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How to Plan a Bridal Shower on a Budget – Ideas & Checklist

By Rebecca VanderMeulen

host bridal shower womenBeing a bridesmaid costs an average of $1,695, and of that total, $400 is spent just throwing a shower for the bride. This includes buying a gift, costs for the event, and traveling to the shower.

However, it’s not necessary to spend that much. This past summer, I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding, and spent just under $300 planning and throwing the shower with another bridesmaid. A great time was had by all – most importantly, by the bride.

From choosing a location, to gifts and favors, you can implement a number of money-saving tips and still throw a shower to be remembered.

Throwing a Bridal Shower on a Budget

1. Location

First, consider your home. If you host the party yourself, you won’t have to pay rental fees. However, there are circumstances where this simply won’t work. I live in Pennsylvania, and my friend, for whom I threw the shower, lives in Michigan. However, my in-laws live in the Michigan town where we grew up, and generously allowed me to borrow their home for a few hours. If you find someone willing to share their home, you might decide to give an inexpensive “thank you” present, such as a bottle of wine.

You’ll most likely have to shell out some money if no homes are available, but the shower doesn’t have to be at a fancy restaurant or hotel ballroom. Think outside of the norm and compare prices. Here are a few atypical venues to check out:

  • You, a friend, or a relative of the bride might live in an apartment complex with a community center. Many complexes rent these rooms to residents.
  • A park. Make arrangements in case there’s a storm!
  • Townships, villages, and other local governments often have meeting rooms big enough for a bridal shower.
  • A historic home or schoolhouse. These places might be run by a nonprofit and can be available for an affordable price.
  • Many fraternal organizations, like the Rotary and the VFW, maintain meeting spaces with kitchens, tables, and anything else you need for a party.

2. Transportation

Traveling hundreds of miles is costly no matter which mode of transportation you choose. When I needed to travel from Pennsylvania to Michigan, I compared the cost of driving to the cost of flying. The cost of gas to get there and back was approximately $150, while the price of a plane ticket would have been at least $200 per person. Since my husband was going to make the trip as well, due to a wedding we were attending in the area, we drove and saved more than $350 in travel expenses.

You can find other ways to save money on travel, depending on where you and the other co-hosts live and where the shower will be held.

  • Schedule the shower so it falls within a few days of the bachelorette party or girls night out to save yourself a trip. Of course, you may want to have the bachelorette party a few days before the wedding to save time and money traveling to the nuptials. A shower within a week or so of the wedding might be too much for the bride, her friends, and family to handle.
  • If you have to fly, find cheap flights to get the lowest fare possible.
  • Carpool with other shower hosts or guests from your area and share the gas expenses.

Even if you’re a bridesmaid, you don’t have to attend the shower if it doesn’t make financial or logistical sense. If you simply can’t make it to a bridal shower, any reasonable bride will understand. Plus, you can always ship your gift.

3. Invitations

Shower invitations don’t have to cost anything. You can send an Evite or create a Facebook event and invite everyone to the party for free.

However, there is one small problem to this approach: Not everyone uses the Internet regularly, and the bride is likely to have a grandmother or other relative who doesn’t use Facebook.

An Internet search will display many companies that will make custom-printed invitations. Just don’t order from a website if you can’t find an active coupon code for it. By using a coupon code, I paid only $84.70 for 40 invitations and recipe cards, on which each guest was asked to share a recipe for the bride.

Alternatively, you can stop into any card store and find affordable blank party invitations. Or you can make them yourself – even if you’re not the crafty type, you can buy invitation kits at many office supply and stationery stores. Many are compatible with standard word processors. Use a festive font, add a couple of photos or pieces of clip art, and print them off on the printer in your home office.

bridal shower invitations

4. Food

To save money, avoid hiring a caterer unless you’re hosting a shower in a venue that requires it. It’s much more cost-effective to make the food yourself. Check out theseĀ quick and easy appetizer recipes for parties, or peruse your cookbooks and the Internet for finger-food recipes that fit into your shower’s theme.

