A year ago I had the pleasure of co-hosting a baby shower for my daughter Jenn at my home. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on throwing a successful shower in the hope they’ll be helpful should you find yourself hosting one of these happy events in the future. Please feel free to share any of your favourite tips in the comments section!
It’s All About the Mum-to-Be
The shower is a celebration of the mother-to-be and her little one, so it’s important that the overall event reflect her tastes and personality. We want the guest of honour to be comfortable at her own event, so if she squirms with embarrassment at the idea of wearing a paper plate festooned with ribbons on her head (does anyone do that anymore?), I suggest you don’t make her. Obviously, especially when you’re hosting in your own home, the shower is a reflection of you as well, but keep the spotlight shining on Mum-to-Be as much as possible.
It’s Also About the Guests
The guest list for the shower also influences decisions about the tone of the event. A party for a group of girlfriends is likely to be quite different from one attended by multiple generations of family (at least that holds true for my family). This baby shower was largely a family event, with some close friends invited as well. We considered inviting Jenn’s co-workers, but space didn’t permit.
How you define family for your guest list depends greatly on family dynamics. We’ve had good success over the years with what you might call ultra-blended family events. This family shower included both sides of my family, as well as the families of Jenn’s father and step-mother. We also invited her mother-in-law so all of Baby’s grandmothers would be there. In all there were four generations present.
The Matter of Co-Hosts
It’s not necessary to have co-hosts for a shower, but sometimes it’s a nice idea especially when the guest list spans several discrete groups. This shower was hosted by my other daughter, myself, and my children’s stepmother. Or, as the invitation said, “Auntie, Nana and Grammie.” For a blended-family event, this signal of harmony tells the guests there’s no need for awkwardness.
To Surprise or Not to Surprise?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on the idea of giving a very pregnant woman a big surprise. Not only that, but it’s such a challenge to keep a surprise party under wraps. Letting Jenn know about the shower also allowed me to get her input on some key decisions, such as timing and venue. Most of the shower details were a surprise to her, though, so that element was still there.
The mother-to-be’s input was instrumental in timing the event. Baby was due at Valentine’s. Left to my own devices, I would have held the shower in January, although wintry weather was a concern. Jenn had a strong preference to have her baby showers a good two months before the due date. As it turned out, this was very wise of her since her little one decided to arrive a month early. Nothing is certain when it comes to the timing of births, but obviously the closer the shower is to the due date, the more chance there is it may get pre-empted by an early arrival.
We held the shower for my daughter Meredith’s first child at a local hotel since my home was then in a renovation uproar. I was concerned Jenn might feel short-changed if we held her shower at my home, but she assured me she wouldn’t. My co-hosts felt it would be a more comfortable and intimate event at home, even if things were a bit crowded.
I moved some furniture out of the basement family room and was able to set up seating for about 22 people. Admittedly it was cramped but not too, too crowded and I think our guests felt comfortable. Judging by the buzz in the room, the close quarters certainly facilitated conversation.
Admittedly there was more work before and after than when the venue is a hotel, but that’s was worth the intimate, homey feel.
A month in advance, we sent ‘hold the date’ emails to our respective guests, letting them know a formal invitation would follow. Admittedly, it would have been better to do this earlier. Depending on time of year and the level of social activity in your guest circles, consider what timing works for you.
At the time of planning the shower we still didn’t know if Baby was a girl or boy, so we stayed with a neutral colour scheme for the invitations, which we ordered from an online service. By the time they arrived we finally had the news that a girl was on the way. I was able to add a pink “It’s a Girl!” stamp before mailing them.
Don’t forget to order a few extra invitations so Mum-to-Be can have them for her and Baby’s scrapbooks or memory boxes.
Decor is one way to honour the guest of honour’s tastes. Jenn’s an avid collector of elephants (no, not real ones), so they figured largely (haha) in the decor in the family and dining rooms. I borrowed most of Jenn’s elephant statues for the event, jazzing some of them up with pink bows, and added other pachyderm touches of my own.
The nursery colour scheme was teal and grey with hints of pink, so that influenced many decisions. Unfortunately, the party store we shopped at had almost no gender-neutral decor, let alone teal and grey, so pink figured larger among the banners and other decor than we had originally planned.
The overall effect was festive and very event appropriate. I tied large pink and white bows to the front porch railings to add a sense of welcome and occasion to everyone’s arrival. Jenn told me she almost cried when she saw them, so I would say they were a success.
The decor centrepiece was a diaper cake. I made one for Mere’s shower, and knew from the beginning I would also make one for Jenn. Rolling 84 diapers takes some doing, but the result was worth it: a charming layer ‘cake’ festooned with ribbons and little gifts, and topped by — what else — a stuffed elephant rattle.
If you search for ‘baby shower games’ on the Internet you’ll find all manner of things to do, ranging from tasteful to … well, you’ll see. My advice is to consider the tastes of the guest of honour and the attendees in general. We had one game only. Each guest was given a coloured clothespin upon arrival, and could take the pin(s) of anyone they heard saying ‘baby.’ We ran this until the gift opening was about to begin, at which point the person with the most pins received a gift. Frankly, I think we would have been fine with no game at all but it did add an extra element of fun.
The Gift Opening
Just a few points to help this go smoothly… First of all, ensure everyone’s beverages are topped up before this part of the program begins. It’s a good idea to have someone assigned to writing what the gift was on the back of cards, to make it so much easier when it’s time for the mother-to-be to write the thank you cards. Also have someone passing gifts to the guest of honour from the gift table (three-year-old Miss E did an excellent job of this), and also corralling the paper and bags in large receptacles out of the way.
My three main pieces of advice regarding food at the baby shower are: make ahead where possible, keep it simple with a minimal number of offerings, and accept help! Of course, it’s fun to have food that’s in keeping with the baby theme too. Grammie brought utterly charming decorated cookies in the shapes of little t-shirts, as well as two dozen pink and white cupcakes, while Auntie contributed fruit and vegetable platters plus dips.
My offerings were three make ahead dishes: strawberry marshmallows, ham and cheese gougeres (Jenn’s favourite version of my French cheese puffs) that I baked off from frozen, and Belgian frikadellen (beef and pork meatballs) with a sour cherry sauce — something new to most of the guests. This dish was a tribute to my mother who died some months earlier. They also brought a tear to my cousin’s eye because her mother used to make them too.
I set up the beverage station with all the glassware, coffee cups and other necessaries the night ahead of the party (I wouldn’t dare do that now that I have cats). I made sure to have room for the wine bottles and punch bowl too.
It’s a good idea to assign the best photographer in the house to take photos throughout the event so the guest of honour can have them later. Unfortunately I didn’t think to do this. I did get pictures of the decor and food (before and after the shower), but was too busy* during the shower to take more than a few candid shots of guests. I definitely recommend having a plan for photographs!
*In case you’re wondering why I was so busy, in addition to my tendency to try to do everything myself despite offers of help from others (ahem, still learning), my other daughter was only a few weeks away from giving birth at the time of her sister’s baby shower. So, I couldn’t ask her to run up and down the stairs between the kitchen and family room to fetch drinks and answer the door.
Yes, we’ve had a baby bonanza in 2015 — my complement of grandchildren (all girls) increased by 100 percent, and my level of joy exponentially!