Bridal showers are fun occasions to celebrate your loved one’s upcoming nuptials and help them prepare for this next phase in their life. Although these parties typically involve lots of laughs and champagne, it’s still important to remember your manners as a guest and do your part to enhance the celebration.
“Let’s face it, when attending a bridal shower, everyone knows it is all about the bride and what can be done to make her happy and blissful,” Jackie Vernon-Thompson, founder of From the Inside-Out School of Etiquette, told HuffPost. “It’s not about you! With that in mind, the food choices, venue, games, interactions are all about making sure she is happy.”
HuffPost asked Vernon-Thompson and other etiquette experts to share some common rude behaviors at baby showers ― and advice for avoiding them.
“Before telling a story about the bride-to-be, consider who is in attendance,” said Tami Claytor, the etiquette coach behind Always Appropriate Image & Etiquette Consulting. “Perhaps older relatives are present? Good-natured jokes and stories are acceptable. However, telling things discussed in confidence or stories about wild college nights out on the town are inappropriate.”
Avoid sharing offensive or unflattering tales or bringing up topics that may create tension.
“Don’t raise uncomfortable experiences the bride had with anyone, as you’ll undermine her or make her feel embarrassed,” Vernon-Thompson echoed. “She is to be celebrated, not degraded. Keep in mind this should be one of the happiest times of her life. Don’t be the party pooper. Therefore, be conscious of the subjects discussed and try not to provoke any unpleasant emotions by the guests or bride.”
“Another faux pas one can make is not being a good sport and just refusing to participate in any of the games and activities,” Vernon-Thompson said.
Support your loved one and her special day by bringing your manners and shower guest A-game.
“Traditionally, a wedding shower involves a significant amount of time opening, oooh-and-ahhing gifts,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Massachusetts-based Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “There are often quirky games and occasionally superstitions involved. If you are not prepared to sit and be polite, then you should consider staying home.”
“Do not steal the spotlight,” Smith emphasized. “Someone else’s shower is not the time to announce your engagement or pregnancy.”
Again, remember that a bridal shower should be all about the honoree or honorees ― not you. Keep your positive personal news or negative thoughts about your marriage to yourself.
“The worst thing a guest can do at a shower is compare your experience at your bridal shower to hers, especially if it was a bitter memory,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Remain present in the moment and focus on her having a great time.”
“Enjoy the cocktails but don’t overindulge,” advised Diane Gottsman, the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “Getting drunk can embarrass yourself and your host, not to mention hurt the relationship with the bride to be.”
Before you pour yourself yet another mimosa, assess your limits and take a break if needed.
“As a guest, do not arrive dressed in white to rival the bride and confuse the other guests,” Smith urged.
Unless the invitation specifies that guests should wear white, it’s best to stay away from that color. And, of course, you want to dress up and look nice for your friend’s special occasion, but be sure to let the bride have her moment and avoid upstaging her with your own over-the-top outfit.
“Since the bridal shower is typically an intimate afternoon affair, you don’t want to wear an ensemble that is better suited for a girl’s night out on the town,” Claytor said. “If a dress code isn’t included on the invitation, use the time of day and venue to dictate your attire.”
Accidents happen, but how you deal with them in the aftermath is what matters. Instead of trying to hide it or deal with it yourself, alert your host.
“If you make a mess, or spill red wine, let the host know immediately and ask what you should use to clean the spill,” Gottsman said. “Don’t start rubbing in the red wine with the linen cocktail napkin and ruin both.”
“Do not offer your opinion as to why a different set of pans is far superior,” Smith advised. “Do not mock any homemade gifts from the elderly aunties. Do not sit in the back and make snarky comments in a stage whisper.”
Instead, be supportive and coo encouragingly as the bride opens her gifts, she added.
“You must promptly respond to the invitation,” said Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and co-host of the “Were You Raised by Wolves?” podcast. “Don’t leave your host hanging.”
As with any other party, the host of a bridal shower needs as accurate of a head count as possible to make the proper arrangements with chairs, snacks, drinks, etc. On that note, take care to tell the host about any dietary limitations when you RSVP.
“Do not ask for any specially prepared foods if you have not made your dietary restrictions known to the hosts well in advance,” Smith said.
“Don’t show up with an uninvited plus-one or a child in your arms who wouldn’t let go of you before you left the house so you decided to bring her instead of paying the babysitter,” Gottsman said.
Just as you shouldn’t fail to RSVP and then arrive unexpectedly, you also shouldn’t bring extra guests without talking to the host.
“Party planning is a challenging endeavor,” Claytor said. “Lots of moving parts are involved and an unexpected guest could disrupt this well choreographed event.”
“Arrive on time or within the first 10 to 15 minutes,” Gottsman said. “Never early and never more than 15 minutes late. It will slow down the flow of the shower.”
Showing up halfway through the event while the bride is opening presents distracts from the guest of honor. Take extra care to be on time if it’s a surprise shower.
“If the shower has been billed as a surprise, do keep it a secret from, and be sure to arrive prior to, the guest of honor,” Smith said.
“You’ve got to bring a gift as the whole point is to ‘shower’ the bride with loot, so you can’t show up empty-handed,” Leighton said.
Of course, you can arrive literally empty-handed if the invitation allows guests to order their gift straight to the home of the party host or bride-to-be. Don’t forget to include wrapping if she is opening the gifts at the shower, however. You can also add a thoughtful handwritten note upon arrival.
“There are some occasions where bringing a gift can seem ambiguous. However, a bridal shower is not one,” Claytor echoed.
“Stick to the registry,” Gottsman said. “You may want to get the bride something you think is ‘special,’ but she may already have plenty of your hand-crafted pottery and would prefer an air fryer instead.”
The registry highlights exactly what the couple needs or wants for their home together.
“To gift something not included is inappropriate because it breaks a fundamental etiquette principle, which is to respect other people’s wishes,” Claytor explained.
Show up prepared to lend a hand when asked. Everyone should want to do their part to make the day special for their loved one.
“If you are close to the guest of honor, sibling or attendant, expect to help,” Smith said. “From handing the gifts to keeping a careful list of who gave what gift, to taking necessary photos, there are many duties that may be assigned at a shower.”
“Mix and mingle with everyone at the shower,” Gottsman advised. “Try to talk to new people and get to know people you don’t see on a regular basis.”
Take the time to introduce yourself to those you don’t yet know at the shower.
“Yes, it is proper protocol for the host or hostess to make the introductions,” Claytor said. “However, someone other than the bride-to-be is typically the host. This person may not know each guest and thereby is unable to make proper introductions. If you are shy and uncomfortable approaching people you don’t know, a good conversation starter is ‘How do you know the bride?’”
“Don’t spend an extended period of time on your phone,” Claytor urged. “Your attention should be focused on the bride-to-be. Time spent on your phone sends the message that whatever you’re engaged in is more important and interesting than what is happening around you.”
Similarly refrain from constantly taking selfies or pausing the event every minute to take a photo of the bride.
“A few selfies to capture the festivities are fine,” Claytor said. “However, a constant barrage of photos is distracting and inconsiderate. Some guests may want to enjoy the occasion in real time.”