These Modern Bridal Shower Rules Will Help You Host a Unique, Successful Pre-Wedding Party

marianne patrick wedding banquet table
Lacie Hansen Photography

Many prenuptial celebrations honor both the bride and the groom as a couple, but the bridal shower is when the woman of the hour truly shines. Decorations hung with her taste in mind, a pile of gifts for her to open, and a signature cocktail that appeals to her tastes are just a few ways the bride-to-be is celebrated during her party. If you're the person tasked with planning this important event, you're likely feeling equal parts excited and nervous—after all, bridal showers have a lot of tradition attached to them. While it may feel like the standards are always changing, we spoke to the experts and put together an updated list of rules to keep in mind, so you can abandon outdated traditions, keep what will never go out of style, and make room for the new.

While some etiquette rules have faded away into the void, there are a few that are here to stay. Sending invitations is an important way to let family and friends know when and where the shower is, as well as notes on dress code. Following the party, tell guests how grateful you were they attended by writing thoughtful thank-you cards—another piece of bridal shower etiquette that has stood the test of time. "Within 48 hours, those thank-you notes should start going out," says Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. "Do a few a day if you have a large list."

On the day of the event, there are a few liberties that can be taken to ensure you've tailored the celebration specifically to the guest of honor. While it used to be customary for the bride to open all of her presents in front of invitees, some experts say it's a tradition that can be broken. "It is not rude to skip the long and drawn-out ceremony if you have a large group, but many guests enjoy seeing what the bride will get for her wedding," Gottsman says. It's like any other prenuptial celebration—it really comes down to the bride's vision for the day. From figuring out the guest list to deciding on the menu, here are all of the important things to keep in mind when planning an up-to-date bridal shower that marries tradition with modernity.

01 of 14

Create a Timeline

rehearsal dinner tablescape pink drum roses and white velvet tablecloths
Anna Delores Photography

There's a lot the soon-to-be bride needs to do before her special day, which is why Sunna Yassin, co-owner of Bash Please, recommends scheduling the bridal shower about two to four months before the wedding; this way she can enjoy the festivities stress-free. This timeframe also gives out-of-town guests some wiggle room to plan their travel arrangements.

02 of 14

Create a Gift Registry

wedding gift table
Austin Gros

Avoid the awkwardness that comes from opening the same gift twice by encouraging the bride (and her partner!) to create a gift registry ahead of the shower. Direct guests to the pair's wedding website (which should have registry information) via invitations. "This the best way to ensure that you are not left with duplicate items or something that doesn't match the new lifestyle you are aiming to build," Yassin explains. At the shower, provide a place for loved ones to leave their presents.

03 of 14

Send Invitations Promptly

red poppy accented bridal shower invites
Jessa Schifilliti

Help invitees plan ahead by ensuring they receive invitations six to eight weeks in advance of the date. "Details should include the basic event information: time, date, and place," says Yassin. "It should also include any sort of theme apparent from the design on the invitation or email being sent to guests." Draw inspiration from this bride-to-be's invitations—created by Design House of Moira—which hinted at her poppy-themed shower; it included dramatic script and bright floral accents throughout.

04 of 14

Suggest a Dress Code

guests enjoying drinks before the welcome dinner
Abby Jiu Photography

Keep the event cohesive and ensure attendees show up looking their best by adding a note on dress code to the invitations. Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, encourages all celebrants to follow the attire recommendation. "Dress up and show the bride you are excited to be on the guest list," she says.

05 of 14

Be Thoughtful About the Location

table setting with pineapple and fruit centerpieces
KT Crabb

While Yassin says a bridal shower can be held anywhere from a favorite local restaurant to a friend or family member's home, it's a nice gesture to keep the bride's preferences in mind. If she loves gardening and the outdoors, perhaps a backyard bridal shower with lovely spring or summer blooms is appropriate. If she's a beach enthusiast, try planning something close to the water—like this water-side event designed by Avant Gardens. Tropical fruits like pineapples, plantains, and papayas were used throughout the tablescape to connect the atmosphere to the event's décor.

