When I was a kid, there was nothing more exciting than when my mother would come in with the mail and say, "You've been invited to a birthday party!" Inside a bright envelope was a pretty card and a request that I fete a classmate. As I got older invitations via snail mail became few and far between, replaced with e-mails and even text messages.
Then everyone started getting married and having babies.
Once again I look forward to opening the mailbox, because that joyous spark I knew as a kid comes back. Bridal and baby showers are exactly the same format as the birthday parties of childhood, which is perhaps why I get so giddy whenever I'm invited to one.
You Have to Wear a Party Dress: Go to a party on a Saturday night, and a pair of jeans and some heels will do just fine. Go to a party on a Sunday afternoon where 30 women will be clucking away for a few hours, and you've got to up the ante. Dressing for other women is a whole other equation, a complicated one that involves looking classy, feminine, modern and, dare I say, slightly modest. Always wear a dress, no sneakers and if you have bling, bring it out. It's subtle and competitive, and all wrapped in polite smile. And God help you if you haven't had your nails done.
You Have to Bring a Gift And you have to wrap it up pretty, because the gift table is a large part of the party. I love the process of buying gifts for showers. I like poring over the registry, going to the store and making a salesperson feel useful by helping me out. It's primal, it's the thrill of the hunt. What's more useful, a martini shaker or a set of frying pans? When there's a shower to shop for this is an important question. I am always pleased when someone is registers at Tiffany's, because even though I will blow $250 on four teacups, buying anything at Tiffany's is an excuse to get dressed up in the middle of the week. I'm not much of a competitive shopper, but when there's a home or a nursery to stock, I turn into a piranha.
There Is Cake: And it's usually wonderful. Women, though, have a weird habit of not eating the cake that is served at showers, which strikes me as being rude. I always eat the cake, and usually an extra slice if one is abandoned on the table. It's cake! What's not to like?
There is Juice: Since showers are usually held on a Sunday afternoon, gin would be inappropriate, at least in most states. Beverages at showers are usually spiked with champagne, which makes drinking so close to noon much more civilized. If you go to a lot of showers you have to mix up your drink selection. One weekend, go mimosa, the next, Bellini. If the shower is at a restaurant, make nice with a waiter and ask him to keep bringing you refills. A Sunday afternoon buzz is totally underrated. And everyone will think you're so cheerful!
There Are Games: I get competitive with shower games, but only because I know there are going to be prizes, and they are usually good. Over the years I've left showers with plants, movies passes, lotions and candles. Bridal Shower Bingo is a favorite of mine, as is guessing the age of the Mom-To-Be in old baby photos. Shower games are not dopey. Bring it!
You Watch The Guest of Honor Open Her Gifts: Even as a kid, this was always my favorite part of the afternoon. Nowadays as I watch my friends ooh and aah over salad tossers and diaper genies, it's a good time to make small talk and catch up with the other women at the table. You don't really have to pay attention when the gifts are being opened, but it harkens back to a day when inside all those packages were Barbie dolls and art sets.
You Have to Play Nice, Otherwise You Won't Be Invited to Other Parties: If some gal at the table is rambling on about her giant Asscher cut diamond, and even from across the table I can tell it's princess cut and barely creeping over a carat, I've learned not to interject and correct her. It's just like when you were a kid, and if someone was hogging the red crayon, it was easier just to let her have than to bop her over the head.