The Basics of Bridal Showers

bride and friend hugging in front of bridal shower decor

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Planning a bridal shower is no easy feat, especially if you have never attended one. Simply put, a bridal shower or wedding shower is a pre-wedding event where female family members and friends celebrate the bride-to-be by “showering” her with gifts. So what are the basics of bridal showers?

A bridal shower is always thrown before the wedding and should involve food, beverages, gifts, and some form of entertainment (e.g., games). The most important part of the event is when the bride opens her gifts in front of everybody. 

While there are certain etiquette guidelines that have developed over time, there really isn’t a right way to host a bridal shower. In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about bridal showers so that you will know exactly what to do if you ever find yourself hosting one or are invited to one.

Not sure if you need a bridal shower? Check out this post to see if you need to have a bridal shower or not.

How Big Is the Average Bridal Shower?

The average bridal shower is between 20 and 30 people. When planning a bridal shower, remember that while bridal showers are supposed to be relatively intimate affairs, there is no rule dictating how many guests you can have. 

How big or small a bridal shower is will likely depend on several factors, the main ones being:

  • What the bride-to-be wants/expects.
  • How many close friends does she have?
  • How big her family is.
  • Who will be hosting the bridal shower.
  • Where the bridal shower will be hosted.
  • The budget for the event.
  • Whether other showers will be thrown around the same time.
  • Whether it’s an all-female shower or males can also attend. (AKA a “wedding shower” or “couples shower.”)

If you have been invited to an “intimate” bridal shower, you would be right to expect between 10 and 20 people to attend the event. However, if you have been invited to a grand shower, expect it to resemble a cocktail party with as many as 50-60 guests. 

fruit tart desserts with an engagement ring topper

What Typically Happens at a Bridal Shower?

You will enjoy various appetizers and drinks at a bridal shower, present the bride-to-be with a gift, play games, and socialize with other guests. You may also walk away with party favors to commemorate the event.

Bridal showers are not that different from other types of parties: guests go to a pre-established location at a certain time, chat, eat, drink and, sometimes, do an activity that is in line with the theme of the event. 

So what can you expect from a bridal shower? Here is a list of elements that make up most bridal showers:

  • Food. Usually in the form of appetizers (although you may be offered a full meal).
  • Beverages. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks may be served.
  • Background music. Usually not for dancing although I’ve been to one bridal shower that had a DJ and dance floor set up.
  • Chairs and/or sofas. For people to sit on and relax while chatting.
  • Various activities. Especially games that all guests can partake in (you will likely play a few wedding-themed games).
  • Gifts. Guests present the bride with their gifts, and at some point during the event, the bride-to-be will open them in front of everyone (some brides-to-be may choose to skip this step and open their gifts at home).
  • Party favors. Favors are by no means a must, but some brides-to-be may still want their guests to have a little something to commemorate the event.

More often than not, bridal showers are hosted and planned by someone close to the bride-to-be–usually a friend, a female family member, or the maid of honor. 

personalized wedding word search
Personalized Wedding Word Search Printable – Available from Loud Bride on Etsy

Bridal showers tend to be women-only affairs, although it is no longer unusual to find both male and female guests at such events. If the guest list includes both men and women, the groom will likely attend too.

In the case of a women-only bridal shower, the groom may make an appearance towards the end of the event to greet everyone and help the bride-to-be carry her gifts.   

Traditionally, bridal showers have served a very specific (and practical) purpose: i.e. providing couples with home essentials

These days, however, bridal showers are more about having fun and showering future brides with gifts that are meant specifically for them (e.g., satin robes, PJ sets, make-up bags, marriage-related books, lingerie, jewelry, etc.).  

How Do You Plan a Simple Bridal Shower? 

When planning for a bridal shower, your host will need to set a budget, pick a location, order or prepare food, make bridal shower decorations, and plan a few activities. 

Your host’s budget will inevitably play a key role in determining how many people will attend the event, what kind of food will be served and what kind of activities will be performed. Usually a bridal shower is planned and paid for by the bride’s mom, sister, aunt or other close relative or family friend.

If you are planning a simple bridal shower, it is absolutely acceptable to host the party in someone’s house or backyard. Here are a few tips that will help you keep things simple and cost-effective:

  • Serve homemade food.
  • Create a signature drink to celebrate the bride-to-be.
  • Take care of the decorations yourself (e.g., balloons, flowers, fun props that guests can use to take selfies).
  • Prepare a simple welcome sign.
  • Create a dedicated corner where the bride-to-be will open her gifts (e.g., a nicely-decorated chair surrounded by a balloon arch).
  • Prepare a playlist.
  • Plan some fun activities and games.
dusty blue bridal shower invitation template
Dusty Blue Bridal Shower Invitation Template – Available from Loud Bride on Etsy

How Many Games Should Be Played at a Bridal Shower?

So, how many games should be played at a bridal shower? Let me start by pointing out that there isn’t a rule stating how many games you should play at a bridal shower. In fact, you are free to play as many games as you like. 

With that said, keep in mind that while some people may enjoy playing wedding-themed games for hours, some others may get bored after some time, so it is important that you try to make everybody happy. 

