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Bridal Shower Etiquette

Times change and so do traditions, including those that have to do with weddings. But some things have stayed quite traditional through the years, and the bridal shower seems to be one of those things. For decades, there has been a list of rules of etiquette surrounding the organizing and hosting of a bridal shower and it is often expected that the host adhere to these traditions.

However, many young people are unaware of just what those rules constitute. Who pays for the shower? Who receives an invitation? Should it be a surprise? Many of these questions arise in planning and can result not only in disorganization but some hurt feelings as well. Here’s a handy guide to traditional bridal shower etiquette for those hosting such a party for the first time.

o Who’s the Host? – Traditionally, the bridesmaids are the ones responsible for throwing the bridal shower. This has changed little over the years. Another steadfast rule is that the shower should NEVER be thrown by the bride’s mother or immediate family. If the wedding party is to be small, with only one or two bridesmaids, these bridesmaids may find that footing the bill is a bit cumbersome. In that case, they can reach out to other close friends who may be interested in helping.

o Who Gets an Invitation? – Any woman that is going to be invited to the wedding should be invited to the bridal shower. Those not invited to the wedding SHOULD NOT be invited to the shower. In this age of blended families, be aware of any conflict between moms and step-moms to avoid uncomfortable situations. The mother-of-the-bride is the first concern and should never be put in an awkward position, so if that means leaving the step mom off the invitation list, that is the best solution. Children may be included if desired, especially those who will be attendants in the wedding party. However, their participation is not necessary if an all-adult affair is preferred.

o When Should the Party be Held? – Generally, the shower takes place no more than 2 months before the wedding ceremony. This prevents the bride from having to find a place to store gifts for months should she not yet have her own apartment or home. Scheduling the shower closer to the wedding does not give the bride ample time to write thank you notes before the wedding. Always be sure to definitively clear the date with the bride, especially if this is to be a surprise.

o Surprise or not? – Speaking of surprises….there was a time when the bride never knew about the shower and it was always a pleasant surprise. However, busy women of the 21st century who travel for work may need to be told about the party in order to schedule the time to attend. The host will need to determine this. If it is to be a surprise, let her fiancée (or other family member) in on the secret and be sure they get her to on time.

o Location, location – Where the shower is to be held will depend largely on the budget for the affair. House parties are the least expensive, but be sure there’s plenty of room for the guests to eat, watch the opening of the presents, and mingle. A restaurant is also a suitable choice for location but all fees need to be assumed by the host, including tips and other incidentals, and guests should NEVER be asked to pay for their meal.

o When Should the Gifts be Opened? – The answer to this question largely depends on location. If the party is at a restaurant, the facility may dictate your order of activities according to when they wish to serve the meal. If the shower is at a home, have finger food available for munching while the presents are being opened and then provide more food or dessert afterwards.

o How Long Should the Shower Be? – The average bridal shower lasts about 3 to 4 hours. That should provide ample time for gift opening, eating, and a little down time to visit with friends and family.

o Thank You Cards – Be sure to have a bridesmaid stationed near the bride during gift opening so she can jot down the name of each giver and what was given. This will assist the bride greatly in getting thank you notes out with correct information and on time. Don’t rely on gift tags! They get mixed up during the festivities.