Is there such a thing as a fun baby shower?
July 24, 2012 4:16 PM   Subscribe

My step mom's friend has very generously offered to host my baby shower. So sweet and yay! Except... I've always sort of hated attending baby showers and I in general find them boring and socially awkward (hey people, come on over so I can feed you some sweets, just be sure to bring a really expensive crib with you). Is there anything I can do to steer the party into an occasion that's more fun for everyone?

The hostess of the shower has a gorgeous home, the party will be taking place in her big & beautiful backyard, and most of the people in attendance will be family and some close friends. Also, the hostess does an amazing job of throwing traditional parties and is being super generous for hosting this and I definitely don't want to step on anyone's toes.

So... given all of that, do you have any suggestions? Have any of you attended baby showers that were surprisingly fun? If so, what was fun about them?

Thank you!
posted by ohyouknow to Human Relations (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I went to a fun baby shower recently where we all decorated onesies and bibs. I don't know if that's an option for this, but it was a cute idea and they made it so that there were options for everyone - puffy paint for the adventurous, and iron-ons for the less crafty.
posted by radioamy at 4:22 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, that's a great idea, I love it! I'll see if I can suggest something like that.
posted by ohyouknow at 4:24 PM on July 24, 2012

Nose around the craft blogs and Pinterest for ideas/inspiration on that front!
posted by radioamy at 4:26 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most of the baby showers I've been to / thrown / been honored at have not been the traditional baby showers where it's women-only and you have to play silly games like guess the mama's belly circumference or what's in the baby food jar with the label ripped off. Mostly they've just been standard parties of a bunch of close friends (of both sexes) where some/most people happen to bring a gift for the baby. Kind of like a housewarming but for a baby instead of a house. Maybe you can ask your stepmom's friend for a shower like that? It's your shower after all, you can have it be whatever you want it to be.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:26 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was going to say exactly what radioamy said. It was an awesome party. The one we had was also mixed-gender, which cut down on the schmoop considerably.
posted by obliquicity at 4:31 PM on July 24, 2012

Have it outside, and have booze, and something casual like a bbq. It sort of automatically lightens the mood.
posted by Kololo at 4:32 PM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

My own recent shower was lovely. Men and women attended, no games, just a sweet gathering of people who wanted to celebrate me and my baby. I also really clearly asked friends for hand-me-downs rather than purchased gifts, which works well if you are not the first in your circle to have kids.

We didn't do this for my shower, but I have been to several really lovely "build the baby's library" showers, where everyone brings gifts of their favorite children's books, and anyone who feels the need to do anything themed (food, decor, whatever) can work from there. It makes it sort of nostalgic and pleasant rather than overbearing and commercial/greedy-feeling.
posted by judith at 4:34 PM on July 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

I second decorating onesies - I went to a shower recently where they provided animal stencils, sponge brushes and fabric paint and the end results were really impressive. Check out the Dover little activity books for sets of decent stencils on the cheap. Go traditional with the animal stencils or whatever, orrrrrr go with vikings! Emergency vehicles! Uh, houses!
posted by illenion at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2012

I've always thrown couples showers, with the exception of two, one of which was awkward even though I really liked the girl involved, and the other one was okay and not awkward, mainly because of the girls involved.

The onesie decorating is REALLY FUN for everyone (just be sure someone who is ok with doing a 'bad' one goes first, it helps people feel okay about whatever they do) and every mom I've ever known who got those has LOVED THEM. Just follow the directions vis a vis setting the marker or whatever you guys use.

I've also done funny, unexpected themes for the ones I was 50-100% in charge of - There was the Penguin and Sheep Shower and a Squirrel themed shower (can't find photos right now, but it was hilarious). An off the wall theme can really help people loosen up and be not-weird.

FWIW I have that sheep cake pan, and a bunny one. And I pinned a kick ass acorn cake thing that would effing MAKE a fall/Squirrel themed party. And who doesn't love a watermelon carved into a bunny?

