More and more women are letting guys in on the ultimate "girls only" affair: the bridal shower. Here are some great, gender-friendly party ideas.
From grade-school gatherings to late-night college cravings, pizza is a coed crowd-pleaser. Supply the dough, the sauce, and the toppings, then put would-be Wolfgang Pucks to work in the kitchen. Spin some Louis Prima records to set the mood; for favors, consider red-and-white checkered napkins (a la old-fashioned pizza parlor).
Play volleyball, pitch horseshoes, and blast music that screams summer lovin'.
Gift ideas: cooking classes, a pizza stone set, or a food processor.
The Great Outdoors
Host a barbecue. For one day, throw cholesterol cares to the wind and feast on chicken, ribs, baked potatoes, coleslaw, and cornbread. Play volleyball, pitch horseshoes, and blast music that screams summer lovin'. Kegs or pitchers of sangria are essential, so be prepared. Encourage guests to wear swimming attire, give out sunblock or Roman candles as favors, and toast marshmallows as the grill cools down.
Gift ideas: grilling utensils, a barbecue grill, or a volleyball set.
Throw a Sunday brunch. Bagels, waffles, Western omelets, and Bloody Marys know no gender and will make this shower a surefire hit. Be sure to disconnect the cable and frisk everyone for the Sunday paper: You don't want world news or a televised sporting event upstaging the soiree!
Gift ideas: a griddle, a waffle iron, a juicer, or an espresso maker.
The Oscar Gala
Treat the couple like celebrity superstars: Throw them a shower on Oscar night, the film fanatic's Super Bowl equivalent. Make score sheets and give a prize to the guest who picks the most award winners. Knot Note: If the timing of the Oscars (late March) won't work, you can always throw the party in conjunction with the MTV Movie Awards (June), the Golden Globes (January), or the Tony Awards (June). Use formal invitations, shiny platinum paper goods and cutlery, a disco ball for glitzy glamour, gleaming silver balloons, and a wide-screen TV. Serve Hollywood-like Sidecars, Metropolitans, Champagne cocktails, and dry Martinis (three green olives apiece for an ultra-classic garnish). Since the bulk of the evening will be spent squealing over the stars, you needn't worry about preparing a luxe offering of hors d'oeuvres. Guests may be quite content with a spread of movie-theater munchies.
Gift ideas: Gift certificates to movie theaters or video stores, DVD player, popcorn popper, or portable television.
The Fiery Fiesta
Heat up the shower in a sexy, south-of-the-border style. The caliente atmosphere will have a coed crowd munching tortillas and mambo-ing till midnight. Use chili-pepper-themed invitations, lighting, and cocktail napkins. And don't forget the pinata! Serve Mexican fare and margaritas in multiple flavors. Splurge on a live salsa or mariachi band, and save on centerpieces. Simply scatter traditional, brightly colored Mexican paper flowers (one stem per table) to save mucho dinero.
Gift ideas: A hammock, a fajita grill, a portable blender for drink mixing, or a summery pitcher and glasses set.
A tongue-in-cheek prom party allows the guests of honor (and pals) to rehash high-school drama and decadence. For authentic ambience, look into renting out a local school gym. Ask guests to bring dates and dress the part -- award prizes to anyone who shows up wearing the gear they actually wore as a tinsel-toothed teen (e.g., teal taffeta, varsity jackets, and band uniforms). Crown the couple king and queen. Use prom-like invitations with a saccharine-sweet theme; a white trellis or arch for photo ops; pink and purple balloons with outrageous paper fans and streamers to match. Serve spiked punch. Sp lurge on a DJ who can turn out favorite high-school hits. Appoint someone to take instant photos of guests against the corny trellis backdrop. Let these fun snapshots serve as party keepsakes and provide elegant lined envelopes for transporting them home.
Gift ideas: Tickets to a rock concert, gift certificates to a local pizza joint or bowling alley, or his 'n' hers skateboards/scooters.
The Martini Mixer
If you're feting a fashionable couple, you need only mix up some marvelous martinis. Turn your living room into a lavish, dimly lit lounge. Offer cigarettes on serving trays. Hire a jazz quartet to fill the space with sultry, rhythmic sounds. Send classy invitations, provide paper gear and cutlery in Midnight Black, retro coasters, and a bartender (a pro or a pal). Serve martinis from a wide spectrum -- think about presenting colorful, luscious adaptations at individual sampling stations with complementary hors d'oeuvres. Splurge on barware -- enough to accommodate your crowd. Save money on the brands of booze. We know you're a sucker for style, but you don't have to offer the fanciest vodka and gin around (otherwise the liquor bill will hurt more than your post-party hangover).
Gift ideas: Cocktail shaker or serving set, pewter ice bucket, cloth cocktail napkins, metallic serving tray, glassware.
The Bridal Shower