The History of the Bridal Shower (and How and Why to Throw Yours)

Filed in:

Getting ready to tie the knot? How about a little celebration first! Consider having a bridal party, one of the world’s most cherished pre-wedding celebrations.

A bride stands with their dress slightly pulled up to reveal their blue, embroidered shoes.

The origins of the bridal shower

It’s time to celebrate! It’s your “last day” as a single woman, so they say. You will be uniting with your fiancé soon, so gather with your closest female companions to celebrate the transition. 

Bridal showers are some of the most intimate, heartfelt moments people share with their loved ones before the Big Day. Although they’ve (sort of) always been this way, the event wasn’t exactly as joyous of an occasion when it first began. 

At its start, the bridal shower started as an alternative to the dowry system (when a man trades goods or money to a father to a woman’s hand in marriage). 

In Holland or Belgium, the bride’s friends and family would offer her gifts to support her entrance into the role of a wife. 

Part of the reason this practice emerged was that the soon-to-be wife could not afford the dowry, or her father did not support her choice of spouse. 

As time went on, these gatherings evolved and eventually became more suited to upper-class folks. Between the 1830s to the early 1900s, Americans would throw these events for well-off attendees to gossip together about the newlyweds’ life and what role the wife would play. 

From this era, we drew today’s commonality: Giving practical household gifts to the bride-to-be. 

Nowadays, the event goes hand-in-hand with bachelorette parties or is held instead of that party. Either way, the idea is for loved ones to gather ’round and celebrate their dear bride by gifting her the tools, resources, and knowledge she’ll need to be a wonderful wife.

A wedding ring sits perched between the backs of two high-heeled shoes.

Why and how you should throw a bridal shower

Okay, this is an intriguing backstory — but it’s unlikely that you’re facing the inability to afford a dowry. So, you’re probably looking for another motivation for this soireé.

Before you commit to the event, first establish why you’re doing it. To do that, you’ll need to understand how to identify a bridal shower vs. bachelorette party. 

So, what is a bridal shower? The easiest way to distinguish this event from the alternative is this: The bridal shower is future-focused, while the bachelorette party is present-focused. 

At the former, your loved ones are preparing you for your upcoming role as a wife (as mentioned previously). During the latter event, you are encouraged to indulge in what your life is now, before you “become one” with your fiancé. 

Both have their advantages and drawbacks, but the main reason you might want to have a bridal shower is to celebrate this new chapter in your life. 

Why might you need this? Well, there are two main reasons:

  • You might need to calm your nerves and warm those “cold feet.” At least one partner in approximately two-thirds of couples expresses doubt before they get married. Celebrating the occasion with loved ones can boost your confidence in the union.
  • The gifts can speed up the process of establishing your home. Turning your house into a “home” can be so exhausting. Furniture, kitchen appliances, and other things are so expensive! Receiving gifts can help reduce the stress during this time.

Keep in mind that bridal showers can be as big and lively or as quiet and intimate as you like. Either way, your guests will feel honored that you wanted to include them in this sensitive transition time. 

Now, your (or your bridesmaids’) job is to make it an unforgettable event. How do you do that?

How to throw a bridal shower

There are a few essential standards to adhere to when throwing a bridal shower to ensure you and your guests are thoroughly entertained. Beyond these, you can customize the event to your specific preferences and style. 

The most important points to consider during planning include:

  • Timing: A bridal shower should come way before your wedding (six months or more). This is because: Not all bridal shower attendees can make it to the ceremony, and guests might bring gifts to the wedding. The two events shouldn’t pile up on each other too closely.
  • Host: Traditionally, the bridesmaids host the event, allowing you to relax and revel in the showers of gifts and being surrounded by close friends and family. You’re not held to this, though. Take control if you wish! 
  • Guestlist: Don’t invite people who aren’t welcome at the wedding to the shower. This is unbelievably awkward and insulting. Keep it to wedding attendees, for everyone’s sake.

Now, the fun part: choosing the bridal shower venue. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with this part. The venue doesn’t have to be as jaw-dropping as the wedding location. That said, it can still be spectacular. 

You’ll want a place that enhances your closeness to your guests and really accentuates the communal, celebratory nature of the event. 

All this said, I recommend an indoor or semi-outdoor space. The space should be cozy — but not crowded — yet spacious enough to encourage dancing, games, and general vivacity. Book these spaces or find a similar bridal shower venue for the best results:

  • The Modern Honolulu, Honolulu, HI (ballroom or rooftop): best for large gatherings
  • The Allis House, Chicago, IL: excellent space for small, private parties
  • Apotheke, Los Angeles, CA: very versatile space, ideal for large and small groups (consider their mixology class for a fun bonus activity!)

Host a bridal shower you’ll never forget

Bridal showers are curious little parties that differ from bride to bride. Though your event might not stem directly from the celebration’s history, it’s a practice that has endured through the generations to commemorate your transition into your new union with your fiancé. 

Host your shower at any of the venues mentioned here or find a bridal shower venue that checks all the same boxes for a night you’ll never forget.

What do you think? We love to read and reply to your comments! So make the most of it!