What is a Bridal Shower? The Complete Guide

Michael Bold
Written by Michael Bold · Posted in Showers & Parties Last Updated April 13, 2023 · minute read

As if you haven’t got enough on your plate already trying to plan your wedding. Are we right? Now you keep getting asked by your besties if you’re having a bridal shower. 

According to The Knots Real Wedding Study, 72% of respondents have one before their wedding [1]. So what is a bridal shower? When’s the best time to have one? Who should you invite? Who’s paying for it? Who’s planning it? Questions questions questions.

Have no fear, Story Amour is here. We’ve got your back. 

title image for what is a bridal shower showing bridal shower scene

What is a Bridal Shower?

In this article, we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about bridal showers. From the types of things that usually happen at them to our bridal shower checklist to guarantee a successful one. 

So maybe you’re a bride? Or the maid of honor? Our aim is that you leave here confident to make yours the best experience for you and your guests. 

So grab your shower cap (or pen and paper) it’s time to dive in!

What is a Bridal Shower?

The number one question! It’s a soiree before the big day where the bride is showered with gifts from her nearest and dearest (yes we know, there’s no actual shower involved).

The bride will usually be surrounded by friends and family. The groom is usually excluded from this celebration and so are any other men. Unless your maid of honor has hired a stripper of course… Or if you’ve got male friends.  Don’t tell anyone but there aren’t any rules when it comes to bridal showers!  

The bridal shower is traditionally something that the maid of honor organizes along with the bridesmaids. Realistically though, it can be organized by anyone who fancies taking on the role. Sometimes this is the bride herself. 

Ultimately it’s a great chance to celebrate the bride, shower her with gifts and make her feel like a million dollars before her big day. As a result, it might be best to take this job out of her hands to save her from any more stress.

The bridal shower is a great opportunity to have some fun and games with the people you love in an informal way. 

Some people host them at home whilst others hire a venue or go away somewhere special. A bridal shower will be different for everyone so you need to decide what works best for you.

Related reading: What’s the difference between a bridal shower and a bachelorette party?

Who is Normally Invited to a Bridal Shower?

As we’ve already said there are no set rules when it comes to bridal showers. Who you invite is totally up to you. That being said the typical guest list for a bridal shower will usually look something like this:

  • Mother of the bride
  • Grandmother of the bride
  • Sisters
  • Aunties
  • Cousins 
  • Mother of the groom
  • Grandmother of the groom
  • Maid of honor
  • Bridesmaids
  • Friends
  • Neil the stripper (only joking, maybe save Neil for the bachelorette party!)

As you can see it’s usually female members of your family and your partners. You can of course invite male friends as well.

You shouldn’t really invite anyone to a bridal shower who won’t be attending the wedding. Sorry, Neil! 

There are obviously exceptions to this if for example someone can’t make it to the wedding but can attend the bridal shower. 

However, inviting someone to the bridal shower and not the wedding could come across as a little bit rude and may upset that person.

Who Pays for a Bridal Shower?

It’s always a tricky one when money is involved. That being said, the bridal shower is usually covered by the maid of honor and the bridesmaids. They’re usually the chief organizers.

Equally, the bride’s parents may chip in towards the costs. It should never be expected though as they’re probably already shelling out thousands of dollars to pay for the wedding.

The modern approach seems to be that everyone attending contributes. At the same time, all guests can bring their own food and drink as they would if attending a buffet or barbecue. This can help spread the cost so that it’s not just one individual footing the bill.

If you’re the organizer of the event you should think about setting a budget and sticking to it. Try to make the event affordable for everyone attending but also one that people will enjoy.

Related Reading: When Should Parents Still Pay For The Wedding?

What Usually Happens at a Bridal Shower?

So what actually goes down at a bridal shower? Well that all depends on who’s organizing it, how creative they are, and the age range of the guests attending. Only joking. A bridal party should have a much more family-friendly vibe compared to a bachelorette party.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular activities and see if any take your fancy.