Also, spread around the costs for food by having each person who’s helping with the shower bring a dish. I shared hosting responsibilities with my friend’s sister, so we split the food preparation duties.

For beverages, have one nonalcoholic beverage on hand and perhaps one alcoholic drink. My mother-in-law prepped some sangria for us, and I made punch from this simple recipe:

  • 2 quarts of cranberry juice
  • 2 quarts of ginger ale
  • 46 ounces of pineapple juice
  • 1 cup of lemon juice

You’ll need dishes, but you or a co-host probably own dishes suitable for serving. If not, borrow them from someone who does. If you want to serve your guests using disposable plates and silverware, you can find them at a low price at a discount grocery store.

5. Decorations

Party supply stores sell a huge variety of centerpieces, balloons, garlands, streamers, confetti, and other items that you may want to consider, though they aren’t necessary decorations for a shower. A more frugal option is to scour your belongings for things that fit into your shower’s theme.

The theme of the shower I hosted was “Around the World.” I brought a stuffed kangaroo a friend brought me from Australia, seashells from my honeymoon in the Caribbean, and a few other items I was able to find at home. Here are some other decorations you might have lying around:

  • Strings of Christmas lights
  • Houseplants to be used as centerpieces
  • Photos or postcards that fit into your theme

If everyone helping with the shower contributes a few decorations, you’ll have enough to work with.

6. Games

Silly bridal shower games are a staple of any shower. Here are a few that cost little or nothing:

  • Prepare a list of questions regarding the groom (What’s his shoe size? What was his first car?). Pose them to the bride and see how many she gets right.
  • Use Google Translate to make a list of how “love” is said in different languages. Make worksheets for your guests to match the translation to the right language.
  • Stock up on cheap toilet paper. Divide the guests into teams and assign them to create the best toilet paper “wedding dress.”
bridal shower gifts

7. Favors and Prizes

Along with games come prizes, and it’s customary for party guests to receive party favors. Search around and be creative – you might find inexpensive options for favors, like pretty soaps, candles, or candy. For game prizes, there’s nothing wrong with regifting that bath scrub you got for Christmas but haven’t used.

Final Word

Spending a ton of money on a bridal shower won’t guarantee a good time. These parties are fun for the bride because she gets to see friends and family, open a pile of presents, and be the center of attention. Focus on making the event enjoyable instead of extravagant. The guest of honor – and your wallet – will thank you.

What other ideas do you have for saving money on a bridal shower?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Rebecca VanderMeulen
Rebecca VanderMeulen loves thrift shops and the grocery-store clearance rack. She grew up in western Michigan and now lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband and two cats. She is expecting a baby boy in 2012.

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  • ImpulseSave

    These are some great tips. I know that now that at my age, the weddings are going to soon become a constant stream of events. I will certainly keep this tips in mind when I’m required to plan a bridal shower, or any nice party for that matter!

  • Lisa Gailey

    sticker shock!

    My bridesmaid never paid that much. In fact their dresses were on clearance from JC Penny and from two my maid of honor helped pick them out.

    My church hosted the bridal shower party so my maids did not have to do this but have fun.

    I even told the organ player to play whatever SHE wanted. All I wanted was the wedding march.

    …and I was called a bridezilla. :o)

  • Lisa Gailey

    check out local library’s meeting room. They are usually free if you have a large party coming. Ours just wants you to clean up and put everything in place once done. They have everything you need to clean up with.

    Even our local funeral home is very *green* and has a chapel and large room with a huge TV that I am told the director invites our local firemen to watch Sunday night football in. I know that may sound weird but our local town’s funeral place is very lovely. They will even tape ( the wedding) in their chapel and send to others that did not make it. (for a small fee)

    They will never forget YOUR party.

    Happy marriage!

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