The rise of the gender reveal party

They were thinking boy.

When Meghan and Adam Plunkett invited friends and family to their home for a party to unveil the gender of the child they are expecting, they were pretty certain that blue would carry the day.

The couple even asked guests to dress in clothing that said which gender they were rooting for.

The big discovery: bakers can get creative when it comes to gender reveal cakes.
The big discovery: bakers can get creative when it comes to gender reveal cakes. 

"Most of the people showed up in blue," said Meghan Plunkett, 26. "I think there were nine of us in pink."

Then the couple cut into the cake. And, when the first slice revealed icing that was pink between the cake layers, the Plunketts learned that - unless ultrasound technicians and bakery workers have been very, very wrong - in a few months they will welcome a baby daughter.

"It's a girl!" said Meghan. "It was a surprise."

The Plunketts' party is one example of a new kind of baby-centered celebration: a gender reveal party. At these gatherings, held before a baby is born, guests find out whether an expectant couple will be having a baby boy or girl. 

At some of the parties - such as that thrown by the Plunketts, who found out along with their family and friends at the moment of the cake-cutting - the gender of the baby is even a surprise for the parents-to-be.

"They were chanting the whole time we were cutting the cake," Meghan Plunkett said of the party guests. "'Girl!' 'Boy!' 'Girl!' 'Boy!'"

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Laurie Reynolds is part of the trend. She threw a gender reveal party last year with her husband, Kipp, before their second child, Luke, was born.

"We thought about it, and he said, 'Yeah, let's do it,'" said Reynolds, 34, whose son is now six months old.

She said they gave the supermarket bakery their paper showing results from the ultrasound.

"We had the envelope in our hands," Reynolds recalled. "It was very difficult not to open it up."

The cake had blue icing between the layers, and it was sliced at the party held by the Reynolds family.

"I had a feeling it was going to be a boy," Reynolds said. "But that confirmed it."

Those who are throwing these parties said it's about excitement and anticipation.

"It's fun," said Reynolds, who has one other child, Lilliana.

"I think I saw it on Cake Boss," Reynolds said. "I thought it was such a good idea."

But not everybody does the big "reveal" with cake. At one party supply store, employees have gotten used to customers coming in with plain white cardboard boxes, asking to have them filled - out of the customer's sight - with either pink or blue balloons. The "reveal" happens when the box is opened at the party, and the helium balloons float out.

The trend has been fuelled in part by social media sites, where people can learn about the parties and how to throw them.

"I just heard of them on Pinterest and Facebook," said Meghan Plunkett.

But when you get right to the bottom of the trend, said one expert, it's about something far simpler: pure emotion. People who throw parties where there is a "reveal" element - whether it is a fancy cake or table setting, or some other feature of the party - are doing it to achieve a moment that is centered on emotion and feelings, said Kathleen M O'Brien, a faculty member in the department of hospitality and tourism at Buffalo State College, who teaches a course on events management.

The same goal likely motivates those parents-to-be who are throwing gender reveal parties, she said.

In other words, the point of the party is to create a powerful memory with friends and family.

"It's intimate, too. It's personal," said O'Brien. "You get to see the faces of your closest friends, your family."

For Reynolds and her husband, the party turned out to be just that: a memorable experience of happiness and excitement.

"We have a girl," Reynolds said. "So we were very excited."

O'Brien said she thinks it's positive if people are getting together to celebrate special moments like finding out the gender of their child.

"When it comes to personal, family, intimate gatherings, I don't think you can ever have too many," O'Brien said.

Still, these parties might not be for everyone.

"I think there is a type of person who feels very comfortable sharing," O'Brien said. "And there are those of us who don't do it too much."

For Meghan Plunkett, however, social media is an important record of her life - and the lives of those she knows.

"If it's not on Facebook, it's not official," Plunkett said. "That's how I feel."

In the days leading up to the reveal party, they carried around a slip of paper showing the baby's gender.

"It's burning a hole in my purse!" Meghan Plunkett joked at the time.

The urge to peek at the result was nearly overpowering, said the couple but they held off - in order to share the special moment with their family and friends.

"It's something everyone will remember," Adam Plunkett said, as the couple planned the party.

They were so careful to preserve the suspense that when Adam went shopping for a special gift for his wife to commemorate the day of their gender reveal party, he asked the salesperson to select and wrap a gift that would be appropriate, without him seeing it. (It was a girl-themed bracelet, which he gave Meghan after they cut the cake.)

The cake's pink icing came as a shock - a happy one - for the pair.

"It definitely turned out wonderfully," said Meghan. "It turned out being a really good day."

MCT