Recently, I had the opportunity to host an international baby shower party in Japan. I hope this can be helpful for those planning to host one in the future! It's a bit long, but please read it all.
Table of Contents:
If you prefer to read about the event day itself, please click on the link below.
Baby shower parties, which are occasionally seen in scenes from foreign dramas and movies, have been gaining recognition in Japan as well. In Japan, it was common to celebrate the birth of a baby after the child was born. However, when we look at the global perspective, it's not uncommon for countries to hold celebratory parties just before the birth. The origins of this tradition are ancient, and baby shower parties were held even in ancient Egypt and Roman times.
If we were to conduct a survey to determine which option is more physically manageable – having a baby shower party after giving birth or having it a little earlier (1-2 months before delivery) – it seems that the consensus would lean towards the latter. The expecting mother, who was the guest of honor at the baby shower I hosted, said, "Having the party before giving birth is definitely easier." As a man, I tend to agree. Baby showers typically involve guests gifting items that the baby will need. It makes sense to receive these essential baby items before the birth rather than immediately after.
Even when I lived in the United States, I was never invited to baby shower parties. In the U.S., the tradition revolves around expectant mothers and their female friends, and it doesn't seem to have an atmosphere that actively includes male friends. If there's a close family relationship, it's common to invite friends who are couples along with their children. Well, there aren't many reasons to invite a single guy like me.
Background of Hosting the Baby Shower Party
I had always felt disconnected from baby shower parties, but suddenly, an opportunity to attend one arose. It turns out, my friends who live nearby are expecting their first child. We've been friends since before they got married. Among my friends, they are relatively young, and there are no other couples in my social circle who seemed likely to have children besides them. The expectant mother, "Nene-chan" (a pseudonym), is like a little sister to me, and we got to know each other at work.
I have a memory of hearing her say, "I definitely want kids," a long time ago. However, after they got married, I hadn't heard any pregnancy news for a while, so I wondered if they had given up on it. But I couldn't bring myself to ask about it. So, when I heard that she was pregnant and already in the stable period, I was incredibly happy. I think I immediately said to Nene-chan, "Let's have a baby shower party" when she shared the news. Her husband is also someone I know from work, and I decided, somewhat presumptuously, that I was the most suitable person to host the party.
I had never attended a baby shower party before, and yet, I suddenly found myself as the host. For Nene-chan and her husband, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I have to make it something wonderful!
Planning the Baby Shower Party
Baby showers and regular parties don't differ much in the planning process. The theme being clear makes planning easier. Since I'm experienced in planning and hosting parties and events, I quickly put together a proposal and listed the necessary items. For those reading this article, please consider it as a reference. Essentially, the host should aim to make the party as elaborate as possible within their capabilities.
- Choosing the Date and Time
Let the pregnant mom choose the date and time for the event. In this case, we held it on a weekend about 1.5 months before the due date. Baby showers typically take place during the day in bright hours, often during lunch or snack times, which makes sense for an event centered around the mom-to-be.
If possible, consider having a two-part event during lunchtime and dessert time. This allows both the pregnant woman and the host to have more flexibility. I opted for a two-part event, with lunch at 12:00 PM and dessert at 1:30 PM.
I found having a two-part event to be a great decision. If all participants had come at the same time, as the host, I might have felt a bit overwhelmed trying to handle everything at once.
- Selecting the Venue
Once you have a date in mind, it's time to choose a venue. It's best to pick a location that's convenient for the guest of honor.
For those who want to go all out, you can consider renting out private party rooms at hotels or restaurants. Nowadays, there are places that offer specialized baby shower party plans, complete with options for food, diaper cakes, balloon decorations (and even a photo booth). However, this often involves participants contributing fees and might come with time restrictions. It's a suitable choice for those with the means to afford it.
Being a non-rich person, my office is the only choice for a party venue. Well, if I push the office furniture to the sides, I can create a reasonable amount of space. The biggest advantage is that it's just a few minutes' walk from the guest of honor's home. Since it's my own place, I can take my time with preparations and clean-up.
In the United States, it's not uncommon for baby showers to be held at the pregnant mom's own home, with the organizer also being the expectant mother. American homes are often quite spacious, and there are plenty of services like party catering available, so it makes sense. In Japan, considering the preparation and cleanup, I'd lean toward avoiding the expectant mother's home. In large apartment complexes, you might find shared spaces that can be rented cheaply or for free. Regardless of how much the expectant mother insists on helping, you shouldn't let her do anything!! As for the husband, it's okay to make him work a little.
- Creating the Guest List and Sending Invitations
Once you've chosen the venue, inform the expectant mother about the maximum number of guests. Due to space constraints of the venue, we conveyed an upper limit of 20 guests. It's not unusual for those with a wide circle of acquaintances to have multiple baby showers. You might choose to have one with just close friends, another with work-related acquaintances, and a separate one with relatives, if you think you will have a sufficient number of guests each time.
As the host, I had the expectant mother create a guest list based on the maximum number of guests. In this case, NeNe-chan selected about 20 people she was sure would attend. This list included her parents, friends, and colleagues.
Once we had everyone's email addresses, we sent out the invitation emails. Among our mutual friends, there was someone skilled at creating digital flyers, so we had them design a cute flyer to attach to the emails. I sent the invitation emails well in advance, about a month before the party.
