Reader Response Post: How to Make a Bridal Shower Not Suck

by Kathleen Quiring on February 7, 2011

This is one of those totally selfish posts where I take advantage of your generosity. It is also one of those posts where you find out what a whiny little kid I am, if you didn’t already know.

I’ve always held this tacit assumption that one of the curses God placed upon women after the Fall was something like “Thou Shall Attend Bridal Showers.” It’s on par with menstruation and childbirth. It’s just one of those awful things we have to endure. Men have their own set of curses that we will never fully understand.

As a result, I approach bridal shower-planning with the assumption that every woman dreads and loathes them as much as I do.  I assume that there are only a few things you can do to minimize the misery for your fellow womenfolk.

For example, don’t plan a bridal shower on a Friday or Saturday night. Those are the two nights a week we hope to have fun and hang out with our boyfriends or spouses. Those are Martinis-with-the-Girls Nights or Snuggling-with-the-Hubs-Eating-High-fat-Ice-Cream-and-Watching-DVDs Nights. No one wants to be stuck in a big echoey church gym eating subpar potluck food with the bride’s aunts, playing Guess-What’s-in-the-Presents Bingo or The Purse Game, listening to another tired meditation on First Corinthians 13. Not on a Friday or Saturday night.

Right? Nobody wants this??

But there has got to be more to it. There’s got to be more than one way to shower a bride with gifts. And my dear sister-in-law is getting married this spring, and I’m to be a bridesmaid. There has to be a way to make it not suck.

The trouble is, I’m not very creative when it comes to these things. I’m lost beyond let’s not make it for a Friday or Saturday night and let’s try to get everybody the heck outta there by eight.

So this is where you come in: have you ever been to a bridal shower that didn’t leave you wanting to bang your head against the paper-plated table? If so, what did you guys do? What can make a shower a more endurable experience?

I think (shudder) *games* might be inescapable; have you ever played a fun one?

Have you ever received a door prize that wasn’t a complete waste of space in your home?

Is there anything else you did to make it not completely suck?

A few things to keep in mind: it will be later winter/early spring, so we’re trapped indoors. And 50-80 women will likely be attending (we’re Mennonites. We have biiiiiig families). Also, strong drink is not permitted (the church gym has already been booked). Any suggestions??

* * *

I know I offer an unfair assessment of bridal showers. My mom actually gets kind of offended when I talk about bridal showers like they’re the Fourth Horse of the Apocalypse. Apparently, for many moms, showers are a welcome opportunity to get out of the house and hang with just the girls for one night.

And I’ll admit that the concept is rather beautiful. All the women in a community gather round a bride-to-be to support her and to supply her with household needs so she can start her new life without that added pressure. I can envision it being a warm, intimate, loving, and gloriously feminine event, full of generosity and joy.  Maybe it’s my own fault I haven’t been able to feel that so far.

But still. Do you have any suggestions?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura February 7, 2011 at 9:01 am

We played Song of Solomon pictionary. Trying to guess “hair like a flock of goats descending Mount Gilead” and “a waist like a sheath of wheat, her navel a goblet overflowing with wine” can be pretty funny.

Reply

2 Elizabeth February 7, 2011 at 10:15 am

I’m one of those weirdos who loves bridal showers. So…

I’m surprised that you’re having the bridal shower at night. That seems odd to me. Every shower I’ve been to has been a Saturday brunch or Saturday afternoon thing. Serve food that’s supposed to be room temperature. Brunch – doughnuts, muffins, quiche, toast-your-own-bagels, fruit platter. Lunch – tea sandwiches (cute ones, no crust, cucumber and butter, or pate spread), deviled eggs, salad. Punch, coffee, tea, water to drink at both and then the traditional cake. A hot dinner sounds like a lot of work.

Since my family is spread all around the country, showers end up being mini-family-reunions. Everyone shows up on Friday night for dinner somewhere, and then on Saturday, the teens babysit the babies during the shower, the men go hang out in some garage, the women do the shower. Then afterward everyone goes out for a cheap dinner and goes bowling. Sunday morning is a mishmash of church, brunch, people leaving for home, hanging out, cleaning up, and eating leftovers. All very fun.

