How to plan a bridal shower in 9 easy steps

Your best friend, daughter, niece, cousin, granddaughter, or maybe even your work wife is getting married. Naturally, you’re thrilled for the happy couple, and start looking for an outfit to wear to the big day the minute you receive your save-the-date. Should you go with the floral mini? Or maybe the slinky jumpsuit? No, definitely the spaghetti strap midi. Darling.

Suddenly, your phone rings. It’s the bride—how wonderful! It’s always a joy to hear from her. She says she has a favor to ask: Would you maybe, possibly, be willing to throw her a bridal shower? She says you can say no. But without hesitating, you say yes. You’re honored! And so, so excited.

Until you hang up and suddenly realize that you don’t actually know the first thing about bridal planning. Eek! Where should it be held? Who pays? How much? How many guests? And how will you make sure they’re actually enjoying themselves? Should you host a co-ed party?

If it feels like you suddenly have a million things on your plate, fret not. We’ll tell you how to plan an unforgettable, totally doable yet ultimately impressive bridal shower in nine simple steps.


#1 Create a shower budget

Along with the bride’s own tastes, requests, and aesthetic, your bridal shower budget is the key to whether you’ll throw a boho backyard bash or an upscale evening soirée. Since your budget impacts everything else you’ll plan, it’s a good idea to set expectations before making any other decisions. Budget categories you might consider include:

– Catering

– Drinks

– Venue fees

– Party favors

– Rented tables or chairs

– Decorations

– Invitations

In making plans, be sure to chat with anyone who’ll be contributing financially, such as the bride’s family or bridesmaids.


A white bridal shower invitation with illustrated green leaves. Right: A small cake with berries on a cake stand.Mountain Greenery” by Paperless Post; Image by Diana Akhmetianova.


#2 Pick a date

If you were the stage manager of a show, you wouldn’t want to plan the production on a day the leading lady and supporting cast are unavailable. In the same vein, when it comes to choosing a date for a wedding shower, the day you pick should feel convenient to both the bride, her wedding party, and other key players in her life. Recommendations on the exact timing vary, but the general consensus is to choose a date between two to six months before the wedding. Any closer, and you risk cutting into time the bride may need to tie up any important loose wedding-day ends.

If you want to maximize the number of important guests who can attend, you may want to send out a poll to see if there are certain dates that work better than others.


#3 Create the guest list

Your guest list and the number of people you plan to invite will help you determine other factors, such as what size of venue you’ll need and how much food you want to have. Therefore, it’s helpful to establish this early in the planning process.

Who gets invited to the shower? The most important advice here is to only invite those who are invited to your wedding. If the engaged couple hasn’t yet solidified the wedding guest list, you should wait to confirm your shower guest list to avoid stepping on any toes.


left: Dessert doughnuts decorated with cream, fruit, and flowers. Right: A bridal shower invitation with a border of large photographed flowers.Image by Brooke Lark ; “November Herbarium” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post.


#4 Select a bridal shower theme

Choosing a theme is a surefire way to make the shower feel cohesive and extra special. The standard approach is to build your theme off of something the person being showered adores and appreciates, like a style of cuisine, activity the bride enjoys, or a city she loves visiting.

Since the shower will likely be attended by people of various ages, backgrounds, and taste, it’s generally a smart idea to choose a fairly sophisticated, non-controversial theme and save the more risque stuff for the bachelorette party. Some sweet shower theme examples include:

— A chic and luxurious poolside brunch

— A French-inspired wine and cheese tasting

— A garden party with tea and tiny cakes 

— A color-themed shower, like pastels, metallics, or black and white

— An enchanted evening with fairy lights and live music

Once you’ve chosen your theme, you can use it to inspire the other elements of your bridal shower planning.


#5 Choose a location

A common location for a bridal shower is at the home of a friend or family member, but if that’s not the best option for your party, you’ve got options. Other shower venues include restaurants, wineries, parks or botanical gardens, or a rented hall at an elegant indoor location like an art museum. Talk to the venue’s coordinator to get an idea of guest capacity. You don’t want your shower to be overcrowded, but a too-big, seemingly empty room isn’t the best, either.

When choosing a location, consider how far your guests will need to travel to attend the shower. If most of the friends or family members you’re inviting live in another state or city, for example, it may be more convenient to plan an event near them, requiring fewer people to travel overall.


left: A bridal shower invitation with abstract ring shapes. Right: Rosé wine is poured into a wine glass.Bottle Shock” by Kelly Wearstler for Paperless Post; Image by Taha Samet.


#6 Send invitations

Let’s reflect on how far you’ve come. The theme is picked out, a location is secured, and you did it all while barely breaking a sweat! Now comes the really fun part: picking out the bridal shower invitations. Paperless Post has so many beautiful, creative bridal shower invitations to choose from—and not only can you track opens and RSVPs and message guests, but you can even include a link to the bride’s registry. Fewer complications, more celebrations. Why do it any other way?

You’ll want to send out your bridal shower invitations with plenty of time for out-of-town guests to book their travel and accommodations, so plan to send them six to eight weeks in advance.

