How to Plan & Host a Bridal Shower: Etiquette, Themes & Ideas
Planning a bridal shower and not sure where to start? From who to invite and the best themes to how to split the bill and what food to serve, we’ve covered everything you could want to know about bridal showers.
We have included third party products to help you navigate and enjoy life’s biggest moments. Purchases made through links on this page may earn us a commission.
Traditionally, bridal showers have been something associated with American weddings, but they’re becoming increasingly popular in Toronto.
A bridal shower is not the same as a bachelorette party; this is an event you’ll throw in addition to the bachelorette . A bridal shower is a daytime event in which the close female relatives of the bride – and sometimes of her partner – join her friends to celebrate the upcoming wedding with gifts and fun games. It’s a family-friendly event (unlike the bachelorette ) where everyone from the bride’s mum to little sister can attend, and she’ll be given presents which are typically to help build the new couple’s home.
In America, the couple may have bridal shower gift registry or a lingerie registry (yes, that’s a thing!), but in Toronto, it’s much less about gift-giving and more about pampering the bride-to-be and socializing with the women of the wedding party – although it doesn’t have to be women-only.
The kind of bridal shower you throw depends on the bride or brides; there are no hard and fast rules. For example, it could be a lowkey brunch at the maid of honour’s home, it could be a spa day, it could be a flower arranging class, or it could be lunch at a nice restaurant. The essentials are that there is food and drink on offer, some cute games are played, and the bride is given a few lovely gifts.
Not sure where to start? We’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite bridal shower themes, making suggestions for how you can nail them. Then we’ve included everything you need to know about bridal shower invitations, decorations, favors, food and the best bridal shower games. From who pays for the bridal shower to when you should throw a bridal shower, we’ve answered all your biggest questions. All you need to do now is pick a theme and work out how much Prosecco to order!
NB: We have included third party products to help you navigate and enjoy life’s biggest moments. Purchases made through links on this page may earn us a commission.
READ MORE: 15 Fun Themes for an At-Home Bridal Shower
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Let’s get those burning questions out of the way before you start your planning.
Who Hosts the Bridal Shower?
The maid of honor typically hosts the bridal shower with the bridesmaids. However, they may be busy with bachelorette do planning so it can be normal for the bride’s mother, sister, aunt, grandmother or even future mother-in-law to host the bridal shower instead.
You need to make it really clear if you are having a bridal shower in addition to the bachelorette party and who is invited to what. The bridal shower will be PG-13 so mums are welcome but we doubt the same can be said for the bachelorette do! It might be easier to split the responsibilities up between your family for the bridal shower and your bridal party for the bachelorette do.
Typically the bride or brides don’t have anything to do with planning their bridal shower, but we wouldn’t keep it a surprise from them. You’ll want their input on theme, date, location and who to invite.
Who Pays for the Bridal Shower?
Whoever is hosting is expected to foot the bill for things like decorations, games and prizes, plus food and drink if they are hosting at home. This usually means the maid of honor and bridesmaids chip in but the bride’s family may be happy to help too. The best kind of guests will always ask what they can do to help and it’s much appreciated; delegate games or items like dips to trusted invitees.
It’s best to have a chat with the bride early on about the budget for the bridal shower. If she wants an activity or to go out for a meal, you’ll need to ask the guests to pay for their own part and make this clear right from the start.
Who Is Invited to the Bridal Shower?
Traditionally, you only invite people to the bridal shower who are invited to the wedding and it’s customary for it to be women-only. However this is changing and male friends and relatives are often invited too. You may prefer to call it a “wedding shower” (not all weddings involve a bride, for one!) and you can have both of the engaged couple as guests of honor if that suits you better.
The bride’s female relatives, bridal party and close friends are the main invitees of the bridal shower, but you can open it up to her partner’s family too. Bridal showers can be anything from intimate events of 10 people to much, much larger celebrations.
You don’t have too be too worried about sticking to tradition and it can be a great opportunity to celebrate with those who aren’t coming to the wedding or the bachelorette party, for example, colleagues or close family friends of your parents. Essentially it’s just a lovely brunch or lunch with people the bride cares about so don’t get too caught up with tradition – especially if you make it clear that gifts are not required.
