How to plan a bridal shower in 9 easy steps

5 hands toasting pink cocktails adorned with berries over a nicely set table.
Paperless Post BlogWedding > 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 a worthy outfit to wear on 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 will it cost? How many guests should you invite? Should you host a coed party? And how will you make sure all these guests are enjoying themselves? 

If it feels like you suddenly have a million things on your plate, don’t fret. We’ll help you plan an unforgettable, totally doable, and ultimately impressive bridal shower from beginning to end.

Bridal shower itinerary example

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 typically eat delectable snacks, play silly games, and mingle. At some point, the bride may open her gifts in front of her guests, although some brides opt to do that later, in private.

A well-orchestrated party—especially a bridal shower—is one where every activity 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 activities happen at specific times, it’s helpful to lay out an agenda. A quick itinerary will help ensure you’re leaving enough time for all the special shenanigans—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 have to organize things so strictly. Maybe your bridal shower involves self-serve appetizers, and guests can mingle continuously throughout your pre-wedding event. Either way, it can be helpful to set times for key moments, such as a toast to the happy couple or a group photo.

Now that you have a high-level idea of what a bridal shower could look like, let’s break down the planning process into nine easy steps.

1. Create a shower budget

Start thinking about the budget as soon as you’re asked to plan the bridal shower. Depending on the wedding date, this could be a year or more in advance. 

Your bridal shower budget will determine 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. Chat with anyone who’ll be contributing financially, such as the bride’s family or bridesmaids, so you have an idea of what your budget is before you start planning.

Along with the bride’s own tastes, requests, and aesthetics, budget considerations should include:

  • Catering
  • Drinks
  • Venue fees
  • Party favors
  • Rented tables or chairs
  • A/V or other equipment rentals
  • Decorations
  • Invitations
  • Entertainment

From setting up to cleaning up, a bridal shower is a big undertaking, and it’s best not to go it alone. If you have room in your budget, consider hiring helpers through an agency. If not, ask trustworthy friends for help.


Left: 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

The date for a wedding shower should be convenient for the bride, her wedding party, and other key players in her life who will be invited. 

There’s no set rule on when a bridal shower should happen, 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 important wedding-day details. Plus, this will give you time to coordinate plans and book vendors.

To maximize the number of important guests who are able to attend, send out a poll to see if certain dates work better than others. 

3. Create the guest list

The size of your guest list helps you determine what size venue and how much food you’ll need. That’s why it’s helpful to compile the guest list early in the planning process. 

Start working on the guest list around the same time you pick a date—guest availability can inform the date you choose. 

So, who gets invited to the 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 showers are gaining popularity, too.

The most important guest list advice here is to only invite those who are invited to the wedding. If the engaged couple hasn’t yet solidified the wedding guest list, wait to confirm your shower guest list to avoid leaving anyone out. Ask the bride to approve the guest list before you send out invitations.


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; “Pluviose” by Putnam & Putnam for Paperless Post.


4. Select a bridal shower theme

You don’t need to have a bridal shower theme, but a theme is a surefire way to make the shower extra special. Guests enjoy themes—and it helps make planning everything else just a little bit easier.

Decide on a theme shortly after picking a date—at least three months before the event. The standard approach is to build your theme on something the bride adores and appreciates—like a style of cuisine, an activity the bride enjoys, or a city the couple loves visiting. The more personalized the bridal shower is, the more meaningful it will be. 

Since the guest list is likely to span people of various ages, backgrounds, and tastes, it’s generally a good idea to choose a fairly sophisticated, non-controversial theme and save the more risque stuff for the bachelorette party. 

Examples of fun bridal shower themes 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, use it to inspire the other elements of your bridal shower planning, like food, party favors, and—of course—invitations. 

5. Choose a location

The venue where you host the bridal shower 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. Bridal showers are commonly held at the home of a friend or family member. Other options include a restaurant, winery, local park, botanical garden, or a private room at an elegant museum or art gallery.

Start looking at venues at least two or three months in advance of the bridal shower. Talk to the venue’s event coordinator about guest capacity—you don’t want your shower to feel overcrowded, but a large room that feels empty 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 the event near them—or plan farther in advance so guests have more time to make necessary travel and accommodation arrangements.


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, 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 a huge selection of online bridal shower invitations to choose from. Pick a beautiful, on-theme design, and customize it to fit your vision. Change the wording, font style, and text color, and include a photo of the bride-to-be if you want. Customizable Blocks make it easy to include a link to the couple’s registry, travel info, and—for out-of-town guests—accommodation information.

Send your bridal shower invitations with plenty of time for out-of-town guests to book their travel and accommodations—six to eight weeks in advance is a good rule of thumb.

Send the invitations via text or email, or a shareable link, and use our guest management tools to track RSVPs and send messages to one or all of the guests with updates or additional information. See who’s opened their invitation, and send a reminder to those who haven’t yet seen it—or who are taking their sweet time to RSVP. It doesn’t hurt to think ahead—choose coordinating thank-you cards in advance to make it easier for the bride to send out her thank yous later on.

