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I had nothing to do with planning my first baby shower. In fact, I was so out of the loop that I didn’t even make it to the party. When I went into labor 11 days early, I called my boss to tell her I wouldn’t be at work that day. “But you have to come in,” she shrieked. “We’re having your surprise baby shower this afternoon!” My co-workers wound up nibbling cupcakes without me as I ushered my daughter into the world at a hospital across town.
Two years later, I was pregnant again, and this time, I really hoped to attend my own shower. Luckily, one of the other moms in my daughter’s play group was due a month before me, so I decided to plant a few ideas. “Why don’t we throw a casual tea party for Erin—but let’s do it six weeks before her due date, just in case,” I suggested. The party was a hit, and a few weeks later, the gang threw the same “surprise” shower for me. We have since given similar showers for four other moms in the play group.
By starting a new tradition with my friends, I was able to skirt the delicate issue of trying to orchestrate my own baby shower—something that would make etiquette experts raise their eyebrows. “A pregnant woman doesn’t have the right to plan her own shower,” says Diane Warner, author of Diane Warner’s Complete Book of Baby Showers: Hundreds of Ways to Host a Unique Celebration (Career Press, 1998). “A shower is a gift, not a right.”
Of course, you should be happy that someone loves you enough to plan an elaborate party for 50 guests with scads of pink ribbons and silly games. But what if all you want is a nice luncheon with your five best friends? Or what if you want to skip the traditional shower altogether and invite your female and male friends for beer (for guests only, of course!) and pizza?
Fear not: There are ways to gently drop hints about what you want, says Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave: A Guide to Modern Manners for the Socially Challenged. “If the potential party giver is very sensitive or has a strong stubborn streak, ask mutual friends or family members to talk to her,” she advises. “Have them say, ‘You know Sharon hates being the center of attention,’ then let them plant hints about the kind of shower you want. If the host is a close friend and more reasonable, just be straight with her and lay out what you do and don’t want.”
The modern baby shower
What a lot of moms-to-be want these days is a party that celebrates their own tastes and interests rather than just focusing on the baby, says Bryan Rafanelli, a party planner in Boston, New York and Palm Beach, Fla. He has planned several cocktail parties with nonalcoholic choices for the mom-to-be, fashion-themed luncheons, pool parties and clambakes. “You can have a grown-up party and just tip your hat to the baby with fun details, like serving miniature hot dogs and burgers,” he suggests.