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.
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.)