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What Is a Bridal Shower?

by Adriana Perez-Nakamura
Last updated on August 19, 2023
Bridal shower guests.

With so much preparation that goes into weddings, the different events and multiple showers that come with them can be confusing. You’ve heard of an engagement party and a bachelorette party–but precisely what is a bridal shower? Who is in charge of throwing one?

Wait…is there even a difference between a bridal shower and a wedding shower?

If your head is spinning, don’t worry. In this article we’ll address these questions and many more. You’ll be ready to host bridal showers like a pro!

Wedding Shower vs. Bridal Shower

In short, wedding showers are meant for the couple. Both the bride and their partner celebrate with friends and family members at a wedding shower. They receive gifts for their home, and food and drinks are served. There may also be games for guests to play and time for speeches and toasting the couple.

At a bridal shower, only the bride-to-be is celebrated. They are treated to an afternoon of relaxation, gift-giving, and quality time with friends and family. A bridal shower is not restricted to female friends or relatives only; anyone the future bride is close with can be invited–as long as they are on the wedding guest list.

What Happens at a Bridal Shower?

Bride-to-be celebrating with friends.
Food, Drinks, and Friends

A bridal shower can be a casual cocktail party with guests mingling the entire time. It can even be an activity-oriented shower like a paint and sip. Bridal showers can be whatever you want them to be, so don’t feel the need to stick to one set of guidelines.

However (if you want to go the traditional route), guests socialize, play bridal shower games, and enjoy delicious food and drinks at a traditional shower. They may watch the bride open gifts, and the host makes sure guests leave with a shower favor.

Bridal Shower Games

Bridal Shower Games
Play Bridal Shower Games

Like any other pre-wedding party, bridal showers combine a guest list of many remarkable people the bride has met over a lifetime. So, of course, not everyone is going to know one another. Since a bridal shower should be a fun and relaxed event, help guests break the ice with a few games.

Vow Madlibs

Surprising and silly wordplay is always good for a laugh. It’s even funnier when put into vow form! Print out some short vows and leave out select adjectives, nouns, and verbs. Then pass the vows out to the bridal shower guests. Once the guests fill out their forms, have the bride-to-be choose her favorites to read aloud.

Design Wedding Dresses With Toilet Paper

The toilet paper wedding dress game is one of those timeless bridal shower traditions everyone enjoys. First, break guests up into teams. Next, let them know they will be “designing” wedding dresses for the bride-to-be. After that, give them a roll or two and instruct them to wrap it around the “bride.”

Set a timer for 2-3 minutes and see who creates the best “wedding dress.”

Gift Bingo

This is a fun twist on regular bingo. Pass out blank bingo cards to the shower guests. Then instruct each guest to fill in the spaces on their card with names of the bridal shower gifts they think the bride will receive.

If the bride receives a gift on the guest’s card, the guest can cross out that gift on their card. Whoever crosses out an entire row first wins.

Purse Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are exciting and fast-paced, so this bridal shower game will promote fun. It’s also a way to get the bridal party acquainted if they don’t know each other well.

To begin, create a list of everyday items people carry in their purses. Break guests up into groups and give each group a list. Then, give them a set amount of time to find guests with each item on the list in their purses. The group that presents everything on their list to the bride first wins.

Food and Drinks

charcuterie boards
Charcuterie Boards

Bridal showers should include food and drinks, but you don’t have to provide a full meal. Small items like hors d’oeuvres served with wine are appropriate. Finger foods (think small sandwiches) are good because they’re filling and easy to prepare. If you’re on a budget, you can ask the wedding party to pitch in and bring a dish if they attend.

Adult beverages such as wine and champagne are easiest to serve. And be sure to provide various juices for mimosas, as well as for shower guests who don’t drink. Always have water available (still and sparkling) and tea and coffee as well. Sodas are nice to have but aren’t necessary.

Opening Gifts

Opening gifts at a bridal shower.
Bride Opening Gifts

Traditional bridal shower etiquette says the bride should open gifts surrounded by friends and family. However, if they don’t feel comfortable doing this, don’t force them. Even though it’s fun, let the bride’s personality dictate whether or not they choose this game for their shower.

If the bride doesn’t mind opening gifts in front of guests, let her enjoy. As everyone oohs and ahhs over the gifts, make sure someone takes note of who gave them. This list will come in handy when it comes time to send out thank-you cards.

Bridal Shower Favors

Mini succulents for bridal shower favors.
Mini Succulents

What is a bridal shower without favors? While not necessary, they’re definitely a nice touch and don’t have to be elaborate. If you’re going to give out favors, they should align with the bridal shower theme or decor.

Some favor ideas include:

  • Lip scrubs or balms
  • Small candles
  • Mini succulents
  • Small bags of candy
  • Bottle openers
  • Mints

Bridal Shower Venue

Bridal shower venue, backyard.
Backyard Venue

The event venue is one of the most important aspects of a bridal shower. It can be at a family member’s home, a local restaurant, or even a park. If you live near wineries, a wine tasting room would be an excellent option also. Tea parties have been popular, so a local tea room could be fun too. The venue possibilities are endless, be creative and also keep in mind your budget.

