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Bridal Shower Basics -- It's time for Diva School! Once you "graduate," you can create bridal magic!

Bridal Shower Basics

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I've got you in my crystal ball! You're on the phone with your best friend and she says, "He popped the question!" She's already sporting a one-carat solitaire and bubbling over with wedding gown and honeymoon fantasies! On top of all that -- she wants you to be her maid of honor! "I'd love to!" you gush. Well, of course you would! But then, all of a sudden, there's that big thud. You don't have a clue about what to do!

Alrighty then! After you pick yourself up from the floor, you'll realize you aren't alone! I'm going to stand right by your side all the way to the finish line! By the time "Team Diva" is done, you'll know absolutely everything you need in order to create the best bridal shower ever! It's all here, Chica! The etiquette, the how-to's, smart planners, upbeat games, gorgeous themes, beautiful favors, yummy recipes and tips galore on how to navigate sticky social situations!

Take a deep breath! Let's get started, Diva Darling! The magic is here!

Who throws the shower?

The maid of honor (you!) always throws the wedding shower -- unless there are unusual circumstances -- such as the maid of honor living in another state or country! In that case, another one of the bridesmaids can be selected to do local ground duty, but you're still "in charge." Ideally, you function as leader and master planner -- that means you're chairwoman, psychologist and diplomat all in one!

Who gets invited?

Everyone the bride designates! The guest list is usually comprised of the bride's closest friends and relatives. Ask her to make up her guest list and get it to you as soon as possible. Advise her that she needs to confer with her mother and the mother of the groom, too. These ladies may have specially favored guests who need to be added to the list. To miss out on these names is a big no-no! If the bride agrees, telephone her mom and the groom's mom yourself. This is a nice way to start bringing both sides of the family together!

Red alert! I just heard the panic button go off! How are you going to host 50 or more people in your moderately sized condo?! Relax! If space is a limitation -- and it oftentimes is -- work out a way to divide the showers between your sister bridesmaids! We all know that the bride will want to invite everyone she can to share her great news, but there's no rule that says the maid of honor has to take on the full task! Your task is to give the bride the most intimate shower for her nearest and dearest! Your shower will be the ultimate! The best! (But don't tell anyone else that!)

If you're hosting a co-ed shower (a trend that's gaining more traction than chocolate fountains!), be sure to ask the groom for his guest list! Co-ed showers rock! It's great fun to get the groom and his friends' creative energies flowing! Bonus -- A co-ed shower means the groom's pals (especially his best man!) make financial contributions too! Here's a double plus! Three are usually plenty of single men for the single gals! Why wait for the wedding to (possibly!?) meet the future Mister Right?

Diva Rule No. 1 -- Never invite anyone to the bridal shower who hasn't been invited to the wedding! Such a crass invitation could only be construed as trolling for bling. This is not classy. Not classy at all! It's downright tacky. In fact, it's one of those things that winds up on everybody's blog!

Diva Rule No. 2 -- Never forget -- a bridal shower is more than a "party." It's a life-defining experience -- marriage! A bridal shower is a threshold event connecting the bride's past, present and heartfelt dreams of the future. If the shower is co-ed, you're linking the groom to his too. (Don't forget the groom's Best Man. He'll have great input for you as well). If you're the maid of honor in charge, it means the bride trusts you to give her a great send-off!

Save-the-Dates, Invitations and RSVP's

After Save-the-Dates (optional) have gone out and once the invitations are mailed either you or one of the designated bridesmaids keeps track of RSVP's. If the shower is going to be given at the bride's home or mother's home (they may be one and the same if the bride is finishing up college or otherwise very young), then the bride or her mother might prefer to keep the RSVP list.

When do you hold the shower?

When it works! Usually a bridal shower takes place anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 weeks before the wedding. However, it's important to take into consideration what's going on in the bride's life! A shower held a short two weeks before her wedding may find the bride stressed out and strapped for time, particularly if she's being showered by co-workers, club members or her church friends. It's not uncommon for a bride to be graced with multiple showers!

