A couple of months ago I wrote a guide on planning the perfect engagement party in a park. I quickly discovered I have an awful lot to say on the topic, being in the middle of all the wedding festivities myself. Having just planned and hosted my bridal shower, I thought it is the perfect time for another guide; how to plan a cute bridal shower at home.
But for the beginners here, who may have some extra questions, I’ll start by answering those.
What is a bridal shower?
Back in the beginning of time when dowries were still a thing, the bridal shower was there to assist the bride if the family either did not have the means to pay the dowry or the father refused to support the marriage and would thus withhold the dowry. The women in the bride’s life would come together and give her gifts that would assist in meeting the dowry payment. A little further on from this, the bridal shower became an opportunity for the experienced home makers in the bride’s life to gather together and give the bride some advice on married life and being a wife. This is why brides will often still receive recipes and little words of advice from those who attend the bridal shower.
Who plans the bridal shower?
Consistent with the history of the bridal shower, it is typically the mother of the bride who will help organise the bridal shower. More recently there has been a trend towards the bridesmaids taking over all bridal shower planning, on behalf of the bride. But really, you can do whatever you want. Enlist as much or as little help as you want, from those willing to provide it.
What do you do at a bridal shower?
That’s up to you! The bridal shower is one of the informal celebrations that lead up to the wedding. Typically there’s no cake cutting involved as you would find at the wedding and (sometimes) the engagement party. There also doesn’t have to be any speeches. If you want to go to a cafe, you can. If you want to have a spa day, go for it. Really the bridal shower is just a day (or a weekend, or an hour) for you to spend with the important women in your life so you can feel supported and loved in a stressful and often intimidating time. So what happens at the bridal shower is entirely up to you.
Who do you invite to a bridal shower?
Once again, whomever you want. Typically it is a girls only event but if you want some guys there, remember you’re the bride. No one can stop you. At my bridal shower I had about 23 women including bridesmaids, friends, family and my fiance’s family (including his mum, aunts and cousins).
Those are some of the most common questions I have come across in regards to the bridal shower. So now that we have covered that, let’s get into the real content.
How to plan a beautiful bridal shower at home, on a budget
Planning a wedding, you will be drowning in invitations. Engagement party invitations, save the dates, wedding invitations and bridal shower invitations. It quickly becomes a nightmare. By the time I came around to planning my bridal shower, I was so tired of invitations that I gave in and created a Facebook invitation. I have no regrets. The bridal shower isn’t a formal or significant event so don’t feel pressured to spend a lot of money or put a lot of time into these invitations. If you feel particularly keen to make a beautiful bridal shower invitation, you could also enlist the help of one of your bridesmaids to do most of the work. I had my maid of honour create the cover photo for my Facebook invitation and that one small thing was a huge help to me.
If you are on a budget but still want a physical invitation, you could go down the route of designing and printing yourself, buying cheap printable invitation designs from Etsy and printing yourself or buying some old school invitation templates from a newsagent and hand writing them. Sounds like a ridiculous idea but trust me, you can get some pretty cute templates!
Think about who you have invited. Are your guests all good friends? Or will you have different clusters of people wanting to form little groups around the place? If the first, you could create one big, cozy corner in the lounge room, garden or on the deck, for everyone to gather. If the latter, make sure you set up plenty of different areas for people to cluster in. My group was an eclectic mix of family and friends so I set up 4 different seating areas both inside the house and on the deck.
Make sure the flow of the layout encourages your seating arrangements. If you want everyone to clump together in one spot, keep your food, drinks and activities all close together and near that one spot. This means your guests will never have to venture far. If you want to encourage spreading out, spread out your food, drinks and activity tables.
My food table sat between the lounge room sitting area and one of the deck sitting areas. My drinks table was right by the lounge room sitting area. My activities table was between the lounge room sitting area and the second deck sitting area. This encouraged people to move throughout the house and discover new corners to cluster as they went.
Food and Drink
Once again, there are no rules here. I most often hear of brides doing a cute breakfast, brunch, morning or afternoon tea. But if you want a lunch time BBQ, go right ahead.
I held my bridal shower from 10am to 12pm and opted for a morning tea. We had a range of baked goods varying in sweetness levels, as well as a simple cheese platter range. If you are needing inspiration, these are some of the baked goods I found perfect for my bridal shower menu:
- chocolate and vanilla mini cupcakes
- banana bread
- chocolate balls (rum balls without the rum)
- russian caramel
- chocolate slice
I wish I could have had lemon poppyseed mini cupcakes or mini carrot cake muffins but I just didn’t get the chance to bake them.
