The birth of a new baby is a special occasion, and treating the mum-to-be to an afternoon of celebration is a thoughtful gesture. Keeping the setting small and intimate means everyone gets a chance to relax, so why not don your loveliest party frock and get together for an elegant girls-only high tea baby shower
Women love baby showers, and for good reason. It's an opportunity to get together and celebrate nature's most miraculous event - the birth of a child after (more or less) 40 long weeks of hard work on the part of the mum-to-be. A baby shower is also an opportunity for friends to rally around the expectant mother, offering support and encouragement, giving her self-esteem a boost, and reminding her how loved she is.
Many baby showers, though, are massive family affairs, with scores of guests and the kind of preparatory efforts usually seen accompanying large-scale military exercises. This can make a mum-to-be feel uncomfortable and actually be the antithesis of relaxation for her, as she feels pressured to thank everyone, give equal attention to close friends and long-lost relatives, and be on the receiving end of way too much unsolicited childrearing advice (not to mention birth stories) for her tired pregnant brain and body to cope with in one event.
If you know a mum-to-be who might better appreciate a small, intimate gathering of close friends, then an afternoon tea baby shower is the perfect idea. Here are our tips for keeping it simple and elegant so that everyone has a good time, without the stress.
Keep things small and manageable
The weeks leading up to the mum-to-be's due date are exhausting. More often than not, she's recently finished work and is adjusting to life at home while she waits. There's a lot to get done, from last-minute baby shopping, to organising the nursery, to narrowing down those final choices of baby names.
For this reason, it's a good idea to assess the mum-to-be's stress level before planning her baby shower. Keep the details simple and elegant, and make her comfort a priority so that she feels relaxed and able to let her hair down. By all means, consult her about the details so you know her preferences and desires, but be sure that she doesn't feel like she needs to be involved with pulling off the event. Let her take care of her own priorities during the weeks leading up to the baby shower, and if she tells you she feels guilty that she's not helping you, remind her that this event is meant to make her feel happy and loved. If she insists on helping out, make sure that she's not overburdened with things to do. Even the most well-meaning of friends can find themselves comforting an overwhelmed, exhausted, sobbing mum-to-be in the guest room while a crowd of party guests waits expectantly in the lounge, gifts in hand.
Many mums-to-be dislike the idea of having other people organise a party for them, and find it hard to accept that they're the centre of attention. Baby showers still have the stigma of "asking for presents" among people, when what they are really meant to do is to celebrate the journey the mother and her baby are embarking on. If you simply can't fathom allowing someone else to organise your baby shower, or you just want to have a few people around to celebrate with you, then we see no reason why you can't treat yourself.
Afternoon tea lends itself well to a baby shower, especially if it's one you're throwing for yourself. It's an intimate setting, it's relaxed, and it doesn't require massive amounts of preparation. You don't need to splash out on decorations, wait staff, or a fancy new dress. This is afternoon tea, not a wedding!
Afternoon tea is also a wonderful time to bring out the "good dishes" that you don't often get to use. It's a special occasion, so go ahead and dust off Grandma's tea service. You'll get such pleasure out of using family heirlooms and enjoying the luxury of fine china, and let's face it: Once the baby arrives, you'll probably want to keep them safely packed away until those grasping, curious fingers are quite a bit more grown-up and careful.
If you're putting on an afternoon tea yourself, keep your invitations casual and the guest list small. Your friends will no doubt want to shower you with gifts, and this is something you'll just have to accept, no matter what you tell them to the contrary. A lovely idea, though, is to have something small to thank them for their support and help during your pregnancy. An engraved photo frame (to show off a picture of them with your baby), a bottle of wine, or a special piece of jewellery is a lovely, thoughtful gesture to show them your appreciation of their help.
