Bridal shower etiquette: A woman pours champagne into other women's glasses

It’s an honor and a lot of fun to be in charge of hosting the bridal shower ahead of the wedding. With activities to plan and an invite list to build, playing host to this fun event can bring up all sorts of questions about bridal shower etiquette and traditions.

Plan your loved one’s shower like a pro with our simple guide to bridal shower etiquette.

The Basics

New to bridal showers and all things wedding? Let’s take a look at the basics of bridal showers along with traditional and modern takes on the celebration.

What Is a Bridal Shower?

A bridal shower is a gathering that takes place before the wedding to honor the bride. It’s a chance for her closest friends and family members to get together and celebrate the occasion. Like baby showers, a bridal shower gives people the chance to “shower” the guest of honor with love, time, and gifts.

Traditionally, a bridal shower is a female-only event that involves the bride’s loved ones. That doesn’t always have to be the case though, with many modern brides ditching the barriers and inviting their nearest and dearest, both male and female.

What’s a Couple’s Shower?

It’s traditional for the bridal shower to be all about the bride-to-be. But, some couples are opting for a more inclusive celebration, known as a couple’s shower or wedding shower.

A couple’s shower is very similar to a bridal shower, only it’s to celebrate both parties at one event. As this event brings together loved ones from both family and friend groups, it’s a lovely way for everyone to meet and spend time together before the wedding.

Who Should Host a Bridal Shower?

There are no rules around who should host a bridal shower. Each couple and each wedding is different. Traditionally, a bridal shower is hosted by a female friend close to the bride. This is often the maid of honor or a member of the bridal party or wedding party, but you don’t have to stick with tradition.

It used to be considered a wedding faux pas for the soon-to-be newlyweds or the bride’s family to host the shower. This was based on the idea that the purpose of a bridal shower was to provide gifts to the bride, so having the bride or her family host would have been seen as asking for gifts for themselves. These days, that’s less of a concern. Anyone is welcome to host a bridal shower or couple’s shower — even the bride or the couple.

Should It Be a Surprise for the Bride?

In the movies a bridal shower is often shown as a beautiful surprise for the bride-to-be. While some people love this moment, other brides may want to be actively involved in the planning.

If you’re hosting, ask the bride how involved she wants to be. That way, you know you’re respecting her wishes and can plan based on what she’d like to help with. If the bride would like a big surprise, enlist help from the bridesmaids and swear them to secrecy.


Bridal shower etiquette: a flamingo shower invitation

Design: National Park Foundation

Building the perfect guest list for any event can be tricky. Keep these etiquette tips in mind and you’ll be able to manage guests, invitations, and RSVPs with confidence.

When Should the Bridal Shower Be?

While there’s no hard rules around when a bridal shower takes place, you’ll want it to fall within the few months leading up to the ceremony.

Many hosts plan bridal showers to happen three months to three weeks before the wedding. Check in with the bride and ask if she has a special date in mind, and check that your intended date doesn’t conflict with her calendar or other wedding events like the bachelorette party. If the wedding timeline is especially short, you might plan the shower to happen as close as a week before the big day. If in doubt, take cues from the bride-to-be and her family.

Who Should Get an Invite?

Bridal showers are traditionally small gatherings of close friends and family of the bride. This means they’re usually an intimate affair, although with a couple’s shower you’ll likely have a larger guest list. Ask your guest (or guests) of honor to help create the bridal shower guest list, or seek advice from their closest confidants if you’re planning a surprise shower.

Etiquette suggests that guests invited to the bridal shower or couple’s shower should also be invited to the wedding day. An exception here would be an office shower. Many workplaces want to rally around their coworker and celebrate the upcoming event, even though they’re unlikely to be wedding guests.

How and When Should Invites Be Sent Out?

You’ll want to give your guests enough notice to make it to your event, so aim to send your bridal shower invitations 4-6 weeks in advance.

