I love parties. Showers. Gatherings. Fiestas. Luaus. Mingles. You name it, I’m there…and what’s more, I’m usually the one throwing it. I am living, breathing proof that you CAN throw an incredible party that is elegant, easy, cute, quick, affordable (free, even), and most importantly, memorably FUN! The bridal shower ideas I’m about to show resulted in a gorgeous shower that cost me less than $12, and took me less than 2 hours to put together…including food-prep time.
Intrigued yet? Let’s get to it!
How to throw a fun, cheap, or free shower!
Ok, we good there? Moving on.
Theme and Colors:
With every party (regardless of what kind), I find it MUCH easier if you choose a theme of sorts. In this case it was pretty self-explanatory: “Bridal Shower.” But to take it one step further…in the invitations (which I did for free using Evite.com) I said, “come celebrate with a classy shower for our classy gal“. I set the “classy” standard and theme early, to go with her gold/blue/candles/classiness that she planned to have at her wedding. A theme makes it much easier when deciding on decor, trust me!
Here are some other easy bridal shower “theme” ideas:
- “Birds of a feather” or “Dress their new nest” bird-themed shower. Robins egg blue with tan/brown accents would be gorgeous. Make these cheap and easy nest necklaces as party favors. This could even be a great his and hers shower idea. For “dress their nest” shower let people know it’s to furnish their new home and give them a registry list for gift ideas.
- Lingerie Luncheon shower. Have everything lined with lace, serve food and snacks in sassy martini glasses, have your games be a little more “honeymoon” related if you know what I mean.
- Bride-to-be shower. Have everything look bride-esque. You can cut your napkins to look like wedding dresses (I used a tutorial similar to THIS ONE and made it look more wedding dress-ish). Have strands of pearls (AKA white beads) strung from lamps and lights, and decorating the table. Decorate with white tulle. Hang her wedding dress on display somewhere at the shower. Make little bride and groom cupcakes.
Pick a color scheme. I briefly mentioned this above. All in all, having a color palette in mind REALLY helps draws uniformity to a shower! It always makes it look like you put much more thought and preparation into it than you really did. Breezy’s wedding colors were “Tiffany’s blue” (aqua-ish) and gold, so I wanted to keep with that color palette.
Now that you’ve picked a theme and colors, decor will me much, much easier. Here are some tips for shower decor in general, and what I did for Bree’s shower:
- Keep it simple. We all love looking at over-the-top parties like these, but let’s be honest…people who throw picture perfect, pinterest-eque parties tend to
- A) spend themselves into oblivion,
- B) spend hours upon hours getting it perfect down to the last detail, which, most people don’t even tend to notice the fine details anyway… and…
- C) without knowing it, parties like that can make your guests feel uncomfortable.
People don’t want to walk away from your party feeling inadequate. If you want to increase the odds of being invited to other people’s parties, keep yours simple and approachable! That way people won’t think, “I could never invite so-and-so to my party, it’s not nearly as amazing as hers was and I don’t want her to think I’m lame.” Trust me guys, it works that way. Sucks, but it’s true. Be real, make it fun, keep it simple!
- Focus on reusable decorations. This will not only save you money, but saves you time in not having to run to the store for every gathering. For my wedding (over 6.5 years ago…) we bought a bunch of these hanging lanterns in white. I have used them a million and one times since! For Bree’s shower I borrowed some blue ones from a friend (also from a wedding), placed them around, and voila! Instant decor.
I placed some on the mantle so they would be noticed immediately when people walked through the door.
My favorite reusable decor in the Page household?…
I love them. I want to marry them. Candelabras for president!
No, but really.
I honestly find every excuse use them for any occasion (birthdays…anniversaries…sunday dinners…tuesday leftover nights with the toddlers…) so this “classy” shower was perfect. Bree even used them for her wedding. And yes, they looked incredible.
Moral of the story? Stick with things you can use again and again and again. And then again. Don’t spend your money on fancy food labels, name tag hum-dingers, straw thingies that you throw away and everyone hates using anyway. If you must spend, spend your dough on larger decor statement pieces that you can get milage out of.