Good door-prizes that don’t waste space are little boxes of chocolates or swanky bath products (like Lush bath bombs). Games are harder, but I try to do games that allow everyone to talk to each other – more like ice breaker games. That’s what people want to do anyways – that and bombard the bride or new mother with unasked-for advice. I like to make a game out of that one, everyone write down a piece of advice anonymously, and then the bride/new mother gets to read them aloud and people chat about it. But that might only work for smaller showers.

Reply

3 Dayna February 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

What is with the danged games?!? Why are showers the only party holdover from the 50s to still feature lame party games?! You don’t go to an adult’s birthday party, cocktail party, or bachelor party (I very much assume) and expect to play terrible and boring games for terrible prizes! Why is it, then, that women gathering at a shower (baby or bridal) can’t be expected to socialize or have a nice time by themselves, using their own brains and experiences, without these awful games?!?! (Not to go all feminist on you, but isn’t it a little infantilizing?)

I’m sorry, I just really hate the games…

And my opinion is, they’re not inescapable – just escape them! Ladies of the world (North America? Do they have horrible shower games in the rest of the world?), UNITE! Escape the fetters of gift bingo, word scrambles, and forcibly fashioning wedding gowns out of toilet paper!

As case in point, we’re planning my cousin’s bridal shower for this summer, and she has decreed no games. (She’s leading the way!)

My suggestion is to just give nice favours (I like Elizabeth’s suggestions) without making anyone work for them.

And cutting out the games would certainly help with the problem of shower length (which must be considerable if 50 to 80 women are attending, all showering the bride with gifts to open!).

Why can’t we treat showers more like other, rational, adult gatherings, and simply forget about the games?

(I do know at least one lady who likes the games, but I have to say, the vast majority of ladies I’ve ever met at showers aren’t fans.)

Reply

4 Kathleen Quiring February 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Ha, Dayna — we are speaking the same language here. I loved this: “Why can’t we treat showers more like other, rational, adult gatherings?”

I should have clarified: the reason games are inescapable in this particular instance is because a prime member of the party-planning committee and the (ahem) biggest funder of the event — mom-in-law — is absolutely mad about games. She dreams about them at night. It wasn’t a question of whether or not there would be games, but how many there would be, and when we would have them. If this were my shower it would be a different story.

Reply

5 Theresa February 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I really hate the games too. But the absolute worst games are the ones where only the bride plays…have you ever seen those? Where they ask the bride different questions (i.e. “How well do you know your future husband?”) The guests just sat around and watched. Where’s the fun in that?

If you must play games, make sure they are somewhat interesting for everyone, not just the bride. Maybe a wedding trivia game? (Like who was the Queen that started the white dress tradition)

And for prizes, I’m with Elizabeth. Consumables are the best prizes.

Reply

6 Eileen May 21, 2013 at 9:39 am

OMG I love that idea Theresa, thank you! Wedding/ bridal trivia! Something somewhat intelligent about the history of the wedding ceremony and marriage that will be interesting for everyone and which doesn’t force me to rely on the groom to answer stupid questions about my sister’s most annoying habit. Perfect.

Reply

7 Jessica February 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I did a small bridal shower for a cousin that had an Asian theme to it. That was tough, but turned out cute with paper lanterns for decor. But the one thing I remember was making fortune cookies for it. We made fortunes ahead of time – most of them were more of a story prompt than a fortune. Everyone got a fortune cookie. When the bride opened her present from that person, they got to open their fortune cookie and follow the prompt. “Tell the story of meeting your husband” “Tell the story of your first kiss” whatever. The person with the fortune cookie had to tell their own story and then the bride got to tell hers. We learned a lot about some of the other guests – it was pretty funny to hear my grandma tell about her worst date with my grandpa!

We found a recipe on the internet and baked our fortune cookies to put the prompts in. It was a lot of work, but you could also just put story prompts in a jar or something.

