The following review is not sponsored in any way. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Last week I attended the Big City Moms (BCM) Biggest Baby Shower event – Washington, DC (technically, Bethesda, MD). I don’t recall exactly how I came to know of Big City Moms, but learned of their events last year through social media, I’m certain. After seeing coverage of the event in other cities, I was pleased to see a DC event added this year.
After seeing the initial ticket costs I was uncertain about attending due to a combination of inconvenient location for a weeknight and the price of tickets. Once I saw the ticket option that included a Beco Baby Carrier it helped seal the deal as a two-fer opportunity for me (despite already owning 7 carriers – 3 of which are SSCs – I’ve had my eye on Beco as an interest for Baby #3). Admittedly, as the event approached I became more and more excited to go.
To get right to the point for those wondering — Overall, the event is a must attend for nearly every first time mom, and most seasoned moms introducing another baby into the mix, particularly if much time has passed between children. A swag bag that has something for every type of mom, combined with tons of door prizes makes the event well worth your time and money.
Swag bag aside, why would you want to attend an event like this?!? The short answer is to save time and learn about products straight from the source. When you visit a baby goods store, one of several scenarios occur:
- You visit a national big box store (i.e. Target, Walmart, BabiesRUs) where prices may be most affordable, but knowledgeable help is rare, if not impossible. Your choices and access to quality brands may be greatly limited.
- You visit a local/regional baby store or boutique that specializes in baby goods, but they don’t carry all the brands you’re interested in checking out.
- You visit a local/regional baby store or boutique that carries the brands you’re most interested in, but it becomes clear in your visits that the salespeople have particular favorites that they are encouraging you towards, or they are not fully versed to show you all the pros/cons of an item. You realize this because you’ve already learned more from a blogger or a manufacturers website.
When you attend an event such as BCM Biggest Baby Shower you’re given the opportunity to interact directly with representatives from the product manufacturer, or in some cases the founder or developer of the company/product. These individuals will be the most knowledgeable and be sure to highlight all the best features of their product. The only thing to keep in mind is that they may gloss over some of the potential downfalls.
In regards to the event itself, I searched high and low for details about what to expect when attending, but mostly found reviews of the swag bag; hopefully, my detailed account will help others decide that yes, they want to go.
The Full Review
I’ve planned many corporate events in the past 7 years, and before that I planned Sip, Shop, & Pampering parties as part of a national brand back in 2005-2006. I know first hand that event planning can be challenging in a new city, it’s a big job, and I suspect that any of the constructive criticism that I’ll offer is already on the radar of BCM for future DC events. For a first time event in DC – they did a good job. I hope they continue to come back and the event grows and improves like fantastic events do.
Location: Bethesda, MD – just north of Washington, DC. I’m biased because I live and work in Northern Virginia, but Bethesda isn’t a very central location. Given typical DC commute hour traffic I planned for 2 hours drive time for the 21 mile trek. It took me 1hr 20 min.
Venue: The Ballroom event space was on the small side for the size of this event. BCM used it as well as could be done, but a larger space is needed. The event was bursting at the seams at every corner. Add droves of women with pregnant bellies, then bags, purses, and a contingent of moms with babies in carriers – and it was hard to breath at times, let alone really evaluate some of the gear very well.
Parking: I lucked out and arrived 40 minutes earlier than I’d planned and it was a great thing I did. Parking was not plentiful. Valet parking was available, although no advanced mention of it was made. This event was not Metro accessible, but I didn’t expect it to be. DC peeps generally drive.
Entrance: The admission price that included the Beco Carrier also included early admission to allow entry at 5:30pm instead of 6:30pm. I thought it would be great to have the extra hour to peruse thinking I might be able to leave early. It was a drizzly DC day and I commend the staff for the hustle to get attendees out of the rain and into the building a few minutes early. Unfortunately, the foyer of the building wasn’t prepared or planned to accommodate people standing around as the space was needed for general traffic flow and the event spaces were still completing setup. The process of getting people checked in was streamlined and color-coded by ticket type, but IDs were not checked as their event reminder email indicated. All staff members that I had any contact with were very pleasant and friendly.
Event Layout: The flow of the event was challenging given the number of attendees, vendor tables, and vendor staff in the room. The vendor tables were on top of each other in some areas and some vendors were unfortunate to be stuck behind pillars further limiting their space. Gear vendors were limited in demonstrating their products in some cases (i.e. stroller folding) for lack of space and concerns of accidently bumping a guest. Conversations were difficult at times due to the close proximity of so many different people trying to talk with each other. During the last 45 minutes of the event, I realized there was a section in the middle of the room that I hadn’t yet visited or really even noticed due to the crowds. The real bummer about this was that some of the vendors started packing up early and I completely missed visiting a few of the tables. A map of vendors in attendance and their location in the room would’ve been a nice addition to the back of the bingo card all attendees were clutching.
Food & Beverage: The food and beverages were in one corner of the room. The beverage bar selection was wonderful including Honest Tea, 9 Months Sparkling (non-alcoholic) wines, and Polar Seltzers. I had a taste of each of the wines (yum!) but it was challenging to carry a drink with bags/bingo card while navigating the crowd. There was a fair selection of appetizers including sliders, a caprese type skewer, hummus filled tart-like thing, fruit skewers, and cupcakes throughout. Unfortunately, the only gluten-free and dairy-free option was the fruit skewer. Additionally, it would’ve been a good bonus if the handful of tables to sit down at were remotely near the food & drinks, but alas they were in a different room altogether.
