Last weekend I attended a baby shower for one of my dearest friends, of course there was lots of ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over cute baby clothes and I must admit I now have babies on the brain. With that in mind, today I’m talking all things baby shower related, from party favour ideas to why some cultures encourage you to call the new born ‘ugly’ – no, that’s not a typo!
Did you know that in Croatia and Serbia you are encouraged never to purchase any baby gifts until the child has been born, and when the bundle of joy finally arrives, etiquette demands that one must call the new born ‘ugly’. For it is believed if you say anything agreeable the baby will be vulnerable to the evil eye.
‘Baby shower’ as a term is fairly new, however it’s thought it may be related to the ‘bridal shower’ custom in Victorian times, when presents were put inside a parasol. When opened, the parasol would ‘shower’ the bride-to-be with gifts. But the rituals related to pregnancy and childbirth are fairly ancient - the Egyptians didn’t hold baby showers as we know them, but they did observe rituals linked with birth and pregnancy.
People I’ve spoken to think of showers as being very ‘American’ but they are becoming increasingly popular with the British. After WWII they were seen as a useful function to provide the mother-to-be with goods that lessened the financial burden of caring for a child.
Fast forward to 2016 and traditional posted invitations have been replaced with electronic invitations, from emails to social media event pages. Baby showers are ever-increasing around the world and are no longer seen as ‘women only’ gatherings. Indeed, the dad-to-be often makes an appearance.
In China and Iran they host events only after the baby is born, whereas in South Africa they host a ‘Stork Party’ before the baby is born, but this is often organised as a surprise for the mother-to-be. Baby showers are rare in Russia, but the modern generations are starting to adopt the celebrations of other cultures. In many Muslim cultures, animals are sacrificed, with the meat being divided into three equal portions, one to go to the poor and needy, one to be sent to relatives and friends and the third utilised by the family itself.
Although the details vary culturally, essentially they all share similar sentiments – welcoming a new child to the world!
So you now know the cultural origins, but do you know how to host a baby shower for that special someone? Hosting a baby shower can seem like a daunting task. Indeed it can be pretty overwhelming like any party - there’s just so much to think about. From the venue, entertainment, decorations and favours to the guest list… Do you remember that episode of ‘Friends’ when Phoebe and Monica forgot to invite Rachel’s mother to her baby shower?!
Without further ado, plan a successful baby shower with our tops tips and ideas:
The baby shower is usually held during the last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. However some first-time parents hesitate to stock a nursery before their baby arrives, so don’t be offended if the parents-to-be would prefer to wait until after the baby is born! I would advise asking the couple what THEY would prefer - a pre- or a post-birth baby shower.
Traditionally a shower is not hosted by close family members (it used to be considered impolite) but by friends, cousins or other distant relations. However, like most traditions, this rule isn’t observed in 2016. One thing to avoid (even in 2016) is hosting your own shower… If you’re a mum-to-be and you’re reading this, no offence but that is a BIG no-no! The last thing you would want is to give the impression that you’re soliciting gifts!
You also need to decide if you will be co-hosting, perhaps dividing the task between a few of you. Decide on a budget and where you will host the shower. It might be worth speaking to family and friends to see who has the most space. This will keep costs down so you don’t need to hire a venue. Then it’s time to create a timeline of who will do what in the weeks/months leading up to the baby shower.
I love themed parties. It’s so magical when it all comes together. You can choose anything, from pastel colours, a nursery theme, to the season in which the baby will be arriving. There is no wrong or right way when it comes to themes, it just depends how well you know the mother to be. If you’re unsure it’s best to speak to her about what she may or may not want. If she’s not into themed parties don’t worry, just keep things simple! If you do go for a theme, don’t forget to coordinate with the decorations and invitations.
I would highly recommend, in keeping with any momentous occasion, that invitations are a must. Compiling the guest list need not be stressful - just ask the parents to be who they would want to attend. That way you can make sure no one is forgotten (like in ‘Friends’). This would also be a good opportunity for you to decide if men and children are to be invited.
Once you’ve decided on a theme this should be pretty straightforward. For example if you’re going for a very English, traditional theme you may decide to have an afternoon tea party. Can you imagine anything more delightful than cucumber sandwiches, delicate cakes and endless cups of English tea! In order to help keep last minute work to a minimum, choose foods that are easy to prepare.
The main event will be the gift opening of course, but if the mother-to-be is keen on the idea, there’s no reason you can’t have a few games to liven things up for the guests. A great way to get family and friends acquainted is by asking them to write their favourite names for boys and girls on coloured bits of paper, then dropping them in jars for the parents to look over later.
Where do I start?! The gift possibilities are endless, but if you’re struggling for ideas, how about a handmade photo album, or knitted baby booties, or think of the parents’ favourite nursery theme and use that for your inspiration… For example, if the nursery will be Beatrix Potter-themed you might consider this adorable door plaque from the National Trust
Remember money isn’t everything, so you can always make it more personal by bringing your own favourite childhood books and passing them on, or get together with friends and purchase a baby blanket between you. It’s the thought that counts, not the amount spent.
My favourite part! Be it favours, prizes or gift bags, you’ll need to include all the guests, and have something that’s fun for everyone, not just the mother-to-be. Some people find this the most challenging task, especially when you’re talking 30+ guests and wanting to keep costs down. Don’t worry, you don’t have to conform to what everyone else is doing - be different, be bold and make it memorable by making it personal. The favours I did for the baby shower last weekend were not only so much fun to put together, but they were enjoyed by all – which is the result you want.
Finally, don’t forget to send out ‘thank you’ cards to all your guests. And it goes without saying – they must be handwritten!