With the world on lockdown, life looks a lot different these days. Kids are home from school, parents aren’t at work, vacations have been canceled, and parties are put on hold. There’s not a single person who hasn’t been affected by this pandemic. We’re all adjusting to a new normal, and part of that has been a surge in virtual party planning. With wedding season coming up, virtual bridal showers are a way to bring a semblance of normal to all of this year’s brides-to-be.
When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of my best friend’s bridal shower, it was pretty devastating. We’d been planning her surprise shower for months. A week before the big day, we had no choice but to change everything. We had to tell the bride that after looking forward to this milestone event, she wasn’t going to have her long-awaited bridal shower. This girl is the epitome of chill and handled it well, but it was still immensely disappointing.
As the restrictions got worse, we realized a “re-do” shower wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. We couldn’t have the shower we had hoped for, so we got creative. Every bride deserves to be showered in love, and we can’t let a little thing like a lockdown stop that from happening.
Our virtual bridal shower wasn’t the traditional party we were expecting, but it was definitely memorable. The planning part of the event was a learn-as-you-go experience, and I have a few tips to help your virtual bridal shower go as smoothly as possible.
If you have a bride who’s missing out on this special time in her life, here’s how to shower her with love—the virtual way.
What Does a Virtual Bridal Shower Look Like?
A virtual bridal shower can turn into anything you want it to be. The one I helped plan involved decorating a porch, surprising the bride, and having guests tune in via video call. The virtual guests got to watch the bride be surprised, and then we all stuck around to watch her open gifts.
If your bride has friends and family members that live nearby, you could also join in on the car parade craze that has been popular lately. Ask guests to make signs and arrange a time for everyone to drive past the bride while waving their signs and honking their horns.
A virtual bridal shower will be a different experience than your bride ever imagined. But it’s still possible to turn an unfortunate situation into a beautiful and memorable event.
Here are my top tips:
Get Everyone Involved and Communicate Often
One of the trickiest parts of planning our virtual bridal shower was making sure everyone was on the same page. The bride’s mom, future mother-in-law, and bridesmaids handled the planning for the original shower, and we had around 60 guests. When things changed, we needed to communicate the news to the entire list and then work together to quickly switch gears.
We didn’t have time to send out another round of paper invitations, so we did almost everything via email. Of course, not everyone had an email (or checked it regularly) so we also worked with text messages and phone calls. We created a master list of all guests to keep track of who received the message and who we still needed to reach.
After the invites go out, communicate often with both your fellow party planners and with guests. Google Docs is a great way to create a master plan and allow multiple people access to the information. Make sure you know who is doing what, who’s bringing what to the physical location, and who will be in charge of the virtual aspect of the party.
Choose the Right Party Place
While your guests will be enjoying the festivities from the comfort of their own homes, you need a space where the bride will actually celebrate her party. With restaurants and other venues shut down, you might need to get creative.
One silver lining of this lockdown is that it’s happening during fairly warm weather (for most of us). Hosting your party at an outdoor location, like a backyard or front porch, is something to consider. That way, the few people who need to physically attend the party will have room for social distancing.
It only takes a few seconds to set up a Zoom meeting, but there’s a surprising amount of planning that goes into a virtual bridal shower. You need to give guests enough time to either drop off or ship their gifts, and gathering the necessary supplies in a quarantined world will be harder than usual.
We planned our virtual party in exactly two weeks. We had a slight problem in that some people ordered their gifts online (because who wants to go to a store these days?), and shipping was estimated to take longer than two weeks. Because of this, the bride will receive a few gifts late. It’s not a big deal, but you could avoid that problem by planning ahead.
Pick an Appropriate Video Platform
The video platform you use will depend on how many virtual guests you’re planning for and how long you expect your party to last. Zoom seems to be the most popular platform, but there’s also Skype, GoToMeeting, Join.me, and plenty of others. Several of these have free versions, but they usually have limitations.
Skype offers up to 50 participants for an unlimited amount of time (which is more than the free version of Zoom), but it requires everyone to download Skype ahead of time.
If your virtual bridal shower will include guests who aren’t particularly tech-savvy, it’s a good idea to prioritize simplicity. You don’t want people getting frustrated because they’re not sure how to work the technology.
I chose Zoom for our virtual bridal shower, because joining the party is as easy as clicking a link. Guests don’t need to download anything or set up their own Zoom account. I also decided to buy the “premium” subscription for $15 a month. The free version allows unlimited participants, but it has a 40-minute time limit. So guests would have to dial into the call again after being timed out, using the same invite link. Springing for the paid version was definitely worth it.
Help Virtual Guests with the Technology
Once you decide on a platform, take time to help guests figure it out. Not everyone will need help, but those who do will be grateful for the assistance.
I suggest emailing everyone before the party with basic instructions on how to join the virtual meeting. Include whether or not there’s a password to join or if they need to prepare anything ahead of time. Let them know they’ll need WiFi and can use a computer, phone, or even a tablet.
It might also be beneficial to start the party a little early and reserve time for technical difficulties. Ask all of your guests if they need help setting up.
The biggest technological problem I faced was helping people see the bride and minimize everyone else. As a Zoom host, you can “spotlight” a certain video feed, so it will show up larger to all participants. Guests can also “pin” certain feeds to make them larger. If you don’t do that, and you have 30 people on your call, your guests will see 30 tiny squares. It will be difficult to see what’s happening with the bride.
Include Aspects of the “Regular” Party
Just because a party can’t have physical guests, that doesn’t mean it can’t have decorations, good food, or even games. We repurposed the decorations we would have used at our original venue for our new porch party. We also had a cake and served the bride a mini version of the baked potato bar we had planned.
If your bride’s “normal” shower would have had games, why not turn those games into virtual fun? Not every game can be easily converted into a virtual version, but if you’re creative, you can make it work.
Help Your Virtual Guests Feel Included
The challenge of any virtual party is making sure every guest feels included. When you have 30 people on one video call, it’s easy for people to feel like they’re watching but not participating. Of course, the bride is the most important person in this scenario. But you can also help guests feel like part of the party, even if they’re not physically there.
Let the bride talk to her virtual guests and see exactly who tuned in to her virtual shower. A lot of the guests will be muted to keep outside sounds from taking over the main event, but encourage people to unmute their mics and talk directly to the bride and the other guests. It helps keep the party going and shows the bride just how many people care about her impending nuptials.
No bride should feel like coronavirus is ruining her wedding experience. As your bride’s friend, you can’t stop the pandemic or force venues to reopen. If the wedding has to be postponed, there’s nothing you can do about it. But even in a worst case scenario, you can show your bride that no matter what, she has friends and family who care about her. A virtual bridal shower isn’t what she was expecting, but it will definitely be a day to remember.