Does Everyone Have to Bring a Gift to the Bridal Shower?
In the US, it’s customary for everyone to bring the bride a present, but honestly, that’s not necessary in Toronto. The typical bridal shower gifts are items for the home, lingerie, jewelry or family heirlooms (from the bride’s family to her, obviously; don’t raid your grandma’s jewels just yet).
In Toronto, we’d recommend that you ask whoever is planning the bridal shower if you can bring anything, such as Prosecco or a dessert platter, and then maybe bring the bride a lovely card, some flowers or a small gift. The bachelorette party itself can be expensive, as will a gift you choose to buy from the wedding gift list, so it’s understood that the bridal shower isn’t about gifts in Toronto.
If you want to do gifts and are having a fun theme, how about setting a spending limit and ask guests to bring a gift along that theme or that represents their relationship with the bride?
When Does the Bridal Shower Take Place?
Bridal showers take place anywhere from two to six months before the wedding. You need to make sure all the guests have enough notice so we’d recommend you send out paper or digital invites six weeks before the event. That time before the wedding can be incredibly busy, especially weekends, so check in with the bride which guests are absolute must-haves at her bridal shower and arrange the date so all of them can attend.
It normally takes place a few months or weeks before the bachelorette party and is the first event to kick off your pre-wedding celebrations. However, you can actually combine the bridal shower with the bachelorette party if it works for your timeline – the family-orientated bridal shower in the daytime, and once mum and grandma have left, the raunchier part of the celebrations start!
READ MORE: The Best Bridal Shower Games
If There Is a Groom, Is He Involved?
He can be! Firstly, you can host a joint wedding shower for the bride and groom and make it an inclusive event. Alternatively, he can pop in at the end for some of the games or just to say thank you to everyone for being part of their wedding celebrations.
What Do You Wear to a Bridal Shower?
Like we said, bridal showers are PG-13 so, as a guest, wear something you’d be happy to stand next to their grandma for a photo in. The theme of the party will guide whether it’s a more formal or casual affair, and you should mention dress code in the invites, such as tea dresses for an afternoon tea theme or maybe a color theme.
The bride can wear what she wants, but we love a cute white outfit, like a fun playsuit or short dress. It’s a great excuse to buy yourself a new outfit and we recommend something that can be re-worn on your honeymoon to bring together your whole wedding experience – from the bridal shower to the big day to the honeymoon and the rest of your lives!
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What kind of personality do they have? Would they love nothing more than waking up in a muddy field over three days to dance the nights away at a festival, or are they more a baking and pamper night kind of gal? Whatever you decide it’s the personal touches that bring everything to life, and make the party super special – so don’t be afraid to put your own spin on our ideas below.
1. Floral Themed Fun
It’s a cliché, sure, but most women love flowers. If your pal has a panache for petals then why not go all out and throw a floral-themed bridal shower? You could head off to a flower crown-making workshop, or organise a course where you learn how to make DIY wedding bouquets, then grab a fancy lunch in the kind of place that would serve up meals with edible flowers. Head home to play games and drink botanical-inspired cocktails made with flavours of rose and lavender.
2. A Pink Party
There’s somehow a very fine balance between total tat and a healthy old dose of nostalgia. A pink party will take any woman and her pals back to the good old days when pink was perfection, and everything you owned had to be served up in such a shade.
Granted, this one’s for a certain type of girl only, but it can be made into a pretty punchy theme. Make everyone wear something pink (they do say it makes the boys wink, after all), serve up retro pink wafer biscuits and strawberries to dip in a chocolate fountain, play kids’ games like pass the parcel and serve only rose wine and Prosecco. Top tip: a little raspberry puree or pomegranate juice will make any drink pink.
Must Buy: A pink pass the parcel set from Etsy for those nostalgic vibes.
3. A Pool Party
There’s no two ways about this, you’re going to need a pool to pull this bridal shower idea off. But depending on your expectations that could be a blow up number in your back garden, or an infinity pool in Ibiza. Whatever your budget you can make this work: it could be a fun day at the local lido or a posh pool at a spa.
This is perfect if your pal loves a holiday more than anything else and gives you all a good excuse to lie around chatting by the side of a pool all day, drinks in hand. Make sure to grab plenty of fun inflatables, get plastic cocktail glasses and arrange for everyone to bring their swimwear A-game.
