Nothing in life is as exciting as the anticipation of a new baby! Baby showers give friends and family a chance to support and celebrate their loved one(s) in anticipation of this huge life change. However, planning a baby shower can quickly become overwhelming if you aren't sure where to begin. Here we've put together the ultimate baby shower guide with everything you didn't know you needed to know for throwing the perfect baby shower!
Note: Baby showers can be thrown in a variety of circumstances:
- A pregnant woman.
- A pregnant person who identifies as a man or as non-binary.
- A parent who is anticipating the adoption of a baby.
- A newly adoptive parent with a baby.
- A parent awaiting the birth of a child who will be born via surrogate.
When throwing a baby shower, it is important to be sensitive to the preferences and circumstances of the person for whom the shower is being thrown. For the purpose of this post, the term "recipient" will be used to refer to the person the shower is for.
Choosing a Host
Traditionally, baby showers are organized and hosted by an immediate family member or close friend of the recipient. If you are hoping to throw a baby shower, the best practice is first to ask the recipient if someone has already volunteered to organize one. If the role of host has already been filled, you have a few options. 1) Ask if the recipient has a gift registry so you can contribute to the celebration 2) Contact the host and offer to help in preparations if needed 3) Ask the recipient if it would be alright if you also threw them a shower.
There's nothing wrong with having multiple baby showers for the same baby, but keep in mind that showers should never compete with one another. Guest lists should be largely unique to each shower. This means a "work" baby shower and a "family" baby shower would make sense, whereas two baby showers at work would not.
Sometimes the recipient will opt to host their own shower or possibly co-host with their partner. If this is the case, you can still offer to help by covering expenses, volunteering time, or donating supplies.
Before getting too far ahead of yourself, setting your event's budget is a crucial step. Generally, the host will foot the bill, with possible contributions from co-hosts, friends, or family members. Often people will ask to help, but you may be unsure of what you can assign them. Trying to plan and throw a shower completely on your own is an unnecessarily challenging venture. Instead, check out this list of ideas for elements you can delegate to willing volunteers.
Ideas for contributions:
- Making and distributing the invitations
- Managing any virtual communications/updates/reminders
- Providing, setting up, and serving drinks or refreshments
- Baking a cake/cupcakes
- Buying or setting up decorations
- Planning or facilitating games and activities
- Purchasing giveaway items or game prizes
- Making/purchasing and distributing party favors
- Greeting guests at the door
- Writing down gifts and the names of who gave the gift while the recipient opens them (for future reference and possible thank you cards)
- Loading gifts into the recipient's car if necessary
- Taking down decorations
- Cleaning up and taking out the trash
Once upon a time, baby showers were exclusively women-centered events, with the occasional child tagging along. Now it's more and more common to see the celebration opened to all friends and family regardless of gender, especially if the parents of the expected child are hosting together. It's wise to consult with the recipient concerning guest lists. This can avoid any potentially hurt feelings or uncomfortable conversations after invitations have already been extended.
There's nothing like receiving a traditional paper invitation in the mail or being hand-delivered. Baby showers are special events, so going the extra mile by making physical invitations can really elevate the event and make a tasteful statement. On the other hand, digital invitations are incredibly common for good reason. They are quick to generate, easy to share, and inexpensive to generate. They are also ideal if you plan to facilitate a virtual extension of the shower, such as a Facebook event or an Evite page, so that links to gift registries can be shared, additional information can be distributed, and any important information, such as time and location changes, can be communicated quickly and efficiently.
Timing, Food, & Drinks
Although showers can last as long (or short) as the host decides, typically, you will want to aim for a two- to three-hour window. This ensures plenty of time for any food & drinks, games or activities, and visiting with one another. A full sit-down meal is not generally expected at a shower. However, a decent spread of food/refreshments is customary. Consider your budget and the time of day to plan what you will serve guests.
Morning: 8-11 am
Babies represent a new beginning, so mornings are a great time symbolically to celebrate their anticipated arrival. Keep in mind that some attendees may have work or other daytime obligations that can make attendance challenging during the week. If you’d like a morning event, aiming for a weekend date may be your best option.
Afternoon: 12-3 pm
If you are not an early riser, an afternoon shower can be a great option, especially when planning a weekend event.
Morning and afternoon budget-friendly ideas:
- Bagels and schmear
- Sliced fruit
- Cheese and cracker spread
- Orange/apple juice
- Lemonade and ice water
Morning and afternoon extra mile ideas:
- Waffle bar
- Yogurt parfaits
- Breakfast buffet with eggs/bacon/sausage etc.
- Chicken salad croissants
- Mimosas (with non-alcoholic options!)
- Fruit-infused water
Evening: 4-6 pm
Evening events can be challenging as it falls right in the realm of typical dinner-time but is still completely feasible without offering a full meal if that isn’t feasible. This time frame allows for some flexibility with working individuals while also ensuring that those who don’t like to drive at night can be home before dark.
Night: 7-9 pm
Night events are ideal for those who have guest lists made of busy individuals. Generally, this time frame is great for showers with an adult audience so guests can relax and celebrate while little ones are at home in bed with their other parent or a babysitter.