Great reusable party decor ideas:
(purchased and/or DIY)
- CANDELABRAS FROM A YARD SALE…he’em…
- Hanging lanterns
- Make banners or bunting out of fabric so they hold up better (like HERE)
- Fabric to drape on tables, curtain rods, etc.
- Table cloths
- Votives and pretty candle holders (if you light the candles they will have to be replaced over time)
- Chalk boards for writing notes to your guests, “come on in!”, or “grab a goodie bag when you go!”
- Silk flowers. Yes, I still have the ones from my wedding. Yes, I use them all the time (like HERE)
- Cute drink buckets/holders. My favorite? This metal tub…another yard sale score.
- Cute food plates, trays, and displays (like the tiered tray in the pic below, or even DIY cupcake stands)
I use the white tiered plate pictured above (wedding gift. booyah) and gold striped table cloth (also a wedding gift, double booyah) for EVERY party. It makes even the simplest food look gorge.
So…even though I’m a fan of buying reusable decor, I’m actually also a fan of this tip…
Use cheap “filler” decor.
In my vocab, “filler decor” is simple decor that catches the eye, ties in your colors and theme, and takes little to no prep work. It’s usually disposable, but sometimes reusable. (sheesh Jord, vague enough?)
My three favorite filler decor tricks?
- Napkins, Balloons, and streamers. (Ahh! Flashback to my clown-themed 4th birthday party where the creepy clown made me pee my pants!) No, not cheesy balloons and streamers, but purposeful and eye-catching.
For example, our Halloween party last year was decked to the nines in the kitchen. But the living room? Bare. I strung up some streamers and tossed some balloons on the floor, and voila…instant decor. (see HERE)
Examples of filler decor:
- Strategic balloon bouquets – (we’re talking the cheap $1 or less helium balloons from Walmart, not the fancy mylar ones) lining the food table, outside your front door so people know where the party is, bouquets in the corners of rooms, etc. (Just google “balloon bouquets” for ideas)
- Cute napkins. As I mentioned HERE, I love the Ikea ones. They are cheap and instantly make your food table look purposeful. Go with plain plates (because they are cheapest and sturdiest at Costco) and go for the sassy napkins.
- Streamers. These are great for casual parties like BBQ’s, kids birthdays, and holiday celebrations, football parties, etc. Ones where you don’t want to go all-out, but you want it to look like…well…a party! If done in an orderly way, they could also be cute at showers.
I bought packs of balloons for Bree’s shower to place around the house but ran out of time. Someone who showed up early was put in charge of putting balloons outside. She got very creative with it! I thought she did a great job.
And my last decor tip…
- Make it personal. Add your own personality to it! While I think buying a kit of generic party somethings or others is great (and certainly convenient), put your own style and flair into it! For this party we simply hung the Bride’s wedding dress for all to admire. It was simple, but it reminded everyone that the shower was about HER, and not about ME trying to impress everyone with the worlds most amazing yard sale candelabras. (ok fine I’m done, I’m done, I promise…)
Once again, check out my “feeding a crowd on the cheap” post for all the info you need here. Bree’s shower was in the late afternoon (like 2:30 I think?) so we did snacks and finger foods. All of the dishes and displays I had on-hand.
Most of the food I just pulled out of my pantry and fridge. I made our favorite pico salsa (using ingredients I already had) and nothing else required any prep! (someone else brought the cake…see next bullet point for that one)
My best food tip?
- Ask for help and accept help! If people ask “what can I bring?” For heaven’s sake, let them bring something! They wouldn’t ask if they weren’t willing, so let them contribute. I usually ask people to bring a salad or dessert of any kind, since they can make something that they like.
See how happy she was with her food??
My last tips to throwing a successful shower just so happen to be my favorite…
Games & Favors:
I am a believer that you should always have games at showers. I know people disagree with me, but hear me out!
Conversation at parties/showers can be awkward for some people, especially if it’s a shower with mixed groups of friends where not everyone knows each other. Plus, for someone who shows up alone to a party, it can really suck. Having a game breaks the ice, gets people talking (and laughing), and lets you get to know each other better…especially the bride!
