The Differences Between a Bridal Shower and a Wedding Shower (2024)

While the terms “wedding shower” and “bridal shower” sound like interchangeable ways of describing the same event, they don’t delineate exactly the same type of party. Whether you’re hosting a shower or showing up as the guest of honor, understand the difference between these events—from who is invited to whether or not gifts are expected—so you can decide which event is right for you or the couple you're celebrating.

Meet the Expert

  • Rebecca Martens is the owner of Belle Events, a Houston-based planning firm that specializes in pre-wedding and wedding celebrations.
  • Terrica Skaggs is the chief event planner at co*cktails and Details, an award-winning planning agency specializing in destination weddings in Coastal Georgia and Mexico.
  • Chanda Daniels is an event planner and the founder of her eponymous wedding design firm; she is based in Oakland, California.

Ultimately, though, you don't technically have to choose between the two pre-wedding parties. Since they're different enough (spoiler: one honors just one half of a couple, while the other celebrates both!), you can build both a bridal shower and a wedding shower into your timeline. Here, three experts walk us through the nuances of these gatherings and clarify what sets them apart.

What Is a Bridal Shower?

Since the 1880s, women in a bride’s life have gathered to help her prepare for the milestone of marriage, says Rebecca Martens, owner of Belle Events. “Historically, you would find all women at the bridal shower,” she says. “Guests would provide gifts to help the bride to nest and set up her new home with her spouse, post wedding.“

While many of the gifts were specific to homemaking, bridal showers also included more intimate gifts for the bride-to-be. “While most people associate bridal showers with the opportunity to [shower] gifts from the registry upon the bride, they were initially created to build the bride’s trousseau—her personal and curated collection of jewelry, lingerie, bed linens, and toiletries,” says Terrica Skaggs, chief event planner at co*cktails and Details.

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What Is a Wedding Shower?

As weddings have evolved, so have the pre-parties. “Weddings are more inclusive in terms of who’s getting married and how the wedding is being celebrated,” says event planner Chanda Daniels. “A wedding shower is focused on the couple, more specifically—and very inclusive.” The guest list includes the groom, as well as friends and relatives of any gender.

“The wedding shower is co-ed and inclusive of anyone the couple wants to include in the celebrations,” says Martens. “Simply put, a wedding shower is for the couple and a bridal shower is for the bride.”

Bridal Shower vs. Wedding Shower: Key Differences

Though both these types of parties celebrate a couple’s upcoming wedding ceremony, they can be organized and designed in different ways.

The Guest of Honor

A bridal shower honors the member of the couple who identifies as the bride; for a wedding with two brides, it can honor either (or both). A wedding shower honors a couple—and, like a bridal shower, is planned by friends or family members of either partner.

The Guest List

A bridal shower’s guest list primarily includes female friends and relatives, “but may be tailored to the host’s relationships if the bride is having multiple showers,” says Martens. “The guest list may need to be strategized so that some guests are not getting multiple invites to showers celebrating the same bride.”

A wedding shower is for anyone and everyone on the wedding guest list. “The wedding shower is co-ed,” says Martens. “Guests that are invited should also be guests invited to the wedding. The number of people invited is directly related to the space capacity and the host’s budget for the event.”

The Venue and Entertainment

Modern bridal showers are typically daytime events, hosted by friends or family of the bride in a home, restaurant, or community space. Since bridal showers are often held in the late morning or afternoon, menus often revolve around brunch, lunch, or high tea. “Games and activities are usually about writing down advice or recipes and helping people meet each other and make conversation,” says Martens.

Wedding showers are often evening events, held in the host’s home, at a restaurant or brewery, or in a community space—customized in accordance with the couple’s preferences. “These parties are usually themed and have an informal timeline,” says Martens. “Lots of games are played, and it’s not uncommon to have a bar, a band, and a buffet.”

The Gifts

At both events, guests are expected to bring gifts. “Brides having a shower hosted for them must have a registry,” says Martens. “It’s polite to your guests—and it keeps you from having six Crock-Pots that you cannot return.” Since the wedding shower is an opportunity to celebrate the couple as they prepare for married life, gifts are also encouraged at this type of event—though not opened during the party, says Martens.

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Can You Have Both a Bridal Shower and a Wedding Shower?

The short answer is yes! You and your partner can have either type of celebration—or both. “Everyone can have a shower, and you don't have to assign it as a bridal or wedding,” says Martens. “It can just be a shower! The bride may have childhood friends or work colleagues throw two different showers, while mutual couple friends may throw a wedding shower with all of the couple’s current friends.”

You also don’t have to have a shower at all, says Daniels. “Do what fits with you as a couple and what makes you extremely happy,” she says. “If having a wedding or bridal shower doesn’t speak to you, then don’t do it—it doesn’t take away from how you celebrate your wedding!"

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The Differences Between a Bridal Shower and a Wedding Shower (2024)
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