Fun and games

This might be the first time that many of your family and friends are meeting. So there’s no better way to break the ice than to organize a few games. This will get everyone chatting and help them all feel relaxed.

Obviously whoever is organizing the event will have to read the room and decide the type of games they think people will be up for. 

Popular games are things like quizzes on how well the attendees know the bride, charades but the wedding edition, and wedding word scramble.

One that we really like the sound of is the toilet paper dress game. The bridal party attendees split into pairs and are tasked with making a wedding dress out of toilet paper. It’s modeled by one member of the team and then it’s up to the bride-to-be to judge the best in show. This was super fun at the last bridal party I attended.

Food and drink

Did someone say food? Yes! It’s essential for any good party but no more so than at a bridal shower. 

If you’re having a bridal shower at someone’s house the host can provide all the food. Alternatively, you could ask each guest to bring a dish and something to drink. This is a great way to make sure everyone is contributing to the overall cost.

There’s also the possibility that you could order takeout or go out for a meal. It’s really up to you and what you feel will be easiest for your guests. 


No, we’re not talking about more food. Honestly…It’s quite common for the bride to make a toast thanking her attendees for showing up to her bridal shower. 

At the same time, the maid of honor or anyone else attending might feel the urge to make a speech. This is usually an opportunity to tell everyone attending what the bride-to-be means to them personally. This can often be heartfelt so make sure there are plenty of tissues!

Gift exchanges

This is the chance to shower the bride with gifts. These gifts are traditionally items that will be useful for her and her partner once they’re married. Think of things like luggage or kitchen accessories. The thing is these are a bit boring and most couples have been living with each other well before the wedding these days. So they’ve probably got everything they need. 

Really in the modern day, the gift can be anything your guests deem appropriate. Some might create a photo album, others might give money and others will purchase from the bride’s wedding registry if she has one. 

Another popular option is to purchase a bridal subscription box that will assist the bride in her planning up until her big day. 

Alternative activities

Maybe none of the above sounds appropriate for the bridal shower you had in mind. Fear not, you can always do something a bit more adventurous. How about skydiving? Bungee jumping? The trouble is you might get a bit of kickback from some of the attendees.

What about a spa day? or a lovely organized hike? How about wine tasting?

There are so many alternative options to the traditional idea of a bridal shower. So do whatever feels right.

Our Tips for the Best Bridal Shower Etiquette

How many can you have?

We get it! You had such a fab time at your first bridal shower that you want another one? 

Whilst it can be a fun idea to split your attendees over two bridal showers it’s not particularly the norm. That being said it could work if you want to have a slightly more raucous shower and a family-friendly one for the elders and youngsters.

It’s up to you but one thing is for certain, don’t invite the same guest to two showers. Unless you explain to them that they really don’t need to get you a gift for both. Otherwise, you’ll look like a greedy bride who just wants more gifts!

How many guests should you invite?

It can be tricky to decide how many people to invite for a bridal shower as there’s no set rule. 

You don’t want to invite everyone that will be attending the wedding otherwise it could get a little bit out of hand. You also don’t want to invite so few guests that it’s a little awkward.

You’ll need to go through the list of people that we mentioned earlier in the article to find your specific number. 

Remember that this is just a guide. Perhaps you’ve got a close-knit set of 7 friends and that’s all you’re having for your bridal shower. Well, that’s fine with us! 

Just try not to exclude anyone who might be thinking they’re due an invite and no one will get offended.

Is there a dress code?

Remember what we said about bridal showers having no rules? Well, that applies to the dress code as well. 

With that being said it could be suggested that you all wear formal dresses particularly if you’re going out for a meal. Equally, a pajama party might be the vibe you’re going for and that’s fine. 

Alternatively, you could just keep it super casual and everyone just wears what they want. It’s an idea to communicate this first in the invite though. You don’t want Sinead turning up in a cocktail dress whilst Miley’s in her sweatpants. Although it could be quite funny!

