How to Have a Bridal Shower That You’ll Actually Want to Be At


The party is SUPPOSED to be fun, right?

by Stephanie Kaloi

bridesmaids with parasols in front of face

Like many things wedding-related, the bridal shower has come a long way. It’s generally agreed that the first “official” bridal showers date back to sixteenth-century Holland (though we all know women have been getting together in small groups to dole out relationship advice since the dawn of time). In fact, the bridal shower began as an alternative to the dowry system—if your family couldn’t afford a dowry or refused to pay one, then your friends could bring you gifts that you could substitute for the dowry. The bridal shower came in vogue in the US during the late 1800s, when well-off women started hosting them to hang, have some snacks, and gift the bride-to-be.

As things tend to do, some aspects of the bridal shower have changed—but others haven’t much at all. The current norm is a bit of a mixed bag (the toilet paper wedding dress game isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time). So that raises the question: What do you do if your friend isn’t into a ladies-only punch bowl party, and how do you even begin to plan one? Never fear! There are as many different bridal shower ideas as there are types of weddings.

Before I get started, it should also be noted that a bridal shower (like all extra parties, and hell, most everything in wedding land) is absolutely not mandatory. A shower can be fun, and another great excuse to get all of your friends and people together, but only if it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. If the idea of one more party makes your BFF’s skin crawl, or is going to cause everyone more stress than joy, then skip it. (Side note: If you are the bride(s) and/or groom(s) getting married… stop reading and forward this link to your party people, your aunt, or your cousin. This is another one of those brilliant wedding planning moments where you get to hand over the reins to the friends or family members who are always asking how to help. If you know someone who is just begging to throw you a party, then sit back and let them! It can be as easy as that.)

how to have a bridal shower without stressing out

  • Ask for help. Of course, “tradition” might try to dictate whose job it is to throw a party like this. What’s more important, however, is that people who love the soon-to-be-married friend throw a fun party that is fit just for her. This also goes for the prepping of food and details. People will want to help, so make it a group effort!
  • This party does not have to be limited to a Saturday brunch with mimosas and frittata. You, as the person throwing this (and maybe with some input from the person of honor), get to decide what kind of party it is—don’t get trapped because your mom had a certain kind of shower in 1976.
  • This party does not have to be for women only. Coed showers happen more often than you think.
  • Chill on the entertainment if you want to. Play games, have icebreakers, but don’t feel like you need to entertain the guests at every moment during the party. Let people mingle and enjoy themselves.

bridal shower 101: a timeline

Three (or more) months before the bridal shower: If you’re not a planner, then this might stress you out, but it’s not meant to. Between work, your relationship, travel, kids, and, you know, life in general, getting a group of friends together for a few hours one Saturday isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. Give yourself the gift of time and space. Things to discuss: When do you want to have the party? Are you having a coed shower? Do you want to go out or stay in? Is booze involved? Who are you even inviting in the first place?

Four to six weeks before the bridal shower: Send out those invites! See the aforementioned list of reasons why, but suffice it to say that people might need a heads-up so they can ensure their attendance. You’ll also want to take the answers to the questions above and start putting them into action around this time.

Three to four weeks before the bridal shower: Ideally, you’ll be shopping for decor now so you have plenty of time to be choosy, find exactly what you’re looking for, and allow for any shipments you might be expecting.

Two weeks before the bridal shower: It’s wise to go ahead and stock up on booze and other drinks now (assuming you’re hosting at your home or someone else’s). If you still need to nab a cake stand or download tunes, go ahead and start working on that now.

One week before the bridal shower: This is the time to stock up on food and food-related items—snacks, you name it. Also, give your guest list a look and make sure people have RSVP’d, or call and make sure your reservation is still on the books.

The day before: Freak out! Except, not really. Get the prep work going on food, get in touch with your wedding party and make sure everyone’s ready, and get your errands done. You’ve got this.

bridal shower ideas (that aren’t toilet paper and penis cake)

Alison Faulkner, a fellow party planner and host of The Alison Show, has some great advice about making a party fun. “When you show up to a party, you’re feeling all vulnerable and confused. Do you know anyone? What should you do now that you’re here? This is why people all stand in your kitchen and say, ‘What can I do to help?’ And you say, ‘Get the hell out of my kitchen and enjoy the party!’ It doesn’t have to be complicated. The answer can be ‘eat.’ The answer can be ‘sign a guest book.’ Why do you think the line for the guest book is always so long? Not because people actually ever want to sign it. They are just happy to have something to do.”

