Advice: Wedding Shower Etiquette

A primer on hosting, inviting and attending

Q: My soon-to-be sister-in-law wants to throw me a bridal shower, but my mother says family members (even ones who aren’t family yet) shouldn’t throw showers. Is this true? If so, why?

Tradition says that a shower shouldn’t be thrown by the bride’s immediate relatives, including future in-laws, because it might give the impression that you’re asking for gifts. Now, we all know that guests bring gifts to showers, and that any bride worth her salt is much more interested in spending time with friends and family, and having them get to know each other, than receiving a gift. Which is why these days it has become perfectly acceptable for a family member to host a shower.

Another shower trend is several people sharing the responsibility for the party. Often the maid of honor will throw a shower in conjunction with the bridesmaids, or a group of the bride’s mother’s friends will get together to share the cost and tasks. Regardless of who throws the shower, the host(s) and the bride should greet guests as they arrive.

These days brides will often have more than one shower. If this is the case, the hosts should consult each other to avoid inviting guests to more than one shower (the obvious exceptions to this are the bridesmaids, who should be invited to all of the showers, but not expected to attend).  

As with almost everything about throwing showers, for every rule there is an exception, and while you should only invite people to the shower who are on your wedding guest list, the exception to this rule is the office shower. Though it isn’t usually possible to invite all of your colleagues to your wedding, they will most likely want to help you celebrate regardless.

The shower invitation is also an exception to the rule of not printing registry information; in fact, it’s the perfect place to do so. Ask your hosts to add a line at the bottom of the invitation after the relevant details that says something like: “Jane and John are registered at Amazon and Anthropologie.”

Throwing a shower is an exceptionally generous act, so while a handwritten thank-you note is acceptable (and necessary), you should also give the hosts a small gift, such as a gift certificate or a selection of little luxuries; matching your gift to the theme of the shower, if there is one, is a nice touch.

Q: I want to invite my fiancé’s cousin’s wife to a bridal shower (she and her husband are already invited to the wedding), but they live across the country and it would be expensive for her to come all that way for a party. How can I include her but also let her know that I don’t expect her to come?

It’s very sweet of you to want to make sure your loved ones who live far away feel cherished and involved with the events leading up to your wedding. A great way to express your feelings is to include a handwritten note with the shower invitation. Perhaps say something like, “We miss you and would love to have you attend, but understand it’s a long way to travel. If you can’t make it, would you join us in spirit by sending a wish or a memory that we can share on your behalf during the event?” You could even arrange a specific time for her to Skype in to send her best wishes herself.

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