Traditionally, any wedding correspondence would be sent out in the mail. Thanks to modern technology, you can now send digital invitations via email. This is a great way to make sure everyone’s invitations arrive safely and to keep track of your RSVPs.

Planning the Shower

Bridal shower etiquette: A table of desserts and decorations

It’s time to take a look at the details. From bridal shower activities to themes and dress codes, here’s what to consider when bridal shower planning.

Where Should the Bridal Shower Take Place?

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to bridal shower venues. Some hosts want to gather everyone at their home to celebrate while others book a restaurant or bar for a catered event.

Take inspiration from your guest(s) of honor and ask what they’d like. If they want a casual celebration, a pot luck dinner with champagne at the host’s home works well. For some brides, a spa day or an evening of cocktails at their favorite bar is ideal.

What Normally Happens at a Bridal Shower?

Like all things wedding, the choice is yours. There’s no set structure for bridal showers, and they’re often relaxed enough to allow the conversation and celebration to flow naturally. Still, you’ll want to have a rough idea of how the event will develop.

Most hosts will set aside time for a meal or drinks and snacks. You can also organize party games if your bride is on board with this. If traditional bridal shower games aren’t their thing, consider planning an activity for everyone to get involved. Flower arranging, beauty treatments, and wine tastings are popular choices. Lastly, it’s traditional for the bride to be presented with gifts during the shower. Some brides may prefer not to do the bridal shower gift opening in person, so check with them first.

How Long Do Showers Usually Last?

It may come as a relief to hosts to know that bridal showers don’t need to last all day. Most guests expect bridal showers to last a few hours, so anywhere in the 2-4 hour window is ideal.

Some bridal showers last longer than others. If you’re heading to a spa for a relaxing afternoon, there’s no need to put a time cap on enjoying a late lunch afterwards. The same goes for late afternoon events that may carry on into the night. The key is to keep your guests informed. Include a time range on your bridal shower invitation or say if they’re welcome to join you until late.

Does There Need to Be a Theme?

There’s no etiquette that dictates whether a bridal shower or couples shower should be themed. There’s plenty of freedom to plan an event based around your guest(s) of honor’s personality and style.

If you choose a themed shower, traditional bridal shower themes include afternoon tea or a champagne brunch. Other bridal shower ideas and themes include garden parties, spa days, and movie nights. Consult your bride or couple and pick up a few ideas from them. They may want to keep it simple or opt for something more wild.

Should There Be a Dress Code?

With all events a clear dress code can help your guests feel more comfortable. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve worried that we’ll be the only guest in a suit or turn up feeling underdressed.

Calm your guests’ nerves and let them know more about the event with a simple dress code. Many bridal showers are laid back and relaxed, so a casual dress code is perfect. If you’re heading out to a glamorous restaurant, something more formal may be required.

Can There Be More Than One Bridal Shower?

It’s common for more than one bridal or couples shower to take place. Your happy couple might have more than one friend group, each eager to throw a party in their honor.

When you consider family, the bridal party, friends, and work colleagues, there’s the potential for several showers before the big day. If you can, get in touch with the other shower hosts and coordinate. It’s fine to invite guests to multiple showers, but you’ll want to make sure the dates for your events don’t clash.

Should There Be a Gift Registry?

Like with weddings, there’s no requirement for a gift registry for bridal showers. By the time you send out shower invitations, your bride or couple are likely to have registered somewhere, so you can feature these details with your invitation if you like. It’s also fine not to mention gifts or registry information on the invitation. Most guests will bring a gift according to tradition, but you could also state if you’d prefer charity donations or no gift at all.

Plan With Confidence

With your bridal shower etiquette questions answered, you’re free to plan the party of your guest of honor’s dreams. Set a date, create your guest list, and start thinking about themes and things to do.

Hosting any celebration can be a challenge, but with this etiquette guide you’ll be on your way to feeling confident and excited about planning a bridal shower or couple’s shower that’s full of love.