A Beautiful Surprise Bridal Shower

One of the best parts about my job at BG is flipping through thousands of photos from real-life parties. There are several things that I look for, but above all else, I love when a bride looks like she had a ball. Recently, I found myself in uncharted territory — the other side of the lens — when my Mom threw me a surprise bridal shower.

And as the photos below show, I was genuinely shocked that my shower took place that day and I had so much fun. After I gulped down a mimosa, changed into my dress, and had my makeup professionally applied by Stacey Catapano (the first of many surprises!), I stopped to look at all of the details and was able to better appreciate all of the hard work and thought that went into everything. Mama Dukes, you did me proud: Now I know where my creativity and party-planning passion comes from.

Readers, I'd love to share some ideas from my shower along with photos by Josh Lynn

Setting the Scene with Pretty Decorations

bridal shower decorations

I thought the mix-match look was perfect for an intimate gathering. The flowers were a gift from my aunt, the lovely vases were scooped up at a Lenox sale, and the bust holder was created using my Mom's wedding dress (we couldn't believe her waist was that tiny).

Keeping with the "bridal editor" theme, each table was named after a different magazine. My maid of honor, Chrissy, came up with the games ("famous couples" and "how well do you know Stef?" trivia), but we ran behind on time, so we had to skip them. I was thrilled to see that guests still played amongst themselves and left hilarious responses on their tables.

In my family (we're Italian American) it's a tradition to give the bridesmaids a small gift at the shower to thank them. The summery straw tote bags that Mom chose were a hit, and she even included a Dora doll for my flower girl so that she wouldn't feel left out. The other guests received hand-sewn fabric bags with their names on them, and inside was coffee and tea.


surprise bridal shower

The first decision you'll need to make in regards to your shower is whether you want to know about it, unless you don't have a choice due to logistical reasons (e.g. you're throwing it in a different state from where you live). Some people told me I'd regret not having a say, especially since I'm so Type AAA with the wedding, but I felt that it would be best to hand over the reins to my friends and family members, who I trusted to do an amazing job.

That doesn't mean keeping it a surprise was easy — I had to stop playing Curious George whenever my mother's phone blew up with calls and no one said a word to me about my registry after I created it, which was unnerving (my friends were afraid they'd slip up about when the party was.) Ultimately, I was able to enjoy the event so much more because I wasn't stressing in the weeks leading up to it.

On the flip side, I've spoken to brides who were disappointed about their shower and begged the hosts to involve them, if only a little. Whatever your preference, just make sure that you articulate it and be reasonable and nice with your requests. That includes indicating whether guests can bring kids (check out all the adorable babies who attended mine!)

The Best Part: Opening Gifts

bridal shower gift ideas

My fiancé Jason and I were blessed to receive everything we had registered for and then some. In fact, the number-one complaint we heard was that we didn't have enough gifts picked out, even though we had three separate registries. Some of my favorite gifts were the ones I didn't expect, like Mr. Right and Mrs. Right coffee mugs and a handmade ring bearer's pillow. The day after the shower, inspect all of your gifts to make sure there aren't any cracks or duplicates (we returned two of both with no hassle).

I was surprised that one of the stores we registered at didn't list who bought what, which created a hassle for us after a few of the presents and cards got mixed up. Definitely read up on each store's registry perks and indicate whether or not you'd be open to receiving gift cards from guests. We used ours towards the purchase of new furniture at Macy's and we saved an extra 10 percent using their registry completion program!

Most Memorable Moment...

words of wisdom book

bridal shower cookbook

Reading everyone's words of wisdom and amazing recipes! My mom compiled them into two books using Blurb.com, and the results were nothing short of moving. I teared up instantly and couldn't finish reading the rest until the day after the shower. They included personal photos taken throughout the years and step-by-step photos of the recipes. It was such a beautiful way to include loved ones who aren't in the bridal party from both my side and Jason's side of the family.

A Sweet Finale

bridal shower cakes

I'll choose pasta over cake any day, but I might make an exception for this beauty from Sugar Coated Bakery in Brooklyn, where I live. My Mom came up with the idea of using a BG cover, and my baker decided to add the glitter butterflies and flowers. I loved it! The chocolate lollipops were a gift from my MIL and the cookies were a gift from my aunt.

Check out more Stunning, Real-Life Bridal Showers for Every Theme!

—Stefania Sainato