Imagine you’ve just been asked by your best friend or relative to host their bridal, baby or couples shower. What emotions and thoughts are running through your head at this point? Excitement? Anxiety? A little bit of both? Throwing a baby, bridal, or couple’s shower can be extremely overwhelming and can feel like a lot of pressure. This article is designed to help you get past the worry and into the fun parts of party planning.
- Who to Invite
As easy as this may sound, this is often the first stumbling block when planning an event of this type. The thing about showers is that they vary widely between being an intensely intimate affair (my bridal shower only had about a dozen women) and being a large gathering nearly the size of a wedding. In the case of my best friend’s baby shower, we decided to make the event a couple’s shower and included all of their friends. The final guest list ended up being around forty people and it was a fantastic gathering, though larger than a traditional baby shower. In order to figure out the guest list, work with the guest of honor. She, and possibly her family, will have a pretty good idea of whom she would like to invite.
Once you have a final headcount, figure out how you plan to invite people. Are you planning to use traditional paper invitations or one of the lovely digital invitations that are now frequently used? When considering which invitation to use, consider your theme, which we will discuss later, and where you are most likely to find an invitation that suits the theme of your fete. The digital invitations available on paperlesspost.com or evite.com come with a variety of themes, though you may find something more fitting in a traditional paper invite. When considering whether to use digital or paper, the deciding factor will likely be the number of guests and how much it will cost to send the invitations, as well as how easy it will be for the guest of honor to get you the addresses or email addresses. Keep in mind that it may be easier for a bride to come up with the addresses of all her guests than a soon-to-be-mommy.
2. Choosing a Date
When choosing a date for your party, consider the obvious. How pregnant will the guest of honor be at that time? How soon is the wedding, if it’s a bridal shower? A good rule of thumb is to have the bridal shower in the month before or two months before the big day. For a mommy-to-be, it’s good to make sure she is far enough along in the pregnancy that she actually looks pregnant, but not quite so pregnant that there is a significant risk of her going into labor, or that she will be so uncomfortable that she will not enjoy herself. I have literally heard of baby showers being so close to the due date that the baby was born beforehand and mommy either had to miss the shower or bring the baby (not the worst thing in the world, but not ideal either). Once you have the general time frame down, ask your guest of honor which dates work best for her (or her and her spouse if it’s a couple’s shower), and if there are any guests that must be considered. For example, if you know that the mommy-to-be can do any weekend in July, be considerate to ask her mother if there are dates that don’t work for her. Same goes for a best friend, or whoever you know is special enough to the guest of honor that the absence of this person will negatively affect the guest of honor’s experience. Once you have a date chosen, be sure to let the guest of honor and the “must-be-there” guests of the date, even if you aren’t planning to send out the invitation for a few weeks. This allows them to put it on their calendar without inadvertently getting booked up before receiving an invite.
3. Location, Location, Location
While hosting a shower at your home will always be in vogue, there are some ways to spice up the experience simply by choosing a different venue. My bridal shower was at the top of my mom’s apartment building (The Residence South Park), where they have a gorgeous kitchen and bar area, along with sofas and chairs, and an exquisite view of Uptown Charlotte. Many people are opting to have their soirees in a restaurant or café, to ease the burden on the host in terms of preparation and cleanup. For my friend’s couple’s baby shower, we opted to do something totally unique. We rented out the balcony and one of the interior rooms at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. This gave the shower a completely different vibe. Instead of a traditional baby shower with cutesy decorations and baby stuff everywhere, we had a spectacular view of the whitewater center, where there were people rafting and live music started during the event. Having it at a venue like this does cost more than having it at your home, but it was also nice because we didn’t have to worry about cooking the food or providing the drinks. The Center catered with traditional southern barbeque and we had a cash bar, with tickets to get the first two drinks free. Choose a location that fits the vibe you are going for and the rest will fall into place!