On preview: Build a Library Shower is next on my list. So kick ass and all my friends would be into it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:37 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've put together onesie decorating for 2 baby showers and used the freezer paper stencil method. You buy freezer paper (Reynolds makes it - Amazon link) and cut out stencils and iron them onto onesies (one of many tutorials here: Freezer paper stencil tutorial). I buy fabric paint at the craft store and a bunch of foam craft brushes. People fill in the stencils with colored paint, let the paint dry, peel of the stencil, and voila! Maybe get some iron-on name labels so that people can sign their work. It also helps to put a sheet of paper or cardboard inside the onesie behind the stencil so there's no paint bleed-through.
posted by quince at 4:41 PM on July 24, 2012

I had a mixed-gender non-traditional baby shower at a friend's house, which was much as rabbitrabbit describes. There was alcohol, cupcakes (because I have a massive sweet tooth), barbecue, and I opened gifts at the end because it would be rude not to. But basically it was just a regular party for friends and couples, with alcohol, that happened to be celebrating a baby. Personally, I found this way more fun than girls-only showers with chocolate poop diaper games and so on.
posted by Joh at 4:49 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

My shower rule -- I've thrown baby and wedding showers -- is No Games, All Booze.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:58 PM on July 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

I nth the Jack and Jill shower, no games (at all) and booze. I just went to one which was nice, and I have been to the recycle/craft/book showers as well, and those are great. It takes the EXPENSIVE GIFT pressure off everyone, and people feel like they are doing good by giving a gift that either has history, was handmade, can be reused, or is educational.
posted by oflinkey at 5:08 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was uncomfortable with a shower too (and as a young mother I actually really NEEDED the gifts; I just don't like gifts given as a social obligation). I also hated the idea of those stoopid games. For myself I requested the shower be held after my baby was born so that she could be passed around and there was less chance of me having to be "on" the whole party. However, some new mothers would feel uncomfortable with their child being exposed to so many people (germs).
posted by saucysault at 5:10 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, all too often baby showers don't have cool music, or any music at all. Load up your player with a great 4 hour playlist for background music.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:16 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm also pretty anti-games. Which means of course I always get assigned to create the games when my friends throw showers. We've done the decorating onesies, which was fun (but didn't get a ton of use). In a similar vein, of crafty shower activities:

For a baby shower with a "book" theme, I wrote a little story for the baby and brought a ton of crayons, colored pencils, etc., and asked everyone to illustrate a page of the story (I had printed out pages with a few lines of the story on each one). After the shower we scanned the colored pages and printed the book at for the baby. We also scanned a page where everyone signed their names. (Memail me if you want to see how this came out.)

For a baby with a space-themed bedroom, we got big foil-over-cardboard stars of the sort you hang from the ceiling at a party store. We had everyone "wish upon a star" and write their wish for the baby on the stars. They are hanging from the baby's ceiling and now-arrived baby likes to watch them lazily drift and spin.

Same shower, we did a felt board where we all made space-y things, like planets and aliens and comets. None of us had ever done a felt board before, but we had a ridiculously good time.

When I've done flat-out game-games, I try to focus on ones that can run throughout the shower without everyone having to stop what they're doing and PLAY THE GAME NOW. So a lot of pen-and-paper. I did silly madlibs (telling the baby's future). The clues were on index cards so people could pick up a couple and fill in their answers and then drop them off, and one person assembled the mad libs near the end to read them out. We did broken picture telephone, which is easier if people already know the rules, in nicely-bound little notebooks that people just passed around all shower, starting with baby-related phrases (like "Thank heaven for little girls"). I also created a quiz about children's books that was very popular at the book-themed shower because it was all book nerds.

If you do prizes, try to make them either cool prizes or actually useful prizes. People get tired of candles or lotion. (At the book shower the prize was a book, and people got competitive!)

