Bridal showers are aptly named because it’s the perfect time for the bride’s close family and friend to ‘shower’ her with love and gifts ahead of her big day.
They differ from hen parties as the tone is more sophisticated, hosted at home with décor, includes Afternoon Tea and gifts. The aim of a bridal shower is to help the bride-to-be to relax and spend quality time with friends and family members who wouldn’t be comfortable at a hen party. The bride is ‘showered’ with gifts, usually of the house variety and often toasts are made in her honour – it’s not surprising brides love them – and every one saves a bit of money too with not having to dish out for hen party activities.
Your best friend is about to get married and you have to organise a pre-wedding event, but you don’t know where to start. Here’s a little help to both distinguish the differences between the two, and plan the perfect party for the blushing bride/ happy hen.
In a slightly more civilised fashion than hens’ nights, bridal showers allow you and your bridal party to relax and rejuvenate before the big day. They can be a great opportunity for the bride to thank her party for their support and attendance throughout the wedding planning, and can often include the bride giving a small gift or token of their appreciation to their made of honour and bridesmaids.
Activities can include – but by no means are limited to – high tea, winery tours, spa treatments, life drawing, cooking classes, charity showers, pajama parties and in-home lingerie demonstrations. Sure, the event can involve alcohol, but overindulging is generally not as acceptable as it would be at say a hen’s night.
Traditionally it’s a women-only event, attended by the bride’s mother, grandmother, aunts, close friends and her female in-laws. To ensure that the bride’s nearest and dearest are there, it’s a good idea to get her to send you a guest list, just remember that you shouldn’t include people who aren’t invited to the wedding.
VENUE AND THEME
It’s typically hosted in the afternoon at someone’s home, although you can choose a restaurant, preferably one with outside seating. Vintage is a popular theme because it perfectly suits High Tea, with all the mismatched antique cups, ornate cake forks and old-fashioned serving platters. You’re certainly not limited to this theme, but whatever you choose, make it feminine and chic.
WHAT TO WEAR
It’s a more formal event, compared to the hen’s night, and you can still dress up the bride, but opt for something subtle, like a cute apron. Guests don’t have to dress to a theme, although this is up to the organisers of the bridal shower. If they do, it’s quite fun – and an icebreaker.
PAYMENTS AND PRESENTS
Figuring out who pays for what can be a bit tricky, although the general rule is that if you host an event, guests don’t pay for themselves. If you’re having the event at a restaurant, it’s acceptable to ask for contributions.
It’s also customary for guests to bring a gift, although this isn’t the time for wedding night lingerie, it’s items for the kitchen – hence kitchen tea! If it’s a pamper party, then bring body and bath products, and for a books and recipes party, head to the bookstore for a gift or supply your favourite recipe.
ACTIVITIES AND GAMES
Depending on the bride’s personality you can also play games. For Bridal Trivia, the bridesmaids ask the guests questions about the bride and groom, and the person who gets the most right can win a prize. There’s also Weigh to Win, where everyone places their handbag on a scale when they arrive, and you can award a prize for the heaviest and lightest bags, and one for the brightest or most unusual.
Couples who wait until they’re older before getting married, will ordinarily have a fully stocked kitchen, and this is why bridal showers are becoming more creative. Head out for wine tasting at a vineyard, treat yourself to a day at the spa, have a picnic in the park or on the beach, or combine it with the husbands and boyfriends and have a barbeque.
If you’re not comfortable surrounded by male genitalia – albeit plastic – a traditional hen’s night is probably not your style. Felic cupcakes, penis straws and sex toys are just the beginning of what is designed to be a wild night of bar hopping raucousness, double dares and ice-breaker games.
Prepare to be dragged out of your comfort zone and onto a nearby stage – bridal parties make it their business to ensure everyone within a 1km radius knows there’s a hen on the loose! The bridal party is responsible for organising the night, including venues, accommodation, invitations, transport, decorations, games, costumes and often male entertainment.
The guest list can include anyone the bride wants, but it’s predominantly for younger family members and, of course, her friends. We can safely say that most brides don’t want their mother, and especially their mother-in-law, watching them lick salt off a bartender’s six-pack when they do a tequila body shot!
VENUE AND THEME
The party traditionally begins at someone’s home, where you play several rather wayward games. The evening is notorious for some naughty fun, which ordinarily comes in the form of strippers or bare butt butlers. When the party leaves home it’s quite common to have a limo collect the group, and drop them off at a club or pub, so they can kick up their heels, drink champagne and have a festive night on the town.
When it comes to picking a theme, there are no rules, but it’s thoughtful to tie it to one of the bride’s interests or hobbies. Does she love music from the 60s? Does she dress like she has a role in Sex and the City? Is she a lover of all things French?
WHAT TO WEAR?
In that case, what you wear is dependent on the theme. The bride is frequently dressed in something ridiculous – including a veil or tiara – that leaves no confusion that she’s the soon-to-be-wed. It’s far more fun and entertaining if the rest of the hen’s party follows suit without, of course, competing against the bride.
PAYMENT AND PRESENTS
Entertainment costs (the stripper in your lounge!) should be covered by the hosts, and this includes the transport to your next venue. Providing a few snacks is a great way to line everybody’s tummies, but this is optional. If you’re at a bar or club guests usually pay for their own food and drinks. The hen should never have to pay for herself, which is why her tab is normally split between everyone.
Crotchless panties, lacy bras, sexy camis and barely there g-strings, if the bride is getting foxy knickers for her honeymoon, give her the presents to open before you head out to the club.
ACTIVITIES AND GAMES
Games are a great way to get everyone into a festive mood. A favourite is Newlywed Trivia, where the bridesmaids have already asked the groom various questions, and on the hen’s night, the bride gives her answers. If she gets an answer wrong, she has a punishment drink, preferably through a penis-shaped, glow-in-the-dark straw.
A traditional Scavenger Hunt is a game that can last the whole evening, and consists of giving the hen a list of items she needs to collect. This can include: get a male to buy you a Sex on the Beach cocktail, put lipstick on and kiss a bald man on the head or find a fella who’s willing to give you his underwear! All your activities should be entertaining, but you shouldn’t humiliate the bride – remember that this is her night and she’s chosen you to organise it, because she trusts you. Naughty fun is fine, as long as it’s within the hen’s comfort range.
A boisterous and disorderly evening is rather typical of a hen’s night, but it isn’t the rule. You can go on a boat cruise, listen to her favourite band play live, have pole dancing lessons, go bowling, play paintball, organise a girls’ weekend away or have a sleepover with popcorn, pizza and wine. As long as the event is appropriate for the bride, and you know she’ll love it, you can get as creative as you’d like.