Reply

8 nicole February 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm

With 50-80 people, I’d say SKIP the games.

Instead, make it a coking shower- when you send the invite, send a pretty recipe card and ask the invitee to write a favorite recipe of theirs that the couple likes, or one they want to share. if they can’t come, ask them to still send the card back to you. Then put them in a nice photo binder (the type with 3 slots for photos on clear page, so they can be pulled in and out easily. You can decorate the binder with scrap stickers or whatever. It’s a NICE memento and helpful to the bride.

THEN you ask the guests to bring ONE gift items related to their recipe (like a potato peeler or bag of potatoes for a potato casserole). Then you put all those single items in a big laundry basket. Now you can do a simple game from this- have the basket where everyone can see it and leave some 3×5 or 4×6 cards and pens nearby. Have everyone look at the items and see if they can guess some great ways to use the items (warning- this CAN get risque!)- it helps to break the ice and is fun, but not a ‘dreaded’ bridal shower game.

The couple gets extra food/small items, and everybody loves to share recipes, so it all works out well!

Reply

9 Kathleen Quiring February 7, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Awesome ideas, ladies! Comsumables do sound like the best prizes, and I like Dayna’s idea of “not having to work for them.”

Ice-breaker games sound tolerable, and I really like the recipe-sharing and advice-sharing activities. Nice!

Reply

10 Lizzi February 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I’ve co-planned three bridal showers now and there have only been two games that I helped with that I actually thought seemed fun. One is a bridal scattergories (not sure if you’ve played regular Scattergories, but it’s fun). Basically, you use the letters of the bride’s name and a few questions, like type of flower or song title, and they have to come up with something in each of those categories with each of the letters in the bride’s name. Whoever has the most wins. The other is as everyone is walking in, you give them the name of one half of a famous couple and they stick it onto their forehead. It’s a nice game for while people are walking in. Everyone has to figure out who they are and then figure out who they’re with (example being one person has “Romeo” and the other “Juliet”). Hopefully that helps.

Reply

11 Christina February 7, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Kathy, as you mentioned, I am one of those moms who looks at a shower as a chance to get out without kiddos and hang out with women. I love them! And I think the reason we started doing them on Friday and Saturday evenings is because a lot of people (usually myself included) work on Saturdays and can’t make it to the Saturday morning or afternoon showers.
And personally, it’s not like I really do that much hanging out on a Friday or Saturday evening anyway. Usually we watch some TV together, or Dave will watch sports and I’ll do Sudoku or something. Ya, we’re lame. Whatever.
Another thing I love about showers is that whenever it occurs, it’s one meal I don’t have to cook for. I tell the hubby sorry, but I’m leaving, so you’ll have to think of something to eat.
I don’t have any specific game suggestions, but I like something to do while the bride is opening gifts. I hate, absolutely hate sitting there just watching the bride open 3 toasters and 5 pairs of oven mitts (check the registry people!). Even worse, I hate when someone is trying to yell over all the noise of people chattering and chairs screeching. USE A MICROPHONE!

Reply

12 Sharon February 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm

A game that I enjoyed. In advice, the host asked the bride lots of questions about her and her husband — where was their first date? What was their first kiss like? How did he propose? Could be anything, too, like what’s his middle name, where was he born, whatever. Then give all guests the quiz, and see who knows the bride/groom the best.

Other thing that has been great, with advance planning. Ask everyone to send in advance a recipe for the bride. Then, compile a book of the recipe. This was done for some of my friends, and great to have recipes from family and friends all in one place.

Reply

13 hallie l. February 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm

For 50-80 people, if you’re doing a potluck, give very specific food assignments. For example, cheese plate, fruit plate, nuts, fudge, etc. For that sized group, I’d personally avoid most carbs (cookies, traditional cake, etc) since those go crazy stale unless you watch them like a hawk.

Baking (or buying) mini-cheese cakes can be fun; they can be served room temperature and frozen until the day of.