I've thrown three baby showers in the past 12 months so I can offer lots of practical advice if there are other things you want to know!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:41 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, the part of showers that most people find tiresome is the present-opening. You need an assistant (or two assistants), responsible for removing wrapping paper, returning opened presents to gift bags or whatever you're storing them in, and -- MOST IMPORTANT -- writing down each gift and who gave it. DO NOT RELY ON KEEPING TRACK OF CARDS!

If you can move the opening part along pretty quickly, people will be much happier.

People also like the opening part better if they're sitting or standing in little knots and chatting; it's relatively awful when you all have to sit in a circle like five-year-olds and watch mom open. Of course when people are a bit dispersed you have to get each giver's attention as you open that person's gift. But it's a lot better than having everyone stare at you while you fumble at bows.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:44 PM on July 24, 2012

A couple of years ago, instead of a baby shower, my cousin held a softball tournament. The registration fee was one box of diapers per player. That went over very well.
posted by peppermind at 6:13 PM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

Nthing mixed gender and no games. Booze is always a plus, but we didn't have any at the last baby shower I attended, and I had a great time. Also, maybe I am in the minority, but I actually really enjoyed the present opening segment. It was an opportunity to take pictures, and I don't know, it was just fun. I think the bib and onesie decorating idea is cute (activities are different than games and could make the party more interesting). Also, your post made me think of this MeFi question about the best thing your parents ever did for you beyond the normal love and support things. Depending on the crowd, maybe you could put out a journal and pen or have someone video people's one awesome thing their parents did for them. Yes, it's basically soliciting parenting advice, but it will give people an opportunity to express something very real about being parented that could be moving as well as helpful.

I get the whole feeling socially awkward thing, but for this to be truly enjoyable for you, I would say relax and treat this as just another one of your step mom's friend's awesome parties that just happens to be celebrating your new child. After making any of your important preferences known, let the hostess worry about boredom and everyone having a good time. Have fun and congratulations!
posted by katemcd at 6:24 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the coolest ideas that I've ever heard is, instead of registration, have people bring their favourite childhood book as a gift.

Sounds great! Only wish I had heard of it before we sent out our shower invitations. We didn't register, but we've been dealing with an onslaught of inquiries about what gifts to bring.

Somehow, nothing is never an acceptable answer.
posted by purephase at 7:01 PM on July 24, 2012

Well... Clearly I'm against the grain here, but I always really enjoy the games. Traditional or non-traditional, they help break the ice between familanyway different fried groups. If you want games, go for it, and don't worry about the haters.

Baby Bingo and that clothespin game for the win!
posted by samthemander at 7:08 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, that should say "games help break the ice between family and different groups of friends." sorry for the typos!
posted by samthemander at 7:10 PM on July 24, 2012

Another against-the-grain pro-games vote here...last shower I attended they had some nifty games that involved (for instance) identifying old/semi-obscure nursery rhymes based on a single line. Maybe my social circle is just especially nerdy, but I really enjoyed that one. Other factors that made this shower fun for me were (a) non-alcohol-fpcused (I am not religious and have no moral objections, I just find drunk people really really obnoxious and am emetophobic) and (b) the fact that it was co-ed. Despite being a ladytype myself, I find all-female gatherings to be kind of unnerving for some reason.

Bottom line: I think it REALLY depends on the group expected to attend. My friends' shower recently was fun for me and the others who went because of our particular personalities. YMMV, a lot.
posted by aecorwin at 9:40 PM on July 24, 2012

posted by hapax_legomenon at 1:09 AM on July 25, 2012

The best baby shower I ever went to was where the attendees were instructed to bring the gifts unwrapped and they were displayed on a table. It sounds odd, but it was perfect.
posted by Pax at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mine in June was simply a party for our friends (co-Ed) to drink and eat and celebrate our happiness. Folks brought gifts but there was no plan to open them at the party (we did end up Opening several, at the urging of guests). No games, no decorations, no onesies, just a super fun party that people really enjoyed.
posted by tristeza at 7:43 AM on July 25, 2012

Best answer: Given that your step-mom's friend is all about the parties, you should meet with her and find out what she has in mind. If she's a great hostess, she may have all of this totally covered.

