Why Have a Bridal Shower?
A bridal shower is a fun way for a woman's friends and family to celebrate her, prior to the wedding. As they "shower" her with gifts, they prepare her to start her own household. Historically, bridal showers started when women wanted to marry "unsuitable husbands" and thus their families refused to provide a dowry. Friends of the couple gathered to pitch in and make up for the lack of a dowry by helping them set up house. Today, they are a time to share stories, eat great food, and pay special attention to the bride.
Who Throws the Bridal Shower?
Typically, the maid of honor hosts the bridal shower, unless she is a member of the bride's immediate family. (Many etiquette guides frown on a family member hosting, because it looks like she's trying to get gifts for the bride. Often the mother of the bride and/or the bride's sister will still be involved, just not technically be the host. Others realize that in this modern world, a relative is sometimes the only appropriate host.)
For an informal, or casual shower, the maid of honor or host picks up all the costs. For a more elaborate shower, she may talk to the other bridesmaids and get them to agree on chipping in or splitting costs at the beginning of the planning process. And of course she can, and should, ask the other bridesmaids to help with set up, planning, decorating, etc.
Where to Have the Bridal Shower
Frequently, it takes place at a bridesmaid's home, but you can choose any place where you like to throw a party, such as a favorite restaurant, a park, a beach, or the zoo. You can also choose to have theme showers at paint-your-own-pottery studios, beauty salons, galleries or other favorite party spots. It's okay to not pick up all costs, as long as you tell guests beforehand. For example, an invitation to a restaurant shower might say "We'll celebrate with a dutch lunch (entrees cost about $10) followed by cake and champagne in the garden" or a spa invitation might say "We've got the room reserved at XYZ spa. Call the spa directly to book your appointment. Instead of a present, bring $25 to pay for the bride's treatments and send her on her way with a deluxe spa gift certificate
When to Have the Bridal Shower
The shower should take place anywhere from 6 months before to the week of the wedding. If many guests are traveling from out of town, it may make sense to have it close to the wedding, so they can attend. Otherwise, it can be nice to have it four months or more before the wedding, so that it will add to anticipation, without adding to a bride's last minute stress. (Some etiquette guides say to wait until after the wedding invitations have gone out, but I think it's fine to do it earlier, as long as all shower invitees will definitely be invited to the wedding itself.) As for time of day, the traditional time is Sunday afternoon, but really any time day or night is fine.
Do You Need to have a Bridal Shower?
It's up to you, and your bridal party! While it's often a very fun afternoon, some bride's feel uncomfortable with the attention. Others may not want to ask their friends for more gifts. Make sure the bride wants a shower before starting to plan one.
Who Should You Invite?
Start off by asking the bride for a guest list! (If it's a surprise, talk to her mother, or her fiancé). You'll want to make sure that you're not inviting anyone who won't be invited to the wedding, and the only way to know that is to ask directly. Remember to invite close female relatives of both the bride and groom, as well as all the women in the wedding party and the bride's close friends. While bridal showers are traditionally all women, today, many are co-ed affairs celebrating both the bride and groom.
What Happens During a Shower?
You'll find that most of the party will be spent eating, laughing, telling stories and opening presents. Food can be as simple as picnic staples and crudite to an elaborate spread with a theme related to the couple. As the bride open presents, have some nice music playing in the background. Make thank-you note writing easier by picking someone to write down the gifts and their giver. If you're having the party at home, you may want to have some bridal shower games
to keep the party moving.