Second time around
The afternoon tea baby shower also works well as a celebratory event for a second-time mum, or a mother who is having a baby of a different gender to her first child (or children). Many mums-to-be don't get to have baby showers the first time around, either because they didn't know anyone who wanted to organise one for them, or because they had never been to a baby shower themselves so didn't know what it would be like. Quite often, second-time mums-to-be may have pooh-poohed the idea of a baby shower, but then after the birth of their child, realised that they had missed out on having a special celebration that would send them into labour on a high note. For this reason, we are strong advocates of the "second time around" baby shower, as every pregnant woman deserves to be made to feel special and loved. While some mums may feel uncomfortable having a big party to celebrate the birth of a subsequent child, the afternoon tea is a lovely way to help her look forward to her child's birth without going overboard.
Coffee, tea, or me?
Since mums-to-be are understandably unable to drink alcohol, the afternoon tea entirely avoids any problems with what drinks to serve. If your heart is set on bubbles, indulge in a bottle of sparkling apple or grape juice served in champagne flutes and brought out for a toast to the mum-to-be. But since it's afternoon tea, your beverage of choice will, naturally, be of the "poured from a pot" variety. Have non-caffeinated options available in case the mum-to-be is steering clear of caffeine.
There's something so delectable about the kind of food served at afternoon tea. When you're deciding on your menu, think "high tea at the palace": Finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off, tiny savouries, pretty cupcakes, and the kinds of sweet nothings that are both elegant and easy to munch on while having a good gossip over a cuppa.
There is nothing wrong with ordering food from a caterer or specialist bakery, especially if you're a mum-to-be hosting your own afternoon tea baby shower. Now is the time to indulge in a few of those beautiful pastries you've always eyed at the local patisserie, and your friends will certainly appreciate the details.
Similarly, if you're hosting the shower for a pregnant friend, presentation is paramount when it comes to food. There's no need to serve a full luncheon, as it's afternoon tea-time, so keep things simple. A few nibbles for each guest would be perfect, but make sure the food you choose is yummy too.
And don't forget that mums-to-be are restricted from eating certain foods because of a risk of listeria and other food-borne bacteria threatening their pregnancy. Follow safe food hygiene practices, and steer clear of deli meats and unpasteurised cheeses.
Finish off afternoon tea with a platter of gourmet chocolates, and your guests will go home feeling happy and relaxed.
One of the few tricky issues surrounding a baby shower is what gift to give the expectant mother. We recommend choosing high-quality, whimsical, unique items that the mum-to-be will cherish for her little one in years to come.
Room decor is always a fun gift, especially if you have helped the mum-to-be choose the theme for her baby's nursery and already know what her style is. Personalised wall art is a special, unique present (turn to Interiors: Our Favourite Things on page 130 for a lovely selection of wall decor). A special piece of furniture, such as a child-sized table and chairs, is a gift that a group of friends can contribute to rather than giving smaller individual gifts - and it's something that will grow with the child. If you've already had a child yourself and want to pass along some wisdom, put together a "survival pack" of new-mum essentials for the expectant mother to have on hand: Breast pads, nipple cream, some light reading in the form of a magazine or novel, Rescue Remedy, and chocolate! Another great idea is to create a voucher booklet for the new mum, with "coupons" that can be redeemed for services you'd like to offer her once the baby arrives. Include things like "Dinner at short notice", "Watching Baby while you shower", "Cinderella service (cleaning your house while you sleep)", and "Middle-of-the-night phone call privileges, no questions asked".
After the fact
An afternoon tea baby shower is also a wonderful idea for treating a new mum a few weeks after the birth of her baby, especially if he or she arrived early and the opportunity for a pre-birth baby shower was missed! If you're kind enough to want to host this event for a new mother, make sure to schedule it so it's convenient for her, and keep things manageable. It may be easier to hold it at her home so that she doesn't have to go out, but she might feel pressure to clean and entertain, so holding it at the home of a close friend might be a better idea. She'll love the gesture, and all of the guests will revel in the chance to get a cuddle with the new arrival!