Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
All over the world, there is no single event more celebrated than the birth of a baby. When a woman is expecting, her friends and family members are eager to share in the celebrations of welcoming a new life into the world. For many cultures around the world, one of the most important events before a baby’s birth is the seventh-month ceremony – held to rejoice in the birth to come and bring together the people that will play a role in the new baby’s life. In Western society, the baby shower or stork party serves a similar purpose and is usually also held around the seventh month. (There is no hard and fast rule about when to hold the baby shower, but holding it too close to the expectant mom’s due date could become problematic if baby decides to arrive ahead of schedule.)
If your sister or best friend has asked you to throw her baby shower you undoubtedly feel honoured, but possibly also a bit stressed about creating the perfect day. Here are a few tips that will allow you to plan a stress-free, memorable event.
The key to hosting any successful event is meticulous planning. In the case of a baby shower, always bear in mind that you are creating a special day for the mom-to-be and that the focus of the day should be about creating happy memories and the opportunity for guests to share in the new parents’ joy. Baby shower norms and traditions are all good and well, but are not carved in stone. Consider mom-to-be first and plan according to what would bring her joy – the last thing you want is for her to feel uncomfortable or out of place on the day.
Keep a notebook dedicated to the event and start by listing each individual element that requires your attention:
- Guest List
- Thank yous
The Guest List
Traditionally baby showers were an all-girl affair. However, more and more people are opting for extending the invitation to men so that the equally excited dad-to-be can also be included. This depends entirely on the couple in question. When drawing up the guest list, the safest option is to ask the expectant parents. However, if you are planning a total surprise ask for input from other friends and family members so that nobody is forgotten.
A baby shower is usually hosted by the person responsible for planning the party. This is preferable as a home-based shower is generally the most relaxed for all concerned; but if it is not practical, you could ask one of the other guests to open their home or make a booking at a suitable restaurant. If your party includes men it is a good idea to allocate an area where they can break away and socialise without feeling awkward. While men tend to enjoy the celebration of a new baby as much as any woman, asking them to sit through the opening of every gift or joining in with games is often too much!
Planning around a theme can make things easier if you are planning a more traditional or formal shower because you can then carry the theme through from invitations, to décor, to party favours etc. Themes can range from stars to teddy bears, from nursery rhymes to baby bottles. If you know the sex of the baby, you could simply opt for an ‘it’s a boy/girl’ theme. If twins are on the way, plan a theme around that. Again, if you choose to have a theme, bear the mom-to-be in mind and consider her likes and dislikes.
Having a theme makes decorating your venue easy – several shops carry a host of stunning decorations ideal for creating the perfect environment for celebrating baby. When planning, consider things like tablecloths, serviettes and centerpieces. A nice idea is to create a centerpiece out of practical baby supplies that mom can take home at the end of the day. Balloons are also a fun and economical way of adding plenty of cheer to your decorations. Choose balloons and ribbons in colours in keeping with your theme and create interesting balloon weights for an extra special touch.
Depending on the type of day you are planning, the invitation can range from a simple phone call to an email to a creative work of art that is to be printed and posted or hand delivered. Whatever the case, be sure to give guests plenty of warning, set an RSVP date and keep careful track of the responses. Once again, if you have chosen a theme you immediately have a starting point for the design of your invitation. If you are sending an invite via email and need a bit of inspiration, many websites offer downloadable templates to help you get started.
Ensure that your invite includes the following important information
- The name of the host as well as the expectant mom/parents
- The date and time
- The location and directions
- RSVP – include phone number, email address and date due
- Gift registry details if applicable
- Dress code or theme
- A note of anything you may need guests to bring or do
If you’re hosting the shower at home, plan a menu and beverages according to mom-to-be’s wishes. Take into account budget, the time of year, time of day, number of guests and whether or not men are included, (they sometimes need something a bit more substantial than a finger sandwich). Make an impression with a variety of finger foods elegantly laid out on platters. Popular food choices included finger sandwiches, mini pizzas, crudités, cheese and biscuits, chicken wings, chips and dips and mini meatballs. When serving tea and coffee try to have a few varieties available as well as sugar and sweeteners. Arrange for an urn so that you don’t have to bother with boiling a kettle every half an hour. A punch is also a baby shower favourite – if you are serving alcohol make sure to have a non-alcoholic option for mom-to-be.
Try to get a list of needs from mom-to-be herself or perhaps from dad or a family member. (Especially if this is a shower for a second or third child.) Keep the list handy as many guests will rely on you for this information. To make life a lot easier, many shops now offer a registry service much the same as a wedding registry. Some moms may find registering their needs a bit forward, but point out to them that guests will bring a gift regardless, and having a registry makes it easier for them to shop and guards against endless duplications and unnecessary purchases. You could also point out on the invitation that guests are welcome to bring a gift that does not appear on the registry if they prefer. If you would like guests to wrap the gifts in keeping with your theme (in receiving blankets, baby sheets, cloth nappies etc) be sure to mention it on the invitation.
Games and activities are traditionally a favourite at baby showers and make for lots of laughs and happy memories – but are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Regardless of your personal preference, make sure that mom-to-be will enjoy playing games before you include them in your planning. Popular favourites include:
- Guess the number of safety pins/jelly beans etc in a jar. Person with closest guess wins.
- Guess mom’s tummy size. Each guest cuts a length of string that they think will fit around mom-to-be’s belly. Closest guess wins.
- Guess the baby picture. Each guest brings a baby photo of themselves and mom-to-be must guess who it is.
A wonderful alternative – or addition – to playing games is to create a baby shower memory book. Ask each guest to write a piece of advice to the new parents or a message to the baby. This will be treasured for years to come! You may want to mention that you will be doing this on the invitation so that guests can prepare something special to write beforehand. Take lots of photos on the day – these can be included in the memory book.
Ensure that someone is making a note of the gifts being given – mom-to-be will never be able to remember every detail and will appreciate a reminder of who-gave-what when she is writing thank you notes. You can also thank each guest for being a part of the day by giving them a small parting gift – small picture frames, flowerpots with mini, fresh cut flowers or a party favour in keeping with your theme.
Lastly, when the big day comes, remember that your most important guest is mom-to-be. Make sure she is comfortable and has a relaxed day that embraces the true spirit of a baby shower – sharing in the joy and celebration of a new life.