Evening and night budget-friendly ideas:
- Charcuterie board
- Fresh fruit platter
- Veggie platter
- Soft drinks
Evening and night extra mile ideas:
- Sandwich buffet
- Soup and bread bar
- Salad bar
- Sparkling grape juice or sparkling apple cider
Host's home: The host's home provides an intimate environment to help guests feel cozy and at ease. It also allows the recipient to fully relax as one of the guests and enjoy the events of the shower as they unfold.
Recipient's home: Unless the recipient is hosting, they should not be expected to host a baby shower. This is because it can put undue pressure on the recipient to clean, prepare, and be "on" as the host during the event to ensure everyone is having a good time. Ideally, the recipient should be able to relax and enjoy the event with little to no pressure to "perform." The exception would be if the recipient volunteers or requests for the shower to be held at their house. An upside for this would be that the recipient doesn't have to travel, and any gifts received will not need to be relocated.
Community building, clubhouse, or church: Reserving a third-party space is a great option for granting neutral ground, especially if the guest list is composed of mixed circles who may or may not have met previously. It eliminates the stress of preparatory cleaning, and the hosts can get right to the fun parts of setting up, like decorating and laying out refreshments. Just recognize that hosting at a location other than someone's home may require prior reservations and potential fees.
The best way to approach decorations is to consider the location and to have a shower theme. Themes can be as elaborate or simple as the host and recipient desire. Classic baby shower decorations include balloons, streamers, and bunting that match the colors of the shower's theme.
To have games or not to have games, this is one of the biggest baby shower questions! Many people have strong opinions on games, either feeling they are an essential rite of passage for every shower or despising them so much that they are forbidden. What's important here is to consider the recipient's preferences above anyone else's. Often a blend of classy low-commitment games like fill-in-the-blanks or BINGO and fun games to get people up and out of their seats gives the shower some variety and helps everyone be engaged on different comfort levels. Always clear games with the recipient beforehand to give them a chance to veto anything they don't feel comfortable with so they aren't put on the spot in front of everyone. A quick Google search can reveal a plethora of easy baby shower games, many of which are print-and-go, so all you need to do is print them off and provide guests with pens!
Activities can be a happy compromise for recipients who don’t enjoy shower games but still want to give their guests something to do. It’s also a perfect opportunity to sneak in some extra goodies for the recipient with some extra love and care from those who came together to celebrate. Like the games, a Google search will provide you with a wide range of ideas, but here are a few well-loved examples to get you started!
- Onesie decorating: Using fabric markers or fabric paint, guests can each decorate a plain white onesie to contribute to the new baby's wardrobe. Ideally, the host will provide onesies in a variety of sizes so that the baby can continue to sport different guests' creations as they grow. It can be fun to hang these onesies on a makeshift clothesline for display for the duration of the shower.
- Diaper Quotes: Similar to onesie decorating, guests armed with permanent markers can draw or write encouraging messages for the recipient on diapers to make those dreaded late-night changes a little more fun.
- Library building: Guests are asked to each bring a favorite children's book to help build the baby's first library! The host can provide "This book belongs to the library of" labels to stick inside each book with the baby's name or large blank labels so guests can write a personalized message and stick it inside their book for the baby to read when they get older.
A gift registry allows the recipient to ask for specific items that are wanted and needed for the expected baby. Recipients should be encouraged to include a range of items with different price points so that everyone can contribute regardless of their financial circumstances.
If the recipient is comfortable opening gifts in front of everyone, this can be a fun way for everyone to ooh and ahh over the cute baby items and share in the ambiance of love and excitement.
For recipients who either don't need a significant amount of supplies or would prefer not to receive a large number of gifts, a suggested donation of diapers and wipes is a common alternative. Sometimes diapers can be arranged into a "diaper cake" decorated with other baby goodies such as pacifiers, baby thermometers, or baby socks. Hosts can also arrange a “diaper raffle” where each package of wipes or diapers earns the guest a ticket for a grand prize, raffled at the end of the shower.
Baby showers are intended to be a gift for the recipient, not an additional burden. Thank-you's are always appreciated but should never be expected. Excellent hosts will make things as easy as possible for the recipient to express their gratitude without undue effort or stress.
One way to do this is to have someone dedicated to recording the names of who brought each gift as they are opened can be helpful when it comes time to write thank-you cards or even for future reference if the recipient is curious where items came from in the future. Having guests take a picture with the recipient after their gift is opened is another great way to remember what came from who and ensure that the recipient gets a picture with each guest as a memory.
One option for thank-you cards is to have guests write their name and address on envelopes when they arrive so that the recipient can easily send thank-you cards without having to track down addresses. Although it may be less formal, another idea is for the recipient to send a digital copy of the picture of them and the guest at the shower with a typed thank-you. This can relieve some of the pressure and added responsibility of handwriting cards and delivering them when the recipient is already busy preparing for adding a baby to their life!
Finally, party favors are a great way to end the event and give guests a concluding high note to enjoy after the festivities have ended. Party favors ensure guests know their presence was appreciated without the recipient having to shoulder that responsibility. Like everything else with a shower, favors can be as simple or elaborate as timing, preferences, and budgets allow. Generally, they will be something small related to the theme, such as a bag of candies with a punny quip printed on a tag.
Ultimately, baby showers are a time of love and celebration. A successful shower should not be gauged on the money spent or the number of people in attendance but rather the way the recipient feels as their community gathers to support and encourage them in this new life venture. Put time and care into planning a get-together, and the recipient is bound to remember that tender event forever.
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