Bridal showers have been a popular American tradition for over a hundred years, but they’ve only just begun to work their way into the British wedding customs. If you’re thinking of throwing a bridal shower for a friend who’s tying the knot (or having one thrown for you), you may be wondering what they’re all about.
So, what exactly is a bridal shower and how do you throw a great one? A bridal shower is essentially a party thrown for a bride-to-be. The whole point is to ‘shower’ the lucky fiancée in gifts (hence the name). Usually, bridal showers are only attended by women that have been invited to the wedding.
This guide will talk you through everything from where to host a bridal shower, to what food to serve, how to decorate the room and what games and activities to include. We’ll offer up our favourite tips and tricks for how to make your bridal shower exciting and unforgettable!
What Is a Bridal Shower? (The Basics)
Bridal showers first began in the 1890s in the United States as informal, spontaneous gatherings for the bride-to-be. Over the years, they’ve transformed into more carefully planned and highly anticipated pre-wedding events.
Who Hosts the Bridal Shower, and Who’s Invited?
Typically, the bride herself isn’t involved in planning the bridal shower. Instead, the Maid of Honour, bridesmaids, or a close female relative (such as the Mother of the Bride) will act as the host.
Anyone who’s invited to the shower should also be invited to the wedding. Traditionally, only women attend the bridal shower, but this isn’t a strict rule nowadays. You can have as many guests as you like, but bear in mind that whoever hosts the shower is expected to pay for it.
The bride should know when and where the shower is happening, but the details can be kept as a surprise.
What Happens At a Bridal Shower?
Bridal showers usually take place in the afternoon. The most important part of a bridal shower is, of course, the opening of gifts. Typically, there’s also some form of entertainment, in the form of fun games or activities.
Food and drink are also served at bridal showers, though usually not in the form of a formal sit-down meal. Buffets, canapes and snacks are more common.
When Is the Bridal Shower Held?
A bridal shower is held somewhere between 12 weeks to 2 weeks before the wedding (usually around 6 weeks out).
Invitations should be sent out roughly 4-6 weeks before the event. You can send paper invitations, or simply invite people through telephone, e-mail or Facebook (for example). It all depends upon how formal you want the shower to be.
What Gifts Do You Give at a Bridal Shower?
Normally, the bride doesn’t make a gift list or registry for her shower. Guests can either choose gifts from the wedding gift registry, or select something off-registry.
There isn’t a set amount that guests have to spend on a gift. Somewhere between £10 and £50 is normal. The gift could be for the home (e.g. a set of placemats) or for the bride herself (e.g. a bottle of fancy hand lotion).
Where Can You Host a Bridal Shower?
There are many options when it comes to the bridal shower’s venue. Really, it depends on the host’s budget, and how many guests will be invited.
Usually, bridal showers are held at the host’s home. If the host’s home isn’t big enough, or they live out of town, it could also be held at the home of one of the guests (such as one of the bridesmaids, or the mother of the bride).
But if you prefer, there’s nothing stopping you from hiring a venue, such as a function room at a hotel, church, or town hall. You could even rent out an Airbnb for a day, and host it there.
Want to go all-out? Here are some fun and alternative bridal shower venues:
1) Vineyard or winery (wine-tasting, anyone?)
2) Theme park
3) Fancy restaurant
5) Gazebo at a local park
The bridal shower’s venue should always be somewhere close to the guests – ideally no more than an hour’s drive away from where most people live.
Bridal Shower Decoration Ideas
A bridal shower doesn’t necessarily have to have a theme, but the decorations should at least look cohesive and have a certain colour scheme. You could choose the same colour scheme/theme as the wedding itself, or something entirely different.
Here are some ideas:
1) Buntings, banners and wall hangings
2) Flowers (real or artificial)
3) Fairy lights
4) Table centrepieces (think vases of flowers, glass beads, or natural wood)
6) Backdrop for photographs (you could even have a photo booth!)
7) Tablecloths and chair covers with bows
You can make the decorations, purchase them, or hire them. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the end result is something you know the bride will be happy with. Often, less is more - so if in doubt, go with something simple and elegant.
And obviously, if you’re hosting the shower at a theme park, spa, or the like, you don’t need to worry about decorations at all. Focus on the food and fun instead!
What Food Do You Have At a Bridal Shower?
There are no rules when it comes to bridal shower food. Obviously, the bride’s own dietary preferences and tastes should be taken into account first and foremost.
For example, if you know the bride really likes Indian food, this could be a great jumping-off point. Order a spread from a local Indian takeaway, or create your own Indian-inspired buffet with onion bhajis, samosas, poppadoms and dips.
Some of the most popular foods at bridal showers include:
1) Afternoon tea (miniature cakes, scones with jam and cream, sandwiches)
2) Hot or cold finger buffet (cold meats and bread, sausage rolls, quiche, etc)
3) Retro party food (mini sausages, jam tarts, cheese and pineapple on sticks)
4) Light bites (crudités with various dips, cheese and crackers, fruit salad)
5) Brunch foods (French toast, pancakes, yoghurt, etc)
Feel free to think outside the box. Would the bride just love a takeaway pizza party? Would she prefer a sit-down meal at her favourite restaurant? What about an American-style potluck, where each guests brings a dish to share?
Make sure to be mindful of guests’ allergies and dietary restrictions, and don’t forget the drinks. Cocktails, wine and/or prosecco are pretty standard, but remember to include alcohol-free options.
Traditionally, bridal showers (like baby showers) involve games and activities of some description. Not only are games fun, but they also help to break the ice! Many of the guests at the shower won’t have met before, after all. Games help the shower guests get to know each other, which in turn means they’ll feel more comfortable chatting on the wedding day.
Here are some popular and fun bridal shower games.
1) Bride or Groom? Make a list of funny or shocking things that the bride or groom has done in the past. The guests have to guess whether it was the bride or groom that did it.
2) Taboo. Decide on a taboo word, such as ‘wedding’ or ‘bride’. Give each guest a peg to wear on their top. If anyone hears another guest saying the taboo word, they get to take their clothespin. The person with the most pegs at the end of the shower wins!
3) Vintage party games, with a wedding twist – e.g. wedding movie charades, Pictionary with wedding-related clues, or ‘pin the moustache on the groom’.
4) Wedding toast ‘Chinese whispers’. Someone makes up a short wedding speech, and whispers it into their neighbour’s ear. The toast gets passed around the room until it gets to the bride, who then has to read it aloud.
5) Two truths and a lie: each guest tells the group two true things about herself, and one lie. Everyone has to guess which statement is false. (Great for getting to know each other!)
6) Ring hunt. Purchase several cheap plastic rings and hide them around the venue before the guests arrive. Whoever finds the most rings by the end of the shower wins a prize!
7) Bridal shower gift bingo. Each guest fills in an empty bingo card with gifts that they think the bride is likely to receive. As the bride opens her gifts, everyone plays bingo. The first person to get five gifts correct in a row is the winner.
If the bride isn’t a big fan of party games, you could always go for a different kind of shower activity instead. Why not buy a stack of canvases and get each guest to follow a Bob Ross painting tutorial? Or buy a set of nail polishes and have all the guests give each other manicures. You could even attend a class together, such as a chocolate-making or wine-tasting class. The only limit is your imagination – and your budget!