How to host the perfect wedding shower

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The months leading up to a wedding can be stressful to say the least. They can feel like a never-ending calendar of fittings, workouts, DIY projects and RSVPs for not just the two getting married, but for the friends and family, too.

And, oh yeah - now you have to throw an amazing, memorable shower on top of it.

The shower is a wedding staple, a time for the bride to hang out with all of the most important people who have gotten her to this point in her life - and hopefully enjoy a celebratory glass of Champagne or three in a super fun dress. But it doesn't necessarily need to be an added stressor.

Whether you're the MOH or MOB, here are some tips on how to host the perfect wedding shower that will keep both you and the bride smiling in all those social media pics.


Talk to the bride

Even if she says "Surprise me!," it's safe to say a bride has thought about what her bridal shower would be like. Is it outside with everyone wearing flower crowns? Is it smaller and more intimate? Before you book the horse-drawn buggy your leading lady will arrive in, have a quick chat with her first - just don't say these things.


Set your budget

While it's fun to think about having unicorns walking around a magical sparkling garden, it's important to set the budget before you get deep into your planning. With setting the budget also come the awkward conversations about who is contributing (bridesmaids? Grandma?), so it's better to have that discussion before the 24-pound cake made of cheese is ordered.


Come up with a theme

Much like the wedding theme probably isn't "wedding," the shower theme should be something fun and inspired by the bride. Does she love cats? Great! Cat-themed shower it is. Does she love a good royal wedding? Have everyone come in hats and fascinators. Just don't go overboard with the theme - it might be weird to have a bunch of stray cats running around. Having a theme will also make it a lot easier to land on the right venue, too.


Invite the right guests

There's really only one rule of thumb you need to remember: Anyone who is invited to the shower must also be invited to the wedding. Then, referring back to the chit-chat with your guest of honor, you should have a handy list of who she wants in attendance. Budget will come into play when deciding how many people, but showers could see anywhere from 25 to 60 guests.


Pick the date wisely

Showers are typically held about two months out from the big day. If it's a particularly large wedding with a lot of details, maybe make it a little earlier so that the bride and the bridal party aren't too pressed for time.

No matter the size of the shower, there will always be heavy hitters. We're lookin at you, bride's favorite aunt Cheryl. Check in with the VIPs a few months out and give them the option of a few dates to make sure they can make it before landing on a final day.


Get the invitations right

The bridal shower invitations are going to be the first glimpse your guests will get into the soiree. Keeping budget in mind, of course, get fun invites that are on-theme to give them a little taste of what's to come and get them excited to attend.

Invites should go out six weeks in advance, maybe even eight if it is a busy time of the year like the summer. Make sure to include anything guests would need to know - don't forget to indicate whether there is a dress code, where the couple is registered, and directions are always helpful. Ask guests to RSVP no later than two weeks before.


Confirm RSVPs

Taking that extra step to confirm any lingering RSVPs will make sure you have enough cream puffs and gift bags to go around. An impromptu game of musical chairs might have been fun when you were 10, but not so much when it's shower day.


Delegate, then delegate some more

OK, so you've gotten through a lot of the prep. You've still got to figure out food, decorations, games and who will babysit the loud cousin. We all need help sometimes, and a bridal shower is certainlyone of those times. Check in with the bridesmaids and see who has the capacity to lend a hand, and delegate out some tasks.


Keep an eye on the details

Most people won't remember what day the shower was or what everyone wore, but they will remember the cute vintage photos of other women in the family during their own weddings that you used as centerpieces. Rather than going too crazy with the theme, pinpoint a few select details that you really want to make pop.


Have one showstopper

Maybe it's a flower wall, a balloon arch or a Champagne tower, but having one major detail will still surprise the bride-to-be and get the other guests buzzing. Let's remember, a lot of these people won't actually know each other yet - the bride-to-be's coworkers might be meeting her sister for the first time. Let's give 'em somethin' to talk about.


