Whether it started with a Dutch girl determined to marry a penniless miller, a young bride’s far-from-impressive dowry, or the act of stuffing gifts into a parasol, the tradition of the bridal shower remains a prevalent—if evolving—pre-wedding celebration. While the origin is a bit difficult to pin down determinately, there is no question about the importance of the event.
The idea behind the bridal shower was to “shower” the bride with the items and support she needed to marry, as well as to help the couple establish a home together once they’d said their “I do’s.” It was also a time for sharing advice, tips, and tricks in regards to all things marriage-related. Gifts were intended for use in the home, and oftentimes, more specifically, in the bedroom or kitchen. From silver serving platters to lingerie, and from cheese boards to linens, brides could expect items that would make their lives in the new home all the more beautiful and all the more convenient.
These days, the bridal shower can take on virtually any format one can dream up. If a non-traditional bridal shower is more fitting for your bride-to-be, consider renting a skybox at a ball game and feasting on hot dogs and beer, or even asking her favorite restaurant to cater lunch at a local spa. If a more traditional celebration is in order, have your attendees pull out their finest Kentucky Derby hats and plan an afternoon at a renowned tea shop paired with finger sandwiches and petits fores.
No matter what you decide, it’s important to remember the bridal shower is a celebration of the impending marriage for the bride. It’s not unheard of for the groom to attend or (more frequently) make an appearance, but the activities and discussion topics are often geared toward the bride-to-be.
The responsibility of planning the bridal shower often falls on the maid of honor and/or the bridesmaids. Traditionally, relatives of the bride were often discouraged from hosting the shower, as it was seen as bad form for them to ask other family members for gifts (even though they weren’t directly for them). However, as with many traditions, these rules have relaxed somewhat in recent years.
One of the first things you’ll want to do once you’ve been honored with the task of hosting is sit down with the bride or couple to discuss the event. Will they want a traditional celebration? Will it be co-ed? Do they want a theme? Are there things they absolutely do not want to see or do? Will they want games?
While you don’t want to give away all of the details, the more information you can collect, the more confident you can be in each and every decision you’ll make. This is an important step—no matter how well you think you know the bride (or couple, depending on the focus of the shower), how she’ll want to celebrate may surprise you.
You will also need to consult the bride to develop the guest list. Traditionally, someone invited to a pre-wedding celebration should be invited to the wedding itself; conversely, you won’t need to invite everyone on the wedding guest list to the bridal shower.
Brainstorming with the couple is just the beginning—now you can get to work on the actual planning. The bridal shower can occur at virtually any time that works best for all involved, but six to two weeks before the wedding is ideal. Start your preparations early, though; you may need every last minute of planning time to create the event you’ve envisioned.
Once you’ve talked to the couple about their vision, you’ll want to start developing a theme or tone for the celebration, as well as pinpointing an official date. This information will help you determine many other aspects of the event, such as venue, decor, invitation, and style. If the couple wants a destination celebration, you’ll want to start developing a plan around their ideas.
When the general idea of how you’d like to celebrate has been pinned down, the where and with whom should be your next steps. Depending on your chosen locale, demand for your venue might be rather high, so make sure to book it as soon as you can. If you’re planning on hosting your event in a public space, like a park or a beach, you’ll need to look into any permits you might need for using the area.
Now is the time to send out the invitations. These should include what you’re celebrating, the theme of the celebration, its date, time, and location, as well as an R.S.V.P. date and the proper channels in which guests can submit their attendance status.
The R.S.V.P. date is important. It’s rare that all invitees will be able to attend your event and many factors will depend on an accurate head count. One aspect to consider along with the invitations is the registry. While etiquette experts seem split on including registry information in the bridal shower invite (this also depends if the bride has a shower registry separate from the couple’s registry), it is a gift-giving occasion.
A registry, at the very least, gives guests an idea of the couple’s tastes and possible needs, but you may want to discuss this detail with the couple before finalizing the invites.
Now you’ve gotten your theme, location, and invites done. It’s time to take care of the details. You’ll need to come up with a schedule of events, a food and drink menu, and a list of decor items you’ll need. Will you be including games at the wedding shower?
This is often something couples are either adamantly for or against, so chances are you’ll already have your answer. If they’ve left the decision up to you, note that games can be a great way to break the ice but can be uncomfortable for introverts, those who may become easily embarrassed, or groups that don’t know each other very well, so consider your guests’ temperaments carefully before making your decision. If you do choose to include them, make a list of what you’ll need for each game as well as prizes for the winners.
The last tasks you’ll need to check off your list before the big event are the shopping and any last-minute preparation work. Pick up everything you’ll need for the shower as well as a present for the bride or the couple. If you’re preparing the food for the event, make sure you’ve given yourself enough time for each and every recipe and get to work. Depending on your venue and the amount of decorations you’re planning to put up, you’ll likely be able to take care of your decor needs the morning of the event.
Whew! Now that the day has come, take a deep breath and enjoy the fruits of your labor. With all of the thought and excellent prep work you’ve put into the celebration, the bride (or couple) is sure to have a wonderful time!
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.