Do you open gifts in front of everyone?

Not if you don’t want to! It’s totally up to the bride whether or not she opens her gift in front of her guests. 

However, the attendees may have got the bride sometime that needs opening so it’s ok to add a little bit of pressure. Guests can say something like “You’ll understand why we want you to open it now”. 

If you don’t want to open your gifts in front of everyone you should say so. You can save them for a later date to enjoy with your partner.

What Type of Gifts Should a Guest Bring to a Bridal Shower?

It’s customary for guests to bring gifts like pots and pans, and kitchen appliances but this isn’t the 50s. As we’ve said lots of couples live together nowadays long before getting married so will already have lots of these items.

So what else can you go for?

Something Small

They say good things come in small packages. You don’t have to go too extravagant on your bridal shower gift. This is particularly true if you’re also intending on getting something off the wedding registry. 

Keep it small but meaningful. A gorgeous trinket box for the bride’s jewelry, some customized champagne flutes, or what about something to add to her something borrowed, something blue, something old, and something new superstition?

A handmade element

We’ve seen this a lot at bridal showers we’ve attended and they go down a treat. A scrapbook of photos and memories is created and shared between the group of friends and family.

It’s guaranteed to have the bride in tears for all the right reasons so don’t forget the Kleenex.

You can include photos of trips you’ve all taken together. Adding items like special notes and trinkets you’ve collected over the years really adds to the personalization. This is a low-cost gift that the bride will treasure for a lifetime.


Experiences live long in the memory so think of doing something a bit different. Spa days, wine tasting, or a pasta making class are all things the bride won’t forget in a hurry. 

Obviously try to cater the experience to something you think your bride-to-be will enjoy. Perhaps a trip to Disneyland has been something she’s always wanted to do or she loves animals so a trip to the zoo might be in order.

This one could be on the pricier side so it’s best to consult with your squad and see where everyone’s heads are at.

When’s the Best Time to Have a Bridal Shower?

The perfect time for a bridal shower is not too far away from the wedding and not too close. It’s just right in the middle like Goldilocks and her porridge. In our opinion, this is about 8 weeks out from the wedding.

Allowing this amount of time means the bride can kick back and enjoy her shower. She has time to appreciate her gifts or the experiences of the day. 

At the same time, it’s not too close to the wedding date that it should cause any undue stress. A bride’s got a lot on her mind close to the wedding so this means she can focus on just that.

Whoever is planning the bridal shower will have to coordinate with all the invitees to find the perfect date. Telling people as early as possible of the potential date allows them to free up their schedule so they don’t miss out.

How Long Should a Bridal Shower Last?

Unlike the bachelorette party, the bridal shower can have a much more laid back vibe. 

They’re typically hosted either in the morning or afternoon and rarely last all day. That being said, if you want to go wine tasting in the afternoon and then go out for a tasty meal that’s totally up to you. 

How long it lasts will mostly depend on what has been planned. You can decide on a run time so that your guests know how much time to allow in their schedule. 

You don’t want people showing up thinking it’s just a few hours when you actually want them there all day.

A Checklist for the Perfect Bridal Shower

So if you’re definitely going ahead planning a bridal shower what are some things you need to tick off? Here’s our checklist that will help you along the way.

Choose a Date for the Shower

First things first you need to decide on a date for the bridal shower. The most important person who needs to be available is obviously the bride. 

If you know of any people who will inevitably be invited just check with them that they’re not planning a holiday or have any other commitments. 

If the bridal shower is a surprise, consult with the bride’s partner to make sure she’s not at work or they have a weekend away planned.

Create a Guest List

You can work with the bride to come up with a list of invitees. This should be a lot easier to decide than who you invite to your wedding so shouldn’t take too long. As we’ve already said this will likely be the female contingent of friends and family members.

Send out Invites

Once you’ve finalized your guest list it’s time to choose some invites. 