4. Choosing a Theme
I usually defer to the guest of honor for this one. They usually have an idea of what they want the theme to be and, if not, the best fall back is to make the theme the same colors as the wedding or nursery. Themes can help immensely though with things like décor, food and favors. For example, my bridal shower was La Vie en Rose themed, so everything from the décor to the food to the favors shouted “old Paris.” For the baby shower I hosted in July, the theme matched the nursery, and was a sort of “baby’s grand adventure theme,” so I created decorations that the parents could take home with them to put in the baby’s nursery. This included a DIY painted globe with calligraphy and map printed letters spelling out “LOVE.” A bridal shower I just hosted for my best friend was “nautical” theme, and we incorporated the theme into every aspect, with small details like pieces of coral and anchors and buoys! When you have a theme, the details can come together to really make the event special.
5. Let Them Eat Cake
And not just cake, but regular food too! Depending on the time of day of your party, the amount and type of food will vary. If you are hosting a brunch-time bridal shower, then perhaps some small sandwiches, cheese and charcuterie and a mimosa bar will do the trick. If you are hosting a shower around dinnertime, though, opt to either provide homemade food, or prepare to have it catered so that your guests aren’t starving by the end. I do think it’s nice to have a small cake that fits the theme for your guests to enjoy. It also signals that the party is nearing the end, which is a good cue for your guests. Having a cake that goes with the theme is an extra plus. I had a simple pink cake for my La Vie en Rose shower, chose a travel themed cake for the baby shower, and a nautical theme cake for another shower. The cake is a fun and easy way to really showcase the theme in a non-cheesy way.
6. Presents and Games
Presents are typically expected at these shindigs as a matter of tradition. Usually the guest-of-honor has a registry that you can point guests to if they would like to bring something as a token of celebration for the bride or mom-to-be. If you have a smaller guest count, opening presents at the function is tradition, and the host will write down who bought what in order to make thank-you notes easier for the guest of honor to write. A gift trend that is quickly catching on, is to have everyone bring presents wrapped in cellophane. That way, the guest-of-honor can see the presents and thank her guests for them, but the exhaustion of opening dozens of gifts is taken off her plate. Regardless of whether you do this, make sure you have a designated place for guests to put their gifts if they choose to bring them along.
As far as games go, it really depends on the crowd. For the baby shower, we knew we would have several couples and didn’t want to do any games that would be too girly for the male guests. We opted for a friendly yet competitive game of “Peek-a-(Ta)Boo.” I made up the name but not the game! Basically the premise is simple: everyone gets a diaper pin necklace, and there is a set of words you can’t say (see photo). If you are talking to someone and that person says any of the taboo words like “belly” or “baby” then you can take that person’s diaper pin necklace. Whoever ends up with the most at the end of the night wins! For the bridal shower I recently hosted, we played “Marina and Jesse Jeopardy” during which I asked fun questions about the couple, like “who said I love you first?” and whoever answered the fastest (and correct) would win! We had ten winners! Obviously it goes without saying that if you are going to have games, you should have prizes. The prizes should match the guest-of-honor’s tastes and the general feel of the party you are hosting. For the “fun couple’s shower” the prizes were beer, wine and a Starbucks gift card. More traditional shower prizes include candles and hand lotions.
It is always a good idea to have a small token of appreciation for those who took time out of their lives to come to the event. At my La Vie en Rose shower, I gifted all of the guests limoge macaron trinket boxes (see photo). At the baby shower, we gifted little cake pops, and at the nautical shower the bride gifted each of the women a pashmina, in several shades of blue to match the theme. The favors should reflect the tastes of the guest-of-honor, and the theme if there is one and there is a favor that reflects that theme. Favors do not have to be expensive; they are simply small keepsakes of gratitude.
And that’s a wrap! If you think about all of these steps, and conquer them one at a time, you are sure to throw a fabulous shower with minimal stress on yourself and the guest-of-honor. One step at a time and you are on your way to effortless entertaining!