Ultimate Bridal Shower Planning: Step by Step Guide

Planning a bridal shower is a lot of fun but can feel like a lot of work, especially if you’ve never planned one before. Several details go into making the bride’s special day magical, and it can be daunting trying to keep track of everything – or even knowing where to begin!

Bridal Shower Planning Introduction

If you’re tasked with planning a bridal shower for a bride you love, don’t worry! Consider this your ultimate bridal shower planning guide, walking you through the whole process step by step. Keep this guide on hand through the entire planning process, from start to finish, and you’ll be just fine. It’ll be a piece of [wedding] cake!

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about bridal shower planning.

Free Bridal Shower Planning Checklist Download

Who Hosts a Bridal Shower?

Chances are if you’re reading this guide, it’s you!

On a serious note, bridal showers are traditionally planned and hosted by the maid (or matron) of honor, with some assistance from the rest of the wedding party. Parents and other relatives typically lend a hand as well, and will often bake treats, cook part of the meal, help decorate, and supply addresses for the guest list.

In modern times, it’s common and totally etiquette-friendly for anyone to be the host of a bridal shower. Whether you’re the maid of honor, mother of the bride, sister of the bride, a close friend, or just someone who cares deeply about the bride, the important thing is to show the bride some love!

Ultimate Bridal Shower Planning


Who to Invite to a Bridal Shower

The honored person organizing a bridal shower needs to assemble a guest list. Ask the bride or mother of the bride for a list of the “must-have” people she would like to attend her shower and get home addresses for the invitations (more on that later).

There’s no official limit to how many people “should” be invited, but the standard is usually 20-50 people in total. A point of etiquette: any guest invited to the bridal shower should be invited to the wedding, too. You can’t invite a guest to one but not the other! Once you have a final guest list, be sure to let the bride look it over to make sure no one is left out or was accidentally placed on the list when they shouldn’t have been.

Generally, you want to invite female relatives of the bride and groom, all women in the wedding party, and close female friends. At least, that’s how things are traditionally done! Nowadays, you don’t have to adhere to that strict gender rule, and close male friends are more than welcome to attend if the bride wants them to! Check with your bride to make sure everyone she wants to see is on your guest list.

Who to Invite to a Bridal Shower

When to Host a Bridal Shower

Typically, the bridal shower happens within two months and as late as 2 weeks before the wedding, depending on a few different factors. Location of the bride as compared to her guests, how big or small the guest list is, and even the season (think of inclement weather) can affect the timing of a bridal shower.

Be sure to chat with the bride to pick a date that works for her and the rest of her guests – particularly her family and other “priority guests.” In some cases, the bride is out-of-state, so you’ll need to coordinate the bridal shower with other trips and events.

While any time of day is acceptable, many bridal showers are held in the afternoon to provide guests with a delicious lunch and the bachelorette party in the evening. If you’re hoping to keep food costs low, schedule the shower for late afternoon and just offer light appetizers and snacks, plus some desserts! If you’re looking to shake things up a bit, brunch bridal showers are quickly gaining popularity – mimosas and yummy breakfast foods? It doesn’t get much better than that!

Where to Host a Bridal Shower

Once you know when the bridal shower will take place, you need to pick a venue or location. Bridal showers are often held at someone’s house, usually the maid of honor or the mother of the bride’s house, but it largely depends on how many people will be in attendance and the budget for the event.

Where to Host a Bridal Shower

Start with the big picture: is the bride out of state while most of the guests are in her hometown? Is she in the same area as her guests, while you’re further away? Pick a location that makes the most sense for everyone, but prioritize the bride’s needs. After the area is nailed down, you can start hunting for a good venue.

Any venue is fair game! You can rent out a banquet room in a restaurant, a wine tasting room (if you really want to get fancy), or even an art gallery. Just keep in mind your headcount and the bride’s interests! If she’s an outdoor adventurer, you could even consider hosting her shower in a state park. Not sure what the bride would like most? Just ask her! It’s better to check in and make sure she’ll enjoy the venue rather than take the chance of surprising her with a venue she’s not thrilled with.

Budget for a Bridal Shower

Okay, before you get any deeper into your planning, you need to figure out a budget! Traditionally (there’s that word again), the host is the one who pays for the shower, from food to favors. However, relatives and other members of the wedding party may offer to help pay for some things or provide some of the food to offset costs.

You should account for invitations, food and drinks for every guest, venue costs, décor, favors, and any photography or other vendor services you hire. But don’t be afraid to cut some corners to avoid breaking your bank account! Your bride will love her shower and will be grateful for your efforts no matter what.

