What is a Bridal Shower? (Planning Mistakes to Avoid)

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How To Plan A Bridal Shower (Everything You Need to Know)

If you’re like almost everyone else in the world, your only bridal shower planning experience is the scene in Bridesmaids when Annie and Helen try to outdo each other while planning Lillian’s shower (you can find the amazing clip at the bottom of this article if you are not familiar with it. It’s amazing!).

The bridal party scene from the movie bridesmaids

But don’t worry, you have come to the right place. We are going to show you how to host or plan a bridal shower from start to finish.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQ) that we will cover:

  • How to figure out your bridal shower budget (free printable download)
  • Who throws the bridal shower?
  • Who do you invite to the bridal shower?
  • When and where should you have the bridal shower?
  • Who pays for the bridal shower?
  • What do you do at a bridal shower?
  • A planning timeline and checklist for the party (including a free printable)
  • Virtual bridal shower ideas
  • And so much more!

Why do we have a bridal shower and where did the tradition come from?

A bridal shower is a gathering (an awesome party) of those closest to the bride-to-be (typically female friends and family).

The history of bridal showers dates back to the 16th century in The Netherlands.

It is said that a man refused to let his daughter marry a poor man (a miller) because he wanted his daughter to marry a wealthy man from the city. The lady was so much in love with the miller, that she decided to go against the wishes of her dad and have the wedding anyway.

The father threatened to withhold his daughter’s dowry (the money/goods that a bride’s family gives to her new husband when they are married). Without the dowry, the miller and his future bride-to-be would have nothing.

Because the miller had been so kind and generous to the poor people of the village (one of the reasons he was unable to build up wealth for himself), they came together and showered the bride-to-be with small gifts to help her begin her married life. The value of all of these small gifts ended up being more valuable than her dowry. That’s why we call it a “bridal shower”.

a table full of flowers at a bridal shower. It is for my what is a bridal shower article

Figure Out Your Bridal Shower Budget

Just like everything else in the wedding planning world, deciding what you can afford, and what you want to spend should be first on the list. This will give you an idea of which direction to go with the party plans.

Traditionally the host pays for the bridal shower, but in these modern times anyone can chip in. Many couples are now paying for their own weddings, so approaching the parents of the bride to help out is not an issue at all. You can even talk with the other bridesmaids to see if they want to help with the cost.

The main thing to remember is the bride is not going to expect anything over the top. Don’t break the bank by planning a bigger party than you can afford. The bride-to-be is going to love celebrating with her family and friends, even if the shower is in a living room with homemade food (depending on her personality, she might even prefer it).

What is the average cost of a bridal shower?

The cost of hosting a shower can vary just as much as the price of a wedding.

Here are a few estimates to get you started:

  • For a simple party hosted in a home or backyard, plan on $15-$25 per person ($225-$375 for 15 guests).
  • If hosting at a restaurant, you can plan on $20-$50 per person ($300-$750 for 15 guests).
  • A bridal shower where a small venue space is needed will cost about $50-$150 person ($750-$2250 for 15 guests)
  • For bigger parties that require a larger venue, a spa visit or an overnight stay, you can expect to pay $150 and up ($2250 and up for 15 guests)

Tip: To cut down on costs for larger groups, check with your local community center or a park. If someone in the group is in college (locally), check with event space at the college. This could save you a lot of money (you can even inquire about using their catering services)

A bride and friend posing for photos at a bridal shower. Made for the what is a bridal shower post.
Photo by Lin Pernille

Who Plans or Throws The Bridal Shower?

Anyone close to the bride can host the bridal shower, but it is typically the maid/matron of honor.

Other family members, friends, and bridesmaids can help with things like cooking and decorating if you want/need the help.

Does a bride plan her own shower?

No, the bride is not supposed to give herself a shower. However, if you are the one in charge of planning/hosting the bridal shower, we recommend talking with the bride before the planning starts to see if there is anything specific she is hoping for.

Does the mother of the bride throw a shower?

Traditionally the bride’s mom does not plan the shower, but nowadays it is more common.

Honestly, anyone can throw the bride a shower (parents, siblings, coworkers, bridal party, relatives, friends, etc…)

But if you are asking what is most common, the maid of honor typically hosts/plans the event.

Should you have more than one bridal shower?

This is pretty common. There are many times when a 2nd shower is organized by coworkers of the bride.

Another situation where a 2nd bridal party might make sense is if the guest list ends up being too large.

You could have one shower for the bridal party and friends and a 2nd shower for close family (The maid of honor could plan both of these events)

Flowers on a table at a bridal shower. Made for an article called what is a bridal shower.

Who Do You Invite To A Bridal Shower?

You may be wondering, who are you supposed to invite to the shower.

Typically the bridal shower is an all-female gathering (some people have a wedding or couples shower instead).

You want to invite the people in your life who you are closest to.

Keep the guest list short if possible.

  • The mother of the bride, sisters, grandmother, bridal party, aunts, first cousins.
  • The mother of the bride’s partner, sister, grandmother, aunts and first cousins.

There is no need to invite extended family, friends, or coworkers to who you are not super close.

By keeping the guest list to friends and family who mean the most to the bride, it will be a much more intimate party.

Who should you not invite to the a bridal shower?

This one is easy. It is considered bad etiquette to invite people to the shower who are not being invited to the wedding.

How many people should you invite to a bridal shower?

The typical shower is between 15-50 people.

Definitely ask the bride and the mother of the bride for a list of guests who are a must. Then go from there.

When should you send out bridal shower invitations?

Invites should go out 6-8 weeks before the event. You want to give guests time to plan for travel.

