Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Playing the office hostess

In my current stage of life, there is rarely a time where a friend isn't planning a wedding or having a baby.  Same goes for my workplace, where there are a slew of women aged early-20s to mid-30s.  In the past two years, there have been five babies and one wedding; there are currently three pregnant women and one who is engaged.  Every workplace addresses these types of life changes differently, and ours is actually in transition from exclusive, invitation-only events to more inclusive office-wide events.  So last month I got the special privilege of planning the first office-wide shower in about three years.  Now that I've survived the experience, I've got some tips.

  • It is usually incumbent upon the individual's closest work friends to plan something. Often someone from their department is also involved.
  • Not every office is into office-wide showers.  And that's okay.  Let the expectant mother (or father) decide their own guest list, and invite their partner if it's co-ed.  If there is an office policy (formal or informal), try to respect it.  Our office prefers office-wide showers.
  • If you are having an office-wide shower, try a conference room. If it isn't open to all, go off site.  No need to let them see you all having fun if they weren't invited.
  • Timing can be tricky.  From my experience, office-wide showers work best mid-day (since people might have engagements before and after work, while more selective off-site events should be held after work (or on a weekend if you so desire).
  • If you're inviting everyone, try an all-staff email.  Just one.  Don't club people over the head with this kind of stuff. 
  • If you want a clear RSVP count, feel free to use Evite or other online invitation system. 
  • Include all the basic information: date, time, location.
  • While I typically adhere to the whole no-registries-on-invitation thing, I'm a bit more lax when it comes to email.  I include the information in small text at the very end.  That way it's not staring them in the face but if they really want the info, they can find it.
  • If you are doing a group gift, tell folks who to contact and a deadline for opting in.
  • If you're having an office-wide shower, this can be tricky.  You don't want to make people feel obliged to buy a gift for someone they hardly know.  I recommend indicating on the email invitation that gifts are not required.  
  • A group gift is a great way to a) get a larger gift, b) allow folks to contribute less, for example if they're not close with the honoree, and c) avoid any awkward gift-giving situations (for example, plastic toys for a very environmentally conscious couple).  This can be a difficult undertaking...some ways to make it go more smoothly.
    • Select a gift beforehand.  Guesstimate the number of people that may be interested and multiply by about $10 for quick reference.  I go with $10 because there are some people who will give $5, and some who will give $15 or $20.  Go with a number that you feel appropriate for your coworkers.  
    • Let people know what the group gift will be.  Include the caveat that if funds are shy, you will choose an alternate, and if funds go beyond, you will either purchase additional registry gifts or a gift card (so nothing goes to waste).
    • Give folks an approximate amount to contribute, but let them be the final judge on how much they can afford.  When I did this, I usually said, "around $10 per person, or however much you're comfortable with."  Knowing that $10 is about average, noone gave less than $5, and several people gave more.
    • Make sure everyone who contributed signs the card. If people are absent, put their name on it.  They helped give the gift, they should receive any thanks as well.
    • Make sure to collect the money before you purchase the gift.  At least to the point where if no one else contributed afterward, you'd be comfortable footing the remainder of the bill.  
  • Don't force the people of honor to open their gifts in public.  Check with the honorees beforehand to see if they have a preference and help guard it for them. 
Food & Decor
  • A mid-day shower is the easiest for food, especially if people have already eaten lunch.  Try a veggie platter, crackers and cheese, and of course some dessert! If you're planning it with a few people, split up the responsibility.
  • If you're in the conference room, keep the decor minimal.  A few balloons, maybe a streamer or two, and a cute banner will suffice.  Pool together with some of your other coworkers and see what you have at home that may work.
  • If you're crafty, try making some finishing touches with whatever you may have at home.  For my boss's baby shower last month I used some cardstock leftover from my friend's bridal shower and brass chads leftover from my own wedding to make a "Congratulations" banner
Have you ever had to plan a shower at the office or been on the receiving end of one? What tips do you have?


  1. At my workplace showers are tricky just because we are overall pretty big (around 700 full time employees). My department is only 11 people, though.

    The majority of my department is over the age of 50, with my boss being 31 and I'm 23. My boss's wife just had a baby, so a month or so before she was due we threw them a shower. We invited our department, and then had our department VP tell the other VPs about it - that way everyone knew, but it wasn't a formal invitation. We had it just after lunch and just provided cake and ice cream. We told people to just bring a children's book, and then our department bought a red wagon that was on the registry and filled it with everyone's books. I felt that was a good way to be concious of everyone's finances because some people brought cheap board books and some brought more expensive books. It was so much fun!

  2. This came at the perfect time - I seriously have tons of pregnant friends right now who I need to start planning showers for...thanks babe!

    xoxo Maria

  3. @ ashley - I love the book idea! My boss actually had a book theme to her personal shower (which I was invited to but couldn't make). Our office is a lot smaller than yours - maybe 70 people? Our dept is only 7 (including part-time students)...three of whom are new and just started after the shower.

    @ maria - Glad I could help! I love planning parties. :)


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