Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Planning a Memorable Baby Shower

By Kathy A. Schaeffer

Being hostess to a baby shower can be a wonderful and fun experience . . . or it can turn into a stressful event if you don't take the time necessary to assure that everything will run smoothly. Hopefully some of these ideas will tend to serve as a checklist of sorts to help while you plan a memorable baby shower.

First of all, be sure to plan the basics carefully and write them down in lists. Will you be having someone videotape the shower to make a copy for the guest of honor? If so, decide who will be asked to do the taping. Will the original movie be a gift for the mother, or will a copy be made for her? What about the grandparents, will they get copies, too? If you don't wish to do a movie of the event, will someone be assigned to take photographs of the shower for the mother-to-be?

Another thing to decide right away is whether the shower will be held before or after the baby is born. There are pros and cons for each option. If you hold the shower before the birth, the mother-to-be will be able to get some things she will need and not have to buy them later. On the other hand, waiting until after the birth allows guests to buy gifts that are more gender specific and many people prefer that option. If the shower is planned for before the birth, be sure to not have it too close to the due date. A month or 5 weeks before the due date is a good time frame.

What type of food will be served? Will it be a meal or simply refreshments or appetizers? You should at the very least have a special decorated cake made to serve, but for the other food that will be served, you will need to make decisions. Do you want a potluck meal with each guest bringing a covered dish? Perhaps serve just finger and snack foods along with the cake and punch?

Will the shower be a surprise? In the past, most baby showers were indeed surprise parties, but now it's turning more and more toward allowing the mother-to-be to have a part in the planning, at the very least to help with the guest list and tell the hostess what things she needs for the baby should a guest ask for a gift idea.

You may want to choose to have a sort of theme shower. The possibilities are endless and with a little imagination, you should be able to come up with something that will be a hit. One idea is a "fill a baby container" shower. Each guest would be assigned a particular container to put the baby gifts into. Containers would be things like a baby tub, diaper pail, and so on, but the problem with this is that it may end up forcing a guest to spend more than he or she would have generally spent for things to put into the assigned container. You may instead want to assign a few people to the same container, such as three sisters or four friends to fill a baby bathtub, or two aunts and grandma-to-be to fill a plastic toy box container.

Another thing that is changing over the years is the guest list itself. Until relatively recently, a dad-to-be simply didn't get anywhere near the baby shower. Now, however, increasingly more couples are requesting that the baby shower include both of the new parents and dad's friends and family as well as mom's. Be sure to plan the games and food around the fact that dad's friends will be attending, too, if that is the kind of shower you decide to plan.

Decide on a couple of games that will be played at the shower. One popular game is to have each guest bring a photograph of him or herself as a baby or toddler. Others at the shower will be looking at the photos which will have been tacked onto poster board or some other display area, and will get to know each other while trying to figure out which baby turned into which adult. This is a great ice breaker idea. Just have someone collecting the photos as the guests arrive and attaching them to the display area in time for the start of the shower.

Another game is to have about 20 to 25 baby items (safety pin, spoon, bootie, comb, cotton ball, pacifier, etc.) on a tray and the hostess will show it to each guest, one or two at a time depending on the seating arrangements and how many can see the tray at once. Make sure that each guest is seeing it for the same amount of time, whatever you decide on, but not too long. After everyone has seen the items, put them away and hand out paper and pencils. The guest remembering the most items on the tray is the winner. To make it a bit more difficult, and to avoid "guesses" since they are all baby items, you can throw a few other things onto the tray such as a button, rubber band, pen, key, and so on.

What kind of prizes will you have for game winners? This is another area that will change depending on whether or not the guests will be both men and women. A prize for either gender could be something like a book of postage stamps, a pie from a bakery, a picture frame or photo album. If it is an "all girl" shower, you can consider things like candles, stationary, bath oil, lotions, soaps, etc. If you have a door prize, give everyone a number on the way in and put a corresponding number into a container. Draw the winning number at the end of the shower. An alternative is to have each guest simply sign a piece of paper at arrival and put the names into the drawing container.

Decide when the mom-to-be or parents-to-be will open the gifts. This can happen after the food is eaten and the games are finished or before the food, making that the last part of the shower. If there are a lot of guests, thus a lot of gifts, you may want to help with the gift opening as hostess, or have the guest of honor choose someone to help. It will get done twice as fast that way and the guests will still get to see all of the gifts that were received.

Also on the subject of time limits, a baby shower should last around 2 hours, a little less if a proper meal is not being served, and a little longer is fine if there are a lot of guests that will be bringing gifts to open, or if a meal is served. And on the subject of guests, if the list of relatives, friends, coworkers, church members, etc. is extensive, you may decide to host two separate showers, or find out if someone else will host one, say for the coworkers and church members while family and friends will attend the other. Be sure that none of the same people will be asked to both showers, however.

Decide also if children will be invited. If not, you will need to specify that on the invitation, but state it delicately; it is a touchy issue with some people. If you specify "grownups only, please" some may be offended that may have brought their children . . . but if it's "children welcome" it may become disruptive.

Be sure to have a guest book available. A nice blank journal works well for this. Have each guest sign a message for the parents-to-be in the book upon arrival to the shower and then ask someone to record the gifts (don't forget the gift giver's name) into the book. Any blank pages that are left in the book can be used for the mom to record her thoughts and feelings as the time of the birth gets closer, or milestones of the baby if the shower is being held after the birth. If the book is large enough, she can paste cards or photos onto the pages as well.

One of the main things to remember is that the shower is given to help and indulge the new mom-to-be, so make sure that it is an enjoyable couple of hours for her. If you know that she never got along with Cousin Mary, for example, at least ask her if she wants Mary to be invited before deciding unilaterally to invite her. If mom doesn't like chocolate cake, do not order a chocolate cake even though you think most guests would prefer it.

The main thing is to have fun preparing and attending the shower you planned to be such a success!