Wedding showers are the underrated hero of the wedding planning season—less raunchy than a bachelorette shower, but far more personal of an experience than the rehearsal dinner or engagement party. The wedding shower is about exactly that: the bride. If you’ve been designated the duty of planning the wedding shower, you’re lucky enough to feel important and close enough with the bride that she knows that you’ll celebrate her in any way possible.
Planning a wedding shower can feel like a lot to handle, but it doesn’t have to be as anxiety-inducing as you imagine it being. Focus on being communicative, keeping the bride happy, and having lots of food. No need to give away golden retriever puppies as party favors like in “Bridesmaids.” Zola’s broken down the best ways to host a memorable wedding shower in an easy list to make sure that both you and the bride have the best day possible.
A traditional wedding shower is an all-female celebration of the bride where she is showered in gifts and advice from friends and family. That’s tradition, of course, and nowadays rules are made to be broken—weddings haven’t been on the gender binary in years. Since the day is about the bride, it’s really important to ask her how she wants the day to go.
Ask the bride for a guest list of who absolutely must be in attendance, and if she has any preferences on activities or food, on location, and when she’d like the event to be. The “who” and “when” are likely the most key details—wedding showers are typically held between three months and two weeks before the wedding, so this also gives the betrothed couple time to complete and finalize their registry.
Set the date to something convenient for both the bride and the guests—if people are coming from out of town, you’ll want to make it as convenient for travel as possible. it’s important to remember that anyone invited to the wedding shower should also be invited to the wedding. So, before sending out a wedding shower invitation to people you think the bride would invite, cross-check with the bride to make sure that you’re not unintentionally about to cause some friend group drama.
As the host of the party, the cost of the wedding shower typically falls onto your shoulders. Set a realistic budget for food, venue, decorations, and all of the other things that you’ll need for a stellar party, and stick to it. You can love your friend and want to spoil her, but make sure you haven’t sacrificed your bank account for one event. It’s likely your friend will just be flattered by the gesture. In the case that the wedding shower is a formal, high-end affair, it’s not unheard of for the host of the party to request some form of assistance from the rest of the wedding party, whether it’s financial or simply asking them to help with set up and organization.
The fine line of wanting to surprise someone and needing to know information in order to properly surprise someone is razor thin—when it comes down to it, the bride should be involved in the shower planning, but she shouldn’t be planning the event. Have her give the basic details—ideas for theme, details, time, location, date, and desired activities—and then leave her alone until the day of the party.
If you’re really looking to make this a true surprise, involving the mother of the bride, siblings, or best friend to sneakily get intel on the preferred details is a great way to keep the surprise a true surprise. Either way, get the invitations out ASAP: Once you’ve decided on a date, a venue, and a theme, it’s best to send out invites four to six weeks ahead of the event. Regardless of it being an evite or a mailed invitation, remember to feature all the details in the invitation—the bride’s name, the date, location, time, registry information, who the hosts are (and their relationship to the bride), as well as a way to RSVP.
The wedding shower theme doesn’t necessarily have to go along with the theme of the wedding, but should serve as a reflection of the bride. If she loves Paris, a Parisian themed party set in a patisserie is darling; if she likes flowers, a backyard garden party where guests learn the art of floral arrangement is sweet. The venue, at the very least, should be a representation of the shower’s theme, even if it’s an at-home casual celebration—why not make it a pajama party.
Curate a playlist of both themed songs, as well as the bride’s favorite tunes. Keep in mind that this is not the bachelorette party—even though holding a wedding shower that turns into the bachelorette party is not unheard of or unwelcome, particularly when you’re dealing with geographic logistics—and to keep the theme as family-friendly as possible, especially if children will be in attendance.
Because a wedding shower isn’t intended to be a huge, elaborate affair, what you do and what you eat at a wedding shower are the most important part. When in doubt, stick to what the bride likes, and pick foods that are low maintenance. Finger foods and light bites such as chicken and waffles, crab cakes, or crudités are always welcome choices and don’t require your guests to be seated at a table to enjoy them. Food and drink buffets, such as do-it-yourself tacos and a mimosa bar are also ways to allow your guests to cater to their own needs and desires.
Wedding shower games and activities are just as integral to a great celebration. Classic wedding shower activities such as wedding bingo, trivia about the bride, and offering words of wisdom are always fun icebreakers and a great way to bond party guests. Activities that go along with the theme of the shower are also great—scavenger hunts in an apple orchard, a guided wine tasting at a vineyard, or to take a tip from Gen Z, you can make themed PowerPoint presentations about the bride.
Unlike an engagement party, where gifts aren’t expected, gifts at a wedding shower are kind of a “your mileage may vary” scenario. Some brides have multiple showers, some brides decline gifts, some brides want gifts from their wedding registry, some brides want specific gifts—it’s all about the guest of honor’s desires. Time should be set aside for gift-opening at the shower if they so choose, just ask your friend how she’d like the day to go—some brides would rather the gift-opening be done alone or with their future partner. A large communal gift is always welcome, or if she’s having multiple showers, have your shower be the one with themed gifts. A “wedding night attire” or a “pack the pantry” theme is always chic for a gift.
There’s no reason to overthink a wedding shower—as long as you know and love your friend, you’ll help her celebrate her big day the best way possible.