Tips and tricks for throwing a super-fab offbeat baby shower

Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
I definitely recommend sparkly penguin cupcakes. Photo by safetypinheart, used under Creative Commons license.

We recently received the following question from reader Whitney:

My husband and I are having our first child this fall, and my mom and mother-in-law really want to throw us a baby shower. I envisioned a tea party with all my aunts and I'm just not feelin' it. I want my guy friends, my dad and my husband there to celebrate, too! While I recognize how important it is for some people to mark these occasions by giving gifts, I want nothing to do with a registry and I don't want everyone to feel obligated to buy something.

So my question is: how do I throw an offbeat baby shower where everyone is welcome and no one is obligated to buy anything, especially from corporate babyland? And how do I put that into an invitation?

I thought this would be an AWESOME opportunity to go through our badass baby shower archive and for you guys to share a few tips and tricks you've picked up. LET'S DO THIS THING!

Make it colorful

Two of my favorite baby showers we've featured involve COLOR: specifically this rainbow-themed fete and this bohemian tie-dye shindig. Both were pretty laid-back and involved friends hanging out in a brightly-decorated backyard:

Tie-dying! Photo by Tirzah Photography.
Swimming! Photo by Tirzah Photography.
PUT A RAINBOW ON (or in) IT. Photo by Alexandra.

Get crafting!

If you or your guests love piñatas, then the Uteriñata is probably going to rock your world. Yes: it's a piñata that looks like a uterus:

Another perennial favorite baby shower post is this one about decorating onesies that don't suck. I mean… what baby wouldn't love to rock this?

Naomi's tshirt
Photo by Ariel.

Turning down gifts

We have a handy list of copy 'n' paste phrases for turning down baby gifts, such as: "Thank you so much for thinking of us and the new baby! We're working with pretty limited space, so we're asking folks to contribute to the baby's college fund rather than give gifts."

What do you guys have up your sleeves? It's been a while since Ariel wrote up 3 lessons for an awesome offbeat baby shower… I can only imagine what you have learned since! If you have photos from your baby shower, send 'em our way!

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  1. we just had a baby shower for a girl on my derby league– everyone had to bring a "birth" themed dish (my vernix dip [spinach and artichoke] was a hit!) and they had a photobooth with props (like adult diapers and wigs). There was also a wooden painting of three derby girls with openings to put your faces in so we could all take turns being the one giving birth or the ones helping deliver. It was pretty much the best baby shower I've ever been too. The donation box also looked like a vagina (with $20 bills hanging out of it).

    It was a little over the top for me, and hopefully I can talk the team into something a little less "crass" for my shower in a few months, but it was perfect for the mama to be and we laughed non-stop for the entire party!

    1 agrees
  2. I threw a co-ed baby shower once with a book theme. Guests were requested to bring copies of books they loved as children and we all read the books to each other and/or talked about why they were so great. And of course I made some yummy food. Super easy, completely non-gendered and non-plastic crap generating party and if you end up with three copies of "I Am A Bunny," then you have a gift to bring to the next baby shower or book swap you're invited to.

    12 agree
  3. Two tips from me, and I'll come back and give more.
    1) co-ed
    2) bartender

    We went through 4 bottles of champagne for mimosas, plus most of a handle of vodka.

    2 agree
    • Ok, so to follow up – we had a more traditional baby shower thrown by classy people for us – who had never thrown a baby shower before, which was good for us.

      I think what really changed the tone was the coed, and the expectation that there really wouldn't be games or gimmicks (a friend of ours did ask us trivia questions about babies in pop culture, but we like random trivia), and the vibe was relaxed socializing. We did open presents which usually makes me uncomfortable, but because there were two of us, it wasn't as awkward since we both were sharing the attention.

      EDIT: I went back and reread Ariel's baby shower post and I wanted to echo one thing that I hadn't made obvious – a co-ed shower for me was so important because we both were becoming parents. Granted, I was gestating, but we would still throw a shower for a couple that used a surrogate – it was still to celebrate upcoming parenthood. It was always "Our Shower."

      In general, a shower is something someone gives to you. So be very careful about accepting, set some boundaries about what is not ok, and accept the gift of the shower with grace.

      And to echo Mary B. below – not finding out the sex let us not get gendered presents, which was great.

      5 agree
    • Blessingways are awesome. It was part that part hafla and it was touching, a mad yummy potluck and super fun.

  4. No silly games, booze for the non-pregnant guests, unexpected yummy food (pulled pork is dead easy in the crockpot)!

    1 agrees
  5. To avoid of getting tons of stuff with KITTENS! BUTTERFLIES! GLITTER! or TRUCKS! MONSTERS! DOGS! I would suggest keeping the sex a secret, or not finding out at all. We didn't know if we were having a boy or girl, so this helped us limit the amount of gender-specific items.

    My church hosted a book shower at breakfast-it was low key and lovely.

