How To Plan A Bridal Shower To Remember

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 ✨

The wedding day is, by far, the biggest celebration for the soon-to-be-married couple (they don’t call it the “big day” for nothing!). But in the months leading up to the wedding day, there are other wedding-related events that the couple or their loved ones may choose to incorporate into the wedding planning process (like an engagement party or bachelorette party)—including the wedding shower, also known as a bridal shower.

Do you want to plan a bridal shower the bride (and all the guests!) are sure to remember? Here’s everything you need to know to plan the best bridal shower:

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.

Who Throws a Bridal Shower?

Bridal showers are typically hosted by someone close to the bride—like the maid of honor, a family member, members of the bridal party or wedding party (like the bridesmaids), or close friends.

Who Should Be Invited To The Bridal Shower?

Historically, bridal showers were events for the important women in the bride’s life—including their family members, their partner’s family members, their bridal party, and their close friends. However, couples’ and co-ed showers are becoming more the norm—so, depending on the bride’s vision, you can include anyone and everyone that she’d like to invite.

Is The Couple Involved With The Process?

The couple’s level of involvement in planning the shower can vary widely. Some brides and/or couples want nothing to do with the planning process; they want to be totally surprised. Some want to share some generally bridal shower ideas with the host to give them direction—and others want to be involved in every step of the planning process.

If you’re planning a bridal shower, talk to the bride and ask her how involved she (and potentially her partner) would like to be in the process.

Steps To Plan The Perfect Bridal Shower

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

The bridal shower is all about the bride—so you want to make sure to talk to the bride and get her insights and opinions on what kind of wedding shower she’d like.

Some questions you may want to consider asking the bride-to-be include:

  • Does she want to open gifts? Play games?

  • Are there any bridal shower themes she would like for the shower—like a garden party or tea party?

  • 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

When and where you host the shower is another important element to consider. When choosing the data and location for the bridal shower, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind, including:

  • 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

If you’re throwing a wedding shower, you need to get clear about how much you can spend. Before you get too far into the planning process, make sure to:

  • Set a realistic budget. You want to throw a memorable event for the bride—but you don’t want to put yourself in a financially precarious situation to do so. Take a look at your finances and be realistic about what and how much you can spend.

  • Ask for help if you need it. While the host generally pays for the shower, it’s becoming more common for other loved ones to chip in; for example, if you’re the maid of honor, you might ask the bridesmaids to chip in for the shower. This will give you more money to work with—and help you throw a more memorable event (without completely breaking the bank!).

4. Finalize The Shower Guest List

While the wedding shower host takes care of most of the planning details, the one element you’ll likely want to get the couple’s input on is the guest list.

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

5. Order Paper Invitations

Bridal showers aren’t last-minute events. You need to give guests plenty of time to mark their calendars and make arrangements to attend.

If you’re ordering custom bridal shower invitations, you’ll need to order them even further in advance. 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

Whether you’re planning on having a sit down meal, a boozy bridal shower brunch, or just having finger foods for guests to snack on, planning the menu is an important part of the shower planning process.

When choosing foods, some things you’ll want to consider include:

  • 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

When you’re planning the food, don’t forget about dessert! When planning your wedding shower desserts, make sure to:

  • Set a pick up time. If you’re ordering a cake from a bakery, request a pickup time (or delivery window) either the day before or earlier in the morning on the day of the shower.

  • If you’re baking the dessert yourself, make sure to do a trial run of the recipe at least a week before the shower. You don’t want to have something go wrong with the recipe at the last minute—and then have nothing to serve to guests at the event.

  • Consider whether you want to serve coffee alongside cake or dessert, and plan accordingly.

8. Send Out Shower Invitations to Guests.

If you gave yourself enough time, about a month prior to the shower, your bridal shower invitations should have arrived—and when they do, it’s time to send them to guests.

  • Send your bridal shower invites through the post or email at least three to four weeks from the shower date.

  • If you’re sending out a digital invitation, also aim to send those out three to four weeks before the wedding shower.

  • 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.

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

Planning to toast the bride with some adult beverages? Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning the drink menu:

  • 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.

  • Make sure to have non-alcoholic options on hand for people who don’t drink.

  • 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

You want the bridal shower to feel festive and celebratory—and that means decorating the venue space.

How you decorate is up to you; shower decorations can include anything from fresh flowers in pretty vessels to candles in mason jars, paper garlands to banners or balloons, or anything else that coordinates with the shower theme.

Just make sure you give yourself time to shop for all the decorations and, if necessary, to order them and have them shipped; two to three weeks before the event is a good time frame to shop for decor.

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

If you’re going to be playing any bridal shower games, you’ll want to gather any necessary supplies beforehand. And if those supplies include any printed elements, be sure to stock up on printer toner—you don’t want to run out last minute as you’re trying to print everything out for the guests!

12. Choose and Purchase Shower Favors

If you’re going to hand out party favors to guest, you’ll want to buy or order them at least two weeks before the event—and have them packaged and ready to go to the venue on the day of the event.

Not sure what to give out as 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

There are certain things you need to throw a party—including a bridal shower—and you’ll want to shop for those things in the days leading up to the big event.

Some partyware essentials you’ll want to stock up on prior to the shower include:

  • 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:

Depending on where you’re hosting the bridal shower, you may be able to get in early (for example, the night before) to set up the space—and if you can get in early, you should take advantage of the extra set up time.

Some elements you’ll want to consider setting up the day before the shower (if possible) include:

  • 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:

The day of the shower has arrived! The hours leading up to the event are for tying up any loose ends and making sure everything (including you!) is ready for the bride’s special day, including:

  • Prepping all the final details

  • Getting dressed in your bridal shower outfit

  • Wrapping and bringing your bridal shower gift, if you’re giving one

  • Getting to the shower location a few hours early to finish setting everything up

  • Enjoying a terrific bridal shower!

Use These Tips To Plan An Unforgettable Bridal Shower

You want to plan a wedding shower that the bride will never forget. And now that you know the steps you’ll need to take to plan the perfect shower, you’re armed with the information you need to create an unforgettable event for the bride and all of the guests. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start planning that bridal shower!

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