Bridal Showers

Pick up any bridal etiquette book, and you'll learn that the MOB is supposed to keep her nose out of the bridal shower. That's great news for you if your daughter's bridesmaids are well versed in the etiquette of showers, and responsible enough and financially stable enough to plan a shower for her. Occasionally, however, especially in the case of the younger bride (and her college-aged bridesmaids), the shower sits there, like a wallflower, waiting to be acknowledged. Are you allowed to save the day?

Get Going, Girls!

Younger bridesmaids (or those who haven't read the bridal books) may not have any clue that they're supposed to be planning a shower for their friend. Is it all right for you to give them a nudge in the right direction? A very limited nudge is all you're entitled to — and it should be directed toward the maid of honor, since she's supposed to be taking charge of this particular event. A nice way to find out whether she has anything planned is to simply ask: “Have you girls thought about the shower? Is there anything I can do to help?” You'll be able to gauge from her response whether a party is in the works — or this is the first she's heard (and/or thought) of it.

Essential

Since showers are ideally held about two months prior to the wedding, you'll want to know the game plan at least four months before the ceremony — so that if the bridesmaids are delinquent in their responsibilities, you can step in and whip something up yourself.

Something else to consider: Has your daughter stood up in any of her bridesmaids' weddings? Did she contribute to the planning and the cost of their showers? If not, you can be sure that at least one of the bridesmaids is wondering why she's being held responsible for the very same duty your daughter neglected during her engagement.

Mom to the Rescue

If the bridesmaids have neglected their duties, you don't need to list their names as hostesses on the shower invitations. Since many MOBs do host bridal showers these days, go ahead and put your own name on that line, or choose another relative or friend to be the figurehead for the day.

Are you entitled to demand a financial contribution from the bridesmaids for a shower that you're planning? Not really. Even though the girls should have made the plans themselves, you can't insist that they pitch in on particulars that were completely of your choosing. The place you've chosen might be out of their price range — and they may have hesitated with the planning in the first place because they're all broke. You can certainly request that they pitch in on the party, but you can't place a lien on their bank accounts if they fail to do so.

If you do decide to take the reins of planning this event, or at least want to help organize it, you'll need to know what showers are like these days, and how to make your daughter's both memorable and enjoyable. The following sections will give you some planning pointers.

Dish It Out

What will you feed the ladies who attend the shower? Most often, showers are afternoon events and include light fare, such as buffets with various salads and deli trays. You can also host a sit-down lunch. Just be aware that most guests will expect to eat something substantial, and since the vast majority of them will be lugging a gift for the bride along with them, you want to make sure they feel welcome and well taken care of for the afternoon.

Showers can be held in a banquet hall or restaurant or in someone's home. If you're inviting seventy-five women, really consider whether you're up to the task of setting up tables and chairs and cooking for such a large group. It's definitely easier on your back to hold a large party in a restaurant or banquet facility. If you're renting chairs, tables, linens, and a tent (and glasses … and silverware) for a backyard party, it might actually be less expensive to just move the party elsewhere. If you have loads of helpers, though, as well as plenty of room and folding tables stored in your basement, a party at home might just be a viable option.

For a large, at-home party, you might want to look into hiring a caterer, unless you and your family love the idea of cooking for the masses. Just make sure before you commit to all of this work that your assistants are as committed. You're amazing, all right, but you are one woman with one set of hands. You can't do everything.

Alert

Don't forget about dessert! Wherever ladies gather to celebrate an upcoming wedding, it's only natural that someone will be looking for sweets. Shower cakes are traditional in some parts of the country, while in other areas, anything goes — and usually goes fast!

You'll need to make sure the ladies have plenty to drink. If you're offering wine and cocktails to your guests, make sure they're given a choice of nonalcoholic drinks, as well. If you're hosting a party at home, make sure you've stocked the bar with lemons, limes, celery, olives — anything that your guests will need for their drinks.

Play Along

There are two schools of thought on shower games: Ladies either love 'em or hate 'em. There's no middle ground. Regardless of your personal feelings, take a look at your guest list and ask yourself which guests will be expecting to compete with the other ladies for a prize. Like it or not, members of the older generation (and even some members of the younger generations) might well be expecting to play a game or two — that's what ladies do at showers, as far as they're concerned.

There are some safe standards that almost every guest will tolerate (such as “Guess How Many Heart Candies Are in the Jar”), and then there are games that might only serve to divide your guests into two camps: those who will play, and those who won't. (The opposing groups will eye each other suspiciously for the rest of the afternoon.) These are usually group activities (something along the lines of each table being forced to compose a single poem about the bride and groom). If the guests don't know each other extremely well, your well-intentioned attempt at trying to make them get to know each other could backfire. Unless you and the bride really, really love shower games, try to keep them simple and as humiliation-free for the guests as possible.

We Have a Winner!

Offer prizes for the winners and favors (or door prizes) for all of your guests — and have plenty on hand in case there's a dispute and you end up with double or triple winners somewhere along the line. When you're purchasing these items, think about buying something either perishable or practical — and avoid choosing prizes that will end up in someone's junk drawer or in the trash. Ideas for favors and prizes include heart- or flower-shaped soaps, sachets, small houseplants, heart-shaped chocolates (the best quality), nice pens, notepads, small silver or porcelain frames, and bath oils or salts.

Fact

Coed showers are gaining in popularity. This is a nice idea for a couple of reasons: For one thing, a coed shower gets everyone together before the wedding, and for another thing, the couple will need some practical items (such as tools) that rarely find their way onto a bridal registry.

There are many, many other options and ideas for games and prizes. One last word of caution, though: Think twice before you personalize these items with the bride and/or groom's names. Your guests are more likely to use (and appreciate) something that they feel is theirs — and they won't if your daughter's name is all over those otherwise lovely little notepads and frames you've purchased as door prizes.

Theme Showers

Who doesn't love a good theme party? The possibilities for shower themes are endless, because a bride-to-be usually needs just about everything for her new home and her new life. Some guests really love theme parties, because they know what they're shopping for — it actually might make their work a little easier. Consider these gift-giving themes:

  • Kitchen

  • Lingerie

  • Pottery

  • Recipe or cooking exchange

  • Gift baskets

  • Some of these titles are self-explanatory; others aren't. At a basket shower, for example, each guest gives the bride an entire basket with its own theme — someone might give her a basket filled with cleaning items, for example, while someone else might hand her a basket filled with the ingredients for an entire meal. The guests can get as creative as they want, and the bride will end up with a house full of useful supplies.

    Theme showers can take off in any direction. If the newlyweds will be entertaining frequently in their new home, a stock-the-bar shower might be a great idea for them: Each guest brings a bottle for the newlyweds' liquor cabinet. (Any couple who has ever had to stock their own bar knows that this expense adds up quickly, especially if you're starting from scratch.)

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