    5 agree
    • Yes!!! I wish we hadn't told people the gender of our baby, because we have sports-themed clothing out the wahzoo…which for two academic/nerdy/geeky/artistic/treekie folks who really aren't into sports…at all…is just kinda silly.

      3 agree
  6. Love the onesie decorating! its a fun way for people to still give you something. Also, my friend just had a shower where the invitations said "gifts are not expected but if you must diapers and wipes would be most appreciated". It was nice for those of us that wanted to bring something and they are definitely supplied for a while.

    2 agree
  7. My baby shower was also my birthday party and engagement party. We had lots of things to celebrate. I threw it for us. We had pin the sperm on the egg and beer pong a salad bar and tons of other food. We had heart tattoo cakes that said mom and dad. It was wonderful.

    2 agree
  8. Last summer, my partner and I threw a fantastic baby party for our best friend. It was co-ed, featured no games (other than a pickup game of wiffle ball in the backyard), and guests were encouraged not to bring gifts (though many couldn't resist!). We asked guests who insisted on gifting to run items by the parents to be first since space was a big concern for them. The invite (facebook) said: "This party is more about celebrating this awesome family than buying them lots of stuff. However, if you want to offer your services (especially in the weeks after birth) or make some food to freeze, that would be an AMAZING gift that I'm sure they'd appreciate."

    For the party itself, we planned for it to be a dance party, but that didn't really happen. Instead, it was a fun, laid-back barbecue with vegetarian and meaty food, lots of booze, delicious homemade tea and lemonade.

    We also did a bead blessing, and asked everyone to bring a bead to share with mama. We set up a little table with cards and string and gave guests an opportunity to write their blessings and attach the beads to the cards. She strung them into a necklace and kept the cards. It was lovely!

    2 agree
  9. I recently went to the best baby shower. The invitations said something like;

    "The happy couple asks that you don't bring a gift but instead bring something that represents the sanctity of life"

    It was awesome to see what people brought. Some performed songs or recited poems. Others brought their 30+ year old baby blanket.

    -plus, that had a master of beverages who walked around pouring champagne the entire party.

    1 agrees
  10. We just had an offbeat baby shower, we called it "The Babying of Brangelina" (not acutally brangelina, but an equally funny combination of our names) so we purposely avoided the name "shower". We did facebook or face to face invites. We registered on babyli.st.com where you can choose money, in kind favours, please come visit me! in lieu of baby gifts. We also specified that used items were preferred.

    The night went like this- 7pm, our co-ed group (15 people) shows up, there are many giant bottles of wine, much fruit, veg, cheese, dip, salsa, SNACKS, non alcoholic pretty sparkly drinks and amazing vegan cupcakes (because we had alot of vegans dining with us). My husband and I had DIY'd a belly cast for about $40, had dollar store paintbrushes and paint and told people to go to town on it. There is a flaming penis on my belly cast now.
    But its fun because I am photo documenting it, then painting over it with gesso and doing something I acutally want to hang on my wall.

    We also had calanders printed out where people wrote down their guesses of birth date, time, gender and weight. The person with the closest date without going over wins a liqour store gift certificate. We set the end time for the par-tay an early 10:30 (so preggo me could go to bed). Add some great music and everyone had a great, laid back time. We finished by annoucing all of the guesses and getting people to guess names, then said adieu! Pretty not standard baby shingdig, just a regular hang out party!

    1 agrees
  11. My baby shower was great. Coed, no games, no dumb stork decorations, good food and we tie dyed onesies in our kitchen sink because the weather was not so great (it was in March). I didn't open presents because that's too awkward for me. Oh, the best part was that before the party I hired someone to clean our apartment for the first time in my life. I was too pregnant to get it how I wanted it and it was well worth the money.

    1 agrees
  12. This is probably going to be an unpopular anecdote but I definitely regret having a coed shower. My guy friends/male relatives were real party poopers and even turned on the football game in the middle of everything. It was great having my husband there (he was pretty adamant about being there anyway) but I could have done without the other dudes. Maybe your lot is different but having men there sort of took away from the specialness of the day.

    • I agree with Kate, it is fine to say it didn't work for you. One thing I want to throw out there though is that it sounds like the guys you invited were not cool at the shower, because of who *they* are NOT because they are guys. I know lots of ladies who would prefer football over baby showering. Some of the most funny most involved people at my shower were guys. It's about people not genders.

      1 agrees
  13. We just had a coed baby shower last weekend. It was a cook-out and we did play silly games and there was alcohol for the non-pregnant guests. We played pin the sperm on the ovaries, had the non-pregnant guests chug beer out of baby bottles, sculpted babies out of chewed gum and we ate lots of great b-b-q food and cook-out food. One of the prizes for the games was a great bottle of wine, and gifts were optional. The men and women seemed to enjoy themselves equally and we had it at a park so kids were welcome as well. It was great fun, not too cutesy and fit us very well, considering we have more guy friends than female friends.