06 of 14

Plan Something Interactive

Flower Crowns
Jessa Schifilliti

Does your bride-to-be want to skip traditional shower games? They aren't mandatory. Plan something interactive, instead. Yassin suggests a baking class, cooking demonstration, or wine and cheese pairing as fun, engaging alternatives. Or, you can try something entirely new, like this woman of the hour—with the help of Floriography Designs—did, and plan a flower arranging and crown-making class. "Do something to keep guests engaged and mingling, but not feel like they have to awkwardly participate if they are not feeling up to it," Yassin adds.

07 of 14

Keep It Small

floral table runner topped wedding reception table
Mike Cassimatis Photography

While anyone who is invited to the shower should also be invited to the wedding, that doesn't mean you need to plan an event with a long guest list. "Now more than ever, we find that people understand and appreciate smaller guest counts," Yassin says. If you choose to do a shower with just close friends and family, opt for an intimate tablescape, like the six-person seating arrangement pictured here. Scalloped rattan chargers and pale blue Heath Ceramics plates were displayed adjacent to the tables' striking florals from Ashley Fox Designs to create a cozy, but far-from-simple vibe.

08 of 14

Embrace a Theme

blue poufs at jewel-toned reception
Lauren Gabrielle Photography

While a theme isn't an absolute must, it can help guide décor choices, keep the event cohesive, and help attendees choose what to wear. If there's something specific the bride wants to emphasize, Gottsman says highlighting a theme is a good call. This bride, for example, went all in on the bohemian-garden aesthetic. She worked with A Charming Fetê, who used hanging floral installations from Molly Taylor + Co, to evoke a botanical feel, while blue poufs and rugs from Borrow Rentals gave the event all the boho vibes.

09 of 14

Choose a Palette

dinner table setting with floral centerpiece
Rebecca Yale

Once you've landed on a theme, use it to guide your color palette. If you're planning a dreamy, intimate affair, for example, take notes from this event, which featured centerpieces created by Amanda Vidmar Design; the floral designer added blush-and-ivory toned tulips, anthurium, garden roses, dahlias, and sweet peas to white ceramic vessels. The romantic, timeless blooms were complemented by scalloped ivory chargers and gold flatware for a gleaming touch.

10 of 14

Have a Signature Cocktail

wedding cocktail with orange slice
Anée Atelier

Inject a personal touch into her bridal shower by serving the bride-to-be's signature drink. A creative and completely customizable beverage will give guests a little extra glimpse into her personality and allow them to her experience her go-to favorites. Need some inspiration? Try a sip like this one, which was made with jalapeño-infused tequila, honey, and pineapple—spicy and sweet.

11 of 14

Open Gifts at Home

wedding gift tables ether and smith
Ether and Smith

The tradition of opening bridal shower presents in front of a crowd is an old one; while it's a custom many brides still subscribe to, we're giving you the option to skip this portion of the event if you know the bride would prefer it. Gottsman says you shouldn't worry about being perceived as rude by opening your gifts in private, but she does note that many guests enjoy seeing what the woman of the hour receives.

12 of 14

Invite Her Partner

bride and groom smiling at one another during wedding recessional
Sarah Eichstedt Photography

Bridal showers are meant to, well, shower the bride, but that doesn't mean her partner can't have a moment to shine, too. "At the end of the shower, we love when the partner comes by and also thanks the hosts and the guests for honoring the bride-to-be," Yassin says. Don't forget to get a photo-op together to commemorate the prenuptial celebration.

13 of 14

Send Loved Ones Home with Favors

bottled oils wedding favors
This Modern Romance

Express how grateful you are to every loved one who showered the bride by sending them home with a favor. For a nice cohesive touch, opt for gifts that fit the event's theme, like this bride did. Her special day was inspired by a meal the couple shared together in Italy, so they fittingly provided loved ones with small bottles of olive oil.

14 of 14

Send Thank-You Notes

ashley adam wedding texas note
Apryl Ann Photography

Of course, don't forget to send thank-you notes to everyone who attended the successful affair. Gottsman recommends mailing them within 48 hours after the event concludes, but up to a month is absolutely fine.

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