Showers, Bachelor/ette Parties, and Rehearsal Dinners, oh my!

All your pre-wedding parties will be in beautiful soft focus. [Via Flickr user tmarsee530]

Despite weddings already being a huge big party that is going to stress you out for a year or more, people like to have other, smaller parties around weddings. Fun! As a soon-to-be-married person, you might have some expectations about these parties from things you have seen from wedding shows and movies. These expectations might be wrong, but we are here to help! You also might find yourself wanting to avoid these parties, in which case see this previous post about how to handle avoiding having a shower.


  • Showers shouldn’t be thrown by family members or (especially) the couple! However, family members can throw family-only showers. In this instance family members mean your mother, your significant other’s mother, your sibling, or your grandparents. It is okay for aunts/uncles/cousins. The reason for this is that a shower is defined by being all about showering the bride (or couple) with presents. Since, traditionally, the bride’s family was responsible for setting her up with her trousseau, her family requesting presents from other people for her was essentially like asking for presents for themselves to help defray the cost of setting up her home. Though this isn’t really true anymore, family thrown showers still have a tone of “greediness.” However, in many social circles it is completely fine and normal, so just be sure to check.
  • A shower shouldn’t be something that the bride requests or expects but once it is offered, the bride should be the one to provide the guest list and have final veto of activities. (Or veto of the event altogether.)
  • Shower invitations can include registry information as the whole purpose of the party is to give presents
  • You need to write thank you notes for all gifts given at the shower- make sure someone is writing down what came from who (it is not a cute shower game to have guests self address envelopes for their thank you notes, however.)
  • If you have multiple showers, the guests lists shouldn’t overlap (except, parents/siblings and wedding party), but if they do, guests are only expected to bring gifts to ONE shower. A kind bride will acknowledge that duplicate guests gave a gift at a previous party.
  • Often, someone will collect the ribbons from the gifts and create a “bouquet” for the bride to carry at the rehearsal.

Bachelor/ette Parties

  • Bachelor/ette parties are not gift giving occasions. Though some groups will decide to work a lingerie shower into the festivities (but this should not occur if the same group is already throwing a regular shower).
  • Bachelor/ette parties are optional and you must wait until someone offers to throw one. You can’t just assign it to the maid of honor/best man. However, you do get to have input and final say on the activities of the party.
  • You can throw your own bachelor/ette party if you are truly hosting ie paying for everything, such as having a “slumber party” at your house or something. If you expect everyone else to go out to something you plan and cover your dinner, drinks, strippers, whatever, you shouldn’t be the one planning it.

The Rehearsal

  • The rehearsal is important if you have a long or complicated ceremony. Most people opt to have one just so everyone will know where to stand and when. There are a lot of different arrangements of who walks down the aisle in which order and who stands where, so you don’t want to assume that you are all on the same page.
  • Everyone participating in the ceremony should be present at the rehearsal so they all know where to go and when during the ceremony.
  • Superstitious brides don’t participate in the rehearsal but watch from the side with a stand-in walking down the aisle.

Rehearsal Dinner

  • Rehearsal dinners are not a requirement, though they are a nice way to gather with your most important people and thank them for showing up for the rehearsal.
  • Traditionally (except this tradition really only goes back to the 1940s/50s), since the bride’s family was hosting and paying for the wedding, the groom’s family would pay for the rehearsal dinner. Now, you will have to all decide together who is going to pay for it.
  • Typically, you invite both sets of parents, the whole wedding party and their significant others (if applicable), any readers, and the officiant. Many people like to invite out of town guests and close relatives as well.
  • You want to make sure to actually invite your guests to this event, either with a formal paper invitation, evite, or a simple email or phone call. These invitations should be sent fairly soon after the wedding invitation
  • You don’t have to have a fancy sit down dinner; a pizza party or backyard barbeque sound like awesome rehearsal dinners!
  • It doesn’t even have to be a dinner, but can be a brunch or lunch immediately following the rehearsal.
  • People often give spontaneous toasts at the rehearsal, this is perfectly fine.
  • Many couples give gifts to their attendants during this time.

