What Is a Bridal Shower? Your Expert Guide

We're here to spill all the tea.
Jenn Sinrich
by Jenn Sinrich
Updated May 17, 2023

Chances are, you've at least heard of a bridal shower, but, if you're new to the whole wedding-planning world, you might not be totally sure as to what it's really all about—or what actually goes on at one. At first thought, a bridal shower might kind of sound like a smaller wedding, however, when you get to know what it's all about, you realize that it serves its own very special and important purpose along the wedding timeline, which is why some 67 percent of brides wind up having one, according to The Knot Real Wedding Study.

So if you're wondering, what is a bridal shower, know that we've got your back. Here's a deep dive into all the nitty-gritty details involving a bridal shower, so that you feel ready to plan one or have one in your honor! And once you're ready to start planning, head to The Knot Marketplace to find a bridal shower venue near you.

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What Is a Bridal Shower?

To put it simply, a bridal shower is a pre-wedding celebratory event where friends and family come together to celebrate the bride, and sometimes with the addition of the groom, ahead of the wedding-day festivities. As with most celebrations, it often includes food and drinks as well as the addition of fun games that get the guests excited and in the spirit of the wedding celebration.

"As the second-biggest event during the wedding planning process, this beautiful occasion is traditionally given for the bride to celebrate and for guests to shower her with gifts she would need to begin her new life as a wife," explains Lilia Shatnaya, owner and designer of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio. "Typically only the closest female friends and family are invited from both sides of the couple, and it is a lovely intimate gathering; however, in recent years couples have started doing wedding showers, which are co-ed celebrations."

Traditionally speaking, the mother of the bride or the maid of honor hosts the bridal shower, however, nowadays, it's common for the entire wedding party to pull together to host the bridal shower. "Each person can have a delegated task, and often the bride's mother will help with the finances," says Shatnaya. "The bride should also express her wishes as to who she would like to be responsible for and plan the shower, depending on her relationship with that person."

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What Is the Purpose of a Bridal Shower?

In line with the name of the event, bridal showers serve as an opportunity to "shower" the bride and sometimes the couple with gifts, well wishes and excitement for their upcoming nuptials. "These events are really meant for the couple to be able to connect more closely with some of their guests since these are people you don't usually get to see all in one place," explains Kevin Dennis, owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services in Livermore, California. "Couples might choose to go co-ed and celebrate with everyone in their wedding party or a larger guest list, or it might be something a little more private and lowkey such as a brunch or a light lunch."

How Long Are Bridal Showers?

Most bridal showers are significantly shorter in time than the wedding itself, lasting anywhere from two to four hours, however, they can sometimes go longer depending on traditions, culture, the total number of guests, and if you will participate in opening gifts, explains Diane Kolanović-Šolaja, Creative Director and owner of Dee Kay Events in Manalapan, New Jersey. "An intimate wedding shower at a private residence would likely be between two to three hours with about 20 people in attendance, while a wedding shower is hosted at a venue with a sit-down meal and about 50 or more guests will likely see an event between four to five hours," she says. "Each scenario will give guests enough time to eat, drink and mingle and talk about the wedding itself."

What Do You Do at a Bridal Shower?

While every bridal shower is different and there's no "right" way to host a bridal shower, here is how many of them happen in terms of the order of events.

Guests arrive and enjoy food and beverages.

As with most celebratory events, you can expect guests to mingle for a while upon arrival as the bride greets everyone. Appetizers and drinks are usually served for the first hour or so and then guests are typically asked to find their seat if it's assigned and then often a meal is served. "Many times this is a casual daytime party, so it typically is lunch, but it could also be brunch or afternoon tea," explains Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California.

The crowd plays games.

After or during the meal is usually when the fun (aka the games) begins. "They can be kind of silly and cheesy, so bridal shower games are one of those things that people either love or hate," says Chang. "While it's definitely very traditional to have games, what those games are and how you play them can vary—and you can certainly have fun with it and orient it towards how the bride and group feel about games." Prizes can be given to the winners of the games, which adds a nice incentive.

The bride opens gifts.

The last part of a bridal shower typically involves opening up gifts. "Opening gifts in front of your family and friends that purchased them is nice in the sense that you can properly thank them in person; however, if having that sort of attention makes you anxious, don't feel like you have to!" says Dennis. "You can always invite people to bring the gifts if they feel comfortable doing so and open them at a later date without the pressure of your guests watching."

Should You Have a Bridal Shower?

As with most events leading up to the wedding, a bridal shower is not something that's necessary or needed for every couple. Dennis points out that it is one of the only events in the planning process that you just show up and bring yourselves to without any expectations, seeing as the bride or groom is hardly ever the one to do the planning. "If at any point it becomes more stressful than it's worth due to family obligations or if you get stuck with the planning and it isn't in the budget, it's totally acceptable to sit it out and not have a bridal shower," he says. "We also notice that a lot of couples want to enjoy their wedding day as well and let loose, so a shower can be the perfect place to connect more deeply with people you don't see very often (rather than saving that for your reception)."

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