Some of my favorite shower games:
(which happen to be the ones we played at Bree’s shower):
- Finish the story: Everyone gets one index card and a pen. Everyone a number on their card based on their seating order, so the first person is #1, the second person is #2, and so-on. Person #1 starts a romance novel-type (fictional) story about the bride and groom. For example person #1 might write “it was a dark and stormy night…”. Then they pass their card to person #2 who reads it, then continues the story where the left off…but on their own card. So person #2 would write on their own card something like…”and the rain was pounding on Bree’s window.” Person #2 then passes their card to person #3, and they continue on with the story on their own card…but you can ONLY read the card of the person in front of you. So person #3 can’t read what person #1’s card said. In the end you have the bride read everyone’s cards in order, and it makes a hilarious story.
- Quiz the bride: Ask the groom questions prior to the shower about their relationship: How they met, what his first impression was of her, when he knew he wanted to marry her, his favorite thing about her, her favorite body part, the one thing he can’t wait to throw away of hers when they get married, the one thing he can’t wait to inherit of hers when they get married, etc. You then ask the bride the same questions and she has to answer how she thinks he answered. It’s hilarious to see how off they are sometimes. I had her fiance record a 1 minute love message to her and text it to me, so I played it from my phone and surprised her with it. I then had her do the same and texted it to him during the shower so he felt the love too 🙂
Some other fun games:
- Make a wedding dress out of toilet paper and roll of tape. You break the room into teams and each team gets a roll of TP. They pick one person in their team to be the “bride” and everyone else has 2 minutes to make a wedding dress out of the TP and tape, on the “bride”. The real bride-to-be then judges and picks the best dress.
- Guess like the bride: Everyone gets paper. You pick either the bride’s name, the groom’s name, or their last name. Write it vertically down the left side of the paper. Let’s take “Brianna” for example. Everyone chooses one word for each letter of the name that has to do anything wedding/marriage related. Example, B=Bride, R=ring I=icing, etc. The bride does the same. The bride then reads off her answers and anyone who matches the bride’s answers gets 1 point per correct match. The person with the most points wins. Note: Give a hint to the bride that she should be tricky and think of creative words to stump people!
- This also works GREAT for baby showers! Just make the words baby-related and not wedding related but otherwise everything is the same.
Another fun game? Flirt with your baby while someone else holds him. Best. Game. Ever.
I’m also a believer that you should give a little party favor of some kind at the end of a party, especially a shower. Why? Well…I don’t know, I just like doing it.
But since I do it for free or cheap, and it makes people happy…why not?!
- The dollar store is one of my favorite places to get baby and bridal shower take-home boxes. How cute are these wedding dress boxes?? $1 for the pack! It even came with pre-cut ribbon. Yippee! I put a ring pop in each box and called it good.
- Lotions, soaps, and body sprays are always great. These particular ones were only $0.50 at Walmart on clearance. I bought a whole cart-full and have used them for a TON of things since.
Remember, you don’t have to pay much (or do much) for take-home gifts. If you’re spending $1 per person that should be maximum!
Some of my favorite go-to take home gifts:
- Little boxes or bags filled with candy. Buy the candy in bulk rather than giving everyone their own individual bag. You could even display the candy as a candy “bar” and let people fill their own bag/box.
- Individual cupcakes.
- Individual mini loaves of bread, banana/zucchini bread, or other kind of sweet bread (like Shannon did for me HERE)
- Dipped pretzels (rods or regular)
- Set out beads and string and let people make their own bracelets to take home. Gives them something to do at the party. If you stock up when on sale throughout the year you could have plenty of a collection to put out.
- Caramel apples
- the nest necklaces I mentioned above.
- Inexpensive – but cute and good-smelling- lotion, candle, soap, Chapstick, etc. The dollar store, Walmart, and Target have cute $1-type stuff.
So there you go! It was fun, it was classy, it was easy and cheap, and it was an honor to celebrate my bestie.