With that in mind, here are a few tips (via Alyssa from Rose Gold Events) that you can give your guests so they don’t wander around and try to help you in the kitchen:

  • Date night station: Let guests write down their favorite date night idea for the couple to use as inspiration.
  • A photo or video booth: No matter the kind of party, a photo booth will always bring up the fun factor.
  • The favorite memory game: Have guests write down a favorite (or most obscure) memory they have with the couple, then read them aloud and hope the guests of honor can guess who wrote each one.
  • Ditch the guest book: Instead of a guest book, have guests sign something fun for the couple: a big bottle of champagne for their wedding night, the pieces to a puzzle, or the pieces to a game like Jenga. Something the couple can use and have fun doing together.
  • Open up a notebook: You could also ask guests to write letters or poems of well wishes to the couple that could be compiled into a book instead of a normal guest book.
  • A coed campout. Did the couple register at REI? Do their families love to go camping? Do an outdoor, camping-themed day. You could rent a fun outdoor space at a campground, play lawn games, and even roast marshmallows for dessert.
  • Paint night or craft party. Gather all your friends for wine and painting or crafting. Hire a local art student or an instructor from a local studio to come teach everyone a technique or a project while everyone drinks a glass (or three) of wine and has a blast. For that matter, you could help DIY one or two wedding projects as a group—these things are always more fun with wine and friends.
  • A repurpose party. Guests can bring those extra things that are new to the couple but gathering dust for them: extra china that doesn’t match the new kitchen colors, curtains from their last apartment–hell, even old clothes that are still totally wearable could be regifted. This can also ease the pressure of having to buy brand-new gifts for multiple events.
  • Ditch everything. You could also throw all the traditional consumeristic wedding shower ideas out the window and let the guests and guests of honor know that this is going to be a blessing party. As in: no gifts necessary, laid-back vibe, and plenty of moments for the guests to shower the couple with blessings. This could look like guests reading those memories out loud, or sharing their hopes and well wishes for the marriage.

If all else fails, just remember: it’s supposed to be fun. (Right?)

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Eh

    This timeline could be used for any party, not just a bridal shower. It might seem weird, but I’m glad you put that planning should start early (3 or more months before). I have found a lot of push back from people when trying to start event planning that early (my in-laws are procrastinators). On the other hand, when things are done last minute people already have plans. My husband works evenings and weekends and needs at least two weeks notice (and that doesn’t guarantee he gets the time off) so he misses out on lots of things because people don’t give him enough notice.

    • Back when I was dating, a guy on-line kept trying to set up “dates” with me the day of. He had no sense of planning ahead. Needless to say he didn’t have much luck getting dates.

      • Eh

        Oh my, tat’s bad. My in-laws aren’t that bad. A couple years ago my MIL had a milestone birthday. My FIL asked if she wanted a party. My MIL said no. On the Thursday before her birthday (which was on a Sunday) she told my FIL that she wanted a big party. Good thing my husband, BIL and FIL decided to plan a birthday party (they only started planning on the Tuesday). A couple years ago we only found out the plans for Christmas Day (which had always been the same but were totally different that year) on Christmas Eve.

  • Lisa

    I like the idea of “showering” the couple with blessings. I’m going to be attending a bridal shower in a couple of months for a couple who is only doing a honeymoon registry, and I’m concerned it’s going to be weird/forced/awkward, especially since there won’t (shouldn’t) be any gifts to open at the party. To me the idea of a shower is to get together, hang out, then open presents. Has anyone been to one of the showers like Stephanie mentioned in the last bullet point where no one brought gifts?

    • Michela

      My bridal shower was meant to be non-physical gifts since our registry was all experience-based. It was, to borrow a punny phrase, a mixed bag. Roughly 75% of the guests brought physical gifts and the remaining 25% who purchased gifts off the registry bought a card with a print-out of the registry gift enclosed. I returned most of the physical gifts (who needs a glittery Saturn paper weight??), but they were all given and received with love so that was what mattered. I wonder what success other people have had in doing a no-gifts or no-physical-gifts shower. People are so trained to bring a physical gift that even when it’s explicitly stated otherwise, that goal isn’t always met.

