A bridal shower party (or couple shower) is a gift-giving party held for the bride-to-be in anticipation of her wedding. Gifts are given to the bride at her bridal shower to “shower” her and the groom with gifts to help them begin their new life together on the right foot.
The history of bridal showers is said to have grown out of dowry practices, originating in the 1890’s, and is common in our modern day in the U.S., Canada and Australia. If unable to attend a bridal shower you have been invited to, there are varying opinions on whether or not you should still send a gift. When in doubt, send a gift.
Who can throw a Bridal Shower? Traditionally, the maid or matron of honor is responsible for organizing and hosting a bridal shower, often with help from the bridesmaids. If the Maid of Honor lives out of town or is unable or unwilling to throw a bridal shower party for the bride, it is perfectly fine for someone else to do the honors.
Bridal Shower Planning
Past “traditional” etiquette for bridal showers dictated that mothers, or other immediate family members such as sisters or aunts, should not be involved in the planning of a bridal or personal shower. Modern bridal shower etiquette rules have changed to a more relaxed view, as many couples nowadays plan and pay for their own weddings, so family members often do participate in planning a bridal shower, personal shower or couples shower.
Another change to the traditional etiquette rules for bridal showers is about brides marrying for the second, third or more times. Old tradition rules said bridal showers were not held for second time brides, and certainly not for women marrying for three or more times. Modern bridal shower etiquette rules have disregarded and eliminated the old, archaic tradition. A bridal shower rule that remains the same in modern times is the bride never hosts her own bridal shower party.
When should a Bridal Shower be held? Traditional bridal shower etiquette says that, for practical reasons, a shower should be held at least four to six weeks before the wedding. However, there is nothing wrong with a bridal shower being held closer to the wedding date, provided that the busy bride and most of her family and friends can attend the shower. Traditional etiquette says the shower should be a surprise and held at least two weeks prior to the wedding, but surprise bridal showers may not be the most convenient for a bride and invited guests to attend, plus engagement parties and a Bachelorette party. Talk to the bride or use your best judgment.
Where should a Bridal Shower be held? There is no etiquette rule about where bridal showers can be held. Basic bridal shower guides list a private home, restaurant, garden park, special wedding party venue, church, country club, outdoor recreation area, or a hotel banquet room as possible ideas of where bridal showers are held. Choosing the location for the bridal shower depends upon the number of guests invited, type or theme of the party, budget, time and day of the shower, etc.
Tip: Shower guests should never be required to pay for their own meal. If a catered bridal shower is too expensive for the budget, or the costs of hosting a bridal or personal shower at a restaurant is too high a price to pay, don’t do it at those locations. Traditionally, people who are not invited to the wedding are not invited to the shower, unless there are very special reasons for doing so. Use your best judgment.
Who should be invited to a Bridal Shower? Women in the wedding party (or the entire wedding party if a couples shower), mothers and step-mothers of the bride and groom, sisters of the bride and groom, aunts and female cousins of the bride and groom, and the bride’s closest friends and/or coworkers. It is a personal decision whether to include and invite every woman invited to the wedding or not. A modern trend is to host a large bridal shower, where virtually everyone the bride knows receives an invitation to the shower.
Bridal Shower Etiquette
A traditional bridal shower is meant to be a small, intimate gathering of the bride’s closest friends and family. So-called “proper” bridal shower etiquette says the guest list should be a group no larger than ten to twenty invited guests, but medium to large bridal showers (100-300 guests) are becoming more the norm due to large families, step-families and the steady increase of couples showers.
Bridal shower games are not a required part of bridal showers, but serve the purpose as an “ice breaker” with guests who don’t know each other. If games will not be played at the bridal shower, be sure to begin the shower with introductions and/or provide nametags for all guests in attendance.
Thank you notes are an absolute must. Thank you’s from the bride should be sent to each person who provides a gift. Guests who purchase bridal shower gifts together, or guests who go in on a gift with each other, each individual person must receive a personal thank you note. Thank you notes should be mailed out within a couple of weeks following the shower, with an extra special thank you for the bridal shower hostess.
There are varying opinions on whether it is inconsiderate or rude to ask shower guests to write their names and addresses down on an envelope at the shower, to “help expedite” the mailing out of thank you notes. Some feel the idea is wonderful and thoughtful, while the vast majority apparently feel as I do that, as busy as the bride is prior to her wedding day, taking time to write out personalized thank you notes to her party guests for gifts received is a small but important part of what bridal showers are all about.