The Complete Guide to Bridal Shower Etiquette
By Lorna Urwin

20 October 2016

These days wedding celebrations extend into an array of different events besides the wedding itself. While a bridal shower is by no means obligatory, it can be a lovely opportunity for close friends to get together, show their love for the bride and celebrate their excitement for the forthcoming nuptials in style! It’s also a great way to gather together older generations of women, who may not be so comfortable in the party atmosphere of the hen's do. If you’re thinking about throwing one, or just curious to know what they’re all about, read on for our guide to bridal shower etiquette.

1/ What?

Image by Josh Deaton

By nature, the bridal shower is actually all about gifts! It was originally developed as an alternative to the dowry for lower income families in Europe. Friends and neighbours would ‘shower’ the bride-to-be with thoughtful gifts to help her set up her household and show their love and support as she stepped into her new married life. 
Both the shower and the bachelorette/hen party are traditionally women-only events and both are all about honouring the bride (the bride can be involved if she wishes, or not – you may prefer to keep the event a surprise). But the shower differs in that it’s usually a daytime affair. It’s more about chatting, sipping cocktails and opening gifts together than partying and letting your hair down.

Despite the women-only tradition, couples’ or “Jack and Jill” showers are growing in popularity in recent times. In this case, both male and female relatives and friends attend and gifts are given to the couple rather than just the bride.

2/ Who hosts?

Image by Love & Light Photographs

Though she’s not required to do so, traditionally the maid of honour will take the lead with the support of the bridesmaids. Where this isn’t convenient, any of the bridesmaids, other friends or relatives may step in. Though in the past it was considered a faux pas for immediate family members to host (due to the perception that the bride is asking for gifts through her family), these days it’s perfectly fine for your mother or sister to host too. If they’re the logical choice, let them go for it!

3/ Who attends?

Image by Anna With Love Photography

The single most important thing to remember is that shower guests must also be invited to the wedding. It’s considerate of the host to consult with the bride on this subject to ensure no one is left out! The number of guests will be completely up to the host, but bear in mind that a bridal shower is usually an intimate affair with the bride’s nearest and dearest. 
The question of whether to go for a traditional girls-only party or hold a couples’ shower will come down to the bride’s preference. 

4/ When?

Image by Ainsley Rose Photography

There’s no hard and fast rule for timing. Practically speaking, you’ll need to wait until a few key wedding decisions have been made – the date should be set, bridesmaids and maid of honor chosen, guest list finalized and registry set up (assuming details will be included with your shower invites). 
Consider a date 1-3 months before the wedding to ensure breathing space between the shower and the wedding itself, but remember that individual circumstances are the most significant factor. The timing will need to suit the bride and the majority her guests. 

When the date is set, be sure to give the invitees plenty of advance notice (sending out invites at least six weeks ahead of time is a good idea).

5/ Where?

Image by Rebecca Yale Photography

The general location of the shower will depend on where the bride and most of the guests are based, but the specifics all come down to the host, the style of the event, the theme and budget. Hosting at home can be just as fun as booking a restaurant, spa or other specialist venues!

6/ Cost

Image by Nadia Hung Photography

It is customary for the cost to be shouldered by the host(s) of the shower. If it involves some form of activity, like wine tasting or a flower-arranging class, they may want to ask guests to chip in ahead of time to help cover costs. The bride, however, shouldn’t be expected to pay towards an event held in her honour.
If cost is a concern, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to approach bridal shower planning. Hold the party at home, ask guests to bring a dish each for food and get creative with DIY décor! Another way to keep costs down for everyone is to ask for thoughtful tokens rather than gifts. Asking guests to bring a recipe, a piece of marriage advice or a memory from their friendship with bride can spark wonderful discussions around these themes and their significance to the giver. They can also be written on pretty card and collated into a sweet keepsake for the bride!

7/ Saying thank you

Images by Anna Roussos and Le Hai Linh 

Brides should be sure to show gratitude to the host with a thoughtful handwritten thank you note. Some brides may also choose to show their appreciation with a gift, whether that be a bouquet of flowers, treating the host to lunch or some luxury toiletries or stationery.
Naturally, you’ll also want to write personal thank you notes to each of your guests for their presence and gifts! Keep track of who gave what on the day to make this task easier and then ensure you write and post them promptly after the event.