      A few not-exactly-physical-gifts ideas we tossed around but never followed through with:
      · Edible gift shower: bring your favorite cheese, chocolate, fruit salad, etc.
      · Stock the bar shower: bring your favorite wine or liquor
      · Gift card shower: bring a gift card to your favorite restaurant, local bar, theatre, etc. This would’ve been great since our registry wasn’t just honeymoon but also 12 newlywed dates for each month of our first year of marriage. We decided not to go through with it because we didn’t want to unnecessarily burden the guests, but it’s a great idea!

      Altogether I think non-physical registries are just be a difficult situation for all involved, especially for showers. It can be weird for the non-consumerist couples who just want to spend time with their loved ones and weird for the guests who either want to shower the couple with love = gifts or who feel beholden by etiquette to bring something physical. That being said, I’m so glad we didn’t do physical gifts, although I acknowledge the difficulty of our choice for others (and we’ve beaten the alternative-registry horse to death in other APW threads so that’s not really my goal here- just sharing my shower experience since you asked).

      Not sure this really helps, but thought I’d share in the off chance it did.. Good luck!

      • Ashlah

        We didn’t have any pre-wedding events, but I was just telling my husband, as our booze was running low this weekend, that we should have had a Stock the Bar shower (also perfect for a housewarming party!) I love that idea. Ooh, and you could set out little tags for people to write on and attach to the bottles as your guest book.

        • CrazyCatLibrarian

          A stock-the-bar shower seriously sounds like the best idea I’ve heard so far. My shower will probably be in February, which is also my birthday, and I honestly think it’s a perfect excuse to double up on occasions. I rarely do anything for my birthday beyond family (every time I try to plan something big, nature intervenes, so I gave up years ago), and I hate bridal shower games and anything penis-themed, so I’m totally down for having a shower/birthday/booze party. Unfortunately, I think my MOH/sister is worried that I’ll feel cheated if I try to combine occasions (I won’t). She also doesn’t want any input from me even though I want to help, so I’m trying to have my other bridesmaids sneak ideas in and pretend they’re theirs and not mine. We’re having a registry, but I doubt there will be much on it because we’ve lived together for a few years now and are both in our 30’s, so aside from better pots and a few more place settings of the china I already have, there isn’t too much we need. Having a party where people just bring booze and maybe their favorite cocktail recipes for a book sounds like a fantastic idea!

      • Keri

        When I was shopping at Sephora after my shower, I thought to myself, you know what would be a great shower gift… a Sephora gift card. I’m doing my own makeup for the wedding, but even if you’re not, a fancy new lipstick or something for the honeymoon would be lovely. (I got lots of lovely gifts off my registry, so I’m not complaining, but the two experiences back to back made me mentally “pin” the idea for the future.)

    • Eh

      I haven’t been to a shower that didn’t have gifts, but I have been to a child’s first birthday party that didn’t involve gifts (people still brought gifts). There were games and food and mingling. I didn’t miss the gift opening part since I don’t actually like to sit around watching people open gifts.

      I tried to have a gift-free house warming open house and that did not go well since people still brought gifts. When people (my MIL and her mother) asked when we were going to open them I pointed out that I was busy giving house tours and visiting with people. They refused to leave until the gifts were opened so in the end we had to open gifts while we were still expecting people to show up for the open house.

    • Kayjayoh

      My shower was not explicitly no gifts, but only two guest brought gifts. And it was perfectly fine. We drank tea and wine and eat cookies and cheese and chatted.

    • emilyg25

      I feel like if you really don’t want physical gifts, you’ll have better luck if you don’t call it a shower. I didn’t want a shower, so my BFF threw me a daytime bachelorette party where she rented out space in a tea room and we had a tea party and did crafts. It was way fun.

      But what you describe is just like any other party your friends throw. Folks will mingle and chat and eat.

