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The 20-something bridesmaid: It's shower time

Posted by Alex Pearlman  June 18, 2012 02:59 PM

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bridalshower.jpgThis is part one of two. Check back next month for the next installment on showers!

By Bethany O'Meara

When it comes to preparing for a friend’s wedding as a bridesmaid, my standard advice is always, “Let the bride be your guide.” The same applies if you’re in charge of planning the bridal shower and/or bachelorette party, only now you get to call the shots! You also get to shell out the cash, so make sure you plan wisely.

These days, it’s not necessary to build up a bride’s trousseau in order for a woman to get married, but the shower remains a gift-giving occasion at which the bride’s (usually) female friends and family members eat finger foods, drink mimosas, and swap funny stories.

It often falls to bridesmaids to plan out the location, food, and ‘fun’ activities, which could be a daunting task if you’ve never done it before!

Kristen Connolly, who is the Maid of Honor for her sister’s upcoming wedding, said, “I only have one sister and this may be my only chance to be a maid of honor, so I wanted to make sure all her pre-wedding events would be the absolute best – regardless of the stress it caused me.”

Think before you leap

The first order of business should be deciding who can contribute to shower expenses, and how much; from there, develop your budget. It doesn’t have to be an exorbitant amount of money, unless you’re already making six figures and can afford to throw a lavish affair like Helen did for Lillian in Bridesmaids.

Deciding what to do with the budget can be tough, especially when decision-making falls to multiple members of a bridal party.

Make sure you set out a plan for communication. Connolly, who created a Facebook group complete with an Excel spreadsheet for her fellow bridesmaids, said, “We were able to avoid drama by communicating honestly and openly.”

For my friend’s wedding, the other bridesmaids and I supplemented our shared Google document with meet-ups, phone calls, and dozens of emails. Chatting on the phone allows for friends to correctly interpret tone of voice, and emails make it easy to keep inspirational hyperlinks at your fingertips.

Before you start scheming, get the bride’s input for the guest list, since the shower is a more intimate affair. You’ll also want to know just how intimate she’s comfortable getting before you order dessert from a “specialty” store or buy her saucy lingerie as a gift. Don’t worry about keeping all your plans hush-hush, either – as Connolly noted, “Having such a great relationship with the bride-to-be makes it difficult to keep big surprises a secret.”

Getting down to bridal shower business

When you're ready to get down to the nitty-gritty of planning, the internet has you covered with timelines, guidelines, tan lines, panty lines... I digress. Your bride is going to love whatever you do, so try to have fun doing it. To keep your sanity and delegate tasks amongst the hosts according to their abilities.

Living in a city like Boston means having numerous options for venue rentals but limited space for private house parties. I’d recommend using reserved space at your favorite bar or restaurant or a friend’s spacious-enough abode. As long as the bathroom is in working order and the common areas are clean, you’re good to go!

Aside from renting a venue, if necessary, food will be the most costly item in your budget. Imagine all your guests are having lunch at a nice place. What would be the rough cost per person? Pad that figure a little bit and you’ve got your food budget!

Do your homework – a local restaurant might deliver items from its catering menu, or the nearby grocery store could serve appealing party platters. If your party has an aspiring chef or baker, it might be cheaper to make your own food. Whatever you choose, have fun with the menu! Serve new takes on your favorite college dining hall dishes or cucumber sandwiches to go with your High Tea theme.

Go wild with dessert, whether it’s a decadent cheesecake or an elaborate fruit arrangement. For her sister’s shower, Connolly chose a cake with a top portion “shaped like the top of a wedding gown hanging on a hanger, and the rest of the dress was made up of cupcakes. It was unlike anything we’d seen before!”

It won’t take much money to spruce up whatever venue you choose. Your local party store likely has countless supplies with floral or metallic-on-white “wedding” designs if you’re feeling traditional. If your group is more creative, look to the bride for theme inspiration and get crafty! Add a few flowers and streamers for an instant party.

Oh right, there are guests involved…

Honestly, the hardest parts of planning a bridal shower are making sure you get the invitations out on time and waiting for RSVPs. (Seriously, why do people not respond in a timely fashion anymore?)  Be ready to field guests’ questions on appropriate shower gifts, either by pointing them to a registry or coming up with some non-traditional items (e.g. sports gear from her favorite team or her favorite adult beverage paired with glasses and funky ice cube trays).

Remember the goody bags you received at childhood birthday parties? Whether the bridal shower you’re planning is a casual get-together or a fancy gathering, small party favors are expected. Echo the era of goody bags and offer something cute and easy to carry. At Connolly’s sister’s shower, she arranged “little take out boxes that guests filled with some of [her sister’s] favorite candies from the candy bar.” Cute as they may be, puppies are a bad idea.

If shower plans go awry in any way – and you should assume that will happen – don’t let unexpected setbacks get you down.  After all the work you put in, you deserve to enjoy the festivities, too! Once people show up in their party frocks and start chatting with friends, things will go swimmingly.

Photo by ttnk (Flickr)

Check back to TNGG Boston each month as ‘The 20-Something Bridesmaid’ shares everything you’ll need to know to be the best bridesmaid you can be. 

About Bethany -- I graduated from Northeastern not too long ago and decided to stick around Boston, but I'd like to continue traveling the world. In the meantime, I'll be checking out local bars, markets, and festivals. My expertise lies in Trader Joe's products and MBTA survival skills, among other things. Plaid catches my eye, French catches my ear, and videos of baby animals capture my heart. Twitter: @bethopolis

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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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