Guests can turn showers into wedding dress show-and-tells

Invitations to a bridal shower can request the honor of your presence -- and a few other things.

If every guest brings her own wedding dress and photo album, the shower can be more than a gift-giving experience. Whether you are a guest or a host, this party will be a memorable and meaningful bonding experience among the bride-to-be's family and her closest friends.

Here's what shower guests should do:

Dig up your dress. It's a safe bet the dress you wore on such an important day is stored in a box or bag. What a shame not to see or touch that beautiful dress for years! This shower is a chance to once again stroke the gorgeous silk or satin and admire the fine lace and beaded details.

If you are single, you can be part of the fun, too. Bring a bridesmaid or flower-girl dress if you still have it.

If their dresses have been preserved, guests can have them resealed or preserved again after the shower (see below). The shower also might be a good opportunity to get dresses cleaned, because stains can appear years later.

Dust off the photo albums. Guests should pass around their photo albums and discuss the memorable moments of their wedding, says party planner Jenny Steffens of Fairway, owner of Occasions Entertaining (

Wedding dresses are fashion statements of their times, so the bridal shower is richer if guests are of different ages. If someone was married before the digital photo age, her older black-and-white wedding photos will be particularly interesting. It's fun to look at the ultra-formal portraits of the bride and groom and to check out what the bridesmaids wore.

Here's what the shower host can do:

Serve "safe" food and drinks. The host should be the anti-stain warrior, prohibiting red wine, cranberry juice, coffee, salsa, tomatoes, dyed icing and punch (unless it's on the clear side). But Champagne, lemonade, tea sandwiches and sugar cookies can make the cut.

Give the party the white-glove treatment. Pass out white cotton gloves to guests so they can touch dresses and albums. These will prevent skin oils or food from staining gowns and photos, Steffens says. The gloves also make fun party favors because they can be used again.

Host a fashion show. Guests aren't required to model their dresses because they may not fit. Instead, guests can either hold the dresses in front of them, each recounting how she discovered the perfect one. Don't forget to ask guests to bring veils, shoes and purses.

Another option is to hang dresses in a room separate from the food. Or, to go the extra mile, the dresses can be placed on dress forms.

Document the details. Take a lot of photos with a digital camera. Send prints of the bride-to-be with each guest and her dress. Steffens suggests that the bride-to-be can include the pictures in thank-you notes to each guest.




- Dress cleaning, $85

- Cleaning and preservation, $195 (includes dress and veil packed in acid-free materials in a display box, which is placed in another box. It includes a lifetime warranty).

- Resealing process after opening box, $20 (negates warranty)

- Shoe cleaning, $7

Source: Arrow Fabricare Services, Kansas City