Wondering how to compose the perfect wedding shower invitation? We’ve got an in-depth guide on bridal shower invitation wording to make it easy as pie.

7. Choose the menu

When planning the menu for the bridal shower, consider adding personal touches related to the couple you’re celebrating—think sugar cookies printed with the couple’s faces or a cake decorated with their wedding date. Get as creative as you like with the food—special touches add an extra layer of festivity.

For drinks, champagne is a popular crowd-pleaser—and perfect for toasting the bride. Fancy cocktails are a hit, too—but include plenty of tasty non-alcoholic drink options, too. 

Some of our favorite ideas for a memorable bridal shower spread include:

  • 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 the venue at least a month in advance to discuss your food and drink menu options.

If the shower will be taking place at another location,  whether the host (that’s you) will provide the food or 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. 


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. Pick your bridal shower decor

To keep the vibe elevated and elegant, you’ll want to determine your strategy for bridal shower decor. If you’re going with a French-inspired wine-and-cheese theme, choose decorations that embody a rustic countryside chateau—like candles, lace, and roses. Gold or silver tableware makes any bride feel like royalty at a tea party fit for a queen. 

Professional flower arrangements make any event fancier. If the bride has a favorite flower, make it a focal point of the arrangements. 

Whatever theme or vibe you’re going for, remember that the main objective is to make the bride-to-be feel special and loved. reserve a special seat for the bride to sit in when she’s opening her gifts, and deck it out with balloons or a floral garland. Designate and decorate an area for guests to place their bridal shower gifts as they enter the party.

Set up a festive photo backdrop, personalized signs, and accessories for taking photos with the person of the hour. Visit the Paperless Post Party Shop for everything you need to make the bride’s special day one to remember. Order your decor and party supplies about a month before the date to avoid potential shipping delays.

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—they’ll provide welcomed structure and get participants in a celebratory mood from the moment they arrive. Plan your games and activities two to four weeks in advance of the shower so you have time to pick up any supplies you need—like prizes.

Keep the conversation flowing with a wedding shower game that guests can jump in and out of, as well as other activities that inspire socializing between strangers. Here are a few classics:

  • The Newlywed Game: The absent partner has pre-recorded their answers to be played once the bride gives hers
  • Gift bingo: Guests fill out bingo cards with classic bridal shower gifts while the bride opens her presents
  • Charades: Choose prompts like celebrity couples or pop-culture weddings from movies or TV shows
  • Vow ad-libs: guests supply missing words and the bride reads the amusing results at the end of the shower
  • Advice for the bride: Give guests note cards and ask them to write marriage advice for the bride to read after the shower is over

Send guests home with a little bag filled with on-theme goodies to remember the shower—think scented candles, chocolates, and mini Champagne bottles if it’s a French-inspired soiree. 


An infographic of a bridal shower planning checklist, as outlined below.


Bridal shower planning checklist

Be sure to tick all the boxes below when planning an awesome bridal shower.

Three months before the shower:

  • Set a budget
  • Pick a date
  • Create a guest list
  • Select a theme
  • Choose or book a location
  • Hire party planners and helpers (optional)

Two months before the shower:

  • Send invitations
  • Choose the food and drink menu
  • Hire a catering company and/or make food arrangements
  • Book rental equipment like a microphone or chairs and tables (optional)
  • Set up a gift registry (optional)

One month before the shower:

  • Find bridal shower decor
  • Plan bridal shower games and activities
  • Reach out to guests who haven’t RSVP’d yet

One to two weeks after the shower:

  • Get together with the bride to send thank you notes


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


Bridal shower FAQs

Still have questions about bridal shower basics? Here are some answers.

What does the groom do at a bridal shower?
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 with himself during the show itself? That’s up to him—he may want to make a day of it with some of the partners of other shower guests.

What’s the difference between a bridal shower and a wedding shower?
A wedding shower can be a gender-inclusive 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. 

Who plans the bridal shower?
Ultimately, who plans the bridal shower is up to the bride but the privilege is often given to the maid of honor. Other common hosts include the mother of the bride, another close relative, bridesmaids, or a group of friends. 

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. It’s fun to choose outfits that complement the theme and setting, but it isn’t necessary if the bride doesn’t think so. If there is a dress code, include that information in the bridal shower invitation—we make it easy with customizable Blocks.


Left: A Registry Block showing three clickable links to registries; Right: A blue floral bridal shower invitations.
Hawthorne” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post.


Does the bride need to have 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— include a link to the registry right in your invitation with a Registry Block, and guests will have instant access to it, making the search for a gift quick and easy.

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


A pink watercolor bridal shower invitation surrounded by drink umbrellas and an engagement ring.
Brush Up” by Paperless Post.


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.

Paperless Post offers a host of stationery-inspired, customizable online bridal shower invitations or pre-wedding party invitations to choose from. Personalize the invitation to suit your shower theme or style, send invites instantly by email or text—and track opens and RSVPs in real time. Paperless Post makes hosting any event a breeze with user-friendly guest management tools so you can focus on making the event special for the bride-to-be.


Browse Bridal Shower Invitations

Hero image via My AZ Picnic.