From old wives tales used to make predictions to families that just enjoy betting on the odds, the anticipation of finding out the gender of a baby on the way is a special and important milestone in the family process.
Though the tradition of anxiously awaiting the results of an ultrasound has been around for years, the new trend of full-fledged parties to reveal the gender of a new baby has become nothing short of "all the rage."
First-time parents and veteran parents expecting a child have taken gender revealing to a whole new level in the form of elaborate parties with color-coordinated cake middles to boxes full of gender-specific balloons.
JACKIE RUNION The Marietta Times
Earl and Niki Tidd, of Williamstown, reveal the name of their upcoming baby girl with daughters Chloe, left, and Ava, right.
Newport residents Jenna and Ashley Carr’s gender reveal cake hides an inside of blue dye, letting them know they are expecting a baby boy in June.
The Marietta Times
JACKIE RUNION The Marietta Times
Pink and blue cake pops full of blue dye sit waiting for guests to enjoy after they learn the gender of Newport couple Jenna and Ashley Carr’s new baby.
Many couples who already have children will throw a gender reveal party in lieu of a baby shower, or first-time parents might tack it on as a more intimate event to share with close family. It is a new occasion to add to the pregnancy time line, as the concept has taken the world of family-planning by storm in the form of pink and blue celebration.
A mystery baked inside
One of the most popular ideas to come with the gender reveal party trend can be found right inside a cake.
Babies born in Ohio in 2012: 138,483.
Mean age of mother at first birth: 25.6.
Top boy's name for Ohio: Mason.
Top girl's name for Ohio: Sophia.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Social Security Administration.
Cindy Mallahan, owner of the Village Cakery in Vincent, bakes up about one to two "gender reveal" cakes per week.
"It's a really fun and big trend right now," she said. "I think the trend popped up just last year. It started in the big cities but has taken off this year locally."
The concept is simple-it just takes trust. Mallahan said most couples will ask the ultrasound technician to write down the sex of their new baby and seal it in an envelope. Someone will take the envelope to Mallahan who will then bake the cake, frost it in non-gender-specific decor, then dye the inside of the cake blue or pink.
"They have it at a party and then they'll cut into it and it's a big surprise," she said. "It's usually a good opportunity for video-taping, and it's funny because I will be the only one who knows."
One such couple was Niki Tidd of Williamstown, and her husband, Earl. Tidd, 32, said before the party the only person who knew the sex of her third child, due June 9, was the cake baker.
"It was a softball-themed cake because my husband and I met playing softball," she said.
With Earl, 34, Tidd cut into the cake to reveal the inside, decked out in pink dye to indicate a baby girl.
Jenna Carr, 27, and her husband Ashley, 35, live in Newport, and are currently awaiting the June 10 arrival of their first child, a boy to be named Liam.
Mallahan dyed the inside of the Carrs' cake blue, so when the couple and their family get-together of about 22 people leaned in as the knife sliced into the cake, the reaction was priceless.
"I think it's a wonderful thing to do. It made the shock value better instead of waiting until the day you deliver," Carr said. "We found out so we could prepare but we still got a surprise to share with our family."
Zak Huffman, 27, and his wife Amy, 27, of Barlow, recently welcomed daughter Nancy to the family. For the couple's first child together, Huffman said having the dyed cake and party was a way to make the event special.
"It's a way to share with everybody and share the excitement," he said. "It was really interesting because we did not know the gender either when we cut the cake. I was definitely nervous."
Huffman said the couple's fully-dedicated friend came to the party with sunglasses and a bandanna on to hold her poker face until the big reveal.
"You have to just have one person take care of it because everyone talks too much, and it needs to be kept a secret," he said. "We were all certain that it would be a boy because we already have three boys. So when we cut into the cake and saw it was pink, my wife freaked out."
A surprise in a balloon
Donna Hickman, owner of Party Supplies and Creations in Vienna, helps couples surprise themselves and their friends and family, all with the help of a box and a bunch of balloons.
Hickman's store, which supplies everything from balloons to napkins, will also find out the sex of a baby straight from the ultrasound technician. Staff will pack a cardboard box with either blue or pink balloons for couples to open together or at parties to reveal whether they will be welcoming a son or daughter.
"Especially if it's a first-time couple, it's fun for the parents of the couples to see the expression on their faces to find out what they're having," Hickman said. "It's so much fun, we get a lot of feedback, and it's a suggestion we give out to a lot to couples looking for ideas."
Though cake is a great idea, Hickman said the balloon release creates an ideal photo opportunity.
"The look on their face is priceless," she said.
The Tidds included balloons in their reveal party too. With a supply of blue and pink balloons at the party, a confidant put pinholes in the blue balloons. When instructed, party guests were asked to blow up their own balloons, and only the pink ones were inflated.
"It was supposed to be family and close friends, but more people came than we expected or thought would," Tidd said. "It definitely was very special."
An all-out theme
Parenting websites have elaborate ideas for gender-reveal parties that go beyond just the cake or balloons.
"Go simple with pink and blue cocktails, candles, plates, cups, napkins - you name it," said Charlene DeLoach, writing for an article on Parents.com
The website also suggests doing invitations that allow party-goers to write down a "vote" for what they think the sex will be and then handing out things like pins or markers to form "team blue" and "team pink."
Carr's mother made white chocolate-dipped pretzels with blue or pink accents and allowed people to choose either one based on their guess.
"We revealed the baby's name to everyone, so that was our surprise," Tidd said, as she and her husband had already chosen a boy name and a girl name. "I printed them off the computer and both of our daughters had the names and they held the girl's name up."
Tidd said the small family occasion-turned-party had everything from pink and blue punch, pasta salad and even deviled eggs.
"I have never done anything like this before, it was my sister's idea," Tidd said. "And my family expected a girl because both my sisters had girls, and I have two of my own."
Carr said an astounding 20 of her 22 guests correctly predicted a son, while only two predicted a daughter.
"We just wanted a happy healthy baby, and so far everything's been good," she said.