A wedding shower is a pretty traditional event, but the rules for what's appropriate and what's super awkward are changing all the time. Don't worry if you're not sure about what's proper bridal shower etiquette these days; we have you covered with the basics you'll need to avoid any of those cringe-worthy moments and keep the focus on the guest of honor and her joy.
When it comes to the pre-wedding parties, the bridal shower is a classic for a good reason. It helps set the couple up with everything they need to start a life together, and it welcomes the bride into the world of married women and her new family. There are just a few rules to follow to make everything go smoothly, whether you're hosting the shower, attending the event, or enjoying the afternoon as the guest of honor.
Who Is Supposed to Throw the Bridal Shower?
For years, it was considered poor etiquette for any member of the couples's family to host the shower, but this is changing. You can more or less throw this old rule out the window. It's now proper etiquette for the mother of the bride to host the shower, as well as anyone else who is close to the couple.
Sisters, the maid of honor, good friends, co-workers, and anyone else who knows the guest of honor well can host a shower. And don't forget the guys and non-binary folks; hosting a shower isn't only for people who identify as women. If you care about the couple and want to help them celebrate, feel free to start planning a shower.
The person or people hosting the shower usually pay for the event, including food, decorations, and drinks. Hosting as a group is perfectly acceptable and can help spread out the costs.
Are You Always Supposed to Bring a Gift to a Bridal Shower?
If you're attending a shower, it's almost always expected you will bring a gift unless the invitation explicitly states otherwise. Generally, the couple has a registry, and it's nice to shop off of that. Your shower gift is usually less expensive than the wedding gift, but the exact amount depends on your budget and how well you know the guest of honor. Bring the gift with you to the shower, since the gift opening is often part of the event.
One exception to the bridal shower etiquette rule of always giving a gift is the person or people hosting the shower. Because hosting can be expensive, the shower is the gift in this case. It's still nice to give a little something as a token, but the gift can be smaller that you might otherwise buy.
What Are the Bridal Shower Rules for Who to Invite?
Because the shower is a wedding event, the basic rule is that you should only invite people who are invited to the wedding. Like a lot of etiquette rules, this is about avoiding social weirdness and hurt feelings. If you're hosting the shower, check with the couple about the guest list before you send out the shower invitations.
Of course, there's an exception to this rule, just like almost all etiquette guidelines surrounding weddings. If you're hosting an office shower for someone, don't worry about whether people are invited to the wedding. It's understood that not everyone will be going, but the group you want to include here is everyone the person works with or all members of your team.
What's the Etiquette Difference Between a Shower and Bachelorette Party?
When it comes to etiquette, there's a giant difference between a bridal shower and a bachelorette party. Confusing these two pre-wedding events is pretty much guaranteed to result in one of those awkward social moments that's hard to forget.
Showers usually involve people of all ages, and they are mostly about showering the couple with gifts they will use in setting up their new home. The bride or groom's grandma might be there, so this is not the time to give gifts of naughty lingerie or your favorite items for spicing things up in the bedroom. Those are bachelorette party gifts. If everyone else is giving oven mitts and mixers and you're giving a lace teddy, it's guaranteed to be weird.
What Should You Wear to a Bridal Shower?
One of the old-fashioned bridal shower traditions was that you dress up in pretty floral or pastel dresses or skirts when attending this type of event, but things have totally changed here. The type of shower you're attending will affect what you wear, and almost no one dresses up a ton for a shower these days.
If the shower has a casual theme (like a picnic, luau, BBQ, or similar), wear something casual but cute. Think nice jeans and a cute top or a sundress. If it's a garden party, wear a floral print or pretty color. Otherwise, just go with something nice that you'd wear to work or an upscale lunch.
What's the Wedding Shower Etiquette for Destination Weddings?
Wedding shower etiquette gets a little non-traditional when it comes to destination weddings. First off, you can have a shower and invite people who aren't going to the wedding (since destination weddings tend to be small). Just stick with a group of people who are close to the couple and know the wedding won't be happening locally. This can be a chance for them to celebrate with the couple, even if they can't attend the wedding itself.
It's also a good idea to remember that attending a destination wedding is expensive. If you're inviting people who are attending, you might want to skip the traditional gift-giving requirement and note in the invitation that no gifts are expected. That way, people can save their budget for the wedding itself and still celebrate at the shower.
Should You Call It a Wedding Shower or a Bridal Shower?
What you call the shower may not seem like a big deal, but it's actually one of those etiquette rules that can matter a lot. Traditionally, only the bride had a shower, and it was only attended by women. These days, that's definitely not the rule.
The guest of honor at a shower may not identify as female and consider themselves the bride, so the language you use here is important. Only say "bridal shower" if the person getting married calls themselves a bride. Otherwise, "wedding shower" is more appropriate. If the shower is for the couple (totally common now), "couple's shower" or "wedding shower" are both good terms to use.
Is It a Rule That You Have to Have a Shower?
It's absolutely not a rule that everyone getting married will have a shower. In fact, if it's a second wedding, a non-traditional event, or just not the style of the couple, it's totally normal not to have a shower. Don't stress about this type of etiquette rule. It's really about what's right for the couple.
What's the Right Timing for a Wedding Shower?
Traditionally, a shower happens about three months before the wedding, but there's a ton of wiggle room these days. You can have it any time before the wedding, as long as the wedding is happening sometime in the next six months or so (just to make sure the two events are connected).
What time a bridal shower should start is totally up to you, too. You could do a brunch and have the shower start in the late morning or make it a cocktail party and kick things off in the evening. Just allow at least two or three hours for guests to arrive, mingle, open gifts if you're doing that, and have some food and drinks.
Send shower invitations (by mail or email) at least a month before the event. That's important because it gives guests time to plan.
Should the Guest of Honor Bring a Host Gift?
The bride or guest of honor should bring a host or hostess gift for the person arranging the shower. This is a nice way to show how much you appreciate the work and expense that went into the event. You can't go wrong with a nice note and a gift certificate to a restaurant. A bouquet of flowers is also a great option.
Wedding Shower Etiquette Is About Considering Others' Feelings
Ultimately, wedding shower etiquette is all about considering the feelings of others. Make people feel included and appreciated (and spare Grandma the awkwardness of watching her grandkid open a copy of the Kama Sutra), and you're really all set. If you're ever in doubt about whether something is against the wedding shower rules, just ask yourself whether it could hurt anyone's feelings or be weird in any way. If not, you're good to go.