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?)