Make sure all guests RSVP to only one person. If the maid of honor is hosting the shower, all RSVPs should go back to her. That way everything stays organized.

Who Pays For A Bridal Shower?

It used to be a tradition that bridal showers were paid for by the maid of honor (or whoever was hosting the party).

It’s 2021 and many of those traditions are being ignored. Many showers today are being split between the entire bridal party or even other family members.

Figure out the guest list, have a chat with the bridal party, and see what kind of budget you come up with. Do not feel bad about reaching out to people to see if they can help.

Donuts being served at a bridal shower

When To Have Your Bridal Shower?

Tradition says that you should have your bridal party 1-3 months prior to the wedding, but just like most other wedding traditions, more and more couples are doing what works best for them (and we think that’s the way it should be).

Honestly, having a big party only 1 month before the wedding day might be a little more stressful than you need. 2-3 months prior seems like a better choice.

Once your wedding date is set and you have sent out save the dates, have your bridal shower when it is most convenient for you and your guests. We say spread out the parties and enjoy the entire planning process!

Where to Host or Have a Bridal Shower:

The first step in figuring out the location is sitting down with the bride and asking her if she already has a preferred location.

This could be her family home, the home or backyard of a family member, a local restaurant or park, a wedding venue, a college campus, or a community center.

There are so many options.

Ask the bride first. If she wants it to be a surprise, you could also ask the mother-of-the-bride.

Check out this very helpful video from Tracy Hensel. It has a ton of great info from when she planned her daughters bridal shower.

What Do You Do At A Bridal Shower?

A bridal shower is simply a great opportunity for the bride to have fun with her closest family and friends.

Most bridal showers involve delicious food & drinks, games, gifts, music, and lots of laughs.

As the name implies, the general purpose of this party is to “shower” the bride-to-be with gifts and love.

What is the order of events at a bridal shower?

The typical shower lasts between 2 and 4 hours. Here is a sample timeline based on a 3-hour party.

  • 12:00 pm – Guests arrive (play a quick icebreaker game)
  • 12:30-1:30pm – Food is served
  • 2 pm – Play the 2nd game as the bride-to-be starts opening gifts
  • 2:30 pm – Play the 3rd game as the bride finishes opening gifts
  • 3 pm – Shower ends

Should gifts be opened at a bridal shower (Is it rude to not open gifts in front of guests)?

Yes, we think that gifts should be opened at the bridal shower. Many people find it rude and bad etiquette to accept gifts without opening them (especially older family members).

If the bride doesn’t want to open gifts, it might make more sense to have a bridal luncheon without gifts.

We recommend playing a couple of fun bridal shower games while the bride is opening up her gifts. We also recommend having some music playing lightly in the background. These two things will make the long process of opening gifts less awkward.

A few games (including free printable) that we recommend are:

The Bridesmaids movie bridal shower scene (Because it never gets old!). It contains a few bad words (you’ve been warned).


Bridal Shower Planning Checklist and Timeline

3-5 months before

  • Talk with the bride and see if she has any opinions or must-haves for the bridal shower
  • Find out who can help with the cost of the bridal shower (this will help you figure out the budget)
  • Set a budget
  • Choose a location
  • Put the guest list together (gather contact info)

1-2 months before

  • Make sure the gift registry is complete
  • Make the schedule for the party (timeline)
  • Create a to-do list (assign tasks to anyone who is helping)
  • Hire vendors
  • Order/rent items needed for the shower (chairs, decor, linens, etc…)
  • Send out invitations (include information to the gift registry)
  • Order flowers and signage
  • Put together the menu
  • Select games (and get prizes for game winner)
  • Plan any DIY items

1-2 weeks before

  • Create a fun playlist of music. Really put some thought into this. Put songs in there that are special to the bride. If the bride and her bridesmaids were big boy band fans, make sure some of those songs make it into the playlist. We put together 100 song ideas to add to your bridal shower playlist.
  • Confirm/finalize the attendees
  • Finalize the decor and games (print anything that needs to be printed out)
  • Make sure all details are finalized with your vendors.
  • Make a day of to-do list for the bridal shower. This way nothing gets missed
  • If serving alcohol, shop for these items

1 day before and day of the party

  • Decorate the space
  • Cook the food and clean the space.
  • Ask anyone helping to arrive a little early
  • run last-minute errands

Download our free bridal shower planning checklist:

Virtual Bridal Shower Ideas: 

Check out this super helpful video from Event Answer. It covers so much great information about hosting a virtual bridal shower.


A few Additional Frequently Asked Questions

What to wear?

If the bridal shower is taking place in a home or backyard, wear something nice, comfortable, and casual.

Try and stay away from wearing white since the bride will most likely be wearing something white. Let the bride be the star of the show.

Is the shower before or after the bachelorette party?

Both the bachelorette party and the bridal shower are typically about 2-3 months prior to the wedding day. The schedules of the bride, bridal party, and family will dictate when these events happen. It does not matter which happens first.

We recommend planning early (a couple of months prior to the parties).

You might find this article very helpful: Bridal Shower vs Bachelorette Party vs Wedding Shower

Does the party have to follow a theme?

Showers do not have to follow a specific theme but having one will make the planning process a lot easier.

Simply having a theme based on color would make it easy (black and white, pink and white, blue and yellow, etc…).

If you are interested in exploring theme options, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • A garden tea party
  • Paris theme (make sure you get a giant cookie like the one in Bridesmaids!)
  • Color themed (this one is easy to decorate for)
  • A favorite travel destination
  • Boho
  • Music
  • Vintage
  • Tropical
  • Retro
  • Pool party
  • Rustic
  • Pinterest is a great place to get theme inspiration.

Additional wedding planning resources:

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