      • Lisa

        I think the initiative was spearheaded by the one bridesmaid I don’t like so I’m not sure if this is something the bride actually wanted or if it’s something the pushy friend said she wanted to do and the bride didn’t argue. I asked if they’d be doing a “traditional” registry since there’s now going to be a shower, and the bride said they weren’t planning on it but hadn’t totally ruled out doing something small with REI (for gear they’d need for the honeymoon). In all likelihood, I’m thinking we’ll just write them a check and leave it at that, but I feel like a bridal shower with envelopes of money/purchased gift receipts tucked into a card could get awkward pretty quickly.

        • Eh

          “but I feel like a bridal shower with envelopes of money/purchased gift receipts tucked into a card could get awkward pretty quickly” – My sister lives out west and got married where we grew up. Her in-laws through a shower for her and I happened to be home that weekend. Most people did not bring physical gifts because she had to pack or ship any gifts. It was a small party so there weren’t many gifts but they were mostly gift cards or pictures of registry items (her husband’s aunts and cousins bought her a kitchen aid stand mixer from her registry). The gift opening was pretty quick and wasn’t the main focus of the shower. If the shower is large, I agree that it would get awkward, that said, I find gift opening awkward anyways.

        • Louise

          It doesn’t have to be awkward to not have gifts to open! I hate being the center of attention, but I love having my favorite people gather, so we did a coed shower and requested that any gifts not be wrapped. We said it was for environmental reasons, and it partially was (I’ve been using gift wrap alternatives for years), but it also eliminated the part where everyone sits and stares at the honored guests. people just gave them to us individually and I made a private big deal with everyone as they gave them to us and then they got nicely arranged on a table. They party would have been WAY more awkward if it had been traditional. It was fine, just felt like a normal party. Everyone went home happy, I think.

    • Amy March

      Showers are for gifts! If you don’t want physical gifts, just have a party, and don’t call it a shower.

      I would be buying them something that I can put in a box and wrap. Perhaps a guidebook to their honeymoon location, or a useful travel item. I’d include a gift receipt and call it a day.

      • Lisa

        That’s what I’ve always thought! One bridesmaid announced that she’d be throwing a shower, and I don’t think the bride thought it was worth it to push back. I think I’ll probably end up taking nothing to the shower or seeing if I can find a small gift that might be helpful to their honeymoon. (By the way, I’m not a huge fan of showers and am not a big gift giver in general. I have limited money budgeted towards gifts, and I’d rather get one nice present for the wedding instead of two or three smaller presents for all of the events I have to attend as a bridesmaid.)

        • Mindy

          FWIW, only one of my bridesmaids bought us both a shower and a wedding gift (and a couple didn’t do either); it was no big deal at all. I know everyone technically is, but generally speaking I think bridesmaids should be *totally* off the hook for presents.

        • Yes, this would be the easiest way to handle it, I think. Bring a card and something small (travel-sized toothpaste, a travel loofa, etc.) that could be used for the honeymoon.

  • Jess

    I just got back from my bridal shower this weekend! I get really nervous being the center of attention (as in, everybody looking at me and waiting for my responses), but the whole thing was amazing.

    In my family, showers are for gifts, but as most of my women relatives speak gifts as a love language this is the same as them just wanting to love me. Throwing showers is something my mom and I have done for all of my cousins and their wives and some family friends, so I had a whole team doing this.

    They did some stuff that I thought was really great:
    1) They had cards to fill out for life and love advice when people first got there. (This is the “give them something to do)

    2) They did a Bingo with random fun facts, like “reads fiction books” and “walks for exercise” as well as the relationship-to-me ones, which did actually get people interacting.

    3) They interviewed R! My friend videotaped him responding to different questions, like “what’s Jess’ ideal date?” and “who is the better driver” and “What does Jess hate doing, but she does for you anyway (and the reverse)”. Watching R give his answers after I had guessed them was really cool, and reassuring when I was on the spot.

    4) We always have the younger set do a “wrapping paper” dress instead of the toilet paper – it holds together better and you get results like posted in the response!

    • Jess

      Very brilliantly done.

    • Lisa

      For #4, at a couple of our showers, we’ve done crepe paper instead of tissue paper, and we’ve put them on stuffed animals/American Girl dolls. This keeps the paper waste down and makes sure that the adults don’t have to “model” if they don’t want to.

