After wrapping up a photo shoot in the room filled with china plates and crystal glasses, Laura Hartman and Marcia Mehan, sales managers at Fischer Evans in Chattanooga, Tenn., explained proper etiquette for wedding showers.
Anyone who is close to the bride can host a shower, from the maid of honor, another bridesmaid or groomsmen.
Having multiple showers thrown by co-workers and church members is acceptable, but bridesmaids are not required to buy multiple shower gifts if more than one is being thrown. In order to not look like the bride is asking for gifts, ideally, the family should not host the shower. “Definitely not a mother, although you can still do it and do it in good taste,” said Marscha.
But: Only in circumstances when the maid of honor is a part of the family should the family host, when going by traditional etiquette guidelines.
Who is Invited
The cardinal rule of wedding showers is to only invite those who are also invited to the wedding. Guests of the shower are expected to bring gifts, and it could be uncomfortable to have someone buy a present for a couple who did not include them in the wedding guest list.
Some say the wedding shower is to be no more than 15 people, to make sure it is those who are closest to the bride. Considering that the bride’s family, groom’s family and bridal party are automatically invited to a shower, it would be OK to exceed that limit when the bride has either a large family or bridal party.
But: Keep in mind each guest should receive a thank you note from the bride or couple confirming that they got the gift, and writing notes can add extra time to the busy schedule.
When it Happens
Generally, the bridal shower happens close enough to the wedding to avoid returning gifts if the wedding is postponed or called off, but not so close to the wedding that it adds extra stress. This time frame begins two months before the wedding and ends two weeks before the wedding. Hartman says anytime leading up to the wedding is an appropriate time for a shower.
But: If the bridal party and family live far enough away to fly to the bridal shower, it could be easier to host it closer to the wedding date.
Where it Happens
Many wedding showers happen in the home of a bridesmaid or a close friend of the bride. If this is the case, the host is responsible for costs and entertainment. Opening gifts can take less than 15 minutes, so to keep the enthusiasm high, it is wise to have a plan of what to do next and conversation topics to bring up if there is a dull moment.
But: If hosting the shower in a house sounds boring or inconvenient, the shower can happen just about anywhere else. Hosting elsewhere provides opportunity to go to the spa, a restaurant or a theme park if that is what sounds best to those involved.
What about the Men?
It is up to the host and the bride to decide whether men will be invited to the shower. When bridal showers started, it was a way of providing dowry to a woman choosing to marry a poor man. Now, the shower is more about spending time focusing on the bride and celebrating the upcoming wedding, so boys are allowed to join in.
But: If the party is themed “1800’s dowry party,” then it would not make any sense to invite men because of tradition.
A note to the Bride and Her Guests
According to proper etiquette, each guest invited to the wedding is supposed to give a gift regardless of whether they can make it to the wedding. For large weddings, that means a lot of gifts — but also a lot of thank you notes. “A note confirms that you got the gift,” said Hartman. “There is a lot going on for a bride, and it is a stressful time but people need to be thanked.”