Bridal Shower Basics

Games! Gifts! Gabbing! Here's a guide to this classic party for the bride. Learn the party-planning basics, and get ideas for themes.

At your bridal shower, you get to be the guest of honor as your closest female friends and relatives gather to girl-talk, eat…and lavish you with a truckload of amazing gifts. Even though this is one party you won't have to plan, it helps to know what to expect.

bridal shower basics
Photo by Giraffe Photography


Around the Clock.
Guests are assigned a time of day, and then give a gift that pertains to that hour—mugs or a coffeemaker for 8 a.m.; cooking utensils for 6 p.m.; brandy snifters or a sexy negligee for 11 p.m.

Room of the House. Instead of times of day, guests are assigned “bathroom,” “dining room,” “bedroom” and so on. Expect to receive things like bathrobes, wine glasses and sheets.

Month of the Year. The guest who got “December” might give you a cozy blanket; “June” could give you an ice-cream maker; and “February” could give you some romantic DVDs.

Stock the Kitchen. This is great if your registry is chock-full of kitchen and cooking items. Guests are often asked to include a favorite recipe with their kitchen-related gift.

Linen Shower. Gifts that fall into the “linen” category: bedding, bath towels, napkins, place mats, tablecloths and so on. Alternatively, shower hosts can substitute linen for lingerie, which will net you an array of gorgeous top-drawer goodies.

1. Hosts with the Most

The bridal shower is usually given by your bridal party or a close family friend. The total cost is often split among the maid of honor and bridesmaids, but mothers of the bride and groom often contribute financially, too, or offer to pay for something specific, like wine, the cake or party favors.

2. Perfect Timing

Showers typically take place on a Saturday or Sunday anywhere from two months to three weeks before the wedding. The exact time of day will be up to your hosts, but they'll likely plan a brunch, a luncheon or an afternoon tea that lasts three to four hours.

3. Who's Invited?

Important: Only people who will be invited to the wedding should be included in the shower; a group of 20 to 40 guests is standard. Invitations should be mailed out six weeks before the shower date or earlier, and must include the following: the names of the hostesses; the name of the bride (some shower hosts also include a "fiancé of…" line, as a courtesy to his family); the date, time and location of the party; whether it's a surprise; special themes or instructions (see sidebar, right); a contact name and phone number for RSVPs; and gift registry information.

4. Places to Party

Traditional showers usually take place at the home of a relative or close family friend, or in a private room at a restaurant. Others revolve around an activity—guests might meet at a pottery shop to make and paint clay objects, a design studio for a flower-arranging class or a jewelry store where they can create their own necklaces and bracelets. Nail salons and day spas are popular spots, too.

5. Girls Only?

Guess what? Showers aren't just for the bride any longer. Many couples today are feted with a coed "Jack & Jill" shower. It might be a cocktail party, a barbecue or drinks at a favorite nightclub. Not sure you want to forgo the all-female gathering? You don't need to: Having one of each is perfectly okay, but try not to duplicate invitees so that no one feels she must buy you more than one gift.

6. Let's Celebrate!

You'll spend the first part of the shower eating, drinking and mingling with your guests. The main event—opening gifts—usually takes place during coffee and dessert. You'll take a seat in front of the crowd and your bridesmaids (or other trustworthy volunteers) will hand you gifts to open. One bridesmaid will sit alongside you and jot down each gift and its giver—a helpful list to have when you write your thank-you notes. Playing games is optional—check out The Bridesmaid Guide (Chronicle Books), by Kate Chynoweth, for ideas. (Hint: "Wedding Night Preview" is a classic, and it's always a hoot.)