Should There Be a Theme?

Tea party theme for a bridal shower.
Tea Party Theme

A theme isn’t necessary, but it can add an extra element of fun to the bridal shower. If the bride wants a themed event, try to make the shower’s theme aligns with the bride’s interests and likes.

Some popular themes are:

  • Afternoon tea party
  • Fiesta
  • Spa day
  • Pool Party
  • Champagne or wine tasting
  • Pancake or waffle brunch

Bridal Shower Etiquette

Bridal shower etiquette.
Rules About Bridal Showers

We’ve already mentioned that a bridal shower should be informal and relaxing. But there are some rules of etiquette to consider following, no matter how low key the occasion turns out to be.

Who Hosts a Bridal Shower?

The maid of honor usually hosts a bridal shower. But it can also be hosted by the bride’s closest family members, close friends, or even their future mother-in-law.

Who Pays for a Bridal Shower?

Customarily, the person throwing the bridal shower pays for it. But anyone close to the future bride can also cover the cost, even if they aren’t hosting. The bride’s mother, immediate family members, maid of honor, or even good friends (like members of the bridal party) could pay for it. They could also split the cost among themselves. In some cases, the soon-to-be mother-in-law of the future bride may offer to pay.

When Should a Bridal Shower Be Held?

Most bridal showers are held anywhere from three months to three weeks before the wedding. Ensure the shower doesn’t fall on a date too close to other important wedding events.

Who Should Attend a Bridal Shower?

Ideally, you should be able to invite whomever you choose. But etiquette dictates that you shouldn’t ask someone who isn’t invited to the wedding.

When Should Bridal Shower Invitations Go Out?

Invitations should go out between 6-8 weeks before the shower date. This gives guests the chance to clear their schedules. It also allows people coming from out of town to make travel arrangements.

Is There a Dress Code?

Only if you want one. If there is a specific theme or if the venue requires a particular dress code, make sure guests are aware of it. Make the dress code requirement prominent on the invitation, so there are no misunderstandings.

Should There Be a Bridal Shower Registry?

A bridal shower registry isn’t necessary. If guests ask about a registry, you can direct them to the wedding registry. If guests are coming from out of town, ordering from the wedding registry is convenient. They won’t have to bring gifts while they travel; they can just have their gift shipped directly to the bride.

Ideas for Bridal Shower Gifts

Gifts for bridal showers.
Bridal Shower Gift Ideas

If guests choose to purchase gifts off the registry because they want to give the bride to be something just for herself, that is perfectly fine. If this is the case, they’ll probably ask for gift suggestions. The following are just a few gift-giving ideas to offer guests.

Classic Bridal Shower Gift Ideas

Gifts for the kitchen.
Kitchen Tools

Kitchen Items

If the bride to be or their future spouse enjoys cooking, kitchen appliances are always appreciated:

  • Cutting board set
  • Knife set
  • Measuring spoon set
  • Dutch oven
  • Measuring cups
  • Dishtowels

Ring Dishes

Somewhere for the bride to place their engagement ring and wedding ring when they’re not being worn is important. A ring dish is a perfect solution. Customize a ring dish with the bride’s name or initials for an extra special touch.

A Nice Bottle of Champagne or Wine

This is a gift the bride can enjoy with her partner. They may save it for their honeymoon or their one-year anniversary or two-year wedding anniversary if it’s an especially lovely bottle. Or, depending on when the bridal shower is, the bride may also enjoy sharing it with friends at her bachelorette party.

Unique Bridal Shower Gift Ideas

Spa day gift.
Relaxing Spa Day

Spa Day

Wedding planning is stressful, so a spa day is a perfect gift for the bride-to-be. A massage, facial, or a mani/pedi make excellent bridal shower gifts.

Wedding Day Emergency Kit

Every bride deserves to have peace of mind on their wedding day. But despite many months of planning, someone always leaves out at least one small detail. The last thing a bride wants to do on their wedding day is stress about a chipped manicure, a broken dress strap, or even worse: forgotten deodorant.

An emergency kit is an unexpected but thoughtful gift that comes in handy during these situations. Some items to include in an emergency kit are:

  • Small sewing kit
  • Tweezers
  • Extra earring backings
  • Hairbands/bobby pins
  • Travel-sized deodorant, mouthwash, mints
  • Makeup wipes
  • Bandaids
  • Eyelash Glue
  • Hand lotion

Cash or Gift Cards

Cash and gift card wedding shower gifts.
Cash and Gift Cards as Wedding Shower Gifts

Many people think cash and gift cards are impersonal, but they’re always helpful. Plus, why give a gift someone may or may not use? When cash or gift cards are given as gifts, they can be used for things the bride needs and wants.

Beyond Bridal Showers

By now, you should have a better understanding of what a bridal shower is and how to host one. If you’re motivated and want to try hosting other wedding events, look no further than here for ideas.

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