With a little creativity, you can throw a killer bridal shower on a not-so-killer budget. And hey, nobody has to know how much you really spent. Here are some can't-miss ideas:
Classy Cocktail Party
Throw a cocktail party in a friend's house or in a bar. You'll save serious cash since you won't have to buy dinner for everyone. And there are tons of ways to keep it classy. "You can buy frozen hors d'oeuvres that you can pick up at BJs or Costco," says Paula Mollov, event coordinator and founder of All About Parties, in Boxford, MA. "And you can even get fabulous cheeses or beautiful breads, flavored oils and gorgeous olives. You can really make it interesting." You can serve some colorful, sexy drinks, like cosmopolitans and watermelon margaritas. After the party, all the bridesmaids can take the bride and her parents out to a quiet dinner.
A brunch, like a cocktail party, requires less food and is therefore cheaper than a dinner party. The type of food served, such as eggs and bagels, is also much less expensive. Have an open grill and make eggs to order. Serve mimosas and Bloody Marys.
Show off your worldliness by hosting an afternoon high tea. Jamie Schaff, event coordinator and president of Rare Affairs Inc., in Atlanta, suggests throwing a tea party so you can keep food light and to a minimum. "You can serve a variety of teas for everyone to sample along with scones and finger sandwiches," Schaff says. "Check out flea markets and thrift stores for wonderful old teacups, saucers, and teapots. It's even more interesting when they don't match."
Sophisticated Backyard Bash
Forget plain old hot dogs and hamburgers, someone's backyard can be a classy, yet economical, summertime setting for a bridal shower. Put candles all around to set a romantic mood. If there's a pool, float votive candles or flowers on the water (remember to shut the filter off).
Schaff recommends having fun with an outdoor-appropriate theme. "A tropical luau, a garden party with lawn games like bocce ball and croquet, a Mexican fiesta, or a favorite sport like golf or tennis are all possibilities," she says. You can find props and other theme decorations at party and costume stores.
Potluck and Recipe Shower
Probably the most inexpensive idea is a potluck and recipe shower. Everyone else does the cooking, taking much of the work and cost off of you. And the bride and groom get tons of great recipes to use in their new life together. "A recipe card can be sent to each guest in her invitation," Schaff says. "Invitees are asked to make a favorite dish and bring it, along with its recipe and an item used in its preparation, like a pepper mill or colander."
You might choose to have each guest say a bit about the recipe and what it has meant to her over the years. For example, Grandma can bring the recipe for the roast beef that she and Grandpa ate on the night he proposed, and share the story of that magical night with everyone.
Cutting Corners on the Extras
You'd be surprised at how the little things add up. When Josephine Buonaguro, from New York City, threw a shower for her friend, she made her own wishing well instead of renting one. "We bought a garbage can, which she could use after the shower in her new home, put pretty paper around it, and just constructed a decorative top," she says.
As for the invitations, a computer is an invaluable resource. Buy festive paper from a stationery store and use any simple home-publishing program. One bridesmaid that Mollov worked with put a crossword puzzle on her invitation with questions about the bride and groom. "You can include questions like 'where did the bride go to school,' or 'what was the groom's major in college?'" she says. Then ask the questions and give out prizes at the shower. "These little touches make the invitations quite unique, so they're not just cookie-cutter," Mollov adds. Just remember that what really matters when you're planning a shower is the thought, love, and personality you put into it—not how much money you spent.