You should plan for about three different games for your bridal shower. Considering that the average bridal shower does not last more than four hours, you shouldn’t spend more than one-two hours playing games. Three games of around 20 minutes each would be an ideal amount for a bridal shower. 

If you are helping plan the event, I suggest you plan on more games anyway, just in case one of the games ends sooner than expected or the guests enjoy themselves so much that they end up demanding more games. You never know!

What Is the Bride Supposed To Wear to the Bridal Shower?

The bride typically wears something formal or semi-formal that will make her stand out, like a white jumpsuit or a white day dress. There isn’t a strict dress code for bridal showers, though, so feel free to get creative. 

A bride-to-be can wear anything she wants to her bridal shower, including an informal maxi dress, a skirt, and a top, a pantsuit, a traditional garment, or even something extra fancy. Her dress is all about her personality, the nature of the event, and who will be attending it. 

The guest of honor should always be recognizable, which is why many brides-to-be opt for white dresses or jumpsuits. It goes without saying that guests should avoid wearing white to a bridal shower unless specifically asked to do so. 

bride-to-be at a wedding shower in front of a white backdrop with greenery and flowers

What’s the Difference Between a Bridal Shower and a Wedding Shower?

A bridal shower is a women’s-only party to celebrate the bride, whereas a wedding shower is a co-ed event to celebrate the couple. In other words, the main difference between the two events is that while bridal showers are meant for women only, wedding showers are more inclusive. 

As previously mentioned, bridal showers are typically hosted by the maid of honor or a female family member. By contrast, wedding showers are typically organized by the maid of honor (who represents the bride) and the best man (who represents the groom). It is also quite common for the couple’s parents to host the event. 

A wedding shower is not that different from a bridal shower in that gift-giving plays a central role in the event. Unlike a bridal shower, however, a wedding shower is about celebrating and pampering the couple, so you will see many gifts that can be enjoyed by the couple, rather than just the bride. 

Because wedding showers are a somewhat new invention compared to bridal showers, there aren’t any notable traditions associated with them. If you have been invited to one, you will most likely be offered food and play games as you would at a bridal shower. The games, however, will certainly be more inclusive. 

What Is a Bridal Shower vs. Engagement Party?

A bridal shower is an opportunity to celebrate the bride-to-be, whereas an engagement party is an opportunity to celebrate a newly-engaged couple. A couple can easily have both a bridal shower and an engagement party, as the events are not mutually exclusive. 

Engagement parties typically precede bridal showers as they are thrown shortly after a couple announces their engagement (usually within three months of the announcement). Some couples even choose to announce their engagement during the event to surprise their guests. 

Bridal showers, by contrast, are typically hosted a couple of months, or even a few weeks, before the big day. 

The key difference between bridal showers and engagement parties is that the former tend to be more informal than the latter. However, throwing a very informal and fun-filled engagement party is perfectly possible. 

Also, engagement parties do not usually involve gifts. 

Engagement parties often take the form of semi-formal cocktail parties where food is served in a casual way (food stations are often found at such events). 

There aren’t any rules dictating where engagement parties should be held: a country club, a family member’s house or backyard, an art gallery, or even a fancy venue are all possible options. 

More often than not, engagement parties are planned in such a way to allow guests to socialize while enjoying a few drinks and plenty of delicious finger food. 

However, some families may want something a little bit more structured and opt for a formal or semi-formal dinner in their favorite restaurant. The main “issue” with restaurant celebrations is that guests end up spending most of the event sitting down, which some may find a little boring. 

parisian themed bridal shower invitation template
Parisian-themed Bridal Shower Invitation – Available from Loud Bride on Etsy

Can a Bridal Shower Be an Open House?

A bridal shower can definitely be an open house; bridal open houses are a relatively new concept that more and more brides-to-be are starting to embrace. 

A bridal open house is a particularly good idea if:

  • The bride has a large family and many friends.
  • Most of the guests live in close proximity to the venue.
  • The bridal shower is hosted in a small house, but the guest list is quite long (as many guests will only stop by for a short while).

Unlike traditional bridal showers, bridal open houses are casual, informal affairs. Brides do not usually open their gifts in front of their guests unless explicitly asked to do so. 

Food and drinks will still be served, and there may be more emphasis on entertainment, e.g., music, games, and activities. Being more flexible than traditional bridal showers, bridal open houses can be an opportunity to express one’s creativity. 

There are, of course, certain cons associated with bridal open houses, such as:

  • Guests who come at different times will not see each other.
  • It is hard to predict who will show up and who will not, which makes planning more difficult.
  • Some guests may feel that a bridal open house is just an excuse to collect gifts without hosting an actual bridal shower.

Final Thoughts

As you must have gathered from this article, there isn’t a right or wrong way of planning a bridal shower, just like there isn’t a right or wrong way of planning a wedding. 

At the end of the day, a bridal shower is an opportunity to celebrate someone who is embarking on a new journey and show them our affection by being there for them. 

Like many other traditions, bridal showers are evolving to reflect the changing needs and priorities of today’s couples. 



Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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