How I Planned a Bridal Shower…From 3000 Miles Away

It came as no surprise when my sister named me as her Maid of Honor, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the task at hand was immeidately intimidating once officially presented. The feeling that came when Googling “How to be a maid of honor” was comparable to that anxious feeling that I recall overcoming me after reviewing a lengthy syllabus on the first day of class. But, also likewise, the hardest part is starting — at least for me, anyway. Once I conquer that battle, the process becomes less overwhelming as each box gets checked. And, if you are an organized freak like me, the job of being MOH can in turn become somewhat therapeutic.

IMG_0946In this post, I will walk you through how I planned my sister’s bridal shower, which took place on the east coast. Prior to this, the one and only bridal shower I’d ever attended was my eldest sister’s (there’s an 18-year gap between us)….when I was about 7….hosted by my father….and took place in my parents’ basement. – Not quite the ideal set of standards, right? So, I’m putting together this how-to post with hopes that my experience planning my sister’s bridal shower will be helpful to someone else out there who might be under similar circumstance.

As with most tasks I perform in life, I started with a checklist. Though I tracked a lot of my MOH planning in Microsoft Excel (My all-time favorite computer program), I did prefer the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method for completing my checklists. Here’s a snapshot of the checklist I kept for the project. This post will essentially mirror this hand-written checklist with some deviations.

Part One: ‘Pre’-Planning

(at least 2-3 months before)

1. Set a Date

The first thing is to check the bride’s availability. Go figure. In my opinion, the bridal shower should take place 2-3 months prior to the wedding.

Once you have received options from the bride, it’s a good idea to choose a date when a majority of the other bridesmaids are able to attend. It’s important for the bride to have her tribe surrounding her on her special day.

I used the polling website Doodle to select a final date amongst the bridesmaids.

2. Pick a Theme

At first I was clueless (remember, I’d only been to a basement shower), so tor this part, I started with a Google search to see what was popular and to get the brainstorming brewing. I also reached out to the bridesmaids for their input. Here are some ideas:

  • Beach Bonanza (Coastal Vibes, Sand/Seas Shells/Sunshine, Wear Big Sun Hats, Aqua Hues)
  • Picnic Paradise (Outdoor/Relaxed/Casual, Picnic Spread, Classy/Gourmet Finger Foods, Fun Floral Arrangements, Twinkly Lights, Backyard Setting)
  • Champagne Brunch (Waffle Bar/Quiche/Fruit, Mimosa/Bloody Mary Station, Pastries, Macaron Tower) – This is the theme I ended up choosing.
  • Tea Party (British or Mad-Hatter Themes, Fancy Tea, Scones, Cucumber Sandwiches) — This theme seems it a big BORING, if you ask me. This might be a good idea for you sober people out there.
  • All-White Affair (Evening event, Black and White attire, Dinner/hors d’oeuvres [I have to look up how to spell this every time I use it…even though French is one of my first languages; ugh], photo booth/props)
  • Great Gatsby (Flapper style, headbands/feathers/fringes, prohibition-themed cocktails) – I feel like this theme, thought it may be fun, is only relevant for F. Scott Fitzgerald enthusiasts.

Once again, I used the Doodle polling website with the bridesmaids to help select the theme for my sister’s shower.

3. Compile a Guest List

The guest list should come before the venue selection in most cases depending on the venue type and size. This task can go one of a few ways:

  1. gather names and contact info on your own;
  2. enlist the help of the bridesmaids to gather names and contact info; or
  3. if you’re as lucky as I was, the bride will provide this to you. Don’t forget to decide first how you will send out the invites. This will determine what type of contact info (e-mail, mailing address, phone) you”ll need to request from the guests.
4. Determine the Venue and Make Reservation (also, make food arrangements)

Of course, if you end up holding the shower at someone’s home, a reservation will not be necessary. However, if you’re hosting at any sort of rental space, you will want to ensure that you secure the date well in advance, I’d say as soon as you’ve picked the date and venue, around two months prior.

I don’t have any tips for the food planning part since the venue I rented included a buffet-style brunch and full mimosa bar. I will say, it was nice not to have to coordinate this aspect of the celebration on the day of…one less thing to worry about on a lengthy checklist.

5. Order Invitations

Personally, I decided to go with old-fashioned snail-mailed invitations for my sister’s shower. I think this is the best method if your guest list includes an older crowd (i.e. aunts, grandparents).