Restrooms: The restrooms were lovely, clean, and stocked with Babyganics foaming hand soap. There was also a changing area set up near some simple benches (no backs) where babies could be changed and mom’s wanting privacy could nurse.
Seminars: I attended two of the four seminars of the evening – initially because I wanted in on the raffle prizes for attending. It ended up being the only real opportunity to get off my feet to sit and sip some water and enjoy a cup of 9 Months wine without fear of spilling it on someone from an accidental bump. It also provided a good opportunity to get a sense of the seminars.
- The first seminar I attended was “Navigating Your Life as a New Parent and Loving Every Minute of It.” The Sh*tty Mom moderators did a great job of keeping things light and the topics moving. My biggest criticism was that many of the suggestions were focused on the Maryland side of DC with a focus on a place called Kidville, which I’d never heard of prior (note: a panelist owns a Kidville franchise, so it was understandable). With a little bit of preparation and/or research, resources covering a larger geographic area of the DC Metro such as DC Urban Moms or Our Kids, could have been offered also. It may have been the case that the omission was intentional since those organizations may have chosen not to affiliate with the event after being approached – I don’t know, of course.
- The second seminar I attended was “Breastfeeding 101”. It was a wonderful intro for new moms. The speaker from Lansinoh, Gina Ciagne, CLC, was knowledgeable, real and relatable, balanced, light and funny, too. She also provided visuals on stomach size which is wonderful for any new mom that doesn’t go diving into books and researching breastfeeding. Bring this woman back next time! (Note: I say this as a very experienced breastfeeder having nursed infants, toddlers, through pregnancy and tandem, as well as having pumped for two children for more months than I want to stop and count.)
The flow of entry and exit to the seminars was good with designated doors for each which helped tremendously with the crowds. The most difficult part was that the rows of chairs were fairly close together both side to side (expected) and front to back (unexpected) – so again, pregnant belly plus bag of goodies being collected or purchased, maybe add a beverage or snack, maybe a purse, and it was an awkward challenge to get in and out of the seats for some attendees. Each session was packed to the brim as well.
Swag Bag & Door Prizes: What everyone wants to know about! The goodie bag was delivered upon exit and was filled to the brim like many of the pictures you can find through social media using the hashtag #biggestbabyshower. When turning in your completed bingo card, an additional opportunity for a door prize item was offered (I note “completed card”, but it didn’t appear that anyone was checking closely by the time I was leaving). Some attendees “won” mattresses, car seats, and strollers; I received a Safety 1st Clean & Comfy Feeding Chair, Munchkins Warm Glow Wipes Warmer, and Safety 1st 46 piece Essentials child-proofing kit as my bonus prize.
The contents of the bag seem to vary just slightly based on what I can see from others, but not too much overall. You can see a picture of the bag contents (minus the coupons and literature) below, but some of the highlights include: Baby Bjorn Soft Bib, Earth’s Best sz 1 diapers, Boppy Nursing Cover, Munchkin Burp Cloth, Nuroo Swaddler, Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads, Life Ice Cubettes, Oxo Tots feeding spoon, Pediped shoes, Honest DHA-Omega 3 supplements, babyganics sunscreen, a variety of different pacifiers and bottles, along with a couple Dr. Browns teething toys. I also appreciated the included note addressing that some items are gender neutral and some are not, with a mention to gift unused items forward.
Additionally, a number of vendors were also offering samples of items or other free swag for visiting their table. I didn’t collect much of the additional free “stuff” by choice (additional formula samples, diaper creams, etc). I did get a “This is How I Roll” onesie from UppaBaby.
Exiting the Event: I was disappointed that several of the vendors were beginning to pack up as much as 20 minutes earlier than the event was scheduled to attend which made them feel less approachable. Despite that, the last 20-30 minutes of the event the room was clearing out a ton so it was much easier to move around and try to squeeze in those last few vendor visits.
After exiting the main event room, there was a bit of a line to turn in your bingo card and retrieve your swag bag. BCM organized a pretty great hustle with a genuine effort to help get everyone attended to as quickly as possible. My hands were full before I even retrieved my goodies, so I was immediately concerned when all my swag was placed in front of me. To my joyous relief, two volunteers stepped right up to help me get everything out to my car. Brilliant move, BCM!
As I mentioned earlier, I arrived earlier than planned to the early admission time. This provided me a pretty great parking spot in the grand scheme of it all. When walking out, I noticed that the valet line was more than several dozen people long. After hours on my feet, and knowing a little bit of a drive home was ahead of me, I was so incredibly thankful that I bypassed the valet line and self-parked upon arrival.
Thinking about attending a future Big City Moms Biggest Baby Shower event? Following are my tips for attending:
- Spend the extra $ and purchase an early admission/upgraded ticket
- Arrive early, and with a full tummy – the food was light, but shouldn’t be your focus
- Wear comfortable shoes in case seating is limited or flooring is unforgiving
- Don’t bring much of a purse – but do bring money for purchasing
- Get in line for seminars a few minutes early to help guarantee a seat
- Bring pre-printed labels with your email address on them, or a stamp – I can’t begin to count how many times I wrote my email address down as part of vendor raffle entries or requests for more info
- Just in case, make sure there’s plenty of room in your car. Lots of people won large items such as strollers, car seats, mattresses, and more. You want to consider how you’d get your winning loot home.