Showers Of Blessings
by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd

If you read last month’s column, you know that bridal showers and baby showers are sometimes a necessary evil.  Sometimes the recipients of the showers need the loot.  Other times, the recipients just need the love and support of people around them. 

If you find yourself in the position of giving a shower, there are questions you need to ask yourself before you start making the guest list or doing any other party planning.  These questions are important, because they will determine whether the shower becomes a fun event rather than just a dreaded obligation.  Fortunately, we (who are the party professionals) know exactly what those questions are.  Ask yourself:

         Should you be giving the shower at all?  Shower etiquette demands that a person not give a shower for a close relative.  “Close relative” is a matter for interpretation, but you’ll probably be safe if you give a shower for any relative who is not your daughter or your sister (or, in our culture, where women have a long, long span of childbearing years, your daughter).  From a standpoint of church activities, however, there are other people who should not give showers.  Do not, under any circumstances, give a shower for a ward member if you are the wife of the bishop or if you are a Relief Society president.  Even being a bishopric wife or a member of the Relief Society presidency is iffy!  If you are a member of a Relief Society presidency or a bishopric wife, any shower you give will be considered a function of the ward.  Not only will everyone expected to be invited, but you will also be setting a precedent you can’t afford to break.  If you see a need for a shower but should not give one, quietly ask a person who is not in your position if they will give the shower for you.  (You may even volunteer to anonymously help cover expenses or do other work out of the public eye.)

         What does the shower recipient need?  Some shower recipients need the gifts.  Some shower recipients just need the outpouring of love.  Some shower recipients need both.  If you know what is needed before you start planning your shower, you’re much more likely to have a successful event.

         How much attention does the shower recipient like?  Some people (among them are many, but not all, young brides and young first-time mothers) really want to be the center of attention.  These people will absolutely love all the games that abound at showers.  You know – the ones where you dress the bride in a wedding dress made of toilet paper or have a guessing game as to the girth of the incipient mother’s pregnant belly.  However, many people would rather curl up and die than serve as the focus of all that attention.  Know your shower recipient!

         What can your shower guests afford to give?  Giving expensive gifts may be a real hardship for some shower guests, especially if your ward has a tradition of giving showers every time someone gives birth.  There may be ways to get around the expensive shower gift giving and still give the recipient a shower she’ll appreciate.

Once you have answered those questions, you can plan a shower that will be a blessing to the recipient but not a hardship to the people who attend the shower.  In fact, with a little creativity you can plan a shower that people will actually enjoy.  Here are some things that you may want to consider if you’re in a shower-giving frame of mind.

Don’t limit yourself to wedding and baby showers.  Think about giving a shower for any sort of change of life where people will need love and attention.  Has a young mother just been diagnosed with cancer?  Has a woman just joined the Church?  There’s nothing wrong with a cancer shower or a new member shower.  Gifts at a cancer shower could include books, nightgowns, a coupon for homemade chicken soup, offers of childcare or laundry services, and even a bedside manicure or pedicure.  The object of such a shower would be to offer love and support, and laughter is always good medicine.  Give a prize for the funniest get well card! 

A new member shower would be a good way to get to know a woman who has just been baptized and will be a member of the ward.  The people giving the shower may want to chip in on a set of scriptures if the new member doesn’t already have them, or a copy of our book, A Convert’s Guide to Mormon Life.

But gifts of time may be even more appreciated.  If you want to assemble a coupon book where each woman volunteers a service that will involve her spending time with the new member, the shower can be a powerful retention tool as the new member spends time with a wide assortment of women who live in her new congregation.

Come up with gifts that will not be too much of a strain on the budgets of those who attend.  If you must have a baby shower for a woman who has already had a baby, for example, you may want to consider giving a service shower.  Women who attend the shower can each give a service coupon that can be redeemed by the new mother or the second-time bride or older bride.  A bride who doesn’t need household goods may be delighted if she gets services such as manicures or photo shoots or kitchen help for the reception as some of her services, and the opportunities are limitless for services that will help a recently delivered mother.  A recipe shower is another option for the bride who has everything.  People can contribute a treasured recipe, perhaps with a kitchen gadget that may be used in the making of that recipe.  You might also have the attendees pool their money together and buy a group gift, such as a gift card at a local store.  That way people can feel free to contribute as much as they can afford, whether that is two dollars or fifty dollars.  After all, everyone gets equal billing on the card.

Choose activities for the shower that won’t embarrass the guest of honor, and that will be fun for all.  If your guest of honor is looking forward to all the standard shower games, go ahead and have a field day.  Some people revel in the attention, and traditional shower games were created for them.  If you suspect, though, that the last thing your bride or new mother wants is to be humiliated by being the focus of every activity, there are ways you can divert the attention from her so that she still gets the love and attention she needs, but without the humiliation.

We recently gave a wedding shower for a first-time bridal friend who was old enough that she didn’t need more stuff, and mature enough that she didn’t want to endure all the horrid games.  However, we also realized that games are the ice-breakers, and that what our friend loathed was not games themselves, but games that made her the center of all the attention.  All the people who attended the shower were temple workers, who worked with one another every week but who didn’t necessarily know one another in a social setting.  But the game we played could just as well been used with ward members who had lived next door to one another for years.

We had a “getting to know you” game where women answered obscure questions about themselves on a sheet of paper.  (How many packages of Jell-o are in your cupboard?  Where is the farthest you’ve ever been from the state of Virginia?) We had about ten of those questions on sheets of paper that each woman filled out by herself.  Then everyone passed her answers two people to the left, and we graded the papers.  In some cases the winner of the question was determined as the person with the highest number (such as the number of nightgowns she owned).  In other cases, the person with the lowest number was the winner (number of pets she has had).  In other cases we let both the high and low numbers be winners.  We went for the answers that provided the most interest.

Here’s where the fun started.  We had previously gone to the dollar store and enlisted the aid of the store owner to find the ugliest fifteen or so items on the premises.  We also purchased a few items that some people might actually want, just to heighten the spirit of competition.  We wrapped each gift, so nobody knew what she was getting.  As the “winner” of the first question was determined, she chose a valuable prize from the display of wrapped items.  Subsequent winners could gamble on a wrapped gift or steal a gift that was already unwrapped.  If a gift was stolen, the person whose gift had been stolen had to steal somebody else’s gift or go back to the pile. 

This game did not embarrass the bride, but it provided much hilarity before the bride got to open her own presents.  As it turned out, every woman in the room went home with a truly awful souvenir to call her own.  And another feature was that because most of the people at our shower had gone in on a Home Depot gift card for the bride, we still spent enough time opening presents, even though they were gag gifts, that a satisfying amount of ooh-ahh time was spent.

Valuable prizes given to partygoers other than the guest of honor are a real hit at showers.  In fact, valuable prizes can enliven almost any ward party.  If you are a ward activities chairman, you may want to check out your local dollar stores.  There are treasures in those stores that can add zest to just about any ward party on your agenda.