Bridal Shower Etiquette

Bridal Shower Etiquette

By Tina Hayes & Indigo Silva  

The tradition of bridal showers dates back to the 1800s.  The original purpose surrounding a bridal shower was to “shower” a bride with gifts to help her set up her own household.

This early 18th century custom is said to have grown out of dowry practices (the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage). When a poor woman’s family lacked finances to provide a proper dowry or when a woman’s family refused to give the bride her dowry because they disapproved of the marriage, friends would give gifts to help out. 

Today’s showers are given to honor and celebrate the bride. The bridal shower atmosphere is usually filled with laughter, smiling faces and a lot of ladies enjoying a fun atmosphere. This pre-wedding event will be remembered by the bride for a long time. Therefore make it a lovely occasion and follow these few rules of etiquette:

  • The maid of honor, a close friend, or the bridesmaids, usually host the bridal shower. Neither the bride’s mother nor the bride herself should oversee the event. The assigned host can however consult with the bride and her immediate family on who to invite and the bride’s preference for the shower.
  • Old traditions for bridal showers include making a bouquet out of gift ribbons and bows and using it for the wedding rehearsal or providing the bride with something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Creating a new tradition is always acceptable.    
  • Showers are usually held a couple of months prior and up to two weeks before the wedding.  
  • Normally, the guests invited to the shower are also invited to the wedding festivities. It would be discourteous to invite one’s friends to the shower, but not allow them to be take part in the special day.  The exception is work colleagues at an office shower.
  • If the bride has more than one shower, the hosts for each party should communicate and work together to avoid the same elements of the shower. Guests who are invited to more than one shower for the same bride are not obligated to bring gifts to each shower. In these instances, the bride should acknowledge the previous gift.
  • Circumstances dictate the size of a shower and it is up to the host and possibly the bride to decide the number of guests. Bridal showers customary are intimate gatherings with close family members and friends. No matter the size of the shower, invitations are to be sent at least a month ahead of time. The host can include the bride’s gift registry, however it should not be included on the invitation, but as a separate gift registry card.
  • It is a breach of etiquette to ask invited guests for monetary gifts or require guests to contribute to the cost of the party. Moreover, monetary shower gifts should be avoided. It is more befitting to give a gift that is memorable and could be used to assist the bride in establishing her new role as a married woman.  
  • Gift suggestions include lingerie, small kitchen gadgets, personalized stationery, a spa package, cooking classes, magazine subscriptions, gardening tools or a personal interest of the bride (scrapbooking, knitting, etc.).
  • Don’t be surprised to see the fiancée show up for a short amount of time to give guests who have not met him a chance to see and get to know him.  

Even though the shower is not about the hosts, they should still be on hand and alongside the bride throughout the party to attend to guests. It is always proper for the bride to thank the host or hostess for their hospitality and all of their hard work. A gift of appreciation is a nice gesture to show one’s admiration.

In regards to brides thanking their guests, most brides share words of appreciation during the shower and extend personal thanks for each gift as she opens it.  Furthermore, sending handwritten thank you notes is the proper protocol for brides and a gracious follow-up to reiterate one’s appreciation.

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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.