While the tradition of showers held for new moms/brides is as old as 90’s (1800’s- not 1900’s), today’s versions are meticulously planned EVENTS guaranteed to make even Martha Stewart swoon. Well, not swoon so much as she has not one, not two, but an entire division of her perfect homemaker-wannabe empire built around these events. And furthermore, these aren’t just events, they’re considered industries.
The original purpose of hosting such events was to ‘shower’ the recipient with gifts suitable for starting a new home or bringing home baby. Today’s events are grandly planned and meticulously executed. This is a primer and not the “be-all, end-all authority” (I’m looking at you, Martha). My narrow focus is to bring the essential elements and planning worksheets to the forefront of southern traditions. If you’re not using a multi-tabbed excel spreadsheet, then you’re OBVIOUSLY doing it wrong.
Google baby/wedding shower checklist and start downloading now. Also, let me be perfectly honest for a moment- start planning as early 12 weeks out. My basic rule of thumb for timeline is 12 weeks ahead of the date. Anything less will stress you, baby mama or bridezilla- especially if you live in a big city or have an insane budget to spend- caterers cost money but more importantly, they cost time.
Take a peek at a few resources I gathered up in a 2-minute scan of the internet:
Seem like a lot? Yes, it is. I’ll only scratch a surface in one post that can’t begin to describe, in minute, painstaking, headache-inducing detail, the enormity of the event. For our honorees, it’s a time-honored tradition that she’s been waiting for her ENTIRE life. Trust me on this- she’s waited for her moment to shine and be shined upon. You are her cruise director for this event- it’s your responsibility to make sure everything goes smoothly. In terminology we southern gals understand- the actual wedding or birth are her super bowl, these are her playoffs- so don’t screw it up.
There are 5 essential steps to shower planning: Theme, Budget, Theme, Food and Theme (or as I like to call it, T3BF). Because if you don’t have an imaginative, kick-ass theme, (one that is absolutely reflective of the baby mama/bride-to-be AND showcases your incredible planning skills) then, quite simply, you’re screwed.
Theme and Budget (and location)
Theme outweighs all other considerations. All others can be charged to your Visa, Mastercard, or American Express. Any southern lady knows that your guests and showeree will be captivated by your superior planning skills and follow suit. Except Aunt Mabel, who (bless her heart) marches to a different drummer. I’ll have some simple themes at the end of this post for your consideration.
Budget- this one is easy peasy. Budget follows theme. Don’t go broke and don’t serve canned squirt cheese and saltines.
On location, I do have a couple of comments. You don’t have to have the biggest, fanciest home, but it does need to be warm, inviting, and clean. Even if you have to hire someone to clean it because Fluffy the cat runs the roost. Kitchen and bathroom count the most – we gals (especially baby mamas) like to “tinkle” at these events. No one wants to compare your powder room to a public bathroom (except your OCD friend Tifanie with an ‘ie’, who carries her own toilet seat covers with her), so a nice cleaning ‘day of event’ is in order for both of these rooms. Remember, the kitchen is your staging area for food and there are snooping eyes watching.
At showers, the primary party itinerary is as follows: arrival, introductions, gaming and light food, then the big finale: gifts.
Inviting and Decorating
This is one of the most important things- the invitation. So important, it warrants its own line.
The invitation is one of the most important components of a successful shower.
It should be a real, honest-to-goodness paper product mailed with a real, honest-to-goodness stamp for delivery through the United States Postal Service. You may also SUPPLEMENT with Facebook reminders or E-vite, but please, PLEASE send a real invitation. It’s the ‘calling card’ of your event- not only should it convey the basics (time, date, registry info), it should, MOST IMPORTANTLY, convey your theme! And with the invention of laser printers, color copiers, and digital printing, a true invitation conveys your hospitality, your creativeness, your sincerity and your love. If you are including a recipe or photo sharing activity, please include on the back of your invitation with simple instructions (do not under estimate the value of those instructions).
- when ordering, you may also pick up some matching thank you cards, to give to your honoree (pre-stamped). All of the showers I’ve been to asked the guests to pre-address the thank you cards, which make it a snap for the honoree to complete, stuff, and mail. You can also correct a lot of address mistakes that way.
Decorating can be a simple affair- mostly of color palette and FRESH FLOWERS. If you can’t afford fresh flowers from the “IT florist”, Kroger/Wal-Mart has some great options and arrange your own- you can even get the vases at **gasp** Dollar Tree **gasp**. As your theme sets the decorations and tone, it gets quite easy to over-do in your heightened state of excitement. Save the crepe paper and balloons for kids parties. Keep the favors simple and tasteful. Again, my life philosophy that you will see over and over is KISS. (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID)
Gaming (not gambling)
I’ve played some pretty silly games at these events. I do strongly encourage something to break the ice but not so stupid that everyone feels 8 years old. Try something simple as relating 1 piece of advice to the new bride/baby mama- which corresponds with the first letter of your name. This not only imparts wisdom, but also helps to relate name/face. Please save the toilet paper wedding dress/baby doll diapering contests for less dignified events. Another perennial southern favorite is the clothespin game, where everyone has a clothespin and a forbidden word (like ‘baby’ or ‘groom name’) or no one crosses their legs (totally inappropriate for a southern lady) and then the guests go about stealing everyone’s clothespin when the forbidden word is uttered or someone crosses their legs (the Yankees usually fare well in the later version). Make sure your “game” gifts are appropriate- candles, body lotion, etc. A Wal-Mart gift card doesn’t cut it here. Also, as a courtesy to everyone, please do NOT ask your guests eat pureed baby food and try to guess the flavors or suck on baby bottles filled with spirits or milk. These activities are uncouth, undignified, and socially unacceptable.
