Editor’s Note: It must be wedding season, because this useful blog entry I wrote two years ago is getting a lot of hits lately. In the spirit of sharing, I’m re-publishing for new blog readers. Enjoy!
The prospect of throwing an at-home bridal shower can seem daunting – and rightfully so, as it is a lot of work. The sooner you accept that it’s far more significant and detail-oriented than your average dinner party, the better. It’s (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime event for the bride and it should come off as flawless. No pressure, right?
Reality check aside, if you love to entertain, hosting an at-home bridal shower is also very rewarding. It’s incredibly fun to pick a theme, design a menu, decorate and celebrate your friend or family member’s upcoming wedding.
Here are 7 tips on hosting an elegant event to remember:
Tip One: Select Your Venue Carefully – Be realistic about how many people the home can fit. If the bride wants 30-50 guests, an at-home shower may not work, unless you’re open to using your backyard for opening presents (weather permitting). Our venue had a family room the size of a two car garage and we sat 35 comfortably in chairs (no tables). I don’t think we could have accommodated more than that. Keep in mind that presents for 35 guests will also take up a TON of space and plan ahead for that.
Tip Two: Think Though the Theme – The theme sets the scene and tone for the bridal shower. From the food, drinks, music, favors and decor, pick a theme that you can realistically execute. Before committing to a theme, make out a sample menu, think through favor ideas and determine the cost of what must be purchased. Once all of the bridesmaids and MOBs agree, then you’re ready to divide and conquer.
Tip Three: Learn to Love Lists – Once you’ve committed to a theme, you need to draw up an official event plan. Carefully think through all of the elements that will go into your shower: guest list, invitations, RSVPs, favors, food, drinks, music, seating, decor, the number of plates, glasses, napkins and silverware needed, and more. Then, divide amongst the bridesmaids.
Tip Four: A Little Creativity Goes a Long Way – Everyone in your bridal party will have different talents, so encourage them to add their own personal touches to what they have ownership over. We lucked out to have a graphic designer that could make the invitations, a baking enthusiast who learned to make scones specifically for the shower, a girl who suggested having a bellini bar with homemade raspberry and lemon purées (huuuuge hit) and another that had access to amazing, yet inexpensive roses. In addition, we made several photo boards which everyone loved, and dressed according to the English tea theme in flowery dresses and outrageous vintage hats. And yes, we had a fab vintage hat for the bride-to-be!
Tip Five: Time is Never on Your Side – Be extremely realistic and overestimate how much time it is going to take to execute what you’re delivering to the party. In a perfect world, doing this will allow you to have everything ready as the first guest arrives. I was baking up a storm and found it helpful to take the day off beforehand to bake, clean and decorate the house. I also stopped at a bridesmaid’s home two days beforehand to pick up dishes and the favors so that they could be set up in advance. While some things, like baking, can only be done one day beforehand, making favors, buying ingredients/alcohol, or pulling out photos for a photo board can be done far in advance.
Tip Six: Plan How the Event Will Flow - To set the scene for your guests, you also need to make a plan for how the event will flow. Having an at-home shower means that many guests will be strangers, so it’s the bridesmaids job to greet them and welcome them to the event. We had the bridesmaids rotate answering the door, greeting each guest, taking their coat and walking them to the kitchen/dining room where the first hour cocktail portion of the event was. We also took their present off their hands and brought it to the designated present opening area. From there, we had guests enjoy cocktails and nibbles for an hour before transitioning the shower into the family room to open presents. After presents, people were free to mingle again.
Tip Seven: Present Opening Made Easy - No matter how you go about it, it takes a good hour or so to open presents. To make the present opening go faster, make sure to have scissors on hand to open cardboard boxes and have two bridesmaids dedicated to funneling the presents to the bride-to-be. One bridesmaid should be dedicated to recording each present and another should be dedicated to snapping photos. During this time, it’s easy for the guests to lose attention and start chatting with their seatmate. We found it helpful to have everyone write marriage tips, notes of congratulations, or funny memories of the bride-to-be on a slip of paper and have one of the bridesmaids read them between presents. It kept everyone’s attention and made the event more sentimental.
Final Thought: Though a lot of work, I found hosting an at-home bridal shower to be more intimate, cost-effective and a fun excuse to spend an entire day in the kitchen baking. The event ended up being very successful, largely because we were incredibly organized. No event ever goes 100% according to plan, but if you go into the shower with a positive attitude and have fun, it will be an excellent time for all involved.