Items used to make shower invitations:

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Love Stamps

Savethedate

  • Avery Clear Return Labels: $14 from Amazon.com (I hand-wrote the recipient addresses, but decided to save time by using printed return labels.)

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Part Two: Planning the Details

(2 months before)

1. Brainstorm with bridesmaids and/or mother/-in-law of the bride.

Depending on the dynamic of the bride’s friendships and family ties, the bridal shower is typically hosted by the bridesmaids, the bride or groom’s mother, or other close female relatives. – Whomever is hosting should be involved or at least invited to participate in the brainstorming stage of planning the bridal shower.

Some Ideas to Brainstorm:
  • Tablescapes:  linens, place settings, and centerpieces
  • Flowers/Balloons
  • Decorations
  • Party Favors
  • Music/Activities

But of course, be prepared for others to be a bit unresponsive and accept the fact that you might not get as much help as you may have hoped for. It’s perfectly fine and normal, people have their own lives and are busy with their own priorities.

2. Send Out Invitations

Ensure to allow your guests enough time to RSVP — at least 1-2 months prior. Depending on how far away some of them live, travel arrangements may have to be considered, so it’s best to provide ample time in order to achieve a solid turnout.

At the same time though, don’t expect to get most responses right away and be prepared to chase after some for a simple”yes” or “no.” …Needless to say, these types of people will always exist.

3. Buy/Make Decorations & Favors

Obviously, this task will be dependent upon the decisions made during the brainstorming stage, but in any case, if you are buying supplies, shop around [online] and make sure you’re not over-paying for any bridal-themed products (whether on Etsy or mass-manufactured) that could be easily made on your own for less cost. You’ll notice below that most of my supplies ended up being purchase from Amazon because, well, let’s be real…Amazon rules.

Here are some projects I put together that were mostly homemade…

Photo Prop Station

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What’s Needed:

Date Jar

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What’s Needed:

Games

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I prepared these as more of a backup than anything else incase the mingling wasn’t lively enough. You can easily find a number of different DIY bridal-themed games online. I picked these two and printed them on the metallic card stock I purchased as noted above:

Succulent Party Favors

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What’s Needed:

Part Three: Putting It All Together

(2 weeks to 1 month before)

1. Buy a Gift for the Bride

Yes, I know, it kind of sucks that the party-planning and the cross-country trip do not count as a gift. — I say this not because I’m not generous, but because having to pick out an absolutely awesome gift gives me anxiety. If you struggle like I do to pick out the perfect present, I recommend brainstorming and browsing a couple weeks before actually making a decision. You’ll likely either sporadically think of or see something even better that what you initially picked out, or solidify your original decision.

There’s always the gift registry, too.

I went for sentiment and got this custom gift on Etsy:

gift(No longer available from seller)

2. Prepare Shopping List of Supplies Still Needed for the Day Of

Whattaya know?….A list within a list.

3. Finalize Activities

This is kind of an extra step in case you over-planned on ideas and need to narrow it down to what you’ll actually use.

You’ll also want to ensure you have everything you need for the activities from start to finish. One easy thing to forget is writing utensils, if you’re going to be playing a game that requires any writing.

4. Finalize Guest List

Make a list of confirmed guests. By this time, you should have already reached out to confirm with those you didn’t hear back from. Having a pre-printed, sorted, guest list will be a time-saver when it’s time to jot down who got what gift for the Bride during the opening of presents. You or a bridesmaid can be in charge of that task, another bridesmaid should be assigned to hand the gifts to the bride to be open, and another to discard the wrapping paper and ribbons that get strewn about. DETAILS, people!

5. Confirm [more] Details with Venue

It’s a good idea to touch base with the venue at least 2 weeks before, to ensure they have your entire order correct. In the event that there are any mishaps at this point, you’ll at least have ample time to come up with a fix.

I was lucky and my venue made the day run very smoothly. I was happy with the way things were set up:

6. Assemble Party Favors & Decorations

As a MOH, you will hear this a lot from the other bridesmaids: “Tell me what I can do to help, anything!” My advice: Always take them up on this offer, even if you feel like you’re being a tad bossy. Personally, this was hard for me as I tried to do as much on my own as I could without bothering any of the other gals.

As a result though, I also got a lot of the credit.

Here’s some of us gals putting those props to use:

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Stay tuned for my upcoming post on how I panned the only bachelorette trip I’d ever been on…

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