For seating, if you do round tables, you could do a fondue setup and have everyone bring things to dip, with the hot pots in the center of the tables.

If you want to do games (which can be a good way to get a group to mix and relax), do games the women can do at their tables in small groups.

Agree the microphone is a good idea. Have music playing when everyone arrives. Have everyone eat during the gift opening. Have the opened gifts go on a specified table so they’re not passed around (which could be awkward and take just as long).

Door prizes: Hit TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, look for marked down candles and home items, or tie pretty ribbons around good-quality chocolate.

When I threw my sister-in-law’s shower, I did tea bags and scented sugar as a favor – basically, sugar that’s been in a glass container with orange peel, vanilla beans, lavender – it’s different but crazy cheap.

Avoid crepe paper and helium balloons.

It’ll be fun :-)

Reply

14 hallie l. February 8, 2011 at 9:32 am

Thought about it some more…for the food, you could do a pie theme, and everyone can overdose on pie. It’d be grand.

Reply

15 Anna February 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm

With 50-80 women, you could make something together, like a quilt top.

Reply

16 Erin February 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Um. I don’t think that I’ve ever been to a night bridal shower. I’m in my best friend’s wedding next week and we threw a Sat brunch shower. She didn’t want a bunch of shower games so we had a version of the newlywed game. I e-mail her future hubby some random fun questions and she had to guess how he answered them. It was fun and it gave everyone at the shower a chance to here how they met, their best and worst date, etc and to get to know her and/or her finance better. I have to say it was fun:)

Reply

17 jayme February 10, 2011 at 2:14 pm

We’ve done the night shower thing – especially for church showers. That way, many dads could babysit kiddos at home. For church showers, we usually skip the games. LAME-O. No me gusta games.

If it were me and it was that many people, I’d find a way to shorten the gift opening….that’s the part that’s always too long. People are talking at their tables (which is great) – no one is paying attention to what she’s opening. Is it really that rude to open gifts up later? It’s an annoyance more than anything! Or maybe really encourage group gifts? I dunno.

There are no winners in bridal or baby showers as far as I’m concerned.

Reply

18 alison February 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm

hmm, i don’t quite share your disdain for showers (we have found something we differ on!) but i do believe that games can be a little tiring. i have one hilarious suggestion though, that may or may not be appropriate. my sister had one of the girls at my shower write down all the comments i said as i was opening my gifts (as if she were writing down what gifts i got) and then later repeat them to me as “comments I was going to make on my wedding night.” hilarious comments include such gems as “ooohh its blue! (referring to a knife) and “great we need one of these! mike’s is broken!” Um…and yes, my grandma was there. anyways, it was hilarious. And embarrassing.
We did this at another friend’s bridal shower and when she opened our gift (it was a couple’s shower) she said something like “Oh, thank you alison and mike!” which later repeated, and in the context of knowing that we were their NFP teachers, was quite funny. maybe you had to be there.
a little more risque, but you could also always play that part later when all the younger girls are around.

Reply

19 Jacqueline February 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

If it’s between sitting and staring at someone opening presents for hours and playing a game, I’d rather have the game. Honestly, with my own shower I wanted to avoid the gift-opening, since that to me is the most mind-numbing part. Though 50-80 people is a lot to even play ice-breaker games without people just sticking with friends and family members they already know.
As a bridesmaid, just be there to welcome people and co-host. Get refreshments for the older ladies, make sure there are things to do for any little children who might be there.
As for prizes, I was very pleased with the ones at my shower, but we only had 20 people so it was not complicated to look for useful things. Plus I had made some of them (knitted shawls).
I don’t know. As I said, I like games at a party, especially if the party is one where not everyone knows each other and you might otherwise be sitting all day with your hands in your lap smiling politely.

