A Guide to Planning, Attending (and Surviving) Bridal Showers

Because wedding season doesn’t start and end the day they say “I do.”

This year, I’m getting married. Being engaged has been exciting and wonderful, but the wedding planning itself has been, well, pretty stressful.

Organizing any event can difficult, and if you’re not a professional party planner (I can barely plan my own meals), putting together a wedding can be downright exhausting.

And to make matters worse, there’s more than just the wedding to focus on. There’s the bridal shower, a bachelorette party, an engagement party, and the rehearsal dinner. There’s so much going on that it’s almost impossible for the engaged couple to do it all themselves.

In the end, a lot of the responsibility usually falls on the bridal party, the couple’s families, and close friends. I’ve seen it from both sides: I’ve been bridesmaid offering to help pick up some slack, to being the bride delegating numerous tasks to the kind (and unsuspecting) friends who offered to help.

So, I know that it can be a bummer if you’re suddenly being given a ton of responsibility. You’re stuck between what the bride and groom wants, what you’re able to do, and how much time/energy you can actually dedicate to making it all happen.

So, in order to help ease the stress of party planning, here’s my guide to planning, assisting with, and enjoying this year’s bridal showers. Whether you’re a bridesmaid, a close family member, or the bride, this list will help you feel confidant, have fun, and get through wedding season with ease.

1. Find out what your role is.

First things first. Before you start booking the venue and ordering champagne, find out what exactly you’re expected to do when it comes to this shower. Because when it comes to showers, there isn’t exactly a hard and fast rule on who is going to be taking the reins.

Sometimes a maid of honor will throw the whole bridal shower herself, other times it’s a parent or grandparent who wants to host it. Sometimes the couple decides to throw a shower together.

With all these different options and expectations, sometimes it can be tricky to walk the line between offering to help and stepping on someone’s toes.

Just make sure you know what the couple wants and what your role in it is. If that means stepping back to watch someone else handle it, great, but you also don’t want to be surprised with a “so… you guys are throwing me a shower right?” — when you had no plans to do so.

On that note, If you’re the bride, remember to be clear about what you want.

For me, I’m really close with my mom and she was so excited to throw me an amazing shower, but we did need some help. My maid of honor did a bunch of crafts for me leading up to the party, and on the day of, we couldn’t have gotten everything set up without my bridesmaids’ help.

2. A good theme is your best friend.

A shower theme can add a little extra fun to the party, serve as inspiration for games and decorations, and help tie everything together.

There are fun and simple themes like “afternoon tea” or “love in Paris” that are easy to find decorations for, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box too.

It could be a scavenger hunt or a pool party bridal shower. You could decorate the party area to look like the set of Stranger Things or model the party after Great Gatsby parties.

For my shower, I decided on a Sound of Music theme. It’s my favorite movie and getting to live in The Sound of Music world made the party extra special for me. Two of my bridesmaids and I dressed up as “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes” (from the song “My Favorite Things”) and my mom had a dress made to look like one Julie Andrews wears in the movie. I had pictures from the film decorating the party space, tables were named after the von Trapp children, and I even had themed party favors and desserts.

I had so much fun finding new ways to incorporate the theme into the party. For example, I liked the idea of candles for party favors, so I ordered ones that were apple strudel scented. I even had themed tea cups made for prizes.

In a world of Etsy and Amazon it’s easy to order almost anything for your party-planning needs, so it’s easy to get creative.

3. Put a new twist on old games.

You’ve probably played the typical bridal shower games a million times. There’s a certain sense of comfort in a good “how well do you know the bride” quiz or a “make a wedding dress out of toilet paper” game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up a little.

For my Sound of Music shower, I took inspiration from the movie when it came to games. I always liked the scene where Maria gets the idea to make her old curtains into play clothes for the children. So, I went to Target and got a few packs of curtains (whichever ones were on sale) and split my guests into teams to create dresses. Everyone got into it and I had a lot of fun judging the best dress.

We also had a sound of music quiz with questions like “What city is The Sound of Music set in?” and “What are the names of the seven von Trapp children?” to test guests’ movie knowledge.

4. A gift-giving guide.


Gifts are often a big part of a bridal shower. In fact, it’s in the name: you’re supposed to “shower” the bride with love, attention, and of course, new stuff.

