Handle With Care

From gifts to guest lists, throwing the perfect baby shower

By Margaret Gregory

One of the most special times in any couple’s life is when they’re expecting a new addition to the family, no matter if it’s the first or the fourth. While rituals and customs have long surrounded the pending birth, the modern-day baby shower actually originated after World War II during the baby boom era as a way to ease the financial burden for expecting young couples.

According to Miss Manners, showers are typically given by a close friend of the mom-to-be. Etiquette states that showers given by a family member might be seen only as a tactic of asking for gifts, but in some cultures, it is an expectation that a close relative host a shower. 

Most showers are held prior to the arrival of the baby, but some couples may choose to wait until after the birth to share both the announcement and shower invitation. When giving the shower, it’s wise to consult with the parents-to-be to confirm the best dates and to ensure including everyone who should be in attendance. 

Louisa Vann and Hanna Seabrook have been close friends since they joined the same sorority at Wofford College. “Hanna and I have both always enjoyed hosting events,” recalls Louisa, “so it was a natural thing for me to do when she got pregnant.” Louisa and Hanna worked closely together on the guest list. “Because she was only having one shower, we wanted to make sure all of the important women in her life could be part of this special day,” says Louisa.

(Clockwise from top left) Hanna Seabrook designed her own letterpressed invitation as she is a graphic designer by trade. Mother-to-be, Hanna Seabrook. Izzabee’s created vanilla bean macarons and lemon curd shortbread topped with sugared blueberries for a sweet treat after lunch. Sugared blackberry thyme lemonade made by Spotted Salamander. (L to R) Betty Anne Richardson, Clinky Seabrook and Mary Ann Heath chatting while gifts are being opened.

Since she knew Hanna so well, Louisa chose to have a shower with a bit more elegance. “I knew that we wanted to spend our time catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in some time, and not so much focused on playing games,” she says. Thus, Louisa chose to have a luncheon for her friend to allow more time for chatting and visiting. “Games just really aren’t our style, and we just wanted a chance to take a break from our hectic lives,” she says. The guests enjoyed a sit-down luncheon, dessert and coffee, and watched Hanna open gifts. 

“Hanna is one of my first friends to have a baby, and I tend to go all out when it comes to parties!” Louisa says. They selected the beautiful Siebels House and Gardens in Columbia’s historic district as the setting for the shower. “I could focus on the shower and Hanna without having to worry about making sure my house was ready for a party,” laughs Louisa. When the shower was over, she didn’t have to be concerned with taking care of the after-party details and had more time to spend catching up with Hanna.

To help pull the party details together, Louisa chose to work with Jessica Rourke, a local event planner. “We knew what we wanted to have for the party, and it was nice to be able to turn the actual execution of the shower over to her,” Louisa says. Jessica pulled together the photographer, Landon Jacob; the florist, Fern Studio; and the caterer, Spotted Salamander, making it much easier for Louisa to enjoy the shower.

One of the more important things she did focus on was making sure both Hanna and her husband’s grandmothers felt included in the event. She noted that it was a wonderful opportunity to meet these ladies who were becoming great-grandmothers and to listen to their stories of raising their children and grandchildren. Louisa even added a special touch of using their “grandmother-names” on the table place cards.

Top: Ann Price, mother, Jean Price, sister, Blanche Provence, mother-to-be, and Anna Price, sister, all gather for the special occasion. Bottom: Back row: Mandy Gallivan, Frances Farmer, Rebecca Faulk, Sarah Kathryn King, Blanche Provence, Julie Keenan, Kelly Kirby, Bethany Swift. Front row: Elizabeth McMillian, Harriet Hoffman, Erin Murphy, Lauren Roberts.

Of course, the intent for such events is to celebrate the mother-to-be and her beautiful baby. One gift, a miniature antique gold watch fob, presented to Hanna by her mother was truly meaningful, one that immediately reminded Hanna of her childhood and brought her to tears along with many others in the room. Her mother has a beautiful collection of watch fobs that she wears on a bracelet and necklace. When Hanna was young, her mother started one for her as well. “It was such a touching moment, to see them share something so special,” recalls Louisa.

Sharing that same bond of friendship prompted Kelly Harvin Kirby to throw a shower for her childhood friend, Blanche Price Provence. Of course, Blanche had already given Kelly a shower years prior.

Kelly held a more traditional shower for her friend, with lots of pastel colors often associated with babies — light blues, pinks, soft greens and yellow. Blanche and Hall, her husband, had chosen not to find out if they were having a boy or a girl, hence the mix of colors. Kelly also enlisted the help of friends to pull the shower together. “I’m very organized, but it helps to have people selecting a task that they’re comfortable doing, whether it is handling invitations, working with florals or even addressing the invitations,” she says. 

From the details of chocolate baby carriages and placing notes with funny comments on the front of diapers to bring some humor to those midnight changings, Kelly focused on keeping the group engaged in the couple’s upcoming birth. “We asked guests to bring their favorite childhood book rather than a card to go along with their gift,” she says. “I love reading to my little girl and knowing who gave her that book. And it’s a great way to start their book collection.” As a special keepsake from the shower, Kelly had each of the guests sign a copy of the much-loved children’s book, Guess How Much I Love You.

For décor, Kelly put out framed photos of both Blanche and Hall when they were babies, along with Scripture verses in silver frames. She also used Blanche’s silver baby cup as a vase for fresh flowers.

While Kelly and Louisa chose to have a shower that included just female friends and family, more people are hosting co-ed showers, especially for subsequent children. It’s important to keep guests in mind when throwing this type of shower, especially when it comes to food and games. It’s important to make sure other guys will be in attendance other than just the expectant dad. Some ideas include having pizza as opposed to dainty finger foods, a barbecue or an island-themed party complete with reggae music and a tiki bar.

Games can be fun (given the right kind) and some end up providing gifts for the baby, such as onesie painting parties. One game to get people talking to each other involves pinning a nursery rhyme character’s name to a guest’s back and having them ask questions of other guests to figure out what character they are. Diaper Olympics always provide a lot of laughs, especially as first-time dads try to figure out how to separate those darn tape strips. Other ideas include giving the dad-to-be gag gifts like a diaper-changing kit that includes a clothespin for his nose, rubber gloves and goggles.

As the hostess of the shower, guide your guests as to what type of gifts might be best for the new parents. For a first child, they will need just about anything, from car seats and high chairs to plenty of onesies, blankets and diapers. For subsequent babies, it can help to provide those consumable gifts, such as diapers, baby wipes and lotions.

No matter what type of shower is chosen, the most important thing to remember is the true purpose. “Sometimes you can get caught up in the nitty-gritty details,” says Louisa, “but the whole reason is to show how much we care about that person. That’s why we do things like this. It’s about the love we have for one another.”

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