Don't worry about having to attend multiple showers or invite other shower attendees to the one you're hosting! It's not required! If the Bride makes an exception and asks that you and her bridesmaids attend another shower, don't be concerned that you have to gift her one or more times. You can either give her one big gift at the shower you host or, if you prefer, give the bride a couple of smaller gifts. The way you and your bridesmaid team decide to gift the bride will be remembered and appreciated by her for a lifetime!

You may be surprised to hear the bride say that your giving her a shower is enough of a gift and that she doesn't expect you to give her anything apart from hosting her shower. Hugs all around! On the other hand, if you and the bridesmaids are struggling financially, you can all chip in together and get her one large gift! This is perfectly acceptable!

Diva Rule No. 3 - Before you set the shower date, clear it with the bride! She'll want to clear it with her mom and the groom's mom too. Moms and future mothers-in-law may be in the process of booking galas for the bride too. Stay in the know! Check your calendar so you don't accidentally plan a shower around a major holiday, big family birthday or -- Oops! -- another friend's wedding!

Diva Rule No. 4 - Do what it takes to book her shower so that the bride's most important guests can attend!

If you and the bride, her family, and other shower guests are scattered across the country, you'll need to swing into high planning gear earlier. In fact, the minute you know you're the maid of honor, you instantly invoke Diva's Law (which is really Murphy's law, but I'm co-opting it!) "If it can go wrong, it will!" That's why Diva's planning rules will save your life!

Once you set a date (and it's been cleared by the bride!) send out SAVE THE DATE cards to everyone on the bride's guest list. Do this 6 weeks in advance of a shower where guests live locally and 8 weeks to those who are living out of town. The SAVE THE DATE card is NOT the actual invitation! This courtesy card is a way to nail the date so that you have additional time to plan the shower theme so that your invitations artfully reflect it!

Diva Rule No. 5 - Even if you already know that one of the bride's beloved guests is unable to travel in order to attend the shower, send her an invitation anyway! This is an absolute Diva-dictate!

For help with your guest list, download a free bridal shower guest list tracker (PDF) and a free bridal shower guest sign-in sheet (PDF)

What day of the week do I hold the Shower?

Bridal showers are traditionally held on Saturday or Sunday afternoons from about 1 pm to 4 pm. If your shower is to be a traditional one, keep that in mind. However, if the bride doesn't have her heart set on a traditional event and is open to many of the new shower trends (such as the Day Spa shower or co-ed shower), any day or night of the week is fine! This is great for the bride who isn't likely to have many Saturdays or Sundays free until after the wedding!

What About Gifts?

If the bride is registered, include her registry information in the invitation. There are varying opinions on that too. The Miss Manners' approach discourages mentioning registry details in the invitation. She advocates advising the guest of it when she calls in her RSVP. But there's a good reason for a rule change here. First, standards are more relaxed today reflecting trends toward a more casual style of life. We're also wired and wireless 24 hours a day! The pace of life is off the hook! RSVP's in the 21st Century arrive via cell phone, land line and sometimes by e-mail! You aren't going to have time to chase down all those RSVP callers to advise them of the bride's registry!

Diva Rule No. 6 - IF the bride is electing a wholly classical wedding a la Emily Post, do NOT include the registry details in the invitation. In that case, follow the rules. Set up your RSVP's advisory so that the bride's registry details can be disclosed to the guest at the time she RSVP's. Go this route unless you get clearance ahead of time from the bride!

[However, in Diva Rule No. 6, if the bride wants a the Emily Post version where you do not put registry details/card inside the invitation, the RSVP chairperson is going to have to chase down each and every caller to give out that information.]

Out-of-towners are likely to ship their gifts ahead of time, so you should coordinate with the bride where gifts should be sent. Be sure to advise all invitees of this! Keep in mind that shipped gifts will need to be picked up and delivered to the shower location so that the bride can open them at her party!