Must Buy: No pool party is complete without an inflatable drinks holder and we’re obsessed with this unicorn one from ASOS.
4. Afternoon Tea Party
An afternoon tea is certainly not going to provide any scandalous stories, but is a pretty good option for foodie friends. If you’re looking to keep costs down you could assign all your bride a job when it comes to the spread – get someone on sandwiches, someone on scones, someone else on cakes etc – and host it at home.
For a something a little flashier booking into a nice hotel to allow for some pampering, and don’t forget to add the Prosecco option.
Must Buy: Set your scones and sandwiches on a beautiful personalized afternoon tea cake stand with the bride-to-be’s name.
5. Unwind (Without Wine) at a Spa Day
Ok, you could still have wine, but a spa day is a really lovely way to get some down time in with your girls before the wedding madness kicks off. If you’re doing it at home, why not get everyone to bring their own dressing gown and face mask and take it in turn to do each other’s nails? Don’t forget to make up plenty of flavoured waters and serve up fresh fruit platters for a saintly snack.
If you feel like splashing out, book into a spa or hire a mobile masseuse and let the professionals take care of you. Plus, after all the detoxing you’ll be ready for a good re-toxing (which is where the wine actually secretly comes in).
Must Buy: For $10, you can get this Garnier Sheet Mask Bundle from Boots with three sheet masks and two eye masks.
6. Cocktail Making for a Crowd
There’s no better way to enjoy cocktails than when surrounded by a crowd of your favourite people. For a fully cocktail-themed day, you could organising a cinema-style viewing of a James Bond film, get everyone to come in black tie and challenge each person to make their own signature cocktail. Alternatively, watch Coyote Ugly and go for a little more relaxed cocktail making with a little sexy dancing mixed in. The best way to do this on a budget is assign each guest a bottle of spirit, mixer or garnish to bring/
If there’s budget, you can get someone to come to your party place and mix up drinks for you, or you could head to a bar or hotel for a masterclass in mixology.
Must Buy: Treat the bride-to-be to this gorgeous rose gold cocktail making kit with a shaker, stirrer, jigger and more.
READ MORE: Six Cocktail Games You Need to Try
7. The Perfect Picnic
If your bridal shower planning is for a summer celebration, then a big picnic could be perfect. They offer up the opportunity for everyone to contribute in a small way for big impact.
Ask everyone to pitch in with the food and drink, throw down lots of lovely mix ‘n’ match blankets, string up some bunting and that’s the job done. For further fun why not provide park games, like rounders or frisbee?
8. Dance Class Divas
There’s something seriously satisfying about working up a sweat. We think it’s probably something to do with knowing how many calories you can consume afterwards.
If you know the bride is an active gal then why not organise a dance class? Most studios offer package deals for group, and you can choose themed classes for even more fun, like Beyoncé or ABBA dance classes. Otherwise, feel free to learn some cute TikTok dances at a brunch at the maid of honour’s house and post them online.
Must Buy: A pink velvet leotard for the bride, obviously.
9. Wine Tasting
Is your friendship often found to strengthen over a glass or two of vino? If so, then wine tasting could be the perfect. Get your gaggle of your loved ones together and head off to a vineyard or wine shop for the afternoon, to make your way through different types of reds, whites and rose options. We know you’re meant to probably spit each taster out, but we won’t tell if you don’t.
Alternatively host a wine tasting at home, and ask each guest to bring their favourite bottle of wine.
Must Buy: Wine tasting score cards that you can print at home to make your day-drinking look like real work.
10. A Music Festival
Festivals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but people who love them really love them. A festival theme could be a few beers, a good playlist and some floral headbands round your back garden, or it could be a full weekend away with all your best friends indulging in good music, street food and very little sleep at one of the many of the summer’s offerings.
If you’re looking for what to put in the playlist, how about asking every guest for a recommendation? You’ll get a diverse line-up from across the decades to disco dance to.
Must Buy: Amazon sell this 16 piece collection of floral headbands for less than $19 so you can gift everyone one as they arrive.
11. A Collective Camping Trip
While a bridal shower is typically only an afternoon, there’s no rule that says you can’t spend a couple of days celebrating. We love a camping bridal shower for its ability to bring us back down to earth.