  14. my mom & i just threw a shower for my sister- and while i guess it was pretty traditional (as my sister wanted), we did keep it from being "too traditional." we didn't play any games- oh my goodness, i had googled 'baby shower games'… so. very. awful. – i did set up a craft, (decorating baby blocks) which people *really* got into. we also kept the theme/decorations from being too storky/diapery/pacifiery. it was a books & bunnies theme- both of which my sister loves. there was good food, music, etc. a pretty regular 'ladies get together' but gifts just so happened to be for a baby.

    2 agree
  15. Just helped throw a co-ed baby shower where we had a relay race. One person had wear a backpack on their front with a stuffed animal and books inside as weights (makes you look/feel pregnant) and run to different stations around the park to pick up diapers, clothes, and a bottle. The backpack was passed to a teammate who pulled out teddy bear that needed to be diapered and clothed while blindfolder. Final activity was drinking apple juice out of the baby bottle – which was definitely the hardest. It was a hit!

    2 agree
  16. I loved my mother's blessing. I got a foot soak, guests decorated onesies, I asked guests to bring a bead for a birth necklace, I displayed a "birth bundle/alter " I had made, and I gave a candle as a favor and asked that guests light it when they heard I was in labor. It was all very special.

    2 agree
  17. We had a co-ed shower which was a potluck picnic followed by lawn-bowling. I don't think there's lawn-bowling much in the states, but maybe you could do regular 10-pin bowling (but that might be harder whilst pregnant) or mini-golf or something like that. Having a non-baby related activity (in addition to a baby trivia game) made it feel casual and fun without being boring for the people who maybe aren't so into baby stuff.

    And while we did have a registry we made it clear it was very much optional and didn't open gifts in front of everyone. We just sent the invites via email where we felt like we could word it properly without having to fit it into a small paper invite.

  18. My sister-in-law had an Alice & Wonderland themed baby shower. She dressed as Alice, he as The Mad Hatter. The house was decorated with Alice themed things, and there was flamingo croquet in the hallway for kids. Cookies were decorated with 'eat me' and there were 2 options for 'drink me'…adult cran vodkas in little bottles and cranberry juice for the kiddos. Kids were welcome and so were spouses.

    While they asked for gifts, it was a really fun non-traditional baby shower.

    3 agree
  19. My sister is very green, so she insisted on having a "Green Baby Challenge," which was amazing. She hosted the party on the day of a community garage sale, and sent us out in teams with a list of scavenger hunt items that she wanted ( and a short list of items she definitely did NOT want). After the hour-long hunt, we all came back together to eat and show off the gently used items we'd selected. No shopping at the big box stores. Keeping used items out of landfills. Saving EVERYONE a ton of money. When someone would find a great item, we'd text it in to headquarters, and then they'd send out a text to all teams notifying them to cross that item off the list. She still got duplicates of a few items, which she then donated to the local women's shelter. For favors, her mother (who has a pottery studio) made each of us gorgeous bread bowls. It was the most fun shower i've ever been to, and also the most thoughtful. Women of all ages were really getting into it – there were prizes, team names and colors, and a few instances of racing one another across strangers' lawns to get to the best deals. I highly recommend it!

    4 agree
  20. Some many people are mentioning booze for unpregnant guests, but when I go to a baby shower and see booze, I get offended on behalf of the expectant mother because everyone basically gets to drink in her face while she's been restricting herself for months, and will probably keep doing so for a while if she breastfeeds! Poor mama! I'm pregnant now, and while I don't mind my partner having the occasional beer while we watch TV, or people enjoying wine with dinner, I wouldn't want there to be any alcohol served in a party that was thrown especially in my honour. Is that selfish?

    3 agree
  21. I HATE SHOWERS! So, I've decided instead of throwing a shower, I would like a pre-birthday party for my little one. Instead of having a few different showers, we are going to have a back yard bbq and bonfire and invite friends and family. The entire family is welcome and encouraged to come. There will be beer and food and bbq games. My mom had a hard time with the concept because she and her friends like to throw the "traditional" shower. So for them to feel like they are contributing, her friends are all bringing sides. We will provide the grillables, drinks, and dessert. There will still be the traditional gift opening, but with so many people, not everyone (men!) will feel obligated to watch. I will slip inside and open presents with the people who want to watch, while my friends and whoever else shares a distaste for group Oohs and Aahs, can happily drink the night away outside. I'm hoping that this Pre-Birthday Party is a success!

    1 agrees
  22. We also really didn't want a baby shower largely because people would feel obligated to give gifts and the result-all the unwanted "stuff" we'd have. We alsodidn't want people visiting us in the first week or so after the birth. So we planned a "baby greeting party' about 2 1/2 weeks after the due date. In the invite we asked people to give us some space and said we didn't need or want anything but if people wanted to give gifts we listed things we didn't want along side things we'd prefer. We hoped that it would set the tone for the next few years to help not recieve the kinds of gifts that we really don't want. i think it worked!

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