Updated: Apr 18
If you are in charge of planning a wedding shower, you no doubt have some feelings. You probably don’t really know what to do because showers, like most things in 2022, are tricky.
As our culture slowly rids itself of its sexist ways and gender constrictive ideologies, the very concept of a shower seems outdated. The point of a traditional shower, or “bridal shower” as we have typically called it, is to get a group of only women together to give gifts to a soon-to-be bride, who is moving out of her childhood bedroom and into a life of childbearing and housekeeping...that clearly doesn't speak to the current times.
Not to mention the fact that most couples lives together well before getting engaged, which means they don’t need, or want, traditional gifts! So, as the host, you are now tasked with planning, tweaking, modernizing, and throwing a new age wedding shower; an event that our entire culture hasn’t fully figured out yet. Even though it might seen hard, you aren't totally in the dark. Trails have been blazed in this arena for a couple decades, at least, to guide you. First, you have to talk to the couple. That’s right. A two-human duo. Even in heterosexual weddings with fairly stereotypical gender roles, the husbands-to-be are becoming more of a fixture in the shower scene. Why? Well, they're humans, too. Maybe they enjoy opening new towels and wedding china; maybe they put a new lawn mower on the registry; maybe Homeboy wants in on the spotlight and mimosas; or maybe they just want to spend time with their long distance family members, the ones coming in from out of town specifically for this event. There are endless reasons both parties could want to attend. So, before anything else, ask the couple to be upfront about who wants to participate in the shower. Second, ask them if they want it to be 100% of a surprise, 0% of a surprise, or somewhere in the middle. Perhaps they want a traditional wedding shower at their favorite lunch spot, but everything else is up to you.
Next, consider the following questions while planning.
What type of wedding shower are you going to throw? This used to be simple, right? All the women would get together, have a luncheon or something, play some cheesy games, and watch the bride-to-be open her gifts. But now, love it or hate it, there are tons of options. Consider a picnic, afternoon tea, a BBQ, brunch, a cocktail hour, or an activity lead destination (paint and sip, bowling alley, beach, etc.)
Who do you (or the couple) want to invite? Traditionally, the guest lists for the wedding and the shower are one in the same. However, the couple may choose to have one event more intimate and private than the other. That being said, it does seem a little risky to invite someone to the shower but not the wedding. Only under very special circumstances (such as a destination wedding, small COVID wedding, or eloping) would that be an acceptable move. You should also consider, based on the style of event, if children will be invited. Children are a whole other ball game because they come with their own extensive list of things to consider.
When should you host the event? Martha Stewart says the shower should be held between 3 weeks and 3 months before the wedding, and when has she ever been wrong? Alternatively, The Knot says anytime from 2 weeks to 5 months. So, I guess the guidelines here are pretty loose. Once you figure out the style of shower, you have the freedom to choose a date / month that works best for the theme (ie: Beach or BBQ in July)
When should you send out Invitations and request RSVPs Invites should go out 6-8 weeks before the event, while RSVPs should be requested a few weeks before the event. Be sure to have an RSVP contact and deadline on the invitation, which will encourage guests to actually respond. To make things even easier, have only 1 point of contact for RSVPs so that all responses are organized in 1 place. The number of positive responses will greatly impact costs, so you will want to know how many people are coming well in advance. You will inevitably have to hunt down some RSVPs that didn’t make the deadline, so be sure you have factored in some time to do that. Luckily, most venues are understanding of getting a specific guest count and are OK with a ballpark figure up until 2-3 weeks prior.
Who is paying? Traditionally, the mother of the bride pays for the shower. That is when the shower is only for the bride, the father of the bride is paying for the wedding, and perhaps there is a dowry…? The reality is, new age celebrations often mean new age funding options. What we mostly see now is an array of different contributors for different wedding-related events, as well as a large upswing in showers being hosted, and paid for, by the wedding party. We suggest talking to the couple about paying for events, among other things, before accepting your role in the wedding party.
Bach Party - Wedding Shower Blend The upside to the wedding party footing the shower bill is that they can conveniently coordinate the shower with the Bach party. Having these events on the same weekend can cut down on costs by accessing special promotional packages, cutting down on travel expenses, or needing to miss less work. It can also be a tad overwhelming and exhausting for everyone involved.
Ask for help If your couple has a wedding coordinator, you can reach out to them for help planning the shower. Most wedding coordinating businesses can also be of service during other events as well. If there is no coordinator, you can ask the venue, and/or other family members and friends to help. Several people taking over 1 small task each can make a big difference.
Activities Games, especially gender conforming games like “Guess how many babies the bride will have?" are out. As for Bingo? That doesn't even warrant a response. No one wants to watch a couple open gifts with that level of intensity. It is, actually, a pretty well-known fact that no one wants to watch people open gifts at all. Ever. Which is why people have begun to seek out other gift-receiving alternatives, such as an unwrapped gift table or opening gifts after the party. The good news is there are a lot of alternatives for activities! Floral arranging lessons, charcuterie making lessons, baking, giant paint by number for everyone to work on together, paint in sip, BBQ games, or wine / beer making are just a few possibilities. The destination itself can also serve as entertainment, such as a bowling alley, golf course, or beach.
Engagement Party vs Wedding Shower This is tricky too. On one hand, traditional wedding showers are wildly different from engagement parties. On the other hand, other styles of wedding showers may have a lot in common with engagement parties. Generally speaking, though, here are some standard differences:
Engagement parties are not as expected as wedding showers.
Engagement parties can be very intimate or they can be huge. Considering the timeline of an engagement party, when most couples haven’t even started wedding planning, there are no rules for the guest list.
Gifts are not expected at engagement parties.
Engagement parties have always been gender inclusive because they have always been for the couple.
There are no rules for who hosts an engagement party, although it will probably be the same close family members or friends that will host other wedding-related events.
Engagement parties typically have much more of a celebratory vibe, so this would be the event to bust out the cocktails.
What is the best wedding shower you have attended? Tell us about it in the comments!
The KE Team