      • Jess

        Oh I like that!

  • Alanna Cartier

    I just discovered that I will, in fact, be having a shower. My FMIL is taking over the reins and throwing it the weekend of the wedding (because I have a small amount of guests coming from everywhere.)

    Here’s the thing- the shower is going to be happening at my place, and also- I am gluten-free because I have celiac disease. How much help can I/should I offer? I don’t want to be pushy or take over, but I also don’t want to leave her with logistical nightmares.

    • Lisa

      I’d reach out to your FMIL and say, “Hey, I have Celiac’s, which can be tricky to accommodate for people who don’t have experience with it. If you’d like, I’d be happy to talk with the caterer/vet any recipes you’re contemplating using to make sure that we have an assortment of food that both the guests and I can eat.” See what she says. She might come back with that it’s all under control, but at least you’ve got the information surrounding your diet restrictions out there so she can take them under advisement.

      Related, there was a similar issue brought up on Awesome Etiquette recently. The episode actually dealt with a bride who was trying to make sure her FMIL accommodated her family’s dietary restrictions at the rehearsal dinner. It’s featured in the second half of the episode if you’d like to give it a listen!

      • Alanna Cartier

        Oh! All good points.

        FMIL is aware of the dietary restrictions already, (she lives out of province, so when we go to visit the husband elect’s family we stay with her for up to two weeks at a time). I think just offering will be a great step, and maybe setting some gluten restrictions in my kitchen, since we have a fully gluten free house for my safety :)

        I’ll listen to that post haste :)

    • A.

      Another celiac here – I’d say this really depends on where your shower is being held, geographically speaking. My shower was about an hour’s drive from NYC and my aunt was able to get GF cupcakes and macarons by just pointing at a listing in the yellow pages with her eyes closed or, you know, whatever the Google equivalent is. Then they went to a local grocery store to get a selection of meat and veggies. All in all, it was shockingly simple and not particularly expensive (except that I somehow ended up with 40+ people at my shower, so…quantity costs). Everything was on the simple side (no sauces, etc) but I felt very safe and comfortable.

      But if you live somewhere where when you say, “I can’t have gluten,” they give you a blank stare or say, “Well, there’s egg in this” then…yeah, I’d maybe at least point her in the right direction or offer to bring something you know is safe. Oh, also, if SHE has a history of not understanding what gluten is, like many of my in-laws (well-meaning, but just not something they’ve been able to perfectly grasp to my one-time detriment), then you might still want to do something along those lines.

      Socially, I think pointing in the right direction is easier to “get away with” overall than refusing to eat what they give you, but obviously your health on your WEDDING WEEKEND needs to come first. I don’t think there would have been anything worse than getting glutened during my wedding, so make “constant vigilance” your mantra, my friend.

      • Alanna Cartier

        The shower will be at my house, in Toronto, so there are gluten free options around, and I’m also a very good baker if I do say so myself. That being said, my biggest concern is bringing gluten into my 100% gluten-free brand new apartment…?

        I think I’ll need to set some boundaries, so the expectations are clear :) She’s been very good when I come to visit though. (Checking every recipe with me)

        • A.

          That’s great that she’s good about it! Jealous :)

          Could your shower be 100% GF? Mine was and as far as I could tell, no one minded. We had enough variety and enough naturally GF items (roasted asparagus, roast beef, potatoes, etc) that even my most complain-y, blunt family members seemed happy. I’m totally with you on the kitchen – the only gluten we have in ours is my husband’s beers and even those get the side-eye glare from me every now and then! (As alluded, I’m the Gluten Free Mad-Eye Moody)

          But if there’s something traditional that she wants to bring and/or you have pickier people or kids in the group, then maybe set up a specific area in your kitchen that your fiance is then tasked with scrubbing down after the fact? Keeping away from ovens and microwaves especially? If she gets your restriction, I’m sure a quick, “Hey, just for my own peace of mind, can we please keep all the gluten prep over here?” should be no biggie.

          • Alanna Cartier

            Gluten-free mad-eye Moody, love it! Beer is the only gluten thing that is ever in my house too, and the fiancee gets a little side-eye for it as well.