A lot of times, guests are expected to bring gifts from the registry and watch as the bride opens them. But that doesn’t mean that’s what happens every time. At lingerie parties, guests bring cute underwear (or fun pajamas) and at a “stock the bar” party guests are expected to bring bottles of alcohol for the couple’s home.

When it came to my bridal shower, I decided that I really didn’t want gifts. My fiancé and I already have everything we need, plus, I wanted to fill the shower time with games and socializing rather than gift opening. So, I asked guests to instead make donations to charity.

If you’re the bride, just remember that you have options, and if you’re a guest, remember to be appropriate. Don’t bring crazy kinky underwear to your friend’s shower if she would be embarrassed to open it in front of family and future in-laws.

5. Take plenty of pictures.

For my shower, I decided to have my wedding photographers come to take pictures. It worked out wonderfully and I got a lot of great shots, but not everyone has the budget to do that.

If you’re attending as a guest, take the time to snap some pictures for the bride. She’ll love to have memories of the decorations, candids from the party, and photos of her having a good time. It’s a thoughtful gesture that she’ll enjoy for years to come.

And, if you’re the party planner, think about posting the wedding hashtag up somewhere for people to see. That way, guests can get pictures to the bride easily.

6. Know when to come and go.

One key to surviving bridal showers is knowing when to end it. Make sure that there’s a start and end time for the event, and figure out how much time you’re willing to dedicate to putting up and pulling down decorations.

You might consider offering to come twenty minutes early to help set up, or plan to stay past the end time to help load everything in the cars. Or, if you know you’ve got to head out early, just make sure everyone knows ahead of time that you have somewhere to be.

While planning all those wedding events may seem daunting, these tips will definitely help make it all less stressful. Whether you’re planning the event or just helping out, you’re sure to have a fun shower and a great wedding season.

Wedding Planning Woes: Questioning Traditions that Separate the Bride and Groom

I was on a mission to make our wedding more modern, more inclusive, more about “us.”

When I got engaged, I started planning my wedding right away.

Before I knew it, I was waist-deep in Pinterest boards, bridal magazines, and cake samples—and loving it. There was just one problem: in all my planning, I realized that there were a lot of wedding traditions that I didn’t like. Or, at least, didn’t connect with.

Of course, I knew that some wedding traditions are old-fashioned (looking at you bride-wears-virginal-white), but I was prepared for that.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how many traditions separated the bride and groom.

Between the separate bachelor/bachelorette parties, ladies-only wedding dress shopping excursions, and even the tradition of not seeing each other the day of the wedding, I felt like my fiancé and I were being pushed away from each other. Which, call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure is the opposite of what’s supposed to happen with a wedding.

Between a bridal shower, bachelorette party, and more, I would spend a lot of time with my mom and my friends, but I really wanted my future husband to be there too. It was our wedding and I wanted to share every experience leading up to it with him.

In my frustration and (moderate) case of wedding planning mania, I did some Googling. I wanted to find out where these separation traditions came from in the first place. As it turns out, back when most of these practices started, it was common for couples to only know each other for a short period of time before getting married, if they’d even met at all.

So, It makes sense that the couple would spend more time with their friends and family than they would with each other (after all- they likely knew their friends better than their future spouse).

But these days, people date for a long time. My husband and I were together for nearly a decade before we got engaged, so when it came to wedding plans and pre-wedding parties we decided to do things a little differently.

Here are some of the things we did to put a twist on wedding traditions, making our wedding more modern and more about us.

1. Shopping for the dress together.

I know that it’s supposed to be bad luck to see the bride’s dress before the wedding, but I was willing to take that risk.

I wanted my husband to help me dress shop because I knew he’d be good at it. He’s always been pretty stylish and he has a good eye for what looks good (and bad) on me.

Plus, I didn’t want to (potentially) spend thousands of dollars on a dress without at least getting his opinion on it. If seeing the dress before the wedding was bad luck, spending lots of money on an outfit the groom hated had to be even worse.

We ended up going to a few different shops and, while I felt like dress shopping took a long time, having my fiancé there made it so much fun. Shopping for a dress can be stressful and it was nice to be able to talk to my future husband about it, look at pictures together, and get his opinion on different styles. I wanted the wedding to be about both of us, and both of our tastes, and I was happy my dress was included in that.

