Bridal Shower & Bachelorette Money Etiquette

Last week, I got an invitation to my older sister’s wedding in the mail. I had two immediate thoughts:

1. I am not old enough to have a married sister.

2. I might just skip that.

I find it hilariously funny to make jokes about responding “Will Not Attend” to my sister’s wedding. I have made that joke 50 times since I got the invite and it still isn’t old. I think it might be because I tend to jokes about things that make me nervous. And the fact that this wedding is happening SOON makes me nervous. My sister got engaged a year and a half ago so for a long time the wedding has been a far-off, distant event I knew would happen but didn’t have to think too much about, like Christmas or the Apocalypse. And now it is three months away. And I have some Maid of Honor duties to attend to.

Two Christmases ago when she first got engaged, my sister bought me a book called “The Knot Bridesmaid Handbook: Help the Bride Shine Without Losing Your Mind.” I think she bought it half ironically, half because she was worried that I wouldn’t know what I supposed to do as her Maid of Honor. But I actually did read it and it was super helpful. I would recommend to any other clueless bridesmaids out there. The main thing I learned from that book is that I am in charge of organizing a Bachelorette Party and a Bridal Shower.

You can buy this on Amazon for $8. It's a solid investment.

You can buy this on Amazon for $8. It’s a solid investment.

In keeping up with my amazing stroke of genius that we should go to Las Vegas and see Britney Spears in concert for the Bachelorette Party, I recently secured my title of “Best Maid of Honor EVER” by deciding on a “Downton Abbey Tea” theme for the bridal shower. I know, I know . . . I am a good idea machine. I wonder how you get a job in a Think Tank, because someone should be paying me for these ideas.

There are a lot of things to organize for both of these events – invitations, reservations, decorations, food, etc. Luckily, I have three other bridesmaids and a mom who are more than willing to help me out. Despite being spread out all over the country, they have all been great about contributing ideas, time, and work. As usual, the trickiest (and often most awkward) thing about planning these events is figuring out who will foot the bill and for what.

From what I have read online, in Real Simple magazine (Martha Stewart knows all), and in the Knot book, here are some guidelines you can use to navigate the costs of being a party-planning bridesmaid.

Bachelorette Party General Rule: Each attendee, including the bride, pays their own way.

Modern day Bachelorette Parties cover a wide array of events. Some are one night out on the town. Some are a casual get-together at a bridesmaid’s place. And some, like my sister’s, are weekend-long extravaganza of awesomeness. The point is, this event is what you make of it. It’s a time for just the gals to get together and celebrate the bride. Because there is no set formula for what a Bachelorette should entail, the general rule of thumb is that each attendee pays their own way. If you’re hitting up the bars, each girl should pay for her own drinks. If you’re spending a weekend at a destination, each girl should pay for her own travel, hotel room, etc. Though the bride is the guest of honor at this event, it’s not expected that the Bachelorette guests cover her share of the bill; buy her a drink or pay for her dinner, but don’t feel obligated to 100% pay her way.

Do I get the bride a gift for the Bachelorette? Buying a gift for the Bachelorette is not a necessity. Your gift or contribution to the event is that you paid to get yourself there and to participate in the activities – your presence is the present. Some Bachelorette games include a gift, like Lingerie Guessing game I saw online, but gifts are not a must-have. Discuss with the other bridesmaids/guests before the event whether or not you would like to give gifts and be respectful of the group decision.

Fights among bridesmaids about money? The Dowager Countess is not amused.

Fights among bridesmaids about money? The Dowager Countess is not amused.

Bridal Shower General Rule: The host(s) pay for the event.

The Bridal Shower is traditionally a more formal event than the Bachelorette; this is the one your grandma attends, after all. Since this is a more organized occasion, it is expected that whoever is throwing the shower will pay for the expenses. The guests will attend and bring a gift, while the host pays for food, decorations, invitations, etc. The key is to determine a host for the event. It could be all of the bridesmaids who get together and throw a shower, in which case they would split all costs evenly. Or it could be that the bride’s mom is throwing the shower, in which case the bridesmaids do not need to contribute funds. My sister’s bridal party is made up of four girls, all of whom live in a different state. We decided to throw a shower at my mom’s house, but only myself and one other bridesmaid can attend. Since only one other bridesmaid and myself will be hosting, we will pay for the shower. The other bridesmaids are not expected to contribute. Whatever the situation, it’s best to discuss how you will cover the cost of the shower early on in the planning. Nothing is tackier than asking other bridesmaids or your bride’s future mother in-law for a check after you’ve had the event. Have a plan in place so you know who will pay for what.

Also, keep in mind that all people who are paying for the shower should be included in the decision-making process. If you want to throw an extravagant, luxurious shower with a big budget, make sure your co-hosts are on board. It’s not fair to spend $500 on invitations without asking and then expecting them to pitch in. Set a budget, confirm all decisions together, and no one’s wallet will get hurt.

Do I get the bride a gift for the Bridal Shower? Yes, even if you are the host, you are expected to give the bride a gift at the shower. Though you may consider keeping your gift small because you have spent money on the shower, it is still proper etiquette for you to give the bride a shower gift.

Bonus Shower Gift Ideas:

  • Give something personal or homemade. The shower gift is just for the bride, so it doesn’t have to be something expensive from the registry. If you’re crafty, maybe make her a wedding memento. Or if you know she enjoys going out to eat, buy her a gift card to her favorite restaurant in town. The gift doesn’t have to break the bank to be special; it truly is the thought that counts.
  • Throw a “Honeymoon” Shower. One of my sister’s biggest complaints about registering for her wedding gifts is that she really doesn’t need a lot of the items on the list. She and her fiance have lived together for 3 or 4 years now, so they already have stuff a lot of the traditional wedding gift items like plates, blenders, and sheets. Although she appreciates any gifts she receives and understands that her guests would like to give her something, she feels especially greedy about asking for wedding gifts AND shower gifts. So we have decided that in lieu of shower gifts, we will ask for contributions towards the couple’s honeymoon from shower guests. If they’d like guests can bring a small gift to be used on the honeymoon like flip-flops or sunscreen, but their main present will be contributing to the couple’s honeymoon fund. It’s something the duo truly needs and it’s less wasteful than buying household supplies they already have.
  • Another alternative to traditional shower gifts is to throw a Charity Shower. Have the bride pick a favorite cause and then ask guests to donate to that charity in her honor. You could even pick a local food pantry or animal shelter and have guests bring physical donations to the party. It’s a great option for a bride that isn’t in need of as many gifts or who is particularly passionate about a certain cause.

If you, like me, will spend the spring arranging center pieces and making party favors, I hope these tips about the money-side of being a bridesmaid makes your work a little easier.

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