You have a beautiful house and garden, friends and family and the love of all of these folks for you and your baby. You already have the makings of a great party.

So if you play a few goofy games, it's all good. You might even get into it a bit. If your step-mom's friend is cool (and it sounds like she is) she may already be on the same page with you.

Don't worry so much, it will be lovely no matter what happens at your party. Have someone take pictures, and have someone else keep a list of who gave you what, so you can easily be prompt with your thank you notes.

Mazel-tov and have a great time!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:51 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best baby shower I went to was co-ed and no games - we were asked to bring a specific gift (baby book or favorite childhood book) which were brought unwrapped and displayed on a table. It basically was not really a baby shower so much as a party thrown for an expecting couple.
posted by sm1tten at 8:16 AM on July 25, 2012

We were more than a little terrified of the prospect, but we had a big co-ed party, just like any other summer party. Alcohol, Food and No Games (baby games i mean, I think there were board games/ rock bandish stuff). Our friends agreed to attend, unlikely if traditional, and the aunties and nannas were happy they had a place to bring their presents and coo over a huge tum.

we also did Unwrapped gifts and Onezy Decorating (peel and press fabric was the real hit if that, only downside was putting all those beautiful hand made outfits in a big bag 2 months later because our baby is gigantic)
posted by French Fry at 8:46 AM on July 25, 2012

Response by poster: This has all been amazingly helpful, thank you. But I've just learned she was thinking women only and at a country club, so it's sounding very traditional. Maybe I can ask for library building and onesie making, but really I just need to receive this as a massive generous gift she's giving me and let myself feel super grateful.

A quick etiquette question: I have recently moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles and most of my friends are in SF or are spread around the country. Is it tacky to invite my friends who don't live in LA? Or would it be rude not to?
posted by ohyouknow at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2012

No, it's not tacky, invite everyone! I flew from Ft. Lauderdale to SF to be at my friend's shower. We had a blast!

Your friends in SF can have a wonderful roadtrip down to LA. (I myself have made that trip in 5.5 hours. Because I'm fearless.)

I think you're getting in the right space. Let your step-mom's friend do this for you, it may not be your cup of tea, but it's coming from a beautiful place.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2012

You can definitely suggest a "library theme" or onesie making as an activity. I've also found that older women throwing baby showers often feel obligated to do games because they think that's what the girls these days like to do, but they're not usually super-big on the games either. So you might, if you have an opening, delicately suggest, "Most of my friends aren't real big on shower games," or "I saw a shower where they made onesies in a magazine and I thought that sounded really cute!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:34 PM on July 25, 2012

Just another suggestion if you have a lot of friends in SF: have a second shower in SF. I moved from Seattle to Portland a couple years before my son came along and I had two showers, one with my new friends in Portland and one with my old friends in Seattle, thrown by one of my old friends. It worked out really well, I was able to see so many more of them than I ever would have if I'd asked the whole lot of them to come to Portland, and that's a much shorter trip than SF to LA.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:10 PM on July 25, 2012

If you must have games...A fun game is to have everyone bring a copy of a baby/kid photo of themselves. The pics are displayed on a board and everyone can guess who is who. Or the pics can be put into plastic sleeves. Put them into random groupings with a ring to hold the sleeves together so they can be passed around. It was a great mixer having people confer with each other while they made their guesses.
posted by goodsearch at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

yes, I agree with rabbitrabbit (again!), have a second shower in SF if you have lots of SF friends. Its much cheaper to fly or drive you up there, than it is to have all of them come down to you. If you want, you can have a traditional shower down here, and a non-traditional shower up there.
posted by Joh at 10:57 PM on July 25, 2012

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