Contributed by B. Anderson, Henry’s Grandma, our in-house guru on etiquette
Baby showers are a special time for new parents, grandparents, sisters, as well as friends. For the mom-to-be (“MTB”) it is a challenge to decide whom to invite and what to do if there are distinct "friendship groups," e.g. office friends, social friends, or family. For some MTB’s there may be as many as 3 different showers depending on these different groups! Consider how these various groups might mesh if there is only one shower.
Step 1: MTB and dad-to-be (DTB) should decide whether they will have a couples’ shower or a ladies’ shower.
Step 2: MTB will provide a guest list to the hostess(es). The hostess will also give some idea of the numbers she can handle. These lists should include the mailing address or email addresses (if sending an evite). Be sure the list is current and correct. Sometimes it is hard to decide who should be invited. On the one hand, the MTB doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by excluding them. On the other hand she does not want guests to feel like she is asking for gifts. It is helpful to spend several days on the guest list. My experience has been that folks like to be included, and a guest can always regret if she does not care to participate.
Step 3: The MTB should give a gift to each of the hostesses as a “thank you” for the party. This gift does NOT have to be expensive. Consider the hostesses' interests, hobbies, home decor, etc. I have given or received a beautiful orchid in a ceramic pot (Home Depot has good plants and prices), a planter of fresh herbs, a collection of wonderful soaps and lotions, a set of paper placemats, a selection of seasonal paper products (napkins, plates etc.), nice candles, candlesticks, a collection of dried soup mixes, etc. If the shower is a couples’ shower a good bottle of wine is always well received. Usually these gifts are brought to the shower, but the MTB can deliver them earlier to avoid confusion on the day of the shower.
Step 4: The MTB should do her part to ensure that the guests know each other. If she has included some friends from another part of her life, she should try introducing them around.
Step 5: The MTB should be expansive in her thanks and appreciation for the event. Thanking the guests in-person with a toast for taking time from their schedules to be there and of course special thanks to the hostesses. I am a big thank you note person and feel that a personal note or an interesting post card is a requirement. I have been to a shower where each guest fills out her name and address on an envelope to make the thanking process easier for the MTB. I have also attended showers where the hostesses say that a verbal thanks as gifts are opened is enough, although, I don't agree with that, but that is a personal feeling!
It is definitely sensible from all standpoints to work with a group in hosting a shower. Each person brings a set of talents and skills, and it is usually an enjoyable experience to be part of a team. The timing of the shower can vary depending on the group. Sunday afternoons are often a good time for working ladies.
Dress up in hats and gloves for an afternoon tea
Weeknight light dinner buffet
Saturday or Sunday morning brunch – strata, muffins and fruit
Education: each guest brings his/her favorite baby books, and contributes a small amount to baby’s college fund – hostess collects before hand
Friday night cocktail party (remember MTB will not be drinking!)
After-work girls’ night out
Lunch during the week with work friends
Invitations can range from simple and clever to expensive! Some MTB’s know the baby's sex, so the invitation can display a girl or boy theme. If the group is under 20 guests, it is easy to buy packets of cute invitations and fill in the details by hand. Larger groups may require a printed variety. I have found cute card stock, and with my husband’s help, printed them at home. There is clever baby stationery available at big box office stores. Maybe one of the hostesses is good with poetry, so a poem could be used as the invite. I suggest getting the invitations out about 6-8 weeks in advance to give everyone plenty of notice. Be sure to include a deadline date for the RSVP! You are more likely to get responses back if you provide an email address in addition to a phone number.
