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All the Bridal Shower Etiquette Tips You Need to Know

If the thought of proper bridal shower etiquette makes you roll your eyes, don't fret. Here are some updates to the modern bridal shower that will still make your Grandma happy.

Bridal shower invitation bride with red nails calligraphy

Does the image of bridal showers of yore—frilly tea-party-inspired decor, all of your aunties, pastel pink petit fours—freak you out? Relax, you’re not alone. It’s the 21st century, and there are new rules when it comes to bridal shower etiquette for a modern bride-to-be like you while still keeping your grandma and great-aunts totally satisfied. You can have your shower your way, while still maintaining “proper” bridal shower etiquette—just keep these pointers in mind.

The Old Rule: The maid of honor and bridesmaids host the bridal shower.
The New Rule: Showers can be hosted by pretty much anyone. 

So one of the first bridal shower etiquette questions you'll need to ask is, "okay, who's hosting (read: paying for) this thing?" Well, in the past the role of bridal shower hostess pretty much always went to the maid of honor, with other members of the bridal party as her assistants. The mother of the bride (or future mother-in-law) did not host the shower, as it seemed like a direct plea for gifts for her daughter (or future daughter-in-law)—total faux pas! Nowadays, bridal showers certainly may be hosted by the wedding party, but they can also be hosted by the mother-of-the-bride, future mother-in-law, family friends, relatives, co-workers for an office shower, the list goes on. 

The Old Rule: You must invite every lady on the wedding guest list!
The New Rule: You can have two showers—one for family members, one for friends.

Most of us live away from home and have a group of friends that act as our second family. That’s why the old bridal shower etiquette rule of having your shower in your hometown can get confusing when it comes time to send out invites. Rather than making all of your close friends travel, or getting #lit with your girl squad alongside your grandmas, feel free to have two separate showers: One more traditional one at home (ask your mom or home-based pal to help you plan it), and one where you’re not worried about getting a little wild (thought starter: bottomless mimosas!) with your girlfriends on your own turf (task local bridesmaids with throwing this one). By going this route, the bridal shower guest lists will practically write themselves! 

​​​​The Old Rule: You must play cute little games about your and your partner's relationship.
The New Rule: You can just have food and cocktails and hang out.

My not-at-all-based-in-fact hypothesis is that bridal shower games were invented back in the day when women weren’t supposed to drink. Today, we are allowed to drink. And be loud. And take selfies. And just hang out and have fun. So, if that’s all you want to do at your bridal shower—gather with your closest friends, have a few drinks and have a good time—feel free to request that there are no games. Those planning your party will probably be relieved that they don’t have to also plan games, but here’s what to do if you meet resistance with a bridal shower etiquette traditionalist: Express how grateful you are they are planning your shower, remind them how excited you are to celebrate with them, and explain you want to save them the trouble of planning activities when all you really want to do at your shower is spend time with your loved ones. Voila!

The Old Rule: You must request tons of presents and open them at the party while everyone watches.
The New Rule: You can request small gifts, or no bridal shower gifts at all!

Even though it’s called a “bridal shower,” it can feel awkward asking your friends to shower you with presents (especially when they’re expected to shower you with even more stuff come your wedding day). If that just doesn’t feel like “you,” feel free to have whomever is planning this pre-wedding event write “no gifts!” on the invite—then perk up your ears for the collective sigh of relief from your guest list. You’ll still get items from your registry at your actual wedding, without the stressful center-of-attention moment of opening gifts while surrounded by bridal shower guests. Alternatively, you can request themed gifts (usually at a much lower price point than wedding registry items) like lingerie gifts, honeymoon gifts, or beauty products—these are really fun to open and will add some spark to your party, without making you feel guilty about asking guests to spend the big bucks.

The Old Rule: All brides must have a bridal shower.
The New Rule: You can totally skip this event!

If all of this sounds like a lot to you and all you really want to do is get married already, you can absolutely skip a bridal shower altogether. Just make sure your request to not have one is polite and heartfelt, rather than heated and bothered—you don’t want to sound like it would be a chore to attend a party thrown in your honor. Instead, have a chat with whomever would be tasked with planning your shower, and tell them you’d rather not have a party to save everyone the time, money, and stress. Tell them you’ve had plenty of time in the spotlight since your engagement and are very grateful for it all, and now you’d rather lay low until your wedding day. They’ll understand, and will appreciate your honesty. Remember: This is your wedding, and you make the rules!

The Old Rule: No future spouses allowed!
The New Rule: You can have a joint wedding shower if you want.

Not into the idea of all the gifts and glory and spotlight shining down on you and only you while your spouse-to-be stays home and catches up on The Sinner? You can request a couple’s shower—where both of you are present for the whole party, and both of your friends and family groups are invited. Just make sure the invite clearly states that it’s a couple’s shower rather than a bridal shower, so guests know what to expect, and make sure whomever is planning has help from the spouse’s side, since it’ll be twice as much work. Also: games can be super-fun at a party where both members of the couple are involved (a few rounds of “who knows who best?” always garners some laughs) so don’t rule those out.

​​​​The Old Rule: You must send thank-you cards following the shower.
The New Rule: You still must send thank-you cards following the shower.

Being grateful is never going to go out of style, so don’t think that just because you’re a modern bride and you messed with tradition means you can get out of sending a heartfelt thank-you note—a major bridal shower etiquette rule. No, a text or email won’t really do the trick, and no, you can’t really fold your shower thank-you into your wedding gift thank-you. No matter how you make your shower yours, make sure to send personal notes by post to every single guest within a month of your event, and if you receive gifts at your party, make a note of who gives what so you can thank them for the gift in the note. It wouldn’t hurt to send an extra-special thank-you in the form of a bridal shower hostess gift to whomever planned your shower along with their card, like a candle or something snacky. Think of it all as practice for the hundred-plus thank-you’s you’ll be writing very soon, once your big day wraps!