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As the world changes, so do wedding trends. Everyone has their own idea of their perfect wedding, from the engagement party to the final moments of the reception and onto the honeymoon!
The bridal shower, though, can be a headache for brides if you aren’t sure how to handle the formalities of it – or if you even want to have one. There can be a lot of pressure to have a traditional shower, even if that’s not exactly what you want.
So what does one have to do when it comes to throwing a bridal shower? Do you have to have one? How do you plan one if you decide to have one? Who should be invited? Don’t worry – I’ve researched everything out there about showers and asked brides all the questions, so you don’t have to.
Keep reading for more information on why you might want to consider having a bridal shower, and when to skip one altogether.
Do you have to throw a bridal shower?
This is your wedding, so whatever you want is what you should get. While some brides like to stick to the typical and traditional style of the bridal shower, other brides like to break the rules.
You don’t need to have a bridal shower for your wedding. Traditionally, bridal showers supplied couples with home essentials before they started their lives together. With more and more couples living together before marriage, showers have become less of a necessity and more of a fun way to celebrate a bride by showering her with gifts and well wishes.
The truth is, you don’t have to throw a bridal shower if it’s not your vibe. If your family or your bridal party is making it a horrible experience, you don’t have to do it. If you’re really excited about celebrating your engagement with a bridal shower and you’re having a pleasant experience planning, go for it! It really is all about what you and your S.O. want.
I talked to one bride who started off going the traditional route but decided she really wanted to experience that with her husband-to-be, so he came to the shower despite the original plan, which was so fun for both of them. Another bride I know had a strict no-men rule, and another shower I went to was all genders – everyone in the party and both the bride and groom’s families were invited.
Why are bridal showers important?
Bridal showers and their traditions date back all the way to 16th century Holland – it started when a girl’s father disapproved of her marriage and refused to pay her dowry. To show their support for the couple, the whole town got together and “showered” her with gifts so she could start her home and new life with her husband without the money from her dowry.
Bridal showers are important for couples just starting their lives together who may need dishes, appliances and other essentials for their new family. Showers can also help fund big purchases after the wedding such as a honeymoon or downpayment on a house. They are a traditional way for a bride and groom’s community of family and friends to support the marriage.
This idea of providing couples with gifts to build their new home is still honored today, whether it’s through the bridal shower or just facilities given at the reception from the registry. It’s still an important part of the wedding process for couples, especially when they are just beginning to move in together. Couples who already live together can find alternatives to the typical bridal shower whether that’s a couples shower or registering for different types of gifts like a honeymoon or house fund.
How is a Bridal Shower Different from a Bachelorette Party?
As mentioned, a bridal shower is a party that, traditionally, is meant to help the bride in her life with her new husband by providing the couple with everything they will need to start their lives together.
A bridal shower is different from a bachelorette party in three key ways: it is usually held during the day while bachelorette parties are held at night; showers include gift giving as a main activity while gifts are not typically given at bachelorette parties; and the tone of a bridal shower is typically subdued and conservative while bachelorette parties can be raucous and risqué.
A bachelorette party is a night of festivities planned to honor the bride on her “last night of freedom.” While they are traditionally held the night before the wedding and are kept to one night of getting into trouble with your closest girlfriends, it’s more common now to whisk the bride away for a weekend. Some popular bachelorette party destinations include beaches like Cape May and cities like Nashville or Charleston.
What do you call a Bridal Shower for Both Bride and Groom?
For the couples who decided to host a shower that welcomes all genders, you might be wondering what you should call your get-together. The term “bridal shower” is really only supposed to refer to a party with the women.
A bridal shower for both the bride and groom is called a couples shower, wedding shower or a jack and jill shower. It allows for both partners in a marriage to be celebrated equally and includes guests of all genders. Co-ed wedding showers are becoming more and more popular for couples.
There are a few different names you can give to your shower. A lot of couples chose to make it simple by referring to it as their wedding shower. Traditionally a shower that includes a bride and groom is called a Jack and Jill shower, though the term has become a bit outdated.
Modern weddings don’t focus on just a man and woman becoming man and wife – people of all genders are now able to get married in front of everyone they love, so most are doing away with gender-specific titles for showers and even the bachelor and bachelorette parties.
You should title everything however you’re comfortable.
Reasons Not To Have A Bridal Shower
Given your unique circumstances and dreams for how you want the process of getting married to be, you may not want to have a bridal shower at all. Here are some popular reasons couples choose to forego the traditional bridal shower altogether:
The timing isn’t right
Some couples’ reasoning for not having a bridal shower is simple – they may not have enough time. This could be based on things going on in their lives or because they have a tighter deadline for their actual wedding.
If you’re planning a wedding on a tight timeline, make sure you check out this post on planning a last minute wedding for more tips.
Maybe you’re rushing to Vegas or the courthouse on a whim and simply don’t want to think about anything other than getting married. That’s a great reason not to have a shower. Especially if you’re working on avoiding the family pressures of wedding culture entirely.