- Requesting Gift Wish List from the Guest of Honor
In the foreign custom of a baby shower party, it's common for attendees to bring baby goods as gifts. In Japan and other Asian countries, it's more common to give cash as gifts for weddings and childbirth. What participants bring as gifts to a baby shower party is generally their choice. If you plan to give a separate gift after the birth, something simple like baby clothes would be a good idea. For colleagues or coworkers, it's also a nice gesture to send a larger gift jointly from the group.
This time, they created a list using Amazon's 'my baby list' service. When it comes to buying gifts, it can be quite difficult to figure out what to get. Having a wish list is incredibly helpful in such situations. It can also help avoid duplicate gift items. Once someone purchases a gift, that item is automatically removed from the wish list.
When purchasing gifts from the "my baby list," please pay attention to the shipping address. Be sure to change it to your own address and bring the items to the party yourself. For larger items, you can either have them shipped directly to the party venue or discuss with the expectant mother about sending them to her address with a specific delivery date and time.
Preparations Before the Baby Shower Party
- Creating a Checklist for Items Needed at the Venue
I will list the priorities in the order I think is important. If you have the first and second items, the baby shower will be successful. It's a bit overwhelming for the organizer to handle the preparations from the third item onward on their own, so it's a good idea to get assistance from other participants or use paid services.
1. Gifts from Guests to the Baby
Since it's a party to give gifts to the baby, I put this at the top of the list. Prepare a table at the venue where the participants can place the gifts they brought (or sent by mail). It's a traditional part of the party to have the expectant mother open the gifts during the event, similar to a birthday party.
2. Cake, Sweets, and Beverages
At a party, delicious snacks are a must, right? This time, we had Shannon's Bakery (one of the participants) offering to make a fresh cake. For other participants, we included in the invitation email, "For those joining us during dessert time, we kindly request you to bring individually wrapped." This way, there's no wastage of the fresh cake, and the expectant mother can take back snacks with a long shelf life after the party. She mentioned later that this resulted in a few small snack parties on later dates.
Drinks: Alcohol will not be provided. Tea, coffee, soft drinks, and the like are preferable.
3. Diaper Cake
Diaper... cake? What's that? A cake made of diapers? Food?? I didn't know either, but at a baby shower, we decorate with a fake cake made from diapers. Of course, to ensure they can be used as diapers later on, we roll them up into a cake-like shape without handling them too much. As an older guy, I delegated this task to Shannon, who is making the real cake.
4. Balloon Decorations
"When you search for 'baby shower party' on Google, you'll find lots of pictures of beautifully decorated venues with balloons. Considering the visual appeal, I really wanted to use balloons! Luckily, I had made a connection with balloon decoration professionals when I was hired as a photographer for a designer. 'Twins Balloon,' run by two talented ladies, takes care of the decorations, and you can see cute decoration photos on their Instagram accounts. I'd like to fill the room where we'll have the maternity photoshoot with balloons, so I just gave them the color theme and left the rest to them. We've scheduled the setup for the morning of the party."
Balloon decorations are optional. You can prepare an appropriate quantity according to your budget. You can even purchase the floating type of balloons from a local balloon store.
There are sets available online with hundreds of balloons designed for events. However, keep in mind that inflating, tying, arranging, and attaching balloons to walls or ceilings can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive task for amateurs. It's often easier to buy pre-inflated balloons or hire a professional for this job.
5. Floral Arrangements
Combining balloon decorations with floral arrangements adds an extra touch of elegance. As usual, I asked Masako's Flower Design to take care of the floral decorations. Masako and the Twinz Balloon team can collaborate since they can both be hired to work together, ensuring a perfect coordination.
Masako prepared the flower arrangements the night before the party. Just like the balloons, I left the flower decorations to the professionals rather than giving amateur instructions, trusting that they would make it even more beautiful.
A baby shower party is a significant event, ranking just below weddings in terms of importance, and you'd want to capture lovely photos as lasting memories. With the high-quality cameras on smartphones these days, participants can freely take pictures. However, using a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera will naturally result in higher-quality photos. If you have connections with someone who can provide an affordable photographer, it's definitely worth considering their services.
This time, the photographer for the party is me. It's a bit of a challenge for the host to take on the role of a photographer, but I'll manage somehow.
7. Lunch (If Included in the Program)
If you divide the party into two parts, lunch and dessert time, you'll naturally need to prepare lunch. You might think it's extra work, but I find it more convenient this way because it allows me to get some help from the guests who attend the lunch part. By asking a few of those who come for lunch to "please bring side dishes instead of sweets," you can avoid the host having to prepare a lot of food.
On the morning of the event, I prepared mixed sushi with about 4 cups of rice (shrimp, edamame, avocado) and a large green salad. In addition, I placed an order for pizza delivery to arrive around 30 minutes after the start of the party.
I also believe that the two-part format is more convenient for the expectant mother. Meeting and greeting dozens of guests all at once and taking photos can be physically exhausting. With a two-part setup, it allows for a more relaxed and manageable pace.
8. Party Games, Performers, and Entertainment
It's entirely optional. I didn't prepare any games. I thought it would be challenging to liven up the party with such a diverse mix of attendees in terms of their relationships (friends, co-workers, family) and age groups.
If there are a lot of children at the party, it might be a good idea to hire a performer like a clown or magician to entertain them.
9. Thank You Cards and Small Gifts for Participants
This is also an option, but it's a good idea for the guest of honor, the pregnant lady, to prepare something. In this case, our guest of honor, Nene-chan, had prepared small gifts for all the attendees with handwritten message cards.