Looking for tips on how to compose the perfect bridal shower invitation? Find in-depth tips on bridal shower invitation wording here.


#7 Choose the menu

Coming up with which food and beverages to provide for a large group can seem like a big undertaking. But if you’ve selected a theme, location, and time, much of the work is already done. Start by determining what type of meal you’ll provide, such as:

— A brunch buffet

— A picnic lunch

— Tea and cake

— Afternoon cocktails

— An appetizer bar

— A catered dinner

— Evening drinks and dessert

If you’re hosting at a restaurant, you’re already in good hands. Have a call or meeting with them to discuss your menu and what options will be available for guests. If the shower will be taking place at another location, you’ll need to determine whether the host (that’s you, baby) will provide the food, or if you want to have it catered. Depending on your guest count, catering will make your life easier, but it’ll also *eat up* more of your budget.

When planning out your bridal shower food, it’s a good idea to incorporate some sweet personal touches related to the couple you’re celebrating. Think: Sugar cookies printed with their faces, a cake with their wedding date, etc. Get creative—it’ll definitely be appreciated by both the bride and other guests.


left: A boho-style picnic for six with a blush pink palette. Right: A bridal shower invitation with a thin border of illustrated small pink flowers and green leaves.Image by My AZ Picnic; “November Herbarium” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post.


#8 Find bridal shower decor

To keep things feeling elevated and elegant, you’ll want to determine your decor strategy. If you’re going with a French-inspired wine and cheese theme, you might opt for decorations that conjure the feeling of being in a rustic countryside chateau. Think of things like candles, lace, and roses—and don’t underestimate the power of Pinterest.

Whatever theme or vibe you’re going for, don’t forget that the main objective is to make the bride-to-be feel special and loved. Professional flower arrangements and gold or silver tableware can make any bride feel like royalty at a tea party fit for a queen. Remember, too, to designate an area for guests to place their bridal shower gifts as they enter the party.

For more decoration inspo, bridal shower themes, and bachelorette party ideas, see our post on classic bridal shower decor, supplies, gifts, and party favors.

When you’re ready to pick up some gorgeous bridal shower supplies, visit the Paperless Post Party Shop for everything you need to make her day one to remember.


#9 Plan bridal shower games and activities

The trick to avoiding the awkward standing-around stage of any party is to offer activities and games from the get-go, allowing participants to get into the celebratory mood from the moment they arrive.

To keep the conversation flowing, offer a bridal shower game that each shower guest can jump in and out of and other activities that inspire socializing between strangers. Here are a few classics:

— The Newlywed Game, in which the absent partner has pre-recorded their answers to be played once the bride gives hers.

— Gift bingo, where guests fill out bingo cards with classic shower gifts while the bride opens hers.

— Charades using either celebrity couples or pop-culture weddings, like movies and TV shows.

— Vow ad-libs, where guests supply missing words and the bride reads the amusing results at the end of the shower.

— Give guests note cards and ask them to write marriage advice for the bride to read after the shower is over.


Bridal shower itinerary example

A well-orchestrated party often feels like every event naturally leads to the next, but pulling this off requires quite a bit of behind-the-scenes strategy. If you’re planning to have certain events happen at specific times, it’s helpful to lay out an agenda and make sure you’re leaving enough time for all the special features—and that you don’t accidentally leave any out.

Here’s an example of a four-hour agenda for a bridal shower brunch:

— Setup and arrival of bride and host: 8 – 10 am

— Arrival of guests and icebreakers: 10 – 10:30 am

— Brunch is served: 10:30 – 11:30 am

— Bridal shower gift opening: 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

— Additional bridal shower games and activities: 12:30 – 1:30 pm

— Farewell toast and departure of guests: 2:00 pm

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to organize things so strictly. Perhaps your bridal shower involves self-serve appetizers and activities, where guests can mingle continuously throughout your pre-wedding event. Still, it can be helpful to set times for key moments, such as a toast to the happy couple or a group photo.


A shelf with white and pink roses, mini Champagne bottles, doughnuts, and a white Fuji Instax camera.Image by With Love from Kat.

14 essential elements of every bridal shower

While it’s important that a bridal shower reflects the interests of the individual bride you’re celebrating, there are some bridal shower elements you simply can’t do without. 

– A theme. Choose something the bride will love. It’s an easy way to make sure the rest of the bridal shower matches and falls into place.

– Beautiful invitations. Pick an on-theme design, and include a photo of the bride-to-be if you want. Bonus points for sending online bridal shower invitations that track your RSVPs for you. 

– An exhaustive guest list. You don’t want to leave anyone out—or miss someone important—so be sure to get several eyes on it before sending out your invitations.

– Thank you cards. Get them in advance to match your invitations, making it easier for the bride to send out her thank yous later on. 

– Fresh flowers. They make every event feel fancier. If the bride has a flower she loves, make sure they’re a focal point of the arrangements. 

– Personalized signage. Place custom signs and décor around the party space to remind everyone who you’re celebrating (and make the bride feel extra special). 

– Drinks for everyone. Champagne is typically a crowd pleaser—and perfect for toasting the bride—but don’t forget to serve non-alcoholic drink options that are tasty, too. 

