By Grace Ficke
Over the years, showers have gained a reputation for being boring, uncomfortable gatherings covered with pastel decorations and embarrassing games. I’m here to tell you we don’t have to go on like this. There are ways to celebrate an upcoming marriage or addition to the family without an event that people will dread attending out of obligation.
Whether you’re hosting a wedding shower or a baby shower, these six tips will help you host a party your guests will actually remember and enjoy.
1. Stop calling them showers.
Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the last time we (or someone we love) attended a shower. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess that none of us were especially ecstatic about attending—and if you were, this post probably isn’t for you.
I recently threw a baby shower for my sister and did my best to avoid the dreaded shower term. It was quickly dubbed “the baby party” and I was determined to make it something my sister and her guests would enjoy. Speaking of guests…
2. Include men* and families.
Per Wikipedia: “Some baby showers are directed at the future father. These may be more oriented towards drinking beer, watching sports, fishing, or playing video games.” Hold the phone. This sounds like something men would actually enjoy doing. Imagine if traditional showers involved drinking wine, wearing sweatpants, and watching Netflix. Looks like we got the short end of the stick, ladies.
Inviting men to the event makes a world of difference. First of all, you get to spend time with your male friends and relatives (Hi, Uncle Greg!) Plus, there’s something about going to an event with a significant other that makes the conversation flow a bit easier and the thought of sacrificing a weekend afternoon less painful.
Welcoming children also allows busy families to stop by in between sporting events or other activities without having to worry about shuttling kids around. Everybody wins!
* Notice I did not mention “couples showers,” which is not what I am suggesting. Men competing in diaper changing races and doing blindfolded baby food tastings does not make the shower part of a couples shower any better.
3. Make it an open house.
Having a drop-in style as opposed to a stricter start-and-stop time gives your guests the freedom to stop by for a quick hello or to stay for the duration, depending on what they’re comfortable with and what their schedule allows. This prevents the inevitable guilt that comes along with arriving late or having to leave early.
4. Ask guests to bring unwrapped gifts.
It’s really fun to watch people open presents… when they’re 4 years old and the genuine excitement on their face could melt your heart. Watching grown adults open presents they registered for is a different story. There’s only so much enthusiasm that opening a pack of burp rags or bundle of cooking utensils can evoke (shout out to my friend, Kelly, whose mother-in-law snuck several anonymously wrapped spatulas into the gift pile for her bridal shower—”Oh my gosh, another spatula! Thank you so much!”)
Instead, ask your guests to bring their gifts unwrapped and display them on a table or shelf. This gets the couple or parents-to-be out of the awkward, gift-opening hot seat, gives them more time to mingle with friends and family, and gives guests the opportunity to ogle the gifts without the painstakingly slow unveiling.
On top of all of that, think of all of the wrapping paper you won’t be throwing away. High five for saving the environment!
Another non-sucky baby shower gift idea…
5. Have optional activities.
Planning activities or games for the event is not out of the question—as long as they’re optional. Believe it or not, winning baby bingo isn’t as exhilarating as it sounds. Setting up stations with optional activities is a great alternative to organized group activities. It doesn’t put anyone on the spot who doesn’t want to participate and lets guests who are interested in the more traditional shower activities get their fill.
For our baby party, we set up a station for late night diaper messages—”Same s***, different day”—and a station for guests to guess the baby’s birthday and gender. [You can buy the customizable baby shower due date calendar I created here.]
We also set up a DIY photo booth using Sparkbooth, a program that turns any computer with a webcam into a photo booth and can automatically print photo strips on your home printer. It’s been a go-to for my family’s birthday, graduation, and holiday parties for years now and never disappoints.
6. Serve good eats and drinks.
Full guests are happy guests! If your open house falls around mealtime, be sure to serve some heavy hors d’oeuvres or a light meal. Depending on the time of day and your personal preference, alcohol can also be an enticing refreshment. Making a large batch of punch for a baby event with the option to add liquor can satisfy both expecting mothers and the non-child bearing crowd.
All in all, these events should be about celebrating a milestone with close friends and family—something we get excited to be a part of. I’m determined that someday women will no longer adorn each other with toilet paper wedding gowns or guess which candy bar made the mess in the diaper. Here’s to making your next shower less painful and more fun for everyone involved.
Grace Ficke is a Cincinnati native and designer at Ahalogy. Also: IPA enthusiast. Kindle addict. Aspiring adult.