What You Need to Know About Modern Bridal Showers & Wedding Showers

The great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post offers updated etiquette tips for hosting a spectacular bridal shower.

Find out how bridal showers and wedding showers started, and discover expert etiquette advice about what you need to know regarding hosting or attending a modern-day bridal shower from Anna Post of The Emily Post Institute.

Photo: Bob & Dawn Davis Photography

Legend has it that long ago, when a poor miller fell in love with and wanted to marry the daughter of a wealthy man, the father refused to give his daughter any dowry at all. The couple married anyway, even though the miller had almost no possessions for a household. The townsfolk, who knew the miller to be a kind and generous person, came to the newlyweds’ home and “showered” them with the kinds of gifts a couple would need when first starting out in life.

This is still the idea behind today’s bridal showers and wedding showers – to help a couple begin their new life and household together with a pre-wedding gift. A bridal shower traditionally is held for the bride by family members or a member of the bridal party; however, there have been updates to the bridal shower, too – digital invitations, new hosts, creative registries, and even co-ed wedding showers.

The heart of a bridal shower, even more than the gifts, is to help the bride-to-be (or couple) celebrate the wedding to come with their closest friends, family, and wedding party. Learn more about a modern bridal shower, below!

Etiquette for Modern-Day Bridal Showers

Bridal Shower Hosts and Guests

It’s a myth that the maid of honor, bridesmaids, or a member of the wedding party must host a bridal shower in terms of bridal shower etiquette, though it often makes the most sense for them to do so (and often they want to). And, in a big break with tradition, it is now acceptable for sisters, grandmothers, and even moms to host a bridal shower.

However, if you don’t agree with this loosening of tradition, by all means have someone else host the bridal shower. The bride (or couple) is the only person who should not host a bridal shower or wedding shower, as it never acceptable in terms of proper etiquette to host a gift-giving event for oneself.

Tea Sandwich Stands at Bridal Shower

Photo by Amy & Stuart Photography; Planning & Design by Alyson Fox, Levine Fox Events, Inc.; From Real Event: Vintage, Downton Abbey-Inspired Garden Tea Party Bridal Shower

Bridal Shower Invitations

When composing the guest list for the bridal shower, remember that an invitation to a wedding shower comes with the expectation of an invitation to the wedding, too. Make sure bridal shower guests are also wedding guests! The bridal shower host should compare guest-list notes with the bride-to-be (or in the event of a surprise bridal shower, the groom or her mother), to make sure that all bridal shower invitees will also be invited to the wedding. (Office showers are the rare exception to this rule.)

Send wedding shower invitations three to four weeks before the event. It’s fine to send paper or emailed invitations, or even to make phone calls. Registry information may be included, though it should be on an enclosure, not on the invitation itself – just like with wedding invitations. While it’s important information, this keeps the focus of the invitation on the invitee, and not her pre-wedding gift. For more tips, find out what to include in bridal shower invites!

Dark-Hued Menu with Large Flowers

Photo by Jessica Claire Photography; Planning & Design by International Event Company; From Real Event: Unique & Chic Bridal Shower with Dark and Moody Color Scheme

Wedding Showers for Brides & Grooms

Jack and Jill (co-ed) wedding showers are fine to hold – just be sure that the groom and his friends are truly interested in participating in these sorts of pre-wedding events. In the case of a co-ed wedding shower, the theme, décor, and any bridal shower games should be comfortable for both men and women: Lingerie showers, for example, are clearly not a good fit for a co-ed wedding shower.

For more ideas, find out what to do at a co-ed wedding shower.

Wedding Shower & Bridal Shower Gifts

With so many couples today living established, independent lives before marriage, many couples don’t need traditional items and gifts. If gardening equipment for your first yard or wine for your nascent wine cellar is more in line with your lifestyle, by all means reflect that in your wedding registry and bridal-shower theme.

Some couples who truly don’t need anything forgo traditional gifts altogether, opting instead for each wedding-shower guest to share a recipe, piece of marital advice, or favorite photo or memory of the bride or couple in a collected album.

Gift themes, such as cooking, gardening, or lingerie gifts, can be mentioned on the bridal-shower invitation. For themes such as: hour-of-the-day, month-of-the-year, letter-of-the-alphabet, or room-of-the-house, the host should make those particular assignments on each guest’s invitation. For lingerie showers, give the bride’s sizes when a guest RSVPs.

Bride with Mother Opening Gifts

Photo by Frances Iacuzzi Photography; From Real Event: Bridal Shower with Bright & Cheerful Color Palette in Beverly Hills

At the Wedding Shower or Bridal Shower

While it’s up to the host, it’s not necessary to play any bridal shower games. If a few games are on the menu, it’s often best to keep it to one, so everyone on the bridal shower guest list stays involved and doesn't lose interest.

As wedding-shower presents are opened, consider decorating a paper plate with all of the ribbons collected from the bridal shower gifts – many brides then fashion this into a mock-bouquet to use for practice at the wedding rehearsal. Put one of the guests in charge of this, and ask another to write down each gift and who gave it. This will help tremendously when it’s time for the bride-to-be to write thank-you notes after the bridal shower.

Thank-You Notes for Wedding Showers

Even if you thank your bridal-shower guests in person for your presents, a handwritten thank-you note is still expected, and should be sent shortly after the bridal shower. If you aren’t sure of your guests’ mailing addresses in this email age, the host can provide an address or guest book and ask each guest to fill theirs in, or ask your host for the addresses from her invitation list.

Bridal shower hosts, please avoid the unfortunate trend of asking guests to fill out an envelope with their name and address to be used by the bride to send wedding-shower guests their thank-you notes. This is a job for the bride, not her guests. Thanks are a personal expression of appreciation, one that should extend to every aspect of the note.

Bride-to-Be with Dessert Table

Photo by Melody Melikian Photography; Floral & Event Design by Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle and Design; From Real Event: Stylish Bridal Shower with Pops of Punchy Shades & Lovely Florals