You can book a night away at a campsite, go glamping at a snazzy site with high-end showers and toilets, or even pitch up in your own garden. For full out effect make sure to bring marshmallows to toast and enough sleeping bags for everyone to snuggle down in.
To be quite honest, you could pack the best of camping into one day if you start with an afternoon of camp activities like dream catcher making, playing family card games or having egg and spoon races. In the evening, light a fire pit, cook some sausages on a BBQ, crowd round the fire for s’mores and ghost stories and relive that summer camp vibe.
Must Buy: Massive marshmallows for toasting over an open fire. You can get them from most supermarkets in their American food section.
12. A Disney Princess Party
There’s always one princess in a group, and if yours just happens to be the bride then maybe a princess party is perfect. Kick things off with a little tiara-making crafting, provide DIY photo booth princess props and grab some Prosecco glitter for cocktails fit for a crowned princess.
Must Buy: Prosecco glitter, duh!
13. Karaoke Queens
Does your bride love being the centre of attention? If so there’s nothing else for it, you’re going to have throw a bit of karaoke in the mix for her bridal shower.
Either book yourselves into a karaoke bar that offers up private rooms, or hire a karaoke kit and do a DIY version in your front room. One thing’s guaranteed, you’ll be fighting each other to get on the mic all night. There’s so many Instagrammable extras you can make for the party, like microphone shaped cookies and VIP lanyards.
Must Buy: A statement mirror ball to hang from the ceiling and kick start those party vibes!
14. Team Games
There’s no bridal shower bible that says you can’t celebrate with your other half and have a “wedding shower”. If the bride and their partner have close knit groups of mates made up of both boys and girls then this can be a really fun way to get to know all their pals before the big day. Think of something fun that everyone would like to do – like team games in a local park, a scavenger hunt race or a fun obstacle course. It’s all a bit silly and ends with everyone having a well deserved drink.
Must Buy: This rounders set is only $10.99 from Amazon and will provide months of fun in the summer.
15. Retro Kids’ Party
Sometimes getting married can feel a bit grown up and scary, so to counteract that we love a good old fashioned kids’ party theme. We’re talking balloons everywhere, party games, a load of sugary treat and one fabulous addition: some booze. Make sure to pack up party bags for everyone, and don’t forget the cake!
Must Buy: These cute confetti balloons to decorate.
READ MORE: 25 Fun London bachelorette Do Ideas
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1. Bridal Shower Locations
Nailed your theme? The next step is to agree the day, location and guest list for your shower. Here’s a few set-ups we love:
- A backyard bridal shower at a relative’s house with BBQ burgers and a rustic table setting that features lots of greenery is a gorgeous, low-key idea for a relaxed bridal shower.
- Gather everyone in their PJs and have a slumber party like this epic setting below. It’s a grown-up version of your favourite teenage activity and will bring back all the nostalgia. You could do this in a hotel or hire a big country house for a weekend.
- Set up a picnic on the beach with rugs and a parasol and lots of towels for those brave enough to take a dip. Get fish and chips from a local chippie and eat it all on the sand and play beach games.
- Whether it’s a real pool or a paddling pool, fill it with balloons and floaties and set up a tiki bar for a tropical vibe that can be done easily in a back garden.
- Indoor bridal showers can be absolutely wonderful with just a few decorations – that could be anywhere from your house to a favourite restaurant for brunch or lunch.
- If you’re in the countryside, how about setting up a boho style tipi with rugs on the floor for everyone to sit on and plenty of pampas grass to decorate? Somewhere with an amazing view (and preferably toilets nearby) would be the dream spot.
If you decide to host the bridal shower outdoors in a public park or garden, remember to clean up everything with you when you leave. We only have one planet, after all.
2. Bridal Shower Invitations
After all that’s been decided, you’ll need to figure out how you share all that information, which can either be via paper invitations, a digital e-vite, a simple email or even a WhatsApp group.
Invites are a nice way to introduce your planned theme and get everyone excited – we’d recommend you stick to digital to save the environment – and then you can continue that theme throughout the shower.
Here are our favourite invite ideas:
- Send an e-invite. Websites like Paperless Post offer free designs that you can send to everyone’s email addresses that pop open like little virtual invites. Cute and cheap.