            I think I’m going to try to request a gluten free shower, there are no people I know of that would be excluded by GF food, and I’m just worried (what if something goes in my dishwasher, crumbs, etc.)

          • Megan

            CELIACS UNITE! I’m jealous you guys have GF households. I have to just set aside a special cabinet and toaster and bread knife for FH and his bagels.

    • Amy March

      I think the first step is to call her and tell her you are so excited, and also let her know that absolutely no food with gluten in it is allowed in your apartment, so you’d be happy to help her brainstorm ideas/find a GF bakery since you have so much experience with it. Is the time of day set already? If not is there something that you find easier to do GF? Like, maybe afternoon tea instead of lunch with punch and fruit and GF cupcakes and salmon on cucumber rounds with cream cheese and little tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese and chicken and peach kebabs would be absolutely lovely from 2-4 and not particularly difficult. And be really explicit with it- if no gluten means no gluten can come in here absolutely not, be very up front with that because even someone who knows you can’t eat gluten might think it’s totally fine to have all sorts of gluten filled goods as long as there is something you can eat.

      Aside from the gluten thing I think your main responsibility is to have the place clean and ready to go when she arrives, including plenty of fridge space, and to that end I recommend booking a housekeeper to come by the day before now, because for sure the weekend of your wedding is not going to be a time when you’re just dying to spend three hours cleaning and tidying for company.

      • Lisa

        Your afternoon tea menu sounds amazing. You should bring it to Happy Hour on Friday.

      • Alanna Cartier

        This is perfect! Thank you for this helpful super practical advice! It’s going to take place around 1pm the day before the wedding (Saturday November 12, so there’s plenty of time), so a brunch/lunch type menu will probably be the ideal! That menu sounds lovely and I will definitely draw some ideas from it :) I’m throwing a big brunch at the end of the month that will also be a great time to get some great well-tested recipes as a jumping off point :) (I’m making a bunch of crustless quiche, which may be great for a 1pm shower) Great tips about cleaning too. I’ll have to gauge the messiness of the apartment and my stress level, but you may be right, a cleaner might be the perfect way to go.

        Thank you ever so much :)

  • Sara

    I would also say if other members (like the bridesmaids or MOB/MOG) want to be involved, try to give tasks and not ask for monetary help. When I planned my first bridal shower, the MOB said she wanted to help but didn’t want to step on my toes so she offered to just give me money. Very sweet, but we were having a shower with 50 people at a rented location at a church and her ‘max’ she could give was $100. So I asked her instead to come up with the games and prizes for the games, thinking that it would keep her occupied and take something off my plate. Based on that, she ended up offering to do centerpieces (since she wanted to do flowers for the prizes and found a good deal) and making chocolate covered pretzels for everyone to take home!
    To cut costs (since I was a poor recent grad) I asked the other 6 bridesmaid to make/buy a side dish for a potluck style luncheon and got my aunts to help me make a ‘main’ dish and cake. Some bridesmaids were super happy to help (and came early to help decorate and whatnot) but a few were happy to only have something small that had to do.

  • Sarah

    I don’t know if this is a thing for wedding showers, but I’m sorta bothered by baby showers where guests are given a registry card with the invite on where to buy a gift and also advised to bring a baby book with a message inside instead of greeting card. Yes, baby books can be cheap and it’s a nice idea but that’s being a bit too bossy about gifts to bring. So when I see shower invites with registry info as well as a request to stock the bar, etc it seems greedy.

    This is just one opinion but the least onus put on attenders the better.

    • Ashlah

      I’d say it’s most appropriate to stick with one or the other. Either ask for books or have a traditional registry, either have a stock-the-bar party or have a traditional registry, but don’t ask for both.

    • AmandaBee

      I wouldn’t call it “greedy” unless they, say, demand that you also bring a registry gift. As someone who hates not knowing what type of gift to bring to a party, I always like having the option of a registry + any specific requests for something they will find particularly useful. If I didn’t want to bring both, I’d just not bring a registry gift.

      This is always a “know your crowd” thing I guess. I’d be miffed if someone I was close to and wanted to spend a bit more on ended up not being clear about what they wanted (or not having a registry) out of fear of being called greedy. I see registries and requests like that as saying “hey here’s a thing I’d especially love” which I just can’t see the greediness in doing.

