Pretty pink bridesmaids with parasols

If it's your job to host the bridal shower or kitchen tea for your beloved bride, how do you go about it?

Set the date

While the bride is of course not allowed to host her own shower,she is an excellent consultant to help you set the tone of the event and you'll need to consult her early on to organise the date, time of day (usually afternoons although there's no reason you can't break with tradition), the number of guests (are you going for key family members and best girlfriends only or are Great Aunt Marjorie and the mother-in-law's next-door neighbour welcome too?) and the location.

The guest list

If the wedding is going to be an extravaganza of sorts, it's not necessary to invite all the women who'll be attending, just those known to the bridal party, the immediate women from the groom's family and the bride's closest friends. Having said that, bridal showers can be a fabulous ice-breaker, particularly for weddings where guests are drawn from many social circles, but of course your venue and budget will have a significant impact on the guest list.

Who hosts the shower

Whose budget you say? Yours. Historically it's the maid of honour or one of the bridesmaids who host the shower at home, and the bill for food and beverages usually falls to the bride's best girls. If your bride's family aren't bogged down by tradition you may find the mother of the bride offers to chip in, but don't count on it unless you know for sure!

The venue

If hosting at home isn't practical because of size or location, or your bride would prefer to head out somewhere, that's perfectly acceptable and some popular venue ideas include restaurants, hotels which serve high tea and gorgeous gardens if you can get your head around picnic planning (and carting the food, drinks and gifts to and fro).

A small marquee in the backyard is gorgeous in Spring and lends itself well to a high tea or garden party theme, while showers held either at home or in a restaurant are suited to themes such as "pretty in pink" or a bold array of candy brights such as hot pink, orange, aqua and yellow, in which case you can tie in the food - lolly buffet and matching cupcakes of course - with the décor, fresh blooms and bunting are cute and colourful.

Gifts

Traditionally a Kitchen Tea means that guests come baring gifts for the kitchen, from bake ware to table ware.  Other possibilities include a shower tea (items for the bathroom) a cellar tea (to stock the cellar) even a garden tea where guests bring potted plants and gardening tools for gifts. Find more tea possibilities.

It pays to have a bridesmaid on hand to discreetly note down who has given what to make it easier for the bride to send personal thank you notes, which, if you're into etiquette, should be handwritten and posted rather than emailed within a week of the event.

Decorations

Check with your bride whether she'd prefer to tie the shower theme in with the style and colour scheme for the wedding for a consistent vibe leading up to the big day, or whether she'd prefer to keep some of the styling secrets for the wedding day under wraps - in which case opt for an entirely different theme (maybe something pretty, lighthearted or humorous) or go with a colour scheme that suits the venue's décor.

Sending out the invitations

As for invitations, it really is proper etiquette to post invites out via snail mail between four and six weeks ahead of the event, saving e-mail for an early ‘save the date' request only.

If the bride has a bridal shower gift registry, she may want to include the details on the invitation however etiquette suggests that it's the bridesmaids job to spread the word. 

However, if your bride is all for e-invites and the shower or kitchen tea is an informal affair, so long as you come up with a schmick design (there are plenty of sites out there to help you create your own) there's no hard and fast rule that you can't go with an online invitation. Just remember to have a print alternative for older relatives and guests who may not have access to email - or who may be offended by the very idea!

Scheduling

In terms of scheduling the format of the day itself, three to four hours is the typical timeframe for a shower or kitchen tea, sometimes even less, and it's generally expected that gifts will be opened during the event (often to the delightful oohs and aahs of the bride's older rellies).

Therefore, we'd usually suggest having cocktails, cups of tea, fresh frappes or whatever you're serving with cute canapés during the first 45 minutes or so as guests are arriving and mingling, followed by more substantial food - if you're serving any - then a couple of "traditional (or unusual) bridal shower games", (unless your bride has stipulated she can't think of anything worse in which case, get creative), followed by the opening of the presents towards the end of the party.

Party favours

Finally, depending upon your guest numbers, you might want to send your bride's nearest and dearest home with a little memento, a favour to remember the day. This can be as simple as a cupcake in an organza bag or pristine white box, a mini kitchen utensil, crisp pack of tea towels or napkins in a divine design or - if you're only hosting a select few - pretty parasols to play upon the "shower" theme.

Ultimately, the bridal shower should be a fun, girly, gossipy event for your bride where she can relax and have all the fine details managed by someone else for once, since it may be the last chance she'll have to unwind and take a load off before the big day. So put in the effort and pamper her a little - it doesn't have to be on a huge scale, it doesn't have to cost a fortune, DIY and homemade details are just as gorgeous (if not more impressive) than deluxe decorations so get together with the girls and put your plan in place. Just don't forget to share your best ideas with us!!

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