I know you might be thinking that maybe some grooms won’t care that much about what their brides wear, or that they won’t be able to pick up on subtle differences between dresses (to be fair- I was useless when trying to help my husband pick out a suit). But at the end of the day I loved having the experience of shopping together and it made me feel even more confident with my dress.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos

2. Throwing a duel wedding shower.

When it came time for my bridal shower, I had decided that I wanted a more traditional shower- just me and all our closest female friends and relatives. But lots of couples think it’s even better to do it together. And I think they’re on to something.

While I had a more traditional bridal shower, my husband and I also threw a duel engagement party. Right after we got engaged, we invited our closest family and friends over for drinks and appetizers to kick off our marriage celebration. It was a great way for our families to get to know each other, and it felt good to have a casual pre-wedding celebration we could enjoy together.

3. Choosing decor and decorations as a team.

Maybe it’s not necessarily a written tradition, but after seeing a lot of friends get married, I realized that a lot of times the bride plans the bulk of the wedding and makes almost all the style decisions. I thought that sounded unfair: I didn’t want to plan a whole wedding by myself and I also didn’t want to leave my fiancé’s style out of our big day.

In the end, we found that we were able to do almost everything together.

We went on every venue tour together, we looked on Pinterest for flower ideas together, and even picked out wedding favors together (we decided on cookies- they were delicious). In the end, it was a great way to practice making decisions as a couple and we got to spend some quality time together looking forward to our big day.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos

4. A combined bachelor/bachelorette party.

The idea of a “last fling before the ring” or “last night of freedom” seemed so unnatural to me. My husband and I have never been big party-goers, but when we do go out, we’re always together. We liked the idea of going out with our friends for a “girl’s night” or “guy’s night” but we decided that this particular party was in celebration of our wedding, and we wanted to be together.

In the end, the two of us, plus all the bridesmaids and groomsmen, rented a house for a weekend-long pool party—and had a ton of fun. It was a great way to let the bridal party get to know each other before the wedding and it was a chance for my future husband and I to spend some relaxing quality time together before getting back to wedding planning.

5. Walking down the aisle together.

There’s nothing quite like those pictures of the groom getting teary eyed as he watches his bride come down the aisle… but I found that walking down the aisle together is just as special.

I always hated the idea of being walked down the aisle and being “given away.” It just wasn’t something I was comfortable with—so I decided early on that I didn’t want to have a parent walk with me. To make matters worse, I can get pretty bad stage fright and didn’t love the idea of walking down the aisle alone (with everyone looking at me).

In the end, my fiancé and I decided that we should walk down the aisle together. We felt that it symbolized our togetherness and support for one another, and we liked that it was a little different from the tradition. As an added bonus, I loved having a quiet moment alone with my soon-to-be husband outside the venue, peeking in at everyone in their seats, before we walked in.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos

6. Writing your ceremony together.

Just because others use those classic vows doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, it could feel even more special if you write your own together.

Of course, some religious ceremonies will have a set script, but when you can personalize your ceremony, I say do it. When we were getting ready for our ceremony, our officiant sent us a few different ceremony scripts to choose, combine, and change as we pleased. My fiancé and I sat down at the computer one night and cut and paste together an original ceremony that we thought fit us.

We loved how personal our ceremony was and, on top of that, we had fun working on them together.

7. Spending the wedding day together.

It’s tradition to have the bride and groom in separate rooms before the wedding, but it’s your special day, and you deserve to enjoy it together.

You might want to have breakfast together, get ready together, or just set aside a good amount of time for pictures before the ceremony. My husband and I loved taking pictures before our wedding because it gave us some time to enjoy each other’s company before our guests arrived. Seeing each other helped us both stay calm before the ceremony and we were so thankful for the extra time together on our wedding day.

Time goes by so quickly during the ceremony, and before you know it, the reception is over. That time of excitement spent together before the ceremony might just end up being what you cherish most.

There are so many wedding traditions… but that doesn’t mean you have to follow every one of them. You’ll find that the best wedding memories are the ones you and your spouse share together, so don’t be afraid to put a twist on tradition and make your wedding your own.

Jilly Pretzel wedding photos