How to Plan a Bridal Shower

If you’re hosting a bridal shower and need a little guidance, here’s a step-by-step planning timeline to help you figure out what you need to do, and in what order, to pull off a great party.

By The Zola Team

woman in yellow dress holding antique tea cup with macaroons inside
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

A bridal shower is a celebration thrown for a bride-to-be in honor of her upcoming wedding. Bridal showers are typically hosted by a maid-of-honor, a family member, or close friends.

What Happens at a Bridal Shower?

If you’ve never planned a bridal shower before, you may be wondering what is supposed to happen during this pre-wedding event. Bridal shower activities include having food and drinks, opening gifts, and playing games while celebrating the bride. Bridal showers should be as unique as the bride herself. Not all brides will want to play games, and not all brides will want drinks. Some brides will want a casual potluck, while others may prefer an upscale brunch.

Planning a bridal shower is much like planning any other party. If you’re hosting a bridal shower and need a little guidance, here’s a step-by-step planning timeline to help you figure out what you need to do, and in what order, to pull off a great party.

1. Talk With The Bride About What Kind of Shower She Wants

  • Does she want to open gifts? Play games?
  • Are there bridal shower themes she would like for the shower, such as cooking, wine, or pampering/wellness?
  • How formal or informal would she like it to be? Does she have a particular venue or color palette in mind?

2. Set The Date and Location for The Shower

  • Consult with the bride and/or groom to nail down a date that works for everyone’s schedules.
  • An ideal wedding shower date should be a few months before the big day, and no closer than one month from the wedding date.
  • Shower venues can vary based on what the bride wants. We recommend presenting her with a few options to choose from

3. Determine The Overall Shower Budget

  • Having a financial total in mind will help inform the rest of your decisions and keep everyone’s expectations in line. Typically, the host will pay for the bridal shower, but there are exceptions.

4. Finalize The Shower Guest List

  • Have the bride or couple give you a list of friends and family she’d like to invite, including their names, emails, phone numbers, and mailing addresses.

5. Order Paper Invitations (or Create Digital Invitations).

  • To be safe, order custom bridal shower invites at least six weeks before the shower date so you’ll have plenty of time to receive them and send them to guests.

6. Create The Menu and Order Catering, If Necessary

  • Based upon how extravagant your shower menu is, research and hire a local caterer. Be sure to get a price quote so there are no surprises.
  • If the host or hosts are handling the food themselves, map out a timeline for when to shop for ingredients and supplies, when to prep, when to cook, and when to plate and serve the food.

7. Order a Cake and/or Make Plans for Other Desserts

  • If you’re ordering a cake from a bakery, request a pick-up time (or delivery) either the day before or early on the morning of the shower.
  • Consider whether you want to serve coffee alongside cake or dessert, and plan accordingly.

8. Send Out Shower Invitations to Guests.

  • Send your bridal shower invites through the post or email at least three weeks from the shower date.
  • Include a way for guests to RSVP to the shower, either via phone, email, or online for digital invitations, as well as an RSVP deadline.
 Shop Save the Dates, Invites, and More in One Place

9. Choose a List of Beverages and/or Specialty Drinks to Serve.

  • Research and choose a fun specialty cocktail that reflects the tastes of the bride.
  • Buy bottles of wine, liquor, beer, mixers, sparkling water, mineral water, and/or juice at bulk retailers for better discounts.
  • Don’t forget bar accessories like festive straws, cocktail napkins, bottle openers, and cut lemons and limes.

10. Decide Upon Shower Décor, and Shop For Any Needed Supplies

  • Shower decorations may include fresh flowers in pretty vessels, candles in mason jars, paper garlands, banners, balloons, or anything else that coordinates with the shower theme.

11. Decide Upon Shower Games and/or Activities, and Shop for Any Needed Supplies

  • Be sure to stock up on printer toner if you are printing out a large number of party games on paper—you don’t want to run out last minute!

12. Choose and Purchase Shower Favors

  • Some ideas include small potted plants or succulents, hand lotion, nail polish, lip balm, soaps, candles, a kitchen tool or gadget, a mini bottle of wine, a stemless wine glass, or something related to the shower theme.

13. Stock Up on Partyware Essentials, Such As:

  • Disposable plates, cups, and utensils
  • Napkins and table linens
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels and stain remover, in case of spills
  • Ice and an ice cooler

14. One Day Before, Set Up As Much As Possible (Based on The Location), Including:

  • Décor
  • The bar table or area
  • The gifts table or area
  • Games and/or activities
  • Favors
  • Make-ahead food and drink items

15. On The Day of The Shower:

  • Prep all the final details
  • Get dressed
  • Don’t forget to wrap and bring your gift, if you’re giving one
  • Get to the shower location a few hours early to finish setting everything up
  • Enjoy a terrific bridal shower!