There’s no set amount of money that you “should” spend on a bridal shower. It really depends on what the bride wants and what the host can afford. Don’t be afraid to get creative and come up with some budget-friendly solutions!

drinks for bridal shower


Choose a Theme for a Bridal Shower

Alright, you’re doing great! You’ve got the guest list figured out, you’ve got the where and when nailed down, and you’ve set a budget. Now we get to move on to the fun stuff!

The theme of a bridal shower is a great way to showcase the bride’s personality or something she loves. Or it’s just another way to sprinkle some fun into the day! Is the bride a coffee fanatic? Does she love the retro theme of the ‘50s? What about traveling? Or is there a simple theme, like country charm, that emulates her style? Get creative, and ask some of the other wedding party members what they think would be most appropriate for the bride!

Picking a theme can help guide all the other choices you need to make for the shower and tie everything together. Even if you don’t choose a full theme, picking some colors or mirroring the bride’s wedding colors can give your shower decorations a cohesive balance.

Invitations for a Bridal Shower

The first thing you want to handle after you pick a theme is the invitations for the bridal shower. Time is of the essence, so invitations are one of the first things you should address (pun intended).

Guests need as much notice as you can manage so that they have time to make arrangements to attend. You should plan to mail out the invitations at least four to six weeks before the shower. That means you should have the invitations designed, finalized, and ordered about two months before the shower’s date – whew!

When designing the invitations, make sure you include the date, time, location or venue, and any registry information you know. Also, make sure the invitations include the name of the host (or hosts) and a way for them to RSVP. Oh, and the name of the bride!

While E-vites are easier and more convenient, it’s still good etiquette to send actual paper invitations. However, if invites are taking up a large chunk of your budget, email invites or Facebook invites are acceptable in this day and age. Prioritize the bride’s wants, and your shower will be a hit!

Menu for a Bridal Shower

Now it’s time for the most delicious part of the planning process: planning the food! Whether you have the budget to hire a caterer or are making the food on your own, the food choices should complement the theme of the shower.

perfect Menu for a Bridal Shower

However, you can consider the bride’s favorites, too – it is her day, after all! If she likes simple food like PB&J, consider making tiny versions for appetizers! Does she love Mexican food? Consider adding tacos, chips and guac, or margaritas to the menu! The menu can be as creative as the theme; it’s one of the most memorable parts of the shower, so make it count!

When planning the menu, keep the time of the shower in mind; if it’s a brunch buffet, set up a coffee station, juice bar, or make-your-own-mimosa area! Then stock the food tables with plenty of croissants, danishes, donuts, fruit, and eggs. Is your in the late afternoon after lunch? Chips and snacks are all well and good, but consider adding something with a little more “oomph,” like small sandwiches or meat and cheese trays with bread and buns to make your own.

Try to accommodate any food restrictions, as well! When you send out your invites, it’s helpful to include a line where guests can indicate any allergies or dietary needs. That way, you’re prepared on the big day!

Décor for a Bridal Shower

This is where your theme or color scheme really comes to life! Some hosts opt for hiring an event planner to transform the shower’s venue, but plenty of others take matters into their own hands – it’s up to you and your budget! And just because you’re decorating everything yourself doesn’t mean you have to stick with the classic mylar balloons and streamers. Think outside the box for some fabulous and festive. 

Are you going for a tropical island theme? Find plenty of faux palm leaves and pineapples to dress up the tables! Going for a ‘50s vibe? Use old vinyl records to make centerpieces! Decorate the big things, but use the details of your décor to drive your theme home.

love is sweet please take a treat

Games and Activities for a Bridal Shower

While you’re shopping around for decoration to match your theme, keep an eye out for games and perhaps little prizes for the winners of the games, too! Of course, you can include some of the classics like wedding mad libs, trivia about the bride, and bridal bingo, but it’s always fun to play at least one game that matches the shower’s theme! If you’re stumped, check out Etsy or Pinterest for inspiration.

Games and Activities for a Bridal Shower

guess how many kisses photo

It’s nice to get the games and activities done early on because it helps break the ice for guests who may not know each other yet. Plan for guests to eat, socialize, and greet the bride first, then start the games when there is a bit of a lull. It’s an excellent way to get your guests engaged, so they’re not sitting and staring at the bride the whole time. As wonderful as that is, everyone needs a break from basking in her bridal radiance!

Thank You Favors for a Bridal Shower

Last but far from the least is the thank you favors. The options are limitless; you just want to give the guests a little something to thank them for coming and showering the bride with gifts and love!

Popular options include yummy baked treats like cookies or boxes of candy, hand sanitizers or lotions, even personalized sunglasses to commemorate the special day! Again, try to stick with your shower theme when you plan out your favors. And if you don’t want to take the centerpieces home, send them with your guests as bonus favors!

Bridal shower planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. As long as you keep the bride’s best interest at heart and this guide close by, your shower is sure to be a magnificent event!