Wedding Wednesday – Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Etiquette

Today’s Wedding Wednesday question comes from Pamela!

We are having a very intimate wedding ceremony with just our immediate family back in our home town and then a huge party with all of our friends in our current city. Who can I invite to the shower and bachelorette party? Just those going to the actual wedding, or can I include friends who are coming to the local party?

Hi Pamela! As small, private ceremonies and destination weddings are becoming more popular, it gets trickier to navigate the old “rules” about bridal shower etiquette. It used to be pretty straightforward–if someone wasn’t close enough to invite to the wedding, it would be impolite to invite them to the shower (where they’d feel obligated to bring a gift). But these days as the definition of weddings changes, I think so can the definition of the parties surrounding weddings.

Let’s start with the bridal shower! I think it’s perfectly acceptable to invite anyone that’s invited to the local reception to the shower. Think of your reception as a “substitute” wedding in your city since your ceremony is back home. Your friends are most likely not feeling left out that they’re not invited to the ceremony–they understand and love and support you. And therefore they won’t feel put out or weird if they’re invited to a bridal shower. They’re your friends! They want to celebrate with you!

If you’re feeling unsure about it or are worried it will look like a “gift grab,” plan to have a more casual, no-gifts shower. Like a girl’s day at the spa, a casual brunch, or even a backyard barbecue.

I will give one piece of advice–in order to avoid confusion, make sure you’ve sent out your separate wedding and reception invites before sending any shower invites. A friend who’s not up to speed on your wedding/party plans may misinterpret a shower invitation. But if everyone knows which part of your celebration they’re invited to attend before any shower invites are sent, things should go pretty smoothly.

I also think rules can be bent for showers with coworkers. A lot of times we can’t invite everyone from our workplace to our weddings, but coworkers still want to celebrate and give their good wishes. In many cases, it’s appropriate and acceptable for a close friend/coworker to throw a “work shower” in which all work friends are invited, even if the wedding can’t accommodate them all. (As long as the host makes it clear that this is a celebration in lieu of being with you on your big day!)

Bachelorette Party rules are even more flexible! Gifts aren’t typically a requirement, so parties like this seem less like an obligation and more like a super fun time! Again, I think it’s fair to invite anyone that’s also invited to the local reception. And if there are friends you’d like to join you that aren’t invited to that, it’s still possible with good communication. You can say something like, “Our venue for the reception has really strict size restrictions and we can’t invite everyone we want to. But I know you really love to party and I’d love to celebrate with you by taking some shots off random guys’ abs. Are you in?” If you know someone well enough to stumble around with her wearing a cheap sash that says “bride,” you probably know her well enough to gauge whether she’d be honored or offended.

An alternative would be to call it a “Ladies’ Night Out” instead of a bachelorette party. Just changing the wording takes the stress of wedding etiquette out of the equation and lets you focus on the fun.

The main thing to keep in mind–with this, or with any etiquette issue–is that your friends and family love and support you. They want to be involved and feel included. They want to celebrate with you! As long as you’re clear and loving in your communication with them, they’ll most likely be happy to party with you!

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