Food is another great ice breaker/activity to center around. For a new mom, consider asking everyone to share their simplest recipes that can be made on a budget, under severe time restraints, and one-handed. For the new bride, consider that meal to be something you make for a special occasion. By announcing this in your invitations (see above), you can compile a really nice book for your special honoree which includes pictures of the shower attendees.
While menu planning is solely up to you and your honoree, my advice always follows the KISS method. Ask your honoree favorite snacks, dishes, drinks, candy, flavors. But keep it simple- it’s not a Golden Corral Buffet, it’s a shower. In the interest of all involved, however, please place small, handwritten cards around your food items so no one keeps hollaring “IS THIS CRAB OR SPINACH DIP?” And for baby showers, for the love of Jesus himself, restrain the urge to offer alcohol at all. If baby mama can’t have any, why should the rest of us get hammered from 2pm-4pm?
Please have an obvious place for your gifts to be stored upon the guest arrival. There’s nothing worse than toting a damn toaster oven box or 17lb box of diapers and asking “where do I put this?” And don’t forget to decorate the table/location with some simple things like a small vase of flowers. Trust me, your honoree is watching this table like a hawk- looking for signs of registry fulfillment. I would also arrange for a nice basket to hold cards/gift card options- as more and more, we run out of time and resort to using these little lifesavers. KISS with that basket though- A nice hand-tied ribbon goes a long way.
Last but not least- a co-conspirator
Admit it, it sucks to do something fun alone. And in a southern shower environment, timing, grace, and execution matter. Your shower will be talked about on personal blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. The last thing you want to see is ‘damn, she just ran out of ICE AGAIN. wtf’. A co-conspirator helps you manage those details- helping refill food (chocolate always goes first and remember to shuck foil from these pieces beforehand), pick up trash, keep lists for the honoree during the gifting, and so-forth. It should be someone you’re well identified with, so you don’t have to explain where the extra trash bags are, Lysol spray is for the bathroom or a quick Swiffer mop is for an accidental spill. You can split up responsibilities and create a fun environment without seeming like a total dictator.
Bridal Theme Suggestions
Steel Magnolia Shower
Does the bride like pink? Consider a “Steel Magnolias” theme complete with blush and bashful color palette—there’s not a southern woman alive who hasn’t seen Shelby celebrate her wedding. Add in a few Truvy-style favors (think compact mirrors and such) and trashy lingerie, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Christmas in July Shower (or other holiday themed event)
Another fun activity is to have a Christmas themed shower – wrap the gifts in fun paper and serve some ‘holidayish’ food.
Girls Night In
Nothing says fun like a bunch of gals in their PJ’s gossiping, sipping wine or martinis, and getting mani/pedis. Some high school gals in your church may be looking for some extra cash to pay for a summer trip and would like to help with those mani/pedis.
This is especially fun for your gal making her first run at marriage- especially if you know she’s a klutz in the kitchen. As your guests are gifting items for the kitchen, bathroom, etc- they can also share helpful tips about how to operate that fantastic zester, mixer, food processor, rice steamer (trust me, she knows how to use the blender and microwave).
Baby Shower Themes
Classic Childhood Book Theme
You cannot ever go wrong with basing your baby shower on a classic book. Ask baby mama what her favorite childhood book is. Maybe it’s a Seuss book. Maybe it’s Goodnight Moon. Maybe its Little House on the Prarie. Almost any classic childhood novel can be brought to life in a baby shower (except the Twilight series, which is NOT a childhood book and you should know better).
Match the Nursery Theme (as in her chosen nursery palette)
This is the old standby of shower themes; however, with the influx of adorable baby patterns and furniture, much more can be done now over the traditional blue/pink or abc’s theme. This is the easiest one to overdo in terms of decorations- so remember to KISS.
Trendy Mommy/Trendy Baby
If your baby mama is a trendy, fashion forward gal, then you’re probably going with something modern, upbeat, and cool. Monkeys, ladybugs and animal prints are huge right now along with environmentally friendly themes and alternative gifting to charities. The one constant I’ve noticed in all of these is the heavy reliance on the color brown as part of the decorating palette. I suggest going with something different- like plum and light yellow. Or sea-inspired colors if she’s a beachy (not bitchy) gal. Buck the brown!
As Reigning Queen of Mean mother (in North Little Rock) to Thing1 and Thing2, Berit Kimrey is a connoisseur of the beach, lime daiquiris, chocolate and Johnny Depp (although not necessarily in that order). She
rants pontificates blogs over at wash, rinse and repeat while she waits on her reality show deal to come to fruition.
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