Whether she’s your sister, your best friend, or your former roommate, the bride-to-be in your life deserves a special celebration before she ties the knot. As a member of the bridal party, it’s your job to gather her friends and family members for a few hours of showering her with love and attention. Throwing a bridal shower may seem like a daunting task, but the following tips and advice from our Pittsburgh bridal experts will help you stay on the path to stress-free planning.

By Rachel Jones

SET THE DATE

Your top priorities for planning the shower should be setting a date, typically two to three months before the big day, and reserving the venue. Sara Arvay, president and senior event design consultant of Arvay Event Design & Rental, says she’s seen showers everywhere from restaurants and banquet halls, to hotels and personal residences. “The booking and planning timeline is heavily based on the type of shower you’re planning,” she adds. To establish the overall feel and atmosphere you want to create, start by bouncing ideas off the bride and bridal party. “While most of the planning is up to you, it is important to have the bride’s initial expectations in mind,” says Sheila Weiner, president and founder of The Event Group. “Ask if she wants a women-only or couple’s shower, and find out if she has a particular theme or concept in mind.” From there, you can start coordinating with the bridesmaids to set a budget and pull together the elements of the day.

4-6 weeks before: Mail your invitations and finalize plans with all of your vendors. Note: Shoot for 8 weeks in advance if you have a lot of out of town guests!
2 weeks before: Finalize your flower order and rentals. Pick out a gift for the bride and an outfit for the event.
1 week before: Confirm plans with all of your vendors, plus delivery and setup times. Delegate last-minute tasks and solidify a plan for the day of with the bridesmaids. The Day Of: Enjoy this special day with your bride-to-be!

TIP: Staying organized and keeping detailed lists for everything will make the planning process — and your life — less stressful. We recommend storing guest lists, vendor details, and a calendar of appointments leading up to the shower in a binder for easy access!

SAY NO TO GAMES

how to plan a bridal shower, DIY sugar scrub, the event group pittsburgh

As an alternative to games, try a DIY sugar scrub session. Photo: The Event Group.

“We have never been fond of games at bridal showers,” Weiner says. “They can feel over-the-top or make guests uncomfortable. And, if you think it might embarrass the bride, it’s a definite no.” For an alternative activity, she suggests planning a Champagne tasting, flower arrangement lesson, or DIY sugar scrub session. Giving guests something to do at the shower that they can enjoy later on, too, is ideal.

TIP: If your bride really wants games, go for something more personalized. Arvay recommends giving guests quotes from the bride and groom, then having them guess who said what!

CREATE THE MENU

Whether you are having the shower catered or are coordinating a pot luck spread with the bridesmaids, you need to determine if you’re serving an array of appetizers or a multi-course meal. Then, make a menu that will appeal to every guest. “Try to find out if any guests are gluten free, vegetarian, etc., and make sure you have something to cater to all dietary restrictions,” Weiner says. “And, finally, don’t forget desserts!”

TIP: For hors d’oeuvres and desserts, bite-sized is always better! “We like to do a lot of these one-bite appetizers because they are easy to eat and we are able to offer quite a few different varieties,” says Adam Gooch, corporate executive chef of Common Plea Catering. “We want to stay creative, yet offer our clients flexibility to customize their menus to reflect their tastes and preferences.”

Tiered desserts, Bistro to Go & Company, Pittsburgh

The Bistro Petite Pastry stacks three tiers of desserts that are specifically chosen to coordinate with the client’s vision. Nikki Heckman, owner of Bistro to Go & Company, says Greek and Italian pastries were the preferred choice for this event. Photo: Sarah Arndt.

Blackberry and Brie Canapé, Common Plea Catering

Savor a Blackberry and Brie Canapé with blackberry jam and fresh dill at a wine-themed shower. Gooch says the blackberry is replaced with a caramelized gala apple for fall events! Photo: Adam Gooch.

Margarita Shrimp Cocktail, Bistro to Go & Company, Pittsburgh

Dive in to Bistro to Go & Company’s Margarita Shrimp Cocktail, served with a spiced pineapple mango dipping sauce, at a summery or beach-themed shower. Photo: Sarah Arndt.

DECORATE

Set your shower apart by sticking to a theme or overall aesthetic for a day that everyone can enjoy. Bonus points if it directly reflects the bride’s personality or hobbies!

TIP: Simplify! Contributions from multiple bridesmaids and the folks on Pinterest can leave you overwhelmed and with an over-decorated space. Streamline your favorite elements and make sure they all complement each other.

Top themes for this year include:

Garden
Tea
Champagne / Wine
Paris
Glitter / Bling
Rustic
“Storms” or Couple’s Showers

Decorations from The Event Group

Photo: The Event Group.

CHOOSE A FAVOR

White chocolate dipped pretzels, My Favorite Sweet Shoppe, Pittsburgh

Hand-dipped in white chocolate, these pretzel twists, pretzel rods, and Oreos from My Favorite Sweet Shoppe feature sanding sugars, edible pearls, and edible flowers, respectively. Photo: Michael Fornataro.

At the end of the event, bid your guests farewell with a favor they will actually enjoy. Keepsakes that can be reused again are functional and forever continue the memory of your bridal shower. “When in doubt, edible favors always work out well,” Arvay adds.

TIP: Pick a favor that ties in with your shower specifically, such as personalized glasses for a wine theme or a custom blend of tea for a tea party. For a garden-themed shower, Nina Midgley from My Favorite Sweet Shoppe suggests these pretty, pastel treats. “Why not give guests something they can eat? It won’t go to waste!” Midgley says. “Edible favors are a way to give something different, fun, and tasty.” You can even request customized colors or designs to match the décor!

+ TREND ALERT!

Co-ed showers are taking the wedding world by storm! With more of a cocktail party vibe than a traditional shower, Arvay says these events are ideal for younger couples and attendees. “Sometimes, this type of shower is shocking to older guests, so it’s important to make sure that this is the right type of event for you,” she says. “We really like this type of shower when the bride and groom are out of town, as it gives them both more time to mingle with family and friends.”

TIP: If you’re taking the couple’s route, make sure there are gifts specifically for the groom on your wedding registry. His friends will be more inclined to pick a present they know he added to the list himself.


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