Shower Planning 101

by Shellie Spradlin

Like Lamaze class, assembling the crib, and picking a car seat, the baby shower is part of the ritual of welcoming a new baby. But the baby shower is without a doubt the most fun -- involving food, loved ones, gifts, and hopefully tons of laughs and support for the mother-to-be.

Planning a shower is a pretty significant undertaking with considerations for etiquette, entertainment, food, guest list and location.

Who can host a baby shower?

There are two schools of thought on this. The old school says that no one who is direct family to the baby (parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle) should host the party. This is because a shower is a solicitation for gifts and it seems tacky for a mother, for example, to solicit gifts for her daughter.

The new school of thought says that anyone who loves the mother-to-be and knows the family well should feel free to host a party welcoming the newborn and helping the family have what they need to care for him or her.

The only real requirement for hosting is that you be familiar with either of the parents enough that you will know what type of party to plan (formal, casual, come-and-go). You also may want to take into consideration location when choosing a host since the host would need to be able to provide ample space for all invited guests and the gifts they bring as well as ample food or snacks.

How do I determine a budget?

Cost is a direct function of the quantity of guests and the formality of the event. A formal function with written invitations, decorations, or even a special location will cost more. Informal functions save on all of these costs, and can even be potluck, which shares the cost of food. Either way, the more people you have, the more of everything you will need.

In addition, consider whether you are getting the mother-to-be a gift in addition to the party, and factor that into your budget.

How do I determine a guest list?

There are two ways to do this: one is to make the choices yourself based on how well you know the parents, and the other is to take a lot of input from the couple themselves.

There are benefits to both ways. By including the parents you are making sure that their particular wishes for this party come true, and you are heading off possible uncomfortable circumstances by inviting someone they didn't want included, or not inviting someone they did.

On the other hand, not including the couple in this decision (as you would for a surprise) takes the burden off of them to do any planning for this event, which can be a relief especially at this stage of the game.

This is YOUR party that you are throwing on behalf of the new parents, so it's a good idea to take their input and keep their wishes foremost in your mind while also remembering that you are the host and it's your call to make.

Remember that these days showers aren't necessarily women only, and couples showers for both Mom and Dad can be very successful.

It is also a good idea to get complete contact information for each person on the list. This includes address, phone number, and email so you can be sure that each person has no chance of missing out on the fun event!

How do I pick an invitation?

Invitations can range from the casual phone call to more formal printed invitations. The host can decide what works best for the shower based on the budget and type of party that has been planned.

However you let people know they're invited, the following information is important:

Name of the expectant parent(s):
Date/time of the shower:
Location of the shower:
Sex of the baby (if known):
RSVP contact information (including host's name):

If the parents are registered for baby items, this information can be tactfully conveyed either in a follow-up e-mail or phone call, or in response to the question of what they would like for the baby. Remember that the gift registry is a wish list that is intended to make things easier for the guests -- it is not a demand list to give the mother what she wants. If guests choose to ignore the registry that's entirely up to them.

What is a theme and do I need one?

A theme, while not necessary, is a fun way to celebrate the new baby and the family he or she is coming in to. For example, if the parents have selected nursery colors or themes, the party can be coordinated around them. You could also focus on a parent's favorite activity, color, or sports team. If there's a particular need this couple has -- for example they already have most of the gear but have no diapers wipes, or other products -- you could coordinate the shower around that need.

How do I plan a menu and is it really necessary?

If you are planning a party between 11 am and 2 pm your guests will expect lunch. If the party is between 4 pm and 7 pm your guests will expect dinner. Other times having a small assortment of fruit trays, nuts, or other snack foods would be sufficient.

What you serve will depend greatly on four things:

  • Time of day
  • Number of guests
  • Formality
  • Time/space you have available

As a host, it's important to take into consideration the expectant parent's preferences and also their dietary requirements. If she's suffering from gestational diabetes, extended morning sickness or excessive weight gain, these are important to take into account in planning a menu. Also, the parents-to-be's personal preferences are important: If mom is a casual person she may prefer to have a simple buffet style meal or just a snack table. On the other hand, if mom prefers more formal affairs, you may plan for a sit-down meal catered by her favorite restaurant.

Where possible, consider the dietary needs of your other guests as well. Attempt a menu that is varied enough that people who are vegetarian, allergic to dairy products or nuts, or averse to sweets or chocolates will all have options.

How do I choose the location?

Generally baby showers are held at the home of the host. However, if you are planning a large shower and your budget allows you may consider renting space. Many times showers are held in meeting rooms at churches or restaurants. If it is a shower for co-workers there may be space available at your place of business. Wherever you choose to hold the party, be sure to know how many guests you expect before finalizing any details.

The best locations are:

  • Easy to find
  • Offer plenty of space
  • Conform to the formality of the event
  • Accommodate the needs of all party-goers

How do I select a date and time?

Baby showers are typically held around six weeks before the due date of the baby's birth. However, some mothers are electing to have the party after the baby is born -- especially those not finding out the sex of the baby beforehand. Although showers can be held any day of the week and at any time of day, you may want to take into consideration the working schedules of the guests. It would do no good to plan a party and then have no one show up because the date or time was inconvenient.

Most showers are held in the evening times (if during the week) or on weekends since so many women today work outside the home. This timing allows those who work to attend without having to miss work. Also take into consideration travel times for out of town guests, appointment times for the mom-to-be, or even times of day when the expectant mom may be especially sleepy and need a nap.

Do I need to plan any games?

Games are not necessary, but can be a fun way to bring participants together in the joy of a new baby. Some games might include parenting skills like timed diapering of a baby doll. Some might be guessing games, like estimating the mother's waist circumference or a betting pool on the baby's birthday. Prizes for these sorts of games add to the fun.

Other games include sharing parenting wisdom, or stories from the expectant mother's own childhood to provide her with inspiration and support as she prepares to mother her own child.

There is a wonderful list of games and activities available at Babyshowergames.com if you need any help planning some fun activities for your shower!

How do I set a warm and inviting environment?

This can be easier said than done in some instances, but with a little planning all should go well and without undue excitement.

Greet each guest as they arrive and immediately introduce them to someone else already there. This will help to start conversations, especially among guests who may not already know each other.

Find some unique conversation starters like asking guests to wear a picture of their children pinned to their clothing. Who doesn't love to brag about her own child? You could also provide name tags with a small note, such as, "I attended grammar school with Susie." This is a sure way to start conversations.

Make sure you offer guests liquid refreshments and any other food or snacks that you have provided. Set the mood with lighted candles, flowers and decorations. You may also choose to have pleasant music playing softly in the background. You want your guests to enjoy their time at the party as much as the guest of honor!

The most important thing to remember:

Do not wait until the last minute to plan and get things ready!

Shellie Spradlin is a long time Pregnancy.org contributor and beloved member. As mom to three beautiful girls, two boys and a 1995 angel baby, Shellie has experienced both the pains and discomforts of pregnancy along with the excitement and joys! Shellie resides with her family in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.

Copyright © Shellie Spradlin. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.