Wedding Showers 101: Etiquette and Planning Checklist

Hosting a wedding shower can be fun, but it can also be a little nerve-racking. Follow these tips and download our printable checklist planner to make it easy.
By: Lisa Frederick


Afternoon tea

Photo by: Ruth Black

Ruth Black

Wedding showers are an appealing mix of practicality and fun. Not only do they start the bride and groom off with the basics they’ll need for their household, but they’re also a way to celebrate the couple and allow friends and family to meet and mingle before the big day. But for hosts, all the decisions — and the etiquette surrounding them — can be a little nerve-racking. Follow these tips for how to throw the perfect wedding shower.

Who Should Host a Wedding Shower?

Rules of etiquette still apply, but they’ve relaxed a bit from the old days. “There was a time when it was considered a breach of etiquette for the family of the bride to host her bridal shower,” says Claudia Lutman, event planner and owner of Claudia Lutman Events. The reason: It was considered a faux pas for the family to give the impression of soliciting gifts. “Today," however, "a bridal shower may be hosted by anyone except the couple,” Lutman says.

Who Should Be Invited?

“Showers are usually very intimate affairs,” Lutman says. Typically, she adds, the guest list includes family, close friends and attendants of the bride; the flower girl and her mother; any sisters of the bride or groom; and the bride’s and groom’s grandmothers. As a rule, any guests invited to the shower must also be invited to the wedding. One exception? Showers given by office colleagues — often, it isn’t feasible to invite all of the bride’s or groom’s coworkers.

Coed Jack-and-Jill showers also are becoming much more common, Lutman says. “Tradition once held that showers were a women-only affair,” she explains. “Now more brides are choosing to include their grooms, his friends and his family.” Lutman is a big fan of such gatherings, not only because the groom’s circle of friends and relatives gets in on the fun, but also because coed showers lend themselves well to creative themes such as “stock the bar” or “stock the toolbox.”

Where and When Are Showers Held?

According to Lutman, showers typically are held anywhere from two to eight weeks before the wedding. Tradition holds that they take place in the host’s home. But it’s perfectly acceptable to choose an alternative location, Lutman says, such as a restaurant, country club, church or banquet hall.

A place that speaks to the couple’s shared interests or their history together also can be on point and appropriate. “Unusual sites are a big highlight, such as horse-racing tracks, bowling alleys, museums or a park,” Lutman says. Just be sure that such spots are comfortable and don’t pose undue hardships for the guests.



Outdoor setting

Photo by: Philip Stridh

Philip Stridh

Is It Okay to Have a Theme?

Absolutely, Lutman says. A theme gives the party extra focus and can be a fun way to tailor gifts to the couple’s specific needs and interests. “Some popular examples include kitchen, bath, housewares or lingerie showers,” Lutman says. Honeymoon showers, garden showers, and gourmet food and wine showers also can be a hit. For themed gatherings, Lutman says, the couple may choose to register separately from their master wedding registry.

She cautions that, while mentioning the shower’s theme on the invitation is fine, adding registry information is not. “Include the registry information, as well as color preferences, sizes, [or] a wish list of household tools or bar items on a separate insert sent with the shower invitation, but not on the invitation itself,” she says.

When and How Do Invitations Go Out?

Invitations set the tone for the shower, so they’re a host’s first chance to establish the mood and theme. Aim to send them three to four weeks before the shower date. Although electronic invitations are becoming more common, Lutman feels that a snail-mailed invitation is always best. Electronic versions often get caught in spam filters or fail to reach recipients entirely.



Wedding invitations

Photo by: Gordana Sermek

Gordana Sermek

What Refreshments Should Be Served?

Food and beverages depend on the time of day, Lutman says. There’s no reason you have to stick to the classic assortment of finger sandwiches and petits fours, though, so feel free to branch out. For a morning shower ending by 11:30am, Lutman suggests an English tea breakfast menu of yogurt, granola, bagels, lox, muffins, pastries, and mimosas or Bloody Marys in addition to punch, coffee and tea. For an evening shower, consider a dessert buffet. Coed showers might include a cookout, clambake or other casual meal.



High Tea

Photo by: jschroevers


At What Point Are Gifts Opened?

Gifts should be opened when dessert is being, or has been served, toward the end of the shower, Lutman says. The gift opening is the highlight of the event, so you don’t want guests filling their plates at the food table or the host opening the door to greet guests while it’s going on.



Photo by: Jupiterimages


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