All parties

You can’t invite people to wedding parties who aren’t invited to the wedding itself. An exception would be a shower that your co-workers or other specific group (such as a sports team) throw you.

How Do I Keep People From Throwing Me Bridal Showers?

Leave YOUR advice for the bride in the comments. [Via Flickr user Ceng Design]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I am getting married soon, and this is completely a ridiculous problem, but I am being inundated with offers to throw pre-wedding parties and events. People want to give me bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and pre-wedding family get togethers. I’m very grateful of course, but I am not really interested in being the center of attention and I don’t really have time to attend all these different events. How can I turn them down politely and without hurting anyone’s feelings?


Low key bride

Official Etiquette:

Strangely, Miss Manners has tons of advice for guests who want to get out of attending (and bringing gifts!) to a never ending string of pre-wedding parties, but she hasn’t covered advice for brides who don’t want to go to their own parties. Therefore, the default answer is to just be gracious and go, you monster! We kid of course, but this is sort of the problem with the trend of greedy brides- people just can’t fathom the idea that someone wouldn’t want to have a bridal shower or bachelorette party.

Our Take:

Jaya: Oof, this is really a problem! I was dealing with this a little myself, and I’m someone who gets burnt out on social interactions pretty easily, and gets anxious about being “on” and such. I know I’m lucky that so many people want to celebrate, but it can be overwhelming when you just want to throw one party and everyone insists on half a dozen parties to ring in that party!

Victoria: So how are you handling it?

Jaya: Trying to graciously turn things down, in a “oh you really don’t have to do that” way, with mixed results. Like, if I say to my friends “you know what, i’m just not feeling a shower” that’s fine. But there’s more of a scolding tone of “they’re just trying to be nice” when an adult does it. Haha, “adult.” I’m 27. But you know what I mean. What should I be doing?

Victoria: Yeah, that’s such a touchy situation, I don’t really know how you would handle that tactfully and without offending anyone.

Jaya:  Victoria you’re the one who gives me answers!!!! What am I supposed to do, try to politely communicate by myself?

Victoria: I mean, I think it’s less of an etiquette thing and more a family relations thing. I think etiquette strongly encourages going along with it unless theres a particularly good reason not to.

Jaya: Ahhh, and “I’m overwhelmed and want people to stop fussing over me” isn’t particularly good?

Victoria: Haha there’s the rub. You have to decide which hills you want to die on, and in a wedding, there are a whoooole lot of hills.

Jaya: And, like with many other words thrown around at weddings, a bride is often “selfish” when she doesn’t live up to what others expect she should be. I think it’s also hard because often times, at least for me, these requests are coming from people who don’t communicate with each other. People from my side want to throw things, people from his side want to throw things, and it all adds up.

Victoria:  Yeah, exactly. Although, multiple showers are fairly traditional for exactly that reason. But ugh also, showers, traditionally, should really only be for your closest friends and relatives.

Jaya: And I guess, if your goal is toning down pre-wedding events, multiple showers, however compromised, is not really a great end game.

Victoria: But then you also don’t want to end up with a shower with 50 guests. After thinking about this some more, the advice I would give is to just gushingly thank people for offering and then be like, “but really I am just so overwhelmed with the wedding and my regular life, I couldn’t possibly.” And then if you need to pull out the big ammo and say “there are so many people wanting to host parties, I couldn’t possibly attend them all, so I would prefer to not show preference to any of them.”

Jaya: That’s perfect. I mean, it’s the truth too, but somehow I always think that would sound ungrateful like “wahhh too many people want to throw parties for me and it’s giving me anxiety.”

Victoria: Hahah yeah. I mean, if you have some attendants or at least a maid of honor—someone is at least nominally in charge of coordinating all that stuff and can be the bad guy. So that’s an option for people who have attendants.

Jaya: And showers can be so intense and huge events these days, it’s bananas.

Victoria: Why don’t people understand anymore that showers are supposed to be small with tiny little gifts like wooden spoons? They would be so much less objectionable that way, for both brides and guests.