One of my best friends is getting married next month. We’re all excited for the wedding, but there was a bit of an obstacle when it came to planning the bridal shower: the bride just moved across the country, and her closest friends and family are scattered over many different states.
Determined not to let that get in our way, I decided to throw a virtual bridal shower over video chat. With the technology available to us, a virtual bridal shower can be a great way to celebrate with friends when getting together in person is not an option, so I’ve compiled the things I’ve learned here so that others may throw their own virtual showers (this would work just as well for a virtual baby shower).
tip #1: it doesn’t have to be 100% virtual
I would strongly recommend incorporating some physical elements for your guests to engage with to make it feel more immersive, like a real party. Two weeks before the shower, I mailed a package to each guest (including the bride, of course!), containing the following items:
- Instructions for the shower
- A few feet of crepe paper
- An envelope of party games
- Tissue-wrapped party favors
Although I emailed instructions as well, I felt like having some tangible items would get the guests more excited — after all, who doesn’t like getting a package in the mail?
Check to see if your post office has a self-service kiosk for after hours — this makes it so much easier to send everything out whenever it’s convenient for you!
Assembling and mailing these packages was expensive, but it didn’t have to be. Instead of mailing a box to each person, you can save money by fitting everything into a large envelope (preferably padded) if you choose smaller favors.
tip #2: take advantage of google hangouts
Although Google Hangouts is not the only platform for group video chats, it is particularly well-suited to an event like a shower. Here are a few of its advantages:
If you use Google+ Events to send out the invitations, you have the option of setting up the event as a Hangout. This will add a link to the hangout to the event page, making it easy for guests to join once the event starts.
If you set up the Hangout as a Google+ event and use the Screen Capture app inside the Hangout, all of your screen captures will automatically be added to the event for guests to peruse afterwards. Guests can also upload their own photos to the event.
apps and extensions
Google+ has a few built-in apps and also allows 3rd party extensions, some of which are useful for playing games as a group. They can also be fun in other ways; for example, the Effects app uses facial recognition to allow you to add hats, fake mustaches, etc., to your image, as well as funny sound effects. In a bridal shower, this has the obvious benefit of allowing the bride to wear a virtual tiara:
Update April 2017:
Google has decided to take to take Hangouts in a different direction, and the apps I mentioned are no longer available. While you can still use Google Hangouts for the shower, Appear.in is another fun alternative.
tip #3: plan ahead
A virtual shower needs to be planned in advance since everything has to be mailed well before the shower. Not only the packages for the guests, described above, but also all of the gifts for the bride. I would recommend sending the invitations at least a month in advance and giving the guests a deadline of at least two weeks before the shower to RSVP.
When everything has to be prepared in advance, staying organized is essential. I used a combination of Google Docs and Trello, a free project management tool which I absolutely love, to stay on track.
As much as I love organizing online, I would recommend printing everything you will need during the shower, as it is much easier to refer to a hard copy than to switch back and forth between screens during the actual event.
tip #4: communicate
Your guests will probably have never been to a virtual shower before, so communicating with them clearly before the event is key to making sure everything goes smoothly.
As I mentioned above, I included instructions in the package that was sent out and also via email. If I did this again, I would send the email first. Not everyone realized they should open the package in advance, and one person got confused and opened the favors too early. The lesson here: you can’t over-communicate.
address the worst case scenarios
When you’re helping the guests get ready for the party, don’t forget to plan for when things go wrong. After all, we’re dealing with technology here.
Google Hangouts can sometimes get this weird echo that makes it almost impossible to hear anybody. This can usually be prevented by having everyone wear headphones. If the guests do not have headphones, you can also get rid of the echo by having everyone mute their microphones if they’re not speaking, but that’s not as much fun and does not feel as much like a party.
Some other issues we encountered were people getting kicked out of the hangout accidentally and the microphones not working for certain guests. Announce at the beginning of the hangout what to do if you get kicked out (go back to the event page and click on Join Hangout) so that no one is unprepared. Also let everyone know about the chat feature so that they can use this if their microphone stops working.
tip #5: every party needs decorations
Just because it’s a virtual shower doesn’t mean decorations aren’t important! As I mentioned earlier, I mailed each guest a few feet of crepe paper before the shower, which I asked that they hang up behind them so that it would be visible on the screen in the video chat. (It was not quite long enough — I would recommend about 8 feet to be on the safe side.) This unifying element was one more way to bring us all together (figuratively speaking, of course) and add an air of festivity.
I chose crepe paper because it was inexpensive and would be easy for the guests; however, any small decorations would work. You could use garlands, balloons (mail flat and ask the guests to inflate them), etc.
tip #6: break the ice
The guests may not all know each other, and there will be no opportunities for small talk over hors d’oeuvres in a video chat. To alleviate any awkwardness the guests may feel about video chatting with strangers, introductions are essential.
In our shower, each guest answered the following questions:
- What is your name?
- Where do you live?
- How do you know the bride?
- Tell us about a memory you have of the bride.
You could also play an ice breaker game such as two truths and a lie, if that’s more your style.
tip #7: play some games
Playing games together will help your video chat feel like a real party. Besides, there’s nothing to get a group of people to like each other like a little friendly competition and a lot of laughter.
- Group the games together: Most of these games involve mailing something to the guests in advance. I would strongly recommend placing any game-related items in an appropriately labeled envelope within your larger envelope or box and instructing the guests not to open it before the shower.
- Taking turns: Since you can’t conveniently sit in a circle on video chat, I recommend going by guests’ names alphabetically any time you need to take turns.
- Keeping score: Make sure you have some paper and a writing utensil on hand to keep score — trust me, this is so much easier than switching back and forth between screens to keep score on a document on your computer. Before the shower, draw or print a table with the guests’ names in the first column and then a column for each game where you can keep track of their points. (This is also a great place to jot down what gifts each person gave so you can send that information to the bride after the shower for her thank you notes
Expand for specific tips and instructions.
Many of these bridal shower games from The Knot would also work well on video chat.
Showers are more fun with prizes, but there’s no need to make another trip to the post office. Send a $5-10 gift card (depending on your budget) to each winner from an online store such as Amazon or ModCloth that will allow you to send the gift card code via email. Amazon will let you send several at once and is more versatile, although ModCloth is cuter and more girly, which makes it a great choice for a shower.
tip #8: don’t forget party favors!
Party favors are essential! They do not need to be large or expensive — just a little token to let the guests know that they are appreciated and to make them feel like they’ve just attended a party, not just a regular video chat.
I chose bulky favors that fit the shower’s baking theme (and were super cute) but which had to be shipped in a box. This added up quickly when it was time to pay the post office. By choosing smaller, flatter favors, you could easily fit everything in a padded envelope and save some money. When choosing favors, keep in mind that weight is also a factor in the shipping cost.
Here are a few ideas for favors that would be easier to ship:
- Mini picture frames
- Small tea candle
- Chocolate (as long as it’s not too hot outside!) or gourmet lollipops
- A mixed CD of the bride’s favorite songs
- Lip balm or gloss
- Handmade soap
Make sure they are wrapped up together (with instructions not to open them) so that the guests do not see them before the end of the shower!
tip #9: have fun!
I hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful in planning your own virtual bridal shower or virtual baby shower. Of course, the most important piece of advice I could give you is to have fun. After all, this is a party, not an exam!
Other ideas for how to throw a great virtual party? Share them in the comments!