Hosting a shower for a dear friend or family member can be an exciting yet sometimes daunting task. I have been on the receiving end of that phone call countless times, and have been lucky enough to throw dozens of special bespoke parties for friends and families. Along the way, I have learned a few special touches that are remembered for years to come.
The tradition of showering brides before their weddings became de rigueur at the turn of the 20th century in America. It started first in wealthy circles, later spreading to rural regions and eventually becoming part and parcel of most U.S. weddings. Along the way, the shower itself has taken many forms. There are formal ladies’ teas where guests “ooh” and “aah” as the bride opens registry gifts until her cuticles practically bleed. Modern day, couple-friendly “stock the bar” showers often celebrate the pair with a Big Green Egg barbecue or a fully loaded bar cart. Showers have evolved as modern couples have evolved.
The modern shower can be an intimate party where an honoree’s social circles meet and hobnob for the first time. Co-hosting as a team can make light work of party planning, and keep expenses and workload low. Keeping a few things in mind, a hostess (or gaggle of them) can create a light, fun party that celebrates and delights guests, honoring their attendance and commitment of time, and showing appreciation for that totally-returnable-totally-predictable big box with the bow.
When planning a shower, I recommend starting with an inspiration board and loose theme, a guest list (trying to avoid too much overlap when guests might be invited to more than one shower), a location, a date and time, and a group of committed hosts or hostesses.
Long gone are strict themes and two-color palettes, but a shower can always use an inspiration board – made up of colors, images and themes.
Woodland fairy makes for a gorgeous theme, with birch rounds used in centerpieces, moss in terrariums and other natural elements.
Bright colors are a nice antidote to the familiar (pastels have owned this world for a long time), and a taco fiesta with margaritas and bright serape decor can be a welcome mash-up.
Whatever palette you choose, incorporate some neutral metallics into your board, and try to repurpose items you already own. I always find a way to use my milk glass collection and bevy of cake stands, and I often borrow my own framed wedding photos from my house and swap out the 8x10s with temporary welcome signs and menus.
From there, move on to stations. Whether you’re hosting at a venue or in a home, stations keep guests moving through a party, and they insert a special touch into an event. Every shower should have four stations: welcome, food, drink and thank you.
Think of your welcome station as the opening to your party. Guests should always be easily able to find a party – a wreath at the door is the perfect way to do that and is more impactful than a tangled mess of balloons at the mailbox. Use a fresh or store-bought wreath, and customize it with the invitation in the middle, a gorgeous ribbon, a bride or couple’s monogram, or a photograph. At one Mama Bear shower for a gorgeous mama-to-be, we used a plush bear head on the front door and donned her with a floral crown.
Upon entry to the party, your welcome station should continue with a guest book. Thinking beyond the traditional guest book is key – in one shower, we bought vintage postcards from eBay of their honeymoon and favorite destinations and had guests write them a postcard and hang it from a mobile hanger. At another, we repurposed an Army Wives Handbook and wrote personal messages inside to the bride. Think creatively, and give guests a chance to express wishes, while providing the honoree with a keepsake.
Your food and drink stations should be separate. Keep food light and focus on items that can be served room temperature and that don’t require a fork and knife. A drink station should include a bucket of champagne on ice (use roses to make gorgeous floral rose ice cubes) and a signature cocktail that draws on your theme, as well as nonalcoholic drink options.
Framed signs printed from Etsy and put in borrowed frames can go a long way in carrying a theme through the party.
Finally, don’t forget to thank guests – home-baked giant chocolate chip cookies in a clear bag, tied with a handwritten tag, never disappoint. At a recent shower, we made Rice Krispie-type treats with the honoree’s favorite Lucky Charms cereal as a nod to her crazy tastes. Whatever you decide, a thank-you favor honors the two to four hours of time your guests have made to shower your honoree with gifts and well wishes.
Whatever form your shower takes, don’t be afraid to depart from long-held traditions of afternoons, scones and roses. If you are creative and think outside the box, your ingenuity and love for the honoree will come through loud and clear.
Following is my go-to list for purchasing shower supplies.
• Paper Source, 855 El Camino Real in Palo Alto.
• Diddams, 1952 W. El Camino Real in Mountain View
• Michaels, 2515 Charleston Road in Mountain View and 777 E. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale.
• Etsy, online at etsy.com.
Sarah Morford is a Mountain View resident. For more on her hostessing experiences and tips, visit her blog at whininganddiningblog.com.