– A fun photo backdrop. Designate a cute area for taking photos with the gal of the hour and decorate it appropriately. You can even put out an instant camera so guests can take their photos home with them. 

– Fun activities. Give the shower some welcomed structure with engaging games and activities you’ve planned out in advance. 

– Thoughtful touches. Don’t skip this one! The more personalized the bridal shower feels to the bride, the more meaningful it will be. 

– A special seat for the bride. Whether it’s decked out with balloons or just happens to look like a royal throne, reserve a special seat for the bride to sit in when she’s opening her gifts.

– A registry. It’s the only way to ensure the bride loves and needs all the gifts her guests will bring (though there are always a few who like to go off-course).

– Party favors. Send guests home with a sweet little bag filled with on-theme goodies to remember the shower by. Think scented candles, chocolates, mini Champagne bottles, etc.

– Reliable help. From setting up to cleaning up, a bridal shower is a big undertaking! Ask friends you can trust, or hire helpers through an agency if you can afford it. Whatever you do, it’s best not to go it alone.

Bridal shower FAQs

Still have questions about bridal shower basics? We have you covered with the following frequently asked bridal shower questions.

– What happens at a bridal shower? – Essentially, the purpose of a bridal shower is to celebrate the bride-to-be and offer her gifts for her future home and married life. The bride and her shower guests will typically eat food (usually brunch or lunch, and typically buffet-style), have drinks, play games, and mingle. At some point, the bride typically opens her gifts in front of her guests.


– What does the groom do? – The bridal shower is all about the bride, so the groom’s role is minimal. Typically, he’ll show up at the very end of the event to say hello to guests just before they depart, and introduce himself to anyone he hasn’t had the chance to meet yet. As for what he should do during the shower itself? That’s up to him, though he may want to make a day of it with some of the partners of the shower guests.


– What’s the difference between a bridal shower vs. a wedding shower? – A wedding shower can be either a gender-neutral version of a bridal shower, or a shower held for both partners instead of just the bride. As far as the actual celebration itself is concerned, there are no differences.


– When do you throw a bridal shower? – There’s no set rule on when the bridal shower should happen, but the usual sweet spot is somewhere between two and six months before the wedding.


– Who throws a bridal shower? – Determining who plans the bridal shower is ultimately up to the bride herself, but the privilege is often given to the same person who gets to talk about it during the wedding toast, the maid of honor. Bridal showers are also frequently given by the mother of the bride or another close relative, or several bridesmaids or friends as a group.


– Who gets invited to a bridal shower? – Traditionally, a bridal shower only includes close female friends and relatives. But don’t feel obligated to make this a gender-exclusive event! It’s pretty common for the groom to make an appearance at the end of the bridal shower, and co-ed couple’s showers are gaining popularity, too.


– When should bridal shower invitations be mailed out? – Plan to send out invitations four to eight weeks in advance. With Paperless Post invitations, you can check on who’s opened their bridal shower invitation in order to nudge those who haven’t yet seen theirs or are taking their sweet time to RSVP.


– What’s the dress code at a bridal shower? – Here’s a real treat: the bride and guests get to set the dress code or opt for none at all. Usually, you’ll want to choose outfits that complement your theme and setting.


– Where should you throw a bridal shower? – Your venue will depend on your budget, number of guests, location, and availability. If a family member or friend is willing to offer their pool and garden, fantastic. But if you have the funds to swing it, a restaurant or other venue can also be a nice treat.


– Should a bridal shower have a theme? – You don’t need to choose a theme, but it’s an easy way to make planning everything else feel cohesive and just a smidge more effortless. Guests also enjoy themes, and will appreciate the effort you’ve put into following the one you choose.


A screengrab of the Paperless Post Create flow where a user has added a Bed Bath and Beyond registry.


– Does the bride need a registry for a bridal shower? – A registry isn’t a requirement, but it can be immensely helpful for guests wondering what to bring. Thankfully, Paperless Post makes that part a breeze. Simply attach the registry link to your invitation using a Registry Block, and all the guests will have instant access to the bride’s registry.

– Do bridal shower guests give the couple two gifts? – Traditionally, a gift given at the bridal shower is related to creating a home—think kitchen, gardening, and hosting items. A second gift, which is often monetary, is then given to the newlyweds at their actual wedding. Guests who do not attend the bridal shower are not expected to send a gift, though if they have a very close relationship with the bride, it’s not uncommon (and is always appreciated).


Paperless Post: Celebrate life’s special moments in style

While you’re busy getting the table settings and appetizers just right, don’t forget to find the perfect invitations and bridal shower party supplies to match your theme.

With Paperless Post‘s stationery-inspired online bridal shower invitations or pre-wedding party invitations, you can choose from customizable options that fit any genre of bridal shower style, and even add some sweet pictures of the bride-to-be, herself.

Plus, with seamless RSVP tracking, you’ll be able to spend less time figuring thinking about the ins and outs of the bridal shower guest list, and more time making toasts to the happy couple.


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Hero image: “You’re Invited Ring” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post