focus their planning efforts on the bachelorette party, while the bride's close family members take on the bulk of bridal shower planning.
"In the age of busy schedules and cross-country travel for weddings, couples can be reluctant to add shower planning to their wedding party's responsibilities, so we often see the mother of the bride taking the reins on the hosting the bridal shower at her home," says Weiler. "It's not uncommon for a few of the MOB's closest friends to assist with this—often this group has raised their children together and the bridal shower is an opportunity for them to share in this milestone with their friend and her daughter."
The bride's future mother-in-law and/or her friends may also take the lead in planning a bridal shower.
A couple's shower can be planned by groups of wedding party members, friends and/or family. Says Sumeta Satija of One H'ART Events in Atlanta, Georgia, "We have seen a trend over the recent years of an engagement party being hosted by one set of parents and a wedding shower being hosted by the other, especially if the families live in different states or countries."
While the guest lists may differ somewhat between a wedding shower and a bridal shower, one shower etiquette rule remains: Those invited to any shower must be invited to the actual wedding. However, not all wedding guests need to be invited to the shower.
The bridal shower guest list typically includes female members of the wedding party, as well as other close family members and friends. "Bridal shower guests usually—although not always—are the female friends and family of the bride: cousins, college roommates, best friends, and sisters," explains Weiler. "It's also typical for the bride's mother to invite her friends and even co-workers; many of these women have been by her side as her daughter was growing up and want to share in the happiness." Usually, anywhere from 10 to 50 guests are invited to a bridal shower.
A wedding shower's guest list is gender inclusive, and typically bigger than bridal showers, with the guest count ranging from 30 to 50 guests, or more. "The wedding shower will be a larger group of close friends of the parents, close friends of the couple, and close relatives to the host family," says Satija.
Wedding showers and bridal showers typically take place within the same timeframe—two weeks to three months before the wedding day, often on a Saturday or Sunday and lasting between two and four hours. However, the time of day when these events take place tends to differ.
A bridal shower is often a brunch, lunch or afternoon tea event, with a start time of 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. This leaves enough time for a variety of activities, gift giving and more.
The timing of a wedding shower is a bit more flexible. While some wedding showers take place during the day, many are evening events centered around happy hour or dinner.
Once you have an idea of the guest count and a general timeframe when the shower will occur, it's time to choose a venue. There are a variety of location options for both types of events, but, according to Weiler: "Both types of shower can easily take place at either a residence or a venue, but most often bridal showers are held at the host's home and wedding showers are at a venue."
"The host's home, a local cafe or a tea room are the most popular venues for bridal showers," says Tonya Hoopes of Hoopes Events in Park City, Utah. "If you are doing an activity-centered shower it might be held at a nail salon, painting studio or location that works with the activity."
While a loved one's home is certainly an appropriate wedding shower location, these events are more often held elsewhere, like a private event space at a favorite restaurant or bar. "Since many wedding showers are planned by the couple's friends and duties are being shared, it makes more sense to some to host it at a venue where the hosts can split the costs and cleanup duty doesn't fall to any one person or group," says Weiler.
Gift giving is one of the most important activities that takes place during a shower, whether it's a bridal shower or a wedding shower. However, the gifts tend to differ between the two types of pre-wedding parties.
Guests often give bridal shower gifts from the couple's wedding registry, but can also give "personal items for the bride only, such as jewelry, lingerie, pampering products for the bath, or something to set up the home in her new married life," says Marci Guttenberg of An Affair to Remember by Marci in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "Close relatives may also opt to provide family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation."
There may also be a theme where guests are asked to bring certain types of gifts—gifts for the kitchen for a kitchen shower, lingerie for a lingerie shower, etc.
Wedding shower gifts should be items that the couple can use and enjoy together. These are typically taken from the wedding registry, but guests can also choose gifts
"At a wedding shower, the couple will receive gifts that can be shared as a couple. For instance, household items, linens, etc.," says Sheavonne Harris of Events by Sheavonne in New York City. "Nowadays, monetary gifts like gift cards are also common."
Add Weiler: "Gifts for the wedding shower tend to reflect the personality and interests of the couple: barware for the couple who enjoys entertaining, or a gift certificate for zip lining for the couples who loves adventure."
Mingling, eating and drinking are mainstays of most bridal and wedding showers, but there are other activities that usually take place, from games to gift opening, and more.
According to Weiler, bridal showers tend to follow a pretty structured timeline—for example, greeting, food, gifts, cake and games. While the bride opening gifts in front of the assembled guests is a traditional bridal shower activity, it's not mandatory. "Some brides resist being the center of attention for so long, however, and opt for a 'display shower'—a shower in which gifts are brought unwrapped and displayed on a table, giving the bride more time to socialize with her guests," Weiler says.
Bridal shower games and ice breakers such as trivia about the bride or couple and the toilet paper wedding dress contest are popular, as are activities like guests sharing marriage advice or toasting the couple. The bride's partner may make an appearance toward the end of the event and partake in an activity, like the ever-popular shoe game.
Some bridal showers are centered around an activity, such as a cooking or painting class, or spa services, which can help keep guests busy and entertained.
"Wedding showers are by nature more organic and most often take the shape of a relaxed social gathering, with fluid seating, dinner stations and passed appetizers—allowing for plenty of mingling—and guests occasionally stepping up to toast the couple," Weiler says. "While most attendees still bring a gift, many couples opt to either open gifts as they receive them, or to collect and open them later."
Can you have both a wedding shower and a bridal shower?
A couple can have both a wedding shower and a bridal shower, but there are a few caveats. The events should have different hosts, different guest lists, and be held in different locations. "An example of this is a bridal shower is thrown where the bride lives by the maid of honor, and then another bridal shower is thrown by the future mother-in-law in a different city," says Hoopes. "While it is okay to have multiple showers you want to make sure you are not inviting the same guests to both showers as this is seen more as a gift grab than a celebration of the couple."