    • Jess

      You don’t necessarily know what people throwing your shower choose to do. I imagine the couple or mother-to-be or whatever didn’t request a “stock the bar” or book-themed event, and probably had a registry going.

      I would be horrified if something like that happened, and everyone I knew assumed I was greedy, rather than just had over-enthusiastic shower hosts.

      If they DID make that request… then sure. Judge away.

      • Sarah

        Yes, you’re right. I’d hope hosts run a few things by the honoree but that doesn’t always happen. And in my area surprise showers are a thing so this probably does happen.

    • Amy March

      Agreed. I don’t think the guest of honor is greedy but I think people get carried away by good ideas. Yes, a stock the bar party sounds great! Why then do I need your registry unless you have registered at a liquor store (srsly why is this not a thing).

      • Lisa

        Someone really needs to pitch this. My entire registry would have been alcohol-related. (As it was, our registry included several requests for different Riedel settings to go with our favorite wines.)

    • Kaitlyn

      I actually love the giving books instead of cards thing. Babies are literally never going to read cards, and this way, they have a gift that they can read for themselves one day. My best friend’s baby shower this weekend and I’m bringing one of my favorite children books (Paperbag Princess) and I’m so happy to be able to contribute to the baby’s library with a book that provides a strong female lead and includes a special message from me.

  • Laura

    I attended a no-gifts potluck-style shower in which guests were asked to bring a dish as well as one or two of their favorite recipes. The bridesmaids collected the recipes and made them into a newlyweds cookbook that they gave the couple on their wedding day. It provided a conversation starter, as many guests brought a recipe that either had personal relevance for their relationship to the couple or had a family history of some sort. And a few guests who wanted to bring physical gifts could pull kitchen items from the registry that went with their recipe, while those who honored the no gifts request didn’t feel awkward about not having anything.

    ETA: a bring your favorite cocktail recipe version of this party would be my dream :)

    • Another Meg

      We did something like this for my sister, except it was board games and booze. It was a cocktail party, with a fifties-ish theme (Mad Men lite), and you were asked to bring the couple a board game or booze. It was pretty fun, and they got the kind of gifts they wanted. And most of the gifts came with stories, which was awesome.

  • My husband has been asking lately why everyone plays stupid games at showers if nobody likes the stupid games. I really don’t have an answer for him. I prefer the open house type showers.

    My bridal shower was a private belly dance class and mint brownies. It was great.

    • Meg Keene

      VALAD QUESTION. Unclear answer.

    • idkmybffjill

      Unpopular opinion – I really like the games! Well. By games I mean trivia and stuff. Sometimes I get very nervous to start conversations if I don’t know people in the group (if everyone else knows one another), and a few of the showers I’ve been to have been for relatives or friends of my fiance in which I only knew the bride. It was really nice to have ice breakers to start conversation with folks who already knew each other, but who I didn’t know.

      • Jess

        I do too! Showers in my area tend to be really awkward groups of people: Future in-laws, childhood neighbors, college friends, and so on. It’s hard to find common footing right away, especially when existing cliques are already there and you’re the outsider.

        It’s really nice to just have a built-in conversation past “Oh, how do you know X?”

        • idkmybffjill

          Yes! The existing cliques is the biggest thing. If no one knew each other it would be fine, but when there are 5 groups of 3 and then just you all by yourself, it’s so awkward! Also, as the bride – it’s really awesome for me when my folks intermingle. And some of my friends are not great about actively mingling with people they don’t know, so it’s nice to give them something organic to connect about that doesn’t require approaching a group of strangers!

    • JC

      I dislike most of the games, but it’s the path of least resistance. For my sister’s shower, we had ages ranging from 5 to almost 90. We had my sister’s FMIL and FStepMIL in the same room for the first time in about ten years. And my sister didn’t want a shower in the first place but wanted to please her future aunts (whom she adores) and our grandma. She didn’t want to take the time or energy to come up with an event that really excited her– it probably would not involve the aunts and grandma, anyway, so it could never really replace the traditional shower. We played the least obnoxious games we could think of, gave out prizes of chocolate bars in the shape of men in heart-covered boxers, and called it a day. Aunts, happy. Grandma, happy. Bride, not unhappy.