Don't forget the music

It is a party after all. Create a playlist (or CD) that is specific to your bride-to-be. Songs from all different stages in her life that will have both her and her guests reminiscing about all kinds of memories. This will be playing low in the background and will help with any awkward silences between strangers. Then, the bride can keep the playlist and listen to it over and over again with one added memory - her awesome shower.


Come up with a game - but not a cheesy one

Some bridal showers will have game after game after game. How much toilet paper did you buy for this thing? Games are great ways to break the ice and keep guests entertained, but they can go too far. A "how well do you know the couple" game where you can give small prizes like candles to the person who answers first are great ways to get the room laughing. Another option (especially for an outside shower) is to have more hands-on games, like a garter toss onto wine bottles or giant Jenga, so guests can go play whenever they'd like rather than feeling obligated to create a dress out of toilet paper. Not everyone is a natural Vera Wang. An easy activity that won't take much work is to write the couple's love story, but omit words to make it a Mad Libs that everyone can play. The bride can even take those home to read to her partner.


Ditch opening the presents in public

OK, so this one is controversial. If your traditional bride is set on the assembly line and opening the presents and all that, by all means, please do it. But most showers will be only two to four hours, and many of these people may live far away from the happy couple. Not opening the gifts at the shower, or bringing the gifts unwrapped and displaying them on a table, will leave more quality time and mingling during the special day. Also, some guests may have gift anxiety and wouldn't like to be put on the spot.


Do something to honor the bride

Instead of spending that time on presents, a chunk of time can be set aside to honor the bride and the happy couple. Maybe it's a series of stories or toasts. Maybe it's a fun slideshow about the guest of honor. This day will only come around once (OK, maybe twice), so let the bride know how special she is to everyone.


Have both alcoholic and virgin signature drinks

Every great shower will have a beautiful signature cocktail with a fun pun tied to the bride. May we offer you a Megan's Mint Margarita? A Becky's Bay Breeze maybe? These signature cocktails make for great photos when decorated with festive straws or flags, and a "dry" shower may translate into a "why" shower for guests. Have mocktail options of the same drink on hand for the expectant moms in your crew, or the many guests who will choose to not drink that day.


Have a fun photo spot

Nothing encourages strangers to get into pictures with each other quite like a photo booth. In this case, you don't actually have to put all that much into it. DIY a few fun signs (like "Team Bride" and "He put a ring on it") and hang a festive sign or drapery on an open wall and the social media mavens of the crew will take it from there.


Work in an interactive element

Rather than having the guests just sitting at tables making awkward small talk ("so... how do you know the bride?"), give them one or two interactive stations that will keep them busy and also give them something to take home (or something to eat - those desserts will taste so much better if everyone puts a little work into them). Some options include decorating cupcakes, building flower crowns or making jewelry.


Have a well wishes or "tips" box

The three-hour shower is going to be a whirlwind for your guest of honor. She will need some time to sit down and process everything when she gets home. Somewhere in the room, set up a box with note cards. Guests can then write their well wishes for the couple - or, for guests who are already married, some tried-and-true tips to a long and happy union. This will ensure the memories will last long past the bridal bingo.


Have fun with the food

A bridal shower is no place for a formal sit-down dinner - it's all about the finger foods. Does the bride have a favorite appetizer that you could serve? Nothing like a mozzarella stick to scream "party's here." Cups with veggies and dip, sliders, crostini and festive cookies or cake pops are sure to be crowd-pleasers. Don't forget the on-theme decorations.


Splurge on amazing favors

If you're going to spend money on party favors for your guests to grab on their way out, it may as well be something they'll actually like. Gone are the days of paper bags filled with Tootsie Rolls, Hershey Kisses and tchotchkes. A table full of succulents will look beautiful and your guests will be thrilled to learn they're bringing one home. Other fun options include customized matchboxes (who doesn't have a bunch of candles at home?), a bottle of on-theme perfume, tote bags or desserts in a jar. They will appreciate the gift as just reward for being the best party guests ever.

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