- Design your own invites for free. We love Canva, which is a graphic design software that allows you to drag and drop into their templates, so you could update with pictures of the bride or customise your invites depending on the theme. You can then use the same designs in all your stationery for the bridal shower (menus, signs, place cards etc) so that you can tie everything in, right from the invites.
- Buy a download and print pack designed by a small creative business. We love Etsy for their selection of bridal shower invitations, they have options for any theme you could think of.
READ MORE: 22 bachelorette Party Bag Filler Ideas
3. Bridal Shower Decorations
When it comes to bridal shower decorations, we always think less is more. Treat yourself and yours gals to a few well-thought-out decorations instead of going overboard with balloons and bunting on every last surface available. Once you’ve got you bridal shower ideas sorted in terms of a theme you can work out where best to blow the budget on decorations.
Here are some of our favourite ways to make maximum impact with just a few little bits and bobs.
- Put up some paper decorations. You can buy really pretty paper chains, honeycomb pompoms or paper fan decorations in all sorts of colour-ways, to suit any theme, and they’re often really affordable. Their large size means you get your theme across pretty sharpish without having to faff with too much décor.
- Invest in a welcome sign. If you’re going to be putting on a party then you may as well make the first impression count. Welcome signs are the perfect way to set the tone of your day from the off.
- Throw together a DIY photo booth. Everyone loves an excuse to take some silly snaps. Pull together a photo booth background and some fun photo booth props and you’ve got yourself a seriously good selfie station. You can even download apps now that turn your pictures into old fashioned-looking photo strips.
- Create a few different stations which are basically décor themselves. A bar station or Prosecco station with a few different garnishes will look gorgeous on a table with a rustic sign, while a sweet table with bowls of colourful pick and mix and a bit of confetti scattered between will add zingy bright shade to a room or outdoor table.
- Balloons add height and texture to a display and instantly make it look stylish. Go for metallic balloons and turn them into an arch, a balloon wall or get ones that spell out a world like Love.
4. Bridal Shower Food
The final thing on your to-do list is probably the bridal shower food, a pretty big part of any party. Bridal showers are usually centred around a brunch or lunch so making sure everyone is fed and happy is pretty important.
When it comes to the food presentation is key: you can dress up a few sandwiches with cute tea party tags, or make crisps and dips look pretty exciting just by decanting into cool bowls. Here are some of our quick fixes for bridal shower food on a budget.
- One word: Pizza. Who doesn’t love a good hunk of dough covered in their favourite toppings? Get everyone to chip and in for a delivery a couple of hours before you plan on heading out and we can nearly guarantee you’ll get yourself hero status.
- Get together a grazing platter. Ask everyone to ‘bring some beige’, like crisps, nuts, sausage rolls, bread etc and dress it all up with some roasted vegetables, fancy dips and some colourful slices of fresh fruit on large boards or plates. This approach means everyone can nibble their way through the night at their own pace, and you won’t have to faff about with table settings or making sure everyone has had enough to eat.
- We love this idea for a French-themed bridal shower – delicious cheese and ham croissants! Are you having a travel-themed bridal shower? Get the guests to bring a plate of international food or put on a simple and easy display like these croissants.
- Skip out on savoury and do a dessert bar. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good dose of sugar. A dessert bar is perfect for brides with a super sweet tooth, and can be a good way to get everyone to contribute. Ask everyone to bring along their favourite desserts and assemble them all on one long table. You could dress up the offerings with cake toppings and cute paper plates and napkins.
- Pancake or waffle bars are great for brunch as you can make (or buy) them in advance then just need to warm up as needed and provide some delicious toppings. Who doesn’t love brunch food?
- There’s literally nothing better than a doughnut wall, right?
5. Bridal Shower Games
We have a whole list dedicated to the best bridal shower games so that’s the go-to place to plan your activities. However, we’ve treated you to a few special ones here too:
- Play a this-or-that game and see who knows the bride best – you can feel printable versions on Etsy.
- Write down your favourite memory with the bride or how you first met and keep it anonymous. She then has to read them out loud and reveal who the embarrassing or funny story is from!
- Make a fun playlist for the bridal shower and play old school games like musical chairs.