If you'd rather forgo the traditional fete, follow in the footsteps of this bride to plan a fun, activity-driven party.
Lauren Rich, a public relations manager for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, always wanted to know how to bake from scratch. So Weddings editorial director Darcy Miller invited Lauren's friends to gather at Haven's Kitchen, a new event space and cafe, one morning to find out how to make the perfect scone.
Not in NYC? Get more alternative shower ideas all over the U.S.
While Lauren chose brunch, culinary events are held nationwide for every meal of the day through companies like Hipcooks, which hosts parties in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. Boutique hotels, including Detroit's Honor & Folly, have chefs on-site and room for parties. And cooking schools and local bakeries, where you can try preserving fruits or cake decorating, are great resources.
A honeycomb motif on Lauren’s invites, shown here, hinted at delicious treats to come.
The girls kicked things off with mimosas made from fresh-squeezed oranges. "It was the best juice I've had outside of Florida," says Lauren, who wed on Key West six weeks post-party.
If cocktails are more your thing, at Brooklyn Winery you can learn about the lengthy wine-making process and take home a custom blend.
Traditionally, family members didn’t host showers (for fear of looking like gift-grubbers), but these days anyone can take the lead. After all, with many attendees living in different cities, gathering in your hometown where your mom knows the lay of the land might make the most sense. Whoever hosts, you should weigh in on who's invited. And there's no rule as to how many parties you can have; just avoid overlapping guest lists.
Nine of Lauren’s friends attended her shower. Seven of them are shown here enjoying a meal prepared by Haven's chef.
A shower is usually held one to three months before you get married. Any closer to the big day, and you’ll be too busy with last-minute details to enjoy yourself. And it's too much to ask guests to buy multiple presents in a short time span.
"We picked a weekend date when everyone was here," says Lauren, shown here with her mother, Beverly Rich. Plan around a (nonreligious) holiday weekend if you're inviting out-of-towners, and they'll be more likely to make the trip. But if most guests are local, evenings are a good option, too. Once a date is set, invites should go out a month to six weeks in advance.
As a rule, these shindigs last three to four hours: enough time for an activity, opening presents, and a chance to eat. After Lauren's friends put the scones in the oven, they ate brunch while their confections baked.
The brunch buffet at Lauren's party, shown here, kept with the artisanal theme, featuring fennel-cured gravlax, deviled eggs, and pots de creme.
Since the name implies "showering" you with presents, the organizer should allot time for them to be unwrapped. But if a bride is painfully shy, it's okay to pass on the custom.
One way to add interest to the big reveal is to ask givers to stick to a theme that ties in with the activity on deck. Lauren’s pals could have opted to stock her kitchen with cookware or baking essentials, for example. Art class participants might choose frames or home-decor items such as vases or ceramics.
To ensure that no one is forgotten, appoint someone to keep a list of who gave what.
If everyone chips in for the cost of the class, a ready-made souvenir is a nice favor, like a pair of glasses given at a winemaking class. If attendees aren't paying for the day, then whatever's made during the event can double as a takeaway.
Bags of the restaurant's house-made granola were given out as people left. "Now that I know how to bake, maybe I can use it to make cookies," says Lauren. Along with granola, each of Lauren's guests left with the scones they baked.
Finally, while these shower ideas may be modern, a proper thank-you is always in order (don’t even think about emailing, tweeting, or IM-ing to express gratitude). A written note sincerely communicates appreciation, so put pen to paper. Your best friends will be touched -- and grandma will approve.
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