You could do this by creating some lovely custom invites in a similar fashion to your wedding invites. Or you could go for a less formal approach and create a Whatsapp group for the bridal shower. Whatever works for you and your situation. 

It’s important that you give your invitees all the vital deets. What’s the date of the bridal shower? Where is it? What time is it starting? 

You could also specify the dress code and whether a gift is expected. Don’t forget to add an RSVP so that potential guests can let you know if they can’t make it.

Select a Theme for Your Shower

Whether or not you have a theme for the bridal shower will largely depend on the type of event you’ve planned. 

Maybe you want to create a rustic vintage vibe with place settings and a menu that matches. 

Equally, you might have in mind a more formal theme. It’s not a requirement to have a theme for your bridal shower but it will look good in photos and will create a special environment.

Pick out the Perfect Venue

The bridal shower tends to take place at the home of the host. However, that’s not always appropriate especially if you’re having a lot of guests. 

If you’re choosing a venue such as a restaurant or a hotel make sure they’re ok with hosting a bridal shower. It should be fine but it’s just a good idea to check so they can place you in the best location. 

Another idea is to think about hiring an Airbnb for a night. You’ll be able to find somewhere with plenty of space for all the guests as well as stay over to tidy up from the shower the next day.

Decide What You’ll Eat

If you’re serving food at the bridal shower, consider what your crew do and don’t eat. Are there any vegetarians in your squad? Vegans? Or people with allergies? Chances are you’ll know these already but if there are certain people you haven’t met yet it’s something to consider.

The type of food you choose will inevitably be determined by the time the bridal shower is being hosted. A buffet and light finger food might be suitable for an afternoon bridal shower. Whereas a full-on meal might be more appropriate for a nighttime affair.

Sort out the Decor

The decor is something that can be handled by the host or you can call in the pros. You’ll know in your heart of hearts whether this is something you want to take on. 

You should think about this well in advance though. If you’re hiring professionals, particularly at the weekend the odds of them already being booked are very high.

At the same time, some people just have the knack for getting decor right. Trust your gut if that is you and make sure to pick colors and materials that you know your bride-to-be will love.

You could also consider getting loads of photos printed of your invitees with the bride. Hang these all around the venue. The bride-to-be will really enjoy looking through them all and remembering the good times she’s had with you all.

Plan Some Games

Planning some light-hearted games to play at a bridal shower can always be fun. You can tailor a quiz to questions about the bride or her partner. Or you could play a ready made game. 

Maybe don’t whip out cards against humanity if Grandma Sheila is attending though…Although it’s totally up to you. 

Just make sure you think about any games in advance so you have plenty of time to buy props if necessary.

Think about a Bridal Shower Playlist

Some background music is always a good way to set the vibe for a bridal shower. 

Create a playlist on Spotify yourself or ask for people’s favorite songs in a Whatsapp group. This way you’ll have songs that everyone in attendance can enjoy.

Make sure the bride has the final say though. If she really doesn’t like Taylor Swift (we know she’s mad) but that’s her choice!


Well, there you have it you can remove your shower cap now…hopefully you’re a little clearer on what a bridal shower is. 

The bridal shower as the name suggests is all about the bride. That being said, it’s also a great opportunity for all the guests who are invited to celebrate their friend or family member.

So whether you’re the maid of honor, the mother of the bride, or the bride herself it’s time to get planning.

Remember that there are no rules when it comes to bridal showers. Heck, you don’t even have to have one if you don’t want one! But who doesn’t want to be showered with gifts?!

Equally, if the bride-to-be isn’t keen on this tradition there are loads of things you could do instead. Just call it something like an unofficial bridal shower and make it much less formal without the usual traditions.

If you are going ahead with one, remember the keys to a successful one that we’ve provided you in this post. We wish you luck and you shouldn’t fail to put a smile on everyone’s face.


[1] – https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-shower-vs-bridal-shower