      ETA: Your shower sounds amazing. I do actually think that with a bit of persuasion, we could get my grandma to belly dance. I shall have to be persistent.

    • Jess

      I think we now still have them because many showers have people who don’t necessarily know each other (two sides of the family, neighbors and college friends, etc.), and it’s a way to get people talking or doing something together, which create shared experiences to remember later and gets people to open up quicker.

      Being a little silly with others allows shy people to introduce themselves without that being the focus. It puts everybody into a slightly vulnerable position, which is a great way to bond with others. It’s one of the reasons “do something new together” is a recommended date activity, and why corporate events still do ice breakers even though we all groan a little.

      Some of them, like one we did at my shower where R got interviewed and they asked me the same questions, was a good way for people to get to know R that don’t really know him and vice versa.

      Some games are awful, some are fun, but their purpose is to bring people together.

      For your show, belly dancing served the same purpose, although there’s not a chance in hell my relatives with mobility issues would have been able to do it.

      • Kyle

        I think it’s also just a way for the guests to kill time while the guest of honor opens presents. The present-opening can take FOR EVER. If you’ve got 20 guests/gifts, and you spend 3 minutes opening each present, that’s a full hour of present-opening. For me, forty minutes into watching someone open presents I am ready for any dumb game. (At my sister’s shower there were I think ~100 people – the present-opening took forever but it didn’t bother me much because I was MCing. My sister was strongly anti-multiple-showers.)

        • I broke some etiquette rules, and requested all gifts be mailed to my home, across the country from where the shower was taking place. That really cuts down on the amount of time dedicated to opening presents!

    • My sister had little puzzle games (word search, word jumble, etc) and people at the shower *loved* them. I have no idea why, but some people really really love them.

  • For our engagement party, our “guest book” was a camera set up in one corner. The guests could put on silly accessories (hats, plastic flowers, a sonic screwdriver…) and write messages on a little whiteboard, then take a photo of themselves. After the party, my bridesmaids put all the photos into a book that we could keep.

    It worked well as a more “activity” type of guest book.

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  • Lauren

    In the UK we don’t have Bridal Showers at all- therefore no presents at all. We do have Hen Parties which usually involve a night out, an adventure activity or similar, and to be honest those are hard enough to organise and can get expensive even without the presents. I can’t imagine the hassle of having more to deal with than that. We also don’t really have rehearsal dinners or baby showers, although those are creeping in.

  • Love this post and how it’s clear there’s no secret sauce that works for every shower. I think it’s really important to ask the person getting married what she wants – even if it’s just to make sure that she wants a complete surprise. It can be an incredible moment of passage for a woman, surrounded by all those women (and sometimes men, too) who she loves. She may have her own ideas about how she wants to spend it than it’s possible to know, guess, or dream up.

  • tr

    I really think the key to a good bridal shower is to throw out the idea of “We’ll do this because this is what people do at showers”, and instead use the same common sense you’d use in throwing any type of party.

    At my bridal shower, I helped my MOH plan and cook and decorate. We had a slumber party together the night before where we stayed up late cooking and setting up decorations and chatting over wine while we figured out which table to set the cake on. We kept the guest list relatively intimate (mostly family, with a scattering of friends), and we skipped the games entirely. Instead, our “activities” consisted of an optional cookie decorating station and a sheet guests were asked to filled out for a scrapbook. Mostly, we treated it like any cocktail party, and let people mingle. Since it was reasonably small, the hostess knew all but a couple of people, so we worked together to make sure that good introductions were made, and that everyone had people to talk to. Most of the guests had such a nice time that they stayed an hour or two after the shower had officially ended to continue mingling with one another, and people raved for weeks afterwards about what a genuinely nice time they had.

  • Jen

    My shower was hosted by my favorite aunt, and she did a great job. We had it at a tea house, and the tea and the food were lovely. The guests signed a teapot for me. Mostly it was just hanging out and eating and chatting, with the exception of a bingo game (which was fun) and a “newlywed game” where she had secretly asked my fiance some questions and then I had to answer. So – embarrassing for me, entertaining for everyone else.

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