I’ll never forget it. I was attending a bridal shower for a friend of mine. There were maybe 20 of us total, and we were chatting over glasses of wine. My friend casually turned to one of the guests and said, “Thanks for coming. I hope you don’t mind that we didn’t invite you to the wedding. We figured you’d be too busy to attend.”
You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone squirmed, except for my friend, who was oblivious to the fact that she’d made one of the biggest bridal shower etiquette mistakes possible: Don’t invite anyone to a shower that you didn’t invite to the wedding. (This also goes for the engagement party and rehearsal dinner.)
Want to avoid an embarrassing moment like this, and any other potential pitfalls? Take a peek at our handy guide to bridal shower etiquette, from invitation etiquette to who pays and more, whether you’re the bride, a guest, or the host.
Who to Invite to a Bridal Shower
There’s an exception to every rule, so while it’s true that you shouldn’t invite anyone to the bridal shower who isn’t on the wedding guest list, office showers don’t fall under this etiquette edict. It’s common for coworkers who aren’t invited to the nuptials to fête the future bride at the office. (And by the way, it’s now proper to invite men to bridal showers too.)
Otherwise, says etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach Jacqueline Whitmore, “Usually it’s family and friends, unless you have multiple showers. For example, if your parents live in a different state, they might want to have a shower for you there, while your maid of honor will have a shower for you at home.”
Bridal Shower Invitation Etiquette
It’s standard to send out shower invitations four to six weeks before the party (but send them 8 to 10 weeks out if you know people will be traveling in for it). Make sure you put the basics on the invite, including the bride’s name, the host’s name, the date, time and location, and a way to RSVP.
“If it’s a themed party, or guests need to dress a certain way, you want to make people aware of that,” says Whitmore. “The one thing you don’t want to put on the invitation is where the bride is registered. But you can enclose a little note with that information.”
Who Pays for the Bridal Shower?
The person who hosts the bridal shower pays for the bridal shower. According to Whitmore, “Back in the day, it was said that a mother shouldn’t host her own daughter’s bridal shower because that looked like she was soliciting gifts. Sister-in-laws will host them, sometimes cousins. But usually it’s the maid of honor and the bridesmaids who host it for you. That’s more traditional. And then they pay for it.”
You may also find that your bridal shower will be hosted by a few different people, which is completely normal in this day and age too, as they may all take on a different responsibility (the venue, food, bridal shower favors, creating bridal shower games, and so on).
Bridal Shower Gift Etiquette
Pretty much everyone is expected to bring a gift to the bridal shower, even the person hosting it. However, if you’ve been invited to more than one shower, you only have to bring a gift to the first you attend. As for what you give, it’s never a bad idea to purchase from the gift registry, but it’s not a necessity.
“You give what can,” says Whitmore. “Not everyone is going to have the same budget. You want to give something meaningful and from the heart. I would spend more effort in selecting the gift and tailoring it to the person’s personality.”
Illustrations by Mary Fama.