For drinks, I decided to go the classic morning tea route of coffee and a range of teas. Since it was also a hot summer day, I also offered sparkling water with a range of cordials including Lemon Lime and Bitters; Lemon with Lime, Cucumber and Mint; and Elderflower (hint: I hear this goes well in champagne). These cordials were a nice variation on my usual party favourite of punch because often people don’t enjoy soft drink so early in the day.
Cocktail and mocktail bars are another popular option but will likely involve more ingredients and planning.
The Signature Item
I think, to really make the bridal shower your own, it is nice to add a signature item to the menu, whether it be your favourite food or a fun drink. Mine was a drink: the Sassaffogato (which I shamelessly stole from one of my favourite Paddington cafes, Sassafras).
I discovered the Sassaffogato at my sister’s bridal shower in 2013 and fell in love. I hadn’t had one since but it is still my favourite drink so of course it had to feature at my bridal shower.
Another popular option is the DIY beverage, where you give people the simple recipe and ingredients for a drink, and they build it themselves. This is popular for the cocktail/mocktail bar that I mentioned before. I had considered this for my signature drink but the coffee required coffee machine skills that I knew not every guest had so instead I got my mum to play barista for the first hour.
You don’t have to have a signature item but it is a nice easy way to personalise the bridal shower and make it feel extra special.
I’m typically not big on structured activities, as I explained in my engagement party guide. But if you are doing a bridal shower somewhere like a home or park which offers a more flexible environment than somewhere like a cafe or high tea venue, then it is nice to give your guests something simple and fun to do so they’re not just talking and eating the whole time. It also helps bring the focus back to you, as the bride.
I had an activity table on the deck, with a range of activities that guests could choose to do or not.
- Date Ideas and Holiday Ideas: simply write a suggestion on a piece of paper and pop it in the tin
- What will she wear: Draw what you think the bride’s dress will look like on her special day
- Would she rather: Circle the option that you think the bride would prefer
- What do you meme: wedding edition (this is not the real What Do You Meme but using this title was the easiest way for guests to quickly recognise what to do): Write your funniest caption for each of the five photos of the bride, groom and bridal party
Some of these (Would She Rather and What Do You Meme) were game style activities where the guests received scores for the most correct answers or best captions. The others were more casual, for my appreciation and amusement after everyone had left.
There are plenty of these types of paper activities available on Etsy, in printable and printed form. But if you are on a budget, it is also easy to make your own activities using Photoshop (or even Microsoft Publisher or Word) and print them yourself. I made mine on Photoshop and had originally planned to get them printed on brown A5 recycled paper for that rustic look. But I decided this was more money and hassle than I felt was necessary so we opted for standard A4 white printer paper and my maid of honour printed the activities at home.
I kept to ‘pen and paper’ activities so that they would be easily completed over coffee, cake and conversation. But there are plenty of more ‘physical’ bridal shower games around the place, you just have to do a quick ‘Bridal Shower Games’ search on Pinterest for all the inspiration you need.
This really depends on where you are hosting your bridal shower, your personal style and how much time and effort you want to commit.
Since mine was a bridal shower at home, I could decorate as much or as little as I pleased. I went for the classic ‘natural, flowers, bunting’ look. I had white bunting in three areas around the house and lots of Australian native greenery (with some white flowers spattered here and there).
To combine function with decor, I stacked tea boxes next to a chalkboard which highlighted the drink of the day, as a sort of decorative menu.
To add some personalisation, I created a corner of my own which included a ‘Welcome to Alice’s Bridal Shower’ chalk board, the old wooden chest I have been slowly doing up, my devil’s ivy plant for some green drapery, a couple of polaroids of me and my fiance, and a cluster of quirky ‘me’ things.
I also used the activity table as a form of ‘practical decor’, making sure the activities were laid out in such a way that continued the rustic, homey, DIY theme.
I can’t really say too much on decor aside from ‘think about the budget and time involved, think about the space you’re in and how people will use the space, and think about how you could incorporate both practical and visual decor to build your theme’. Aside from that, do what makes you happy. If you are not a particularly girly bride, don’t feel everything has to be drowned in pink and roses.
So that’s it. That brings us to the end of my quick bridal shower guide. There is far less to say for the bridal shower than there was for the engagement party but I hope you still got some value out of it.
Just remember, these pre-wedding celebrations are supposed to be enjoyed, so try not to stress yourself out over small details. It’s important to have a good time at your own parties.
Good luck and have fun!
~ Alice Maisie