How is that even when you have the most absolutely fabulous group of women gathered together in one place on a Saturday afternoon, a baby or bridal shower still feels so…well… dated? No amount of bottomless mimosas can quite jolt these stilted parties into the present day (trust me, I’ve tried). Still, I could never put my finger on why I so disliked these rites-of-passage. That is, until, in lieu of a baby shower, I was invited to my first women’s circle.
What’s a women’s circle?
A women’s circle can be a lot of things, but the bottom line is that it’s a designated time to create a safe space (yes, typically while sitting in a circle) to get vulnerable, feel empowered and even provide some healing through a guided, yet casual, discourse. While my first women’s circle was just last month, these types of communal, egalitarian gatherings are ancient, as in, pre-patriarchy, and many indigenous cultures still practice their own traditions that honor the divine feminine and/or relish in the power of community over the dominant patriarchal culture.
Secular, ad hoc women’s circles are derived from these events and driven by the host’s intentions, whether that’s to build connection among a new group of friends, learn something new, share experiences, mindfully celebrate a milestone (like, say, a baby or a marriage) or even discuss the latest Sally Rooney novel (think of it like a book club, but with your heart on the table).
How does a women’s circle work in place of a baby shower?
The intention behind the women’s circle I went to was to create a positive, strong space for my friend’s upcoming baby. Another friend led a guided meditation and a yoga flow, and then it culminated in the opportunity for each person to share some wisdom on friendship and parenthood. I personally loved it as an alternative to a baby shower because, instead of the pomp and circumstance of place cards and a Leaning Tower of Crate and Barrel boxes, it was about acknowledging the power—and sacrifice—of motherhood and the gift of our friendships.
But best of all, it took place on Zoom, which goes to show that a women’s circle can be wherever and whatever you need it to be. If you want to host a women’s circle at a traditional baby shower, do it! (Get your gifts, girl!) If you want to practice hypnobirthing and then share how you plan to dismantle the patriarchy, go for it. If you want to stand around eating Little Caesar’s and connecting with friends, have at it.
Does a women’s circle have to consist of only women?
Nope! You can invite whoever you want as long as you believe they’ll honor the intention of your gathering. Don’t like the name “women’s circle”? Feel free to change it. The only through-line is that you’re bringing a group of people together to nurture a safe space to be seen and heard.
How to host a women’s circle
Want to try it out? The preparation is straightforward:
1. Design it around an intention: What do you want to leave with? An intention could be as abstract as one word “empowered!” or it can be as specific as “a new vegan recipe.” If your intention is “to energize,” maybe you ask your guests to each share what motivates them followed by a 15-minute dance party to your curated ‘90s pop playlist.
2. Set a time and place: Where will this happen? Is it important to be amid nature at the Botanic Gardens? Or is this a gathering of friends who now live around the globe that can only meet up via Zoom? You also want to set a convenient time so that your invitees can really be present.
3. Invite around your intention: Sure, your guest list can be as big or as small as you like, but to build connection and create that safe space, somewhere between 10 and 15 people seems ideal.
4. Let people know what to expect: This might be Jeanie’s first women’s circle, and she’ll probably start to panic when you ask her point blank, “What advice do you have for the expectant mother?” on the spot. Let participants prepare so they can feel comfortable—whether that means they’re ready to share their deepest darkest secret or they simply know to show up in yoga pants.
5. Let it happen: There’s no perfect women’s circle. It’s OK if you forgot to bring a lighter for the candles. It’s not about the ambiance; it’s about fostering connection. And yeah, if there are mimosas, that’s great too.