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Your Bridal Shower Food Etiquette Questions, Answered

Not sure who pays or what kind of snacks you should serve? We've got you covered.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Apr 15, 2021

It's no secret that food is one of the most important elements of any wedding event—especially the bridal shower. Often hosted by bridesmaids or close family members, wedding showers allow the couple to celebrate their upcoming nuptials with their nearest and dearest. In between playing bridal shower games and watching the to-be-weds open gifts, there's a good chance guests will get hungry, and it's up to the host to provide a great menu. 

Bridal shower food has evolved over the years. In the past, wedding showers were traditionally daytime events, so hosts often opted for light lunch spreads or finger foods. Today, though, there are virtually no rules that dictate what you should serve. Bridal shower ideas and themes have gotten exponentially creative and personalized over the years, meaning you can offer everything from posh high tea finger sandwiches to custom personal pizzas or an Instagram-worthy charcuterie spread. The food should, most importantly, reflect what the bride or couple enjoy most. It is their day, after all, and the menu should cater to their tastes. But beyond that, hosts are encouraged to get creative with the shower menu. 

Before you finalize your shower recipes and offerings, it's important to brush up on bridal shower food etiquette first. There are a few rules to take into consideration, like who should pay and how much you should serve. To help you finalize all of your party ideas, we're answering the most common bridal shower food questions below. Consider this your go-to guide for planning a bridal shower menu that'll seriously impress your guests.

In this article: 

Who pays for bridal shower food? 

One of the biggest bridal shower food etiquette questions revolves around who pays the bill. Traditionally, the bridal shower is hosted by the maid of honor and the bridesmaids or a few close family members. As a result, the hosts are responsible for covering food costs, as well as additional expenses like bridal shower games, decorations and favors. 

Hosts are encouraged to work together to plan a party that fits what the bride-to-be envisions. While some brides or couples may prefer to be left out of the planning process, it can generally be a collaborative effort. Work together to ensure your event fits what the to-be-weds envision for their wedding shower. 

What kind of food should you serve at a bridal shower?

One of the most important tasks as a bridal shower host is deciding exactly what to feed your guests. If you're going to serve alcohol, you should offer food as well—but the exact menu depends on your event. "There isn't a right or wrong type of food to serve at your bridal shower," say Craig Baker and Claude Malone, co-owners of New York-based catering company Cornbread26. "The food should represent the bride or couple's taste. Most hosts tend to lean towards lighter food options, like canapés and hors d'oeuvres, but we've also catered several successful full sit-down bridal shower dinners." 

Generally speaking, appetizers and light bites are great bridal shower food choices. Offer guests plenty of grazing options, like charcuterie spreads, fresh fruit and veggies, hand-held finger foods like crostini, tacos or small sandwiches, as well as a few sweet treats on a dessert table like bridal shower cake, cupcakes, ice cream, cheesecake or brownies. You can offer a full-service meal if you'd like, though it's not required. If you're hosting the bridal shower at a local restaurant, they may offer food and drink packages specifically for events. Or, if you plan to hire professional caterers or chefs, they'll help you plan a menu for your budget and the style of your event. 

To narrow down the best bridal shower food ideas, allow the theme and location to guide your choices. "If your theme and venue are a bit upscale, perhaps chips and pretzels aren't the best options. But if you're hosting a casual event, the menu can be a bit more relaxed," Baker and Malone suggest.

Your bridal shower theme can also inspire the menu. You might want to serve breakfast for a bridal shower brunch, complete with mimosas, pancakes, waffles and pastries. Or, for a regal tea party celebration, offer finger sandwiches, tarts and mini cakes. 

The time of day will also indicate what kind of party food to serve. "If your event is earlier in the day, brunch or lunch food would work well," advise Baker and Malone. "If you're hosting your shower later in the day, heavier dinner-style food would suffice." 

You can also customize your bridal shower food menu with creative desserts or interactive experiences. Memorable meals are one of 2021's biggest wedding trends, and this can carry over to bridal showers as well. "Our clients love interactive DIY bars with fun foods like S'mores, sliders or mac and cheese," they add. 

How much does bridal shower food cost? 

One thing to keep in mind about most wedding expenses is that price varies by region and season. Weddings (and wedding-related events) will likely cost more during peak season, which generally spans from June through October. Your location will also impact the cost—wedding expenses tend to be higher in larger cities compared to smaller suburbs. 

There's no definitive cost for bridal shower food. The bill depends on how much food you offer, as well as the style of service. If you're planning a high-end wedding shower with a sit-down meal and white-glove service, you'll pay more than you would for light bites and appetizers at a local restaurant. The size of your event will also impact the cost. "Catering and service costs vary dramatically across the country, but in New York, bridal shower catering could be as low as $40 per guest and as high as $150+ per guest," Baker and Malone say. "What a host spends on food for their bridal shower depends on several factors, the most important being the actual menu. Tea sandwiches and scones won't be the same price as Maine lobster and Petrossian caviar, for example."

If you're planning on working with a caterer or a local restaurant, inquire about quotes for the style of event you're envisioning. They'll help you plan a menu that fits your budget, as well as your vision for the bridal shower. 

Should you serve alcohol at a bridal shower? 

Alcohol is another consideration to keep in mind when planning the bridal shower menu. A full bar is certainly not required for your prewedding soirée, but guests may appreciate having a few drink choices. When it comes to beverages, hosts have a number of options to keep their food and drink offerings within the budget. You can opt for an open bar or a cash bar if you want to—or, if you're hosting the bridal shower at a restaurant, they may offer food and drink packages based on the size and style of your event. Catering companies may also offer beverage packages along with food offerings, or they can recommend additional vendors to assist with your bar needs. 

You can also provide bottles of wine, beer or mixed beverages (like mimosas or cocktails) on your own. This may be the most cost-effective option, especially if you're hosting the event at home. (It's important to note that most venues will have specific guidelines in their contract about what you're allowed to supply.) 

If you are hosting a bridal shower at home, supplying your own beverages will allow you to customize your offerings and spend what you're able to. You can also experiment with personal wine bottles and custom cocktails for a unique beverage experience. With a newfound focus on health and safety after the COVID-19 pandemic, individual food and drink options are an easy way to limit touchpoints and offer guests something memorable to take with them. "Single-serve bottles are perfect for bridal showers," says Dana Spaulding, founder of wine brand Wander + Ivy. "With single-serve wine, hosts can offer several different varieties so that everyone gets to enjoy their favorite glass without needing to open a full bottle of each. This likely results in less cost and less waste than a traditional bar and staff." Plus, Spaulding notes that individual wine bottles can serve as memorable bridal shower favors or take-home treats. 

Ultimately, the more personalized your bridal shower menu, the better. "We are seeing more hosts depart from the full-service bar and opt into signature cocktail stations, allowing for a more personalized touch," Baker and Malone say. 

As the bridal shower host, remember that food and drink will elevate the experience. While it is an important factor of the day, try not to lose sight of what matters most: celebrating the to-be-weds with their closest family and friends. "Remain present and try your best not to stress," advise Baker and Malone. "Hire qualified vendors if your budget allows and have fun, because the day will go by quickly."

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