Reply

20 Kristen February 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

At my bridal shower, we did somewhat of a “Newlywed Game”-style game. My sister-in-law had asked my husband-to-be some questions in advance and written down the answers, and then at the shower they asked me the questions (things like “What did he want to grow up to be when he was a kid? Who was his best friend growing up?” etc.). The shower attendees had to guess how many out of 10 questions I would get right (how well do I really know him). They wrote their guesses on pieces of paper with their names on them. Then I think whoever guessed the right amount got a $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts or Old Navy, something like that. Or they may have had a drawing if there were a few ppl who got the right number. Making them guess got them involved and talking as I answered each question. Might be tough with a larger group, but maybe as a table they have to agree on a number, instead of individually. That was a game I really liked, I denifitely dislike the “making a dress out of toilet paper” or BINGO games!

Reply

21 Lyz February 15, 2011 at 11:59 am

As a shower hater, I threw a shower for my SIL and we played a game of how well do you know the groom? My brother helped me come up with some hysterical questions and multiple choice answers.

I eschew the church gym aura myself, so I ended up throwing it at a B&B and using my grandma’s china and going crazy making topiaries. It was so lovely and so freaking girly I almost died. One take away I did learn is that if you can get a hold of a chocolate fountain, DO SO!! The chocolate fountain instantly makes any party awesome. I have one you can borrow, but I’m in Iowa….soo….

Reply

22 kris February 17, 2011 at 11:59 am

I just saw a great idea where everyone brought a pair of sexy underwear, put it in a HUGE martini glass, and called it panty parfait. Everyone pinned a note to their pair on how to keep a happy marriage.

Reply

23 Kathleen Quiring February 18, 2011 at 8:44 am

This sounds like a great lingerie party idea, Kris!! (I don’t know how common lingerie parties are in the rest of the world, but in our community we like to throw them for new brides. Kind of like a tamer version of a bachelorette party).

Reply

24 Amy March 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I have always enjoyed party games of course some more than others. Anything that helps make the present opening more fun I’m up for. With such a large party I would nix most games as well. What could be funny is putting the grooms side against the brides side. It could be something like try to come up with as many names of the other side as possible. The biggest point is to make it creative and match the personality of the bride. Remember the shower is about the bride and wedding. For most its the first time these families are getting to know each other and games help people get to know each other.

Reply

25 Janae July 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Kathleen,

I am laughing so hard. First, because I googled “how to make my bridal shower not suck” and this is what I stumbled upon. I loathe them just as much as you do. I don’t want my guests to sit around a bunch of tables with mediocre flowers and banquet food watching me open gifts that I PICKED OUT! I see you wrote this in Feb. of 2011… what did you end up doing? I’m debating on not even having a shower… having people just send gift cards to my house so I don’t even have to carry big boxes of “bowls and mixing spoons” to our house to put in the basement. I’m so cynical! haha And you are hilarious. :) Thanks for being awesome and agreeing with me. haha

Reply

26 5boys3girls March 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

Yes, I have 5 boys and 3 girls and am not Mennonite. First, you’ve got to change your thinking on ‘showers’ in general. Sure, the way you described it the most avid part-goer wouldn’t even want to come, so…my suggestion: think of it as blessing the bride, blessing the attendees, and making it your job to be the coordinator of kindness and compliments. I like your idea to make it not boring (as most ‘church’ events can get that way fast when it’s all about us). Get 20 ‘newlywed’ questions off google. Videotape the groom-to-be being interviewed with those questions. At the shower play the question being asked, then stop the video. The bride must answer first, then play the actual groom’s response. It’s engaging, funny seeing groom up close and personal, and entertaining for guests. Another thing you could do, since there’s so many women, have it be ‘open house’ style. Buffet type food for peeps to come and go and stay as long as they like. Have bride in one area opening the gifts of those there throughout the 3-4 hours allotted for the ‘shower’, personally visiting with guests, and good, games in another area. If u did the open house idea you could still do the video, just video the brides answers too and put the video together so that it runs continually and as people are there they can watch it as much as they want. Have sitting area for video entertainment. You also could interview the couple telling their ‘how we met’ story and have that playing. I say (Mennonite or not) LOVE the bride and guests enough to provide them this opportunity in your hands to be blessed and lived on. Everyone goes to sleep that night happy. Especially you. :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

</