Diva Rule No. 7 -- Appoint a gift list monitor at the shower! When the bride opens her gifts, have an assistant record the gift and the gift giver's name so that it will be easy for the bride write her thank you cards! Download your free Diva Darling gift list tracker (PDF)

For a really fun way to make the bride's thank-you note writing easier, have each guest self-address an envelope that you supply. Put all envelopes in a bag and have the bride pick an envelope randomly. Award a prize to the person of the winning envelope. The bride will also win because she doesn't have to spend extra time addressing envelopes!

You'll also want to appoint someone to collect the bows from the gift packages to create the memory bouquet to be used at the wedding rehearsal!

Where to Have the Shower?

Locations are as varied as brides and wedding themes! Unless it's clear that the bride prefers a traditional location, such as her home, her parents' home or yours, work with her to find out her fantasies and visions!

Today's bridal showers are trending toward the absolutely fabulous! A shower can be anything from a luxurious gathering at a plush day spa, a tasting at a local winery, an ultra-fabulous art gallery, museum tour shower, or a luxury party in a suite at a hotel such as the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton! If it's a co-ed shower, then the sky's the limit! The guys might want to work in some golf while the ladies delight in a luxurious spa afternoon! They could all meet up at the 19th hole to celebrate the winner then head to the clubhouse for a champagne toast!

Of course, you'll want to apply some common sense to all this! A co-ed shower at a winery in Napa Valley might not be such a hot idea if the groom is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous! A dessert-laden buffet at a shower is not a smart choice for the bride who is likely to be figure conscious these days! No bride wants to be stuffed into her dream dress via a shoehorn and tub of Vaseline! But again, that might not be enough to put her off the idea of a chocolate fountain!!

It's time for the "M" Word

No, not marriage. I mean money! That's the big "M" we've got to discuss! Tradition holds that the maid of honor is in charge of the shower and she and her sister bridesmaids share the cost.

Okay... okay... stay calm. None of you is expected to take out a bank loan, refinance your condo or have to file bankruptcy in order to fund a bridal shower! Let's get that off the table pronto! But what we need to do at this juncture is take financial issues and our human relations very seriously. This is where a Diva Darling's social skills will be tested to the limit. Remember that psychologist/diplomat role I told you that you'd have to play?

There are several ways to achieve consensus on bridal budget negotiations. Here are some instant ideas to get you and your team started:

  1. Call a meeting (or set up a telephone conference call if some of the wedding party lives out of town). Introduce the topic of "money" with humor! You can say something like, "Now's the time for all good women to come to the aid of the party!" This is simply an icebreaker. Remember, laughter is the great equalizer!
  2. If you know in advance that some of the bridesmaids are in different financial brackets or are economically challenged at present, be mindful of that woman's need to feel included, important and never "less than" any other team member.
  3. Remember that few of us are that comfortable talking about money, especially if we already know we aren't able to contribute as much as another core member. A bridesmaid who is having a tough time may want to confer with you privately so as not to feel a more "public" embarrassment. Leave the door open for private phone chats.
  4. If you think it's best for the bridal team to tell you individually and privately what each woman can contribute, go for it. After you have the information, add the sum together and announce to your group that you have X amount to spend on the bridal shower. No one needs to know who gave how much.
  5. Don't turn down financial help from the bride's family, future in-laws or other friends or relatives who want to contribute. The bride's mother may know first hand that her daughter has her heart set on a certain kind of shower that's rather pricey. The bride's mom may be more than willing to chip in a bundle to make sure the plan comes off! Once a woman becomes engaged and starts planning her wedding, the days and weeks leading up to the wedding become "hers" and are all about her and her dreams of a lifetime she wants to share with her husband to be. Your job (and that of your sister bridesmaids) is to give 100% of your efforts to making sure her shower comes off without a glitch!
  6. Another idea is the "menu" approach to finances. If your team wants to, let THEM divvy up the jobs and expenses by volunteering to buy the cake, the favors, the decorations, prizes, games, etc. Keep in mind that whatever tasks and expenses are left over become your duty to absorb. This is another reason why the planning phase makes or breaks a shower experience!

Diva Rule No. 8 -- Negotiate with grace! No Diva Darling ever crosses the line and becomes a Diva Dictator!

Congratulations! You've got some basics! Now let's get into the real planning phase!

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