Your Bridal Shower Etiquette Questions, Answered
Whether you're a bride-to-be daydreaming about your own bridal shower or a maid of honor in the early phases of planning this important pre-wedding event, you'll want to keep a few general rules in mind as this party comes together. Don't get us wrong—this particular celebration is all about fun, especially since it's (most of the time!) an all-girls soirée, complete with bright and pretty décor, light bites, gift opening, and games. You can and should still ensure that you're playing within etiquette-approved guidelines as you prepare for the bridal shower, however. After all, you want to ensure that everyone—the bride included—feels considered and taken care of when the party arrives.
To help you do just that, we tapped an industry expert, Julie Savage Parekh of Strawberry Milk Events, to help break down the ins and outs of bridal shower etiquette. From who hosts and who pays, to when to send out the invitations and thank-you notes, you'll find every single one of your bridal shower etiquette questions answered here. You'll also discover answers to the questions you might not have thought to ask—these revolve around modern bridal shower ideas, like co-ed parties or registry-free celebrations. Whatever your concerns, you'll walk into the bridal shower planning process prepared and confident with this comprehensive guide.
As you'll quickly learn, executing a bridal shower that makes everyone happy doesn’t have to be stressful. Abide by the following etiquette tips and all guests, including the woman of the hour, will leave the shower feeling happy—and even more excited for the main event: the wedding day.
How soon after you get engaged should you have your bridal shower?
"Typically, a bridal shower is a few months to a few weeks before the big day," says Parekh. "By this point, you've asked the bridal party to be involved and everyone knows their role, you've had an engagement party (if you decided to do so!) and embarked on the general planning process." Though you have a degree of flexibility when scheduling this particular pre-wedding party, the real challenge, adds Parekh, "is to spread your wedding festivities out on a timeline that makes sense for you and those involved."
Who hosts (and pays for) the bridal shower?
The host (or hosts!) almost always pays for the bridal shower—so who's responsible for throwing (and paying for) it? Typically, the duty falls onto the shoulders of the maid or matron of honor or a close family member, says Parekh, but it's not uncommon for a group of people to host together—sometimes even the entire bridal party plays a part. "Old etiquette states that a shower shouldn't be thrown by the bride's immediate relatives, such as her mother, future mother-in-law, or sister, since it may leave an impression that they're asking for gifts. But this is changing and it's perfectly acceptable for a family member to host a shower these days," she says.
Who sends out the invitations? And when?
The host is also responsible for sending out bridal shower invitations—but she should check in with the bride first, says Parekh, about the guest list: "The bride should provide the host with names and addresses of those she wants to include."
Who gets an invite?
Since this is a more intimate affair than the wedding, the guest list should feel considerably smaller. That roster should, however, include the following people: The bridal party, members of both the bride and groom's families ("Think of his aunts and close cousins," says Parekh), and close friends. It's important to note that whoever you invite to the bridal shower should also be included on the master guest list for the big day. "It would be rude to basically ask someone for a gift and to join the festivities in preparation and anticipation of the larger celebration, and then to not include them in the main event," she says.
Can your shower be coed?
In short, absolutely—if a bride's best friend is male, he's probably in the wedding party, so it only makes sense to include him in the bridal shower. There aren't any rules with who you choose to invite, says Parekh.
There is one group of guests you might want to omit from the guest list: little ones. "The focus should be on the bride and if there are kids running around, it's hard to give the bride her moment," she explains. "If someone just had a baby and is still nursing, then that is an exception."
Should you create a seating chart?
If your event is on the smaller side, you don't have to. If you're worried about how a seated brunch or luncheon will play out, "or want to make sure certain seats are saved for the bride, moms, or other VIPs," do place or escort cards (like these alcoholic options!), says Parekh. Throwing an invite with a 50+ guest list? A seating chart might help you stay organized (and sane).
Should there be a dress code?
Parekh is all for a bridal shower dress code, but you'll want to communicate your chosen aesthetic clearly on the invitation. "This will avoid people calling and asking you!" she notes. "Even if the dress code is casual, something like 'casual chic,' that information will help guests prepare."
Dress code or not, guests should avoid white, since that's typically what the bride wears, adds Parekh.
How long should your bridal shower be?
The bridal shower sweet spot is between two-to-three hours. "Any longer than that and you risk people getting bored from drawing it out," says Parekh.
How much say does a bride have in planning her shower?
"She can give suggestions or a few general ideas—but I'd wait for the host to ask you, rather than you volunteering," says Parekh. "Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the fact that people care about you enough to spend their time and resources throwing a party for you."
Who's expected to give a speech?
Speeches aren't a mandatory part of your bridal shower, but they are customary. If you choose to include them in the event's timeline, you'll want to ask the hosts, the maid of honor, and the mothers of the bride and groom to share a few (emphasis on few!) words, says Parekh.
Do you have to play bridal shower games?
You absolutely don't have to, says Parekh, but the bride should communicate her opposition to the host, so she doesn't end up uncomfortable during the party. If the bride is okay with games, you'll still want to limit how many you actually play—one or two is more than enough, says Parekh.
Looking for a fun activity that doesn't feel overdone? Set up a game of giant Jenga, especially if you're throwing a casual, poolside shower, or consider Parekh's go-to: "I love printing photos of famous brides through the decades in their gowns and letting people answer who it is! Whoever gets the most right wins," advises Parekh.
Do you have to open gifts during the shower?
A lot of brides feel uncomfortable opening presents in front of guests—it's perfectly acceptable to skip this part of the program. "I also recommend skipping this tradition if you have a larger guest count, as it can drag on forever," says Parekh. "The bride can open gifts after most of the guests have left and it's just a few close family and friends left."
Whether she's opening gifts during the shower or after, you'll want to help her keep track of who gave what. This is the maid of honor's job, adds Parekh, who recommends keeping track on your phone so you don't misplace a piece of paper.
Are favors expected?
You don't have to send guests home with bridal shower favors. "It's nice to show appreciation, but a heartfelt thank you followed up with a nice note does the same," she says.
Though favors aren't expected, thank-you notes absolutely are, she adds—these should come directly from the bride (not the host!) shortly after the event takes place.
Does the groom have to make an appearance?
Technically, no: "It's completely up to the bride (and him!), but sometimes it's fun for him to pop up at the end and see what all the fuss is about!"