You can read more about planning a micro-wedding or elopement here.
You don’t need gifts
Especially now, there are a lot of couples that already live together, so the idea of a bridal shower is unnecessary for them. The future married couple might not need new pots and pans or towel sets for the apartment they’ve already been living in for years. This is a great reason to skip the shower.
You just don’t want to have a bridal shower
You don’t have to have a grand reason to skip the shower – you may just not want to do it. The idea of the whole event just isn’t your thing? That’s ok! Marriage and weddings are about what you and your significant other want. It’s not about pleasing everyone in your life by throwing a party you don’t want to have.
Telling everyone you don’t want to have a bridal shower
There might be people who want you to have a shower even if you don’t want to. In that case, it’s important to stand your ground. Build a support system around you that will help you in planning everything the way you truly want it to be.
Sometimes this might mean upsetting someone with your decision. But you don’t want to look back on your day and only see how many things you compromised on. You want to look back and remember that it was everything you wanted and more.
Bridal Shower Alternatives
Maybe you do want to have a shower, but you want to skip all the formalities and do something that is unique to you! A lot of brides, like soon-to-be-bride Kenna, opt for the non-traditional feel of bridal showers.
“I want my wedding and everything leading up to it to be super personalized and nontraditional,” Kenna says. “Tradition adds unnecessary expectations that add stress to a day that’s supposed to be fun.”
Other brides might want some traditional flare but add their spin on the affair. 2019 bride Jordan did just that. “I had a bridal shower that was a combo of traditional and non-traditional. I went to a restaurant and had a bunch of people come for a casual lunch… For the most part, it was just family and friends getting together for some good food and to celebrate a little.”
So what are some fun ways to add your own touch to the traditional bridal shower? Here are some ideas that other brides have cooked up for their shower alternatives.
All genders welcome
A lot of modern weddings stray from the idea of the affair being totally focused on the bride. And instead try bringing attention to the couple. To do that, modern brides open the guest list up beyond just the closest women in their life.
Bri, who married her husband in 2021, was especially adamant about the idea of celebrating her and her now-husband through every aspect of their wedding. Even though they had to adjust some plans, they didn’t compromise on what they wanted to focus on. “We didn’t have a bridal shower. If we had, we would’ve done a wedding shower and kept it gender-neutral. In my opinion, traditional weddings are too bride-centric, which doesn’t make sense considering a wedding is just a celebration of marriage, not a woman in a pretty white dress!”
“Stock the Bar” party
Another popular alternative to a bridal shower is the fun and savvy “stock the bar” party. This can be done two different ways. One way some couples approach this type of shower is to ask guests to bring booze and barware to stock their home bar as they get settled into married life.
Another version of this, which works especially well for couples planning their wedding on a budget, is to ask guests to bring specific types of alcohol to stock the bar for the reception. You ask for certain types of alcohol based upon what you’re planning on serving for dinner and dancing. And this way you don’t have to pay a large sum to be able to have an open bar at your wedding.
Virtual bridal showers
Especially with the onset of the pandemic, virtual parties have been on the rise. Bridal showers were not the exception. A lot of couples had to do their showers over Zoom to accommodate everyone who wasn’t comfortable getting together in person yet. Some actually ended up preferring it that way.
One bride I spoke with put together an entire bridal shower over Zoom. She made cupcakes and sent them along to each invitee along with a small bottle of champagne. They played games and just had fun, all from the safety of their own homes. Even though we’re coming out on the other side of the past few years, this is still a popular option for brides who have a lot of scattered loved ones.
Host a potluck
For some, the planning and the time commitment of a shower make it not fun for them. If you’re still into the idea of having a shower but don’t want to drop everything to plan one, have a friend host or host your own potluck!
Hosting a potluck is a great way to get together with people to celebrate the upcoming wedding. It is also a fun option for couples on a budget. Simply pick a date and time and ask people to bring their favorite foods and drinks instead of presents. That way you can just get together to have a great time.
Have an experience instead of a party
Instead of having someone host the shower, another fun alternative would be to spend the day out doing something fun! Many brides have opted for a wine tasting or a fun day trip to the beach. There are so many ways you can spend the day with your favorite people that are far from the norm of a traditional bridal shower.
I talked to a friend who decided to do her bridal shower and bachelorette party on the same weekend, flying out her best gal pals to Las Vegas! The sky truly is the limit with what you can do as an alternative to a bridal shower.
Making the most of your bridal shower
The point of every part of your wedding – from the proposal, to the shower, to the moment you say goodnight at the reception – is about you and your significant other being in love and committing to one another. How you choose to celebrate that love is up to you. If you want to have a shower and keep things traditional or make it uniquely your own, go for it. If you want to say no to the whole thing, do it.
Need additional tips from other like-minded brides? Whether you’re planning a wedding at the last minute or on a budget, check out our free, exclusive Facebook group – Wedding Planning Club