Thursday, February 24, 2011

Planning a Baby Shower

from Carrie

Planning a baby shower anytime soon? If you are, you know that this can be a somewhat overwhelming and nerve-wracking thing. Sure, the idea of it may be fun and exciting as you envision blessing the new mom with your talents and creativity. But then you actually have to get started on the work aspect and it can be difficult to work through the details.

I recently threw a baby shower for a friend of mine. This was the first baby shower I had ever thrown and, naturally, I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.

Here are some things I would suggest doing if you are preparing to plan a shower for a friend and new mommy-to-be:

1. Do not limit her guest list. Tell her that up front. Allow her the freedom and privilege of inviting the people who are closest to her and whose presence would be meaningful to her. This might mean your guest list is only five people. It might mean there are 80 people on the list! So be it. It's her day to be blessed and your day to do the blessing. I realize that you might have space issues but do try to resolve them as best as you can. When you are the one having a baby, it's hard to think of limiting your friend list and who you want to have come and celebrate the new arrival alongside you. Try to accommodate as many as possible. (And don't freak out if the original guest list is long! It's unlikely every single person on the list will show up on your doorstep!)

2. Ask her for the guest list at least one month in advance - names and addresses! This allows you time to work on the invitations and mail them out three weeks before the actual shower date, giving the guests adequate notice so that they can make the time in their schedule to attend the shower.

3. I prefer mailing out invitations myself. I think it's more formal and special that way. However, if you know your friend well and if the guest list is long, ask if there are any guests on the list that wouldn't mind receiving a hand-delivered invitation. I don't think that's a rude question, but a fair one. But before you ask - do try to be aware of whether or not that question is offensive. I STILL think receiving an actual invitation is more special than an e-mail invite. (Personal preference.)

4. Ask the mommy-to-be the following questions as you prepare the invitations:

  • Would she prefer to have her shower before or after the baby's arrival? (Allow her to decide!)
  • Does she know the gender of her baby, or will this be a surprise?
  • Does she have a theme selected for the baby/the nursery?
  • Has she, or is she, planning to register somewhere? Obtain the required registry information so that you can pass that along to her guests.
  • Would she like someone to lead a devotional or would she prefer to just allow her guests to mingle?
  • Does she like baby shower games or would she prefer those to be avoided? Are there any games in particular that she would rather not have take place at her shower?
  • Would she like to open her gifts in front of her guests, or would she prefer to open them later on with her husband? (Allow her to decide!)
5. Find out if any relatives will be attending the shower and think of special ways to acknowledge their presence and role in the life of the mother-to-be and the newborn child. Will a New Grandma be there? Make a note of it and prepare in advance to introduce her to the other guests so that they are aware of the family relationship.

6. Ask the guest of honor if she has any food allergies or aversions. You certainly don't want to get caught serving something that she would be sick at the sight of!

7. Plan your menu. There are lots of resources online for helping you select an appropriate menu to suit the theme the mother has chosen for the baby (i.e., Classic Pooh, Princess, Baseball, etc.). Make it fun! Take some time to be creative. She will remember this day!

8. Ask for RSVP's to help you plan for the food - but don't bet on them. Sadly, most people fail to follow through with RSVPs these days and so give it your best guess and estimate. Plan for more food than you think you might need. Leftovers are A-ok and the mom-to-be might appreciate some snacks to take home to the father-to-be if there are extras. (No doubt the father-to-be would be delighted to help polish off the food from the festivities!) Also, I recommend against putting a deadline on RSVPing for the event. It is inevitable that someone will want to come to the shower but forget to RSVP and then at some point will notice there was a deadline requesting information on their presence. In my opinion, it's bad form to cause a guest feel like they are unwelcome to come because they accidentally forgot to let you know that they wanted to come before your imposed deadline kicked in.

Do your best to plan, but plan to be flexible.

9. If possible, ask for a volunteer in advance to sit next to the mommy-to-be and take notes during the gift opening (i.e., mark down who gave what.) Have the supplies laid out and ready to go, (including a trash bag!), so that the present opening process goes as smoothly as possible.

10. Take the time to introduce yourself to each guest that you are hosting and personally thank them for coming. It's just polite. (If there are a lot of people, this might not be totally possible, but if you can - do.)

All these things and more (I'm certain!) can be done to make this showered-upon blessing experience a wonderful one for the new mother. Keep a smile on your face (even if you are tiiiired) and remember the day is not about you - it's about blessing another and celebrating life together!

Any additional suggestions? Leave them in the comment section below!


  1. It might be nice to plan to help take gifts to her home if she does not have a large vehicle. It seems to me that if it is a moderately sized shower, a car may not hold everything. And it would save the extra trip for her!

  2. I have a question about your number 1, having recently planned a large shower: how do you handle the fact that each additional person costs extra money (especially if you are also dealing with expectations that drive up the cost per person of a shower)? While a shower is something nice done for a friend, it also can potentially be a budget breaker. The absolute lowest one can go in my area for homemade finger food for a crowd is about $4/person and a more reasonable estimate is about $10/person (my area is high cost of living), and at 80 people that adds up to more than my budget can bear, for example. Certainly having other people help can reduce this cost, but etiquette dictates that you aren't supposed to ask guests to contribute food and depending on the situtation willing volunteers may or may not be available. Sometimes I don't know how one gets around limiting the guest list! If you have a suggestion, I'm all ears.

