How to celebrate brides-to-be with a virtual bridal shower or bachelorette party

Lauren J. Mapp poses for a photo with her cousin Nikki Adams
Lauren J. Mapp poses for a photo with her cousin Nikki Adams on Mapp’s wedding day on Sept. 5, 2020. Mapp and Adams served as the maid of honor for one another during each bride’s pandemic-era wedding this summer.
(Kristyn Taulane Photography)

With San Diego in the state’s most restrictive tier for COVID-19 protocols, throwing a virtual bridal shower or bachelorette party is the safest option to celebrate brides getting ready to jump the broom at this time.

I’ve been honored to serve in the bridal parties of several friends and relatives throughout my adult life. It may not be quite as often as Katherine Heigl in “27 Dresses,” but I have been a bridesmaid many, many times.

I’ve kept all but one of my dresses — my baby sister inherited the olive green, floor-length, satin dress I wore as the maid of honor in my aunt’s wedding for a middle school fashion show project. And I’ve worn each one at least once, aside from in their respective weddings.

Last year, both my cousin Nikki Adams and I got engaged to the loves of our lives, and we both enthusiastically agreed to be each other’s maids of honor. In May, I was to fly to the East Coast for her wedding in Connecticut, and in September, she and our big extended family would travel to San Diego for mine.

We shopped for our wedding dresses together, hashed out details of the decor, tried (and failed) to find ways to share decorations and chatted for hours over many phone calls and video chats.

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted my 2020 plans is an extreme understatement.

Instead of traveling back east for her wedding in May, I watched a small ceremony with my fiance in the comfort of my pajamas. Her venue was closed because of her state’s stay-at-home order, and I was wary of flying because of my asthma.

While she still celebrated with a slightly bigger celebration in July, I didn’t want her original wedding week to go on without some semblance of a last hoorah.

At pretty much the very last minute, I organized and threw a virtual bachelorette party over a Zoom call. For those thinking about throwing a bridal shower or party, here is what I learned.

Get the groom involved

My cousin’s now husband was quintessential in pulling off executing the shower. She and I had planned to video chat a couple days before the wedding, but I wanted to surprise her with the other guests, and the fact that it was a party.

I shared the plan, sent simple decorations for him to set up as soon as it started and had him connect me to his mom and sister so they could get in on the fun.

Seeing how willing he was to help out was even further proof that Nikki had found her perfect match.

Don’t give away secrets in the Zoom description

I made sure to tell, and remind, all the guests that it was a surprise party. I also waited to send the Zoom information to my cousin and said I had been having issues with our usual video platform to disguise the fact that something weird was going on.

What I failed to think of was the fact that the title of the Zoom call was “Nikki’s Surprise (Virtual) Bachelorette Party.” I had left the title out of the conference details I sent her, but she tried to log-on a few hours before it launched and knew something was up when she saw it.

Practice using Zoom with platform newbies

Our family is super close-knit, so I invited our grandmother, moms and aunts to join us. I also made sure to test out Zoom with anyone unfamiliar with the app to make sure it was properly installed and ready when the party started.

Organize it, in advance

Nikki’s other maid of honor and I planned a small bachelorette party when I traveled for her second celebration in July, but at the last minute, I decided to also throw the virtual mini version. That meant I only had a few days to throw everything together.

If I had had more time, I could’ve sent the decorations, party veil, Bride-to-be sash and box of chocolate truffles to her fiance earlier. Instead, some of the items arrived a day late because of her remote location and pandemic-induced shipping delays.

I also would’ve scheduled it for a weekend instead of on a Thursday to better fit with everyone’s schedule.

Plan out games (and prizes!)

Playing games might not be the most popular activity at most modern bachelorette parties, but when everyone is a mere face on a screen, they’re a great way to bond with one another.

I set up two games: a list of questions about Nikki and her husband for guests to answer, and a matching game for wedding traditions.

Because the guests were scattered across the country, I showed photos of the soy candles I picked as prizes during the party, then sent them directly to the winners. Since I didn’t pre-order them, no one had to fight over what scent they wanted, and I got to avoid the post office.

Create a slideshow or scrapbook

As a way to help people feel included in the party planning, I had guests from both sides send me family photos and messages for Nikki to include in a scrapbook. I compiled them all together in a digital slideshow on Canva, and shared my screen over Zoom so everyone could see the photos and messages. I also printed a copy for my cousin so she could have a physical memento from the party.