  3. This is great advice, Carrie, especially the emphasis on doing what the honoree wants. I very much agree about RSVPs (ask for them, but don't stew if people don't respond) and flexibility.

    I wonder if you've ever encountered an honoree who wanted to include the father (or fiance, for a bridal shower) at the shower? I've been to some where just the fiance/father is there (and looked really uncomfortable!) and some where guys were invited as guests as well. Even though it takes most of us even further beyond our normal comfort zone (some of us look forward to "girl talk" at showers, and feel a little uncomfortable with guys there), I feel it is up to the couple, and it may even be the wave of the future.

    Just a thought in regard to Katie's question above: in our area, one person doesn't usually host a shower alone -- that would indeed be a budget-breaker. Usually 3-6 people go together and split costs of food and paper goods (if using paper plates, etc.) or each brings a different part of the food, beverages, etc. There is usually just one big cake, so a few extra people don't add much to the cost, though sometimes extra munchies are provided. It depends a lot on who is hosting -- if it is friends from church, I wouldn't ask relatives or friends from outside the church to help host, but usually any of the person's friends from church would not mind co-hosting. Similarly, if people from work are hosting, I wouldn't ask the honoree's close personal friend outside of work to help with food. But usually the friends of the honoree don't mind being asked to co-host. In my experience in several different states, at least, that's been pretty standard.

  4. Katie - Good and fair question. I think though that I would be shocked if 80 people actually attended. The guest list for the shower I threw was 78. However, I estimated about 1/2 would show and that was a pretty accurate guess. I wouldn't fret that all 80 would come. They likely won't.

    However, should they all have this amazingly free schedule and end up all arriving on your doorstep - I'm with Barbara. A mutual friend of mine and the mother-to-be volunteered to come and help out in preparation for the shower which was an enormous help.

    Here are some things I think about when planning to feed large groups of people solo:

    1. I always buy in bulk (think Costco or Sam's Club) so that I can buy more and pay less.

    2. I picked a time for the shower in which no meal should have been expected. (For example, I set the time for the shower at 10:30 so it could be more brunch-like/snacky foods and I didn't have to think about filling stomachs.) The added benefit to an mid-morning shower is that more people WILL tend to come because they know that they'll still have part of their Saturday left over to take care of other things.

    3. I plan a menu that can feed my own family as well. Left overs? GREAT! And no problem! Anything that is left over can be added to my family meals for the next few days and feeds us as well (which you can then count in to your regular grocery budget.) For example - fruit trays and veggie trays. Easy stuff that doesn't cost very much, can be provided in bulk, and can be added to recipes as needed for a few days thereafter. I also make any bread items myself (sounds like you do also) which keeps costs much lower. (You have to think in advance if you want to plan for several batches of muffins, for example, but they taste better than store bought and are cheaper to produce. Just more time consuming.)

    I'd be really surprised if someone else didn't step forward and ask if there wasn't anything that they could do to help out. I had several of the mommy-to-be's friends ask to help. I didn't need to accept much but I did ask one friend to bring dip for the veggie tray which made for one less thing I had to think about and one more thing I didn't necessarily have to provide.

    And, as Barbara H. said - cakes are very accommodating. Factor in women not really wanting to indulge in lots of treats and sweets these days and there is actually less to plan for in that department than you might originally think.

  5. I appreciate your comment on asking the mother to be who she wanted on the guest list. I experienced going to my own baby shower and never being asked who I would have wanted invited. It was a very odd sitution to find myself in.

    I did a small baby shower for my sister-in-law and since strawberries were in season and sooo good, served strawberry shortcake. It was a big hit and I don't think anyone missed a cake. Also, the gifts I made for the baby were used as decorations. A baby blanket was part of the table covering (I did wash it and return it clean)and a diaper cake sat on the end of the table done in the colors of the shower.

    If you know in advance you are hosting the shower start setting money aside. It seems in this economy any kind of gathering that you host that provides food is going to hurt the pocketbook a little bit.

  6. Great list, Carrie! My favorite is asking the bride/mom to be for a guest list. This means no surprise showers. I had a surprise bridal shower (which was fun but I had it figured out long before the shower) and there were several groups of friends who didn't get invited because the hostesses didn't know them. However, I did help host a surprise baby shower for a friend, but that was for our church family so I didn't worry about missing any friends outside church.

    As for how big the groups are, I think expecting half of those invited is about right. Also, don't worry about the expensive expectations of your guests. I also live in an expensive area but have found keeping recipes simple helps keep costs down. If cooking muffins, use bake mini muffins to get more servings out of your mix. Brunch is a great time for inexpensive casseroles - egg, cheese & ham strata or hashbrown/tater tot casserole can be stretched out. For drinks, use water, lemonade and tea/coffee. Lemonade mix is inexpensive and most people like it.

    I've always found showers to be hosted by a group of people - whether at church, friends or family. This helps keep the cost down for each hostess.

  7. Great thoughts, Carrie. You include several questions in #4 that I've never thought of asking. I've been on both sides of several showers, and I think it's so thoughtful to ask for input from the honoree. I also like your suggestion to honor family members who are present.

  8. All, thanks for your responses. Good food for thought here.

    In the case of the shower I threw, the bride was gluten free. In that case it's either make everything from scratch since she had told me over and over again about her trials with un-labeled gluten in foods or go for fairly expensive items. Obviously I wanted to accommodate my friend in the celebration, but it did add an interesting twist.