The hostesses will decide what type of gift(s) should be presented. Would the MTB like to receive one or two large items or a variety of useful and clever baby necessities? The size and nature of the group as well as the MTB's situation will help with this decision. At a large shower it will take the MTB forever to open individual items. In this situation, having the guests contribute to a group gift is very effective. This large gift could be a major item from the registry - a car seat, stroller, crib, etc. If a contribution to purchase a large gift is to be collected it is nice to include a slip of paper with the invitation asking guests to contribute a decided amount to a group gift. Sample: "If you would like to contribute to a group gift, please send $25.00 to Jane Doe (one of the hostesses) by December 1." The amount chosen is up to the hostesses. I have seen amounts suggested anywhere from $20.000 to $35.00. Remember that this slip of paper should not be included in the MTB's invitation! It is by no means a requirement for guests to contribute to the group gift and some may have chosen something special they would like presented, but it is a nice way to shower the MTB and baby with one of the more expensive items. It is fun to have a few cute baby things along with the group gift and that always happens!
Another wonderful gift idea is to ask each guest to bring a children's book to start the new baby's library. These can be wrapped or not. Often as unwrapped they serve as a good conversation piece during the gift opening.
Shower games or activities
My experience has been that there is a shift away from the typical shower games such as word search, mustard in the napkin, etc. Prizes should be simple: Starbucks gift card or the flower centerpieces.
Activity 1: Name that baby food. Guests are divided into teams of 4 - 6. Each team is given a tray with 5 baby food jars with the labels obscured. The jars are numbered. Provide a pen and paper to each team. Each person tastes and records what she thinks is in the jar. The group that guesses the most jars correctly, wins.
Activity 2: Name that baby tune. Provide a pen and paper to each guest. If you have a piano and a pianist, great, if not use an iPod. Play a variety of songs with "baby" in the title. Guests listen and write down the name of the song. The guest with most correct answers wins.
Activity 3: Guess the $ of baby gear. Provide a pen and paper to each guest. Pass around small baby items (baby hanger, pack of diapers, diaper rash cream, baby shampoo, etc.). Have guests guess on paper how much each item costs. Guest with closest guesses wins.
Activity 4: Go around and have the guests give one piece of child raising advice or one thing they remember about how they were raised.
Activity 5: Have each guest tell about the book she brought and why she chose it.
Usually guests go through a buffet line and sit with plates in their laps (light weight basket trays are often helpful). If there is space to set a table, consider putting the honorees - MTB, grandmas, special aunties etc. at a table with place cards. Other guests can sit around the room.
Menus: keep it simple
Offer a variety of salads (3 or 4): chicken salad; fruit; caprese salad; pasta salad; rice salad; corn salad; Oriental cabbage salad; tossed green salad - with nice bread rolls.
Wraps cut into a manageable size are also nice. Chicken pouches: chicken salad in a wanton pouch is easy.
For a dinner shower, try a chicken rice casserole and tossed salad with French bread.
A tea could include finger sandwiches (cut into teddy bear shapes, squares or triangles), sweet pastries, fruit kebobs, scones and clotted cream.
When guests arrive they may like juice, iced tea, or champagne punch. Be sure that each table has a water pitcher and glasses.
Seasonal touches are always fun: e.g. apple cider in the fall, lemonade and iced tea in summer, hot tea or cocoa in the winter.
Dessert: Cupcakes are popular. Recently I found tiny naked babies (plastic) at Michaels and put one atop each cupcake. A baby themed cake is great (find out what appeals to the MTB) or decorated cookies.
Be creative with a floral arrangement for the table center or buffet. There are many ways to incorporate a new baby into the arrangement - containers, adding baby items (rattles pacifiers etc) to the arrangement, using a seasonal arrangement with pink or blue flowers I used green gourds to surround pink roses for a fall shower. One group decided to use their flower budget for baby boy toys - trucks, cars, etc as table centerpieces. If books are the gift, pile them at the center with flowers atop.
A “diaper cake” centerpiece: directions for making these are online. They are fun to do and MTB will need a good diaper supply.
This is strictly up to the hostesses and the budget. I have seen beautiful cookies wrapped individually and tied with a bow given to each guest as she left. One MTB found seed packets and wrapped them cleverly in a tiny bag and gave them to each guest along with a little poem about the seed sprouting like the new baby. A variety of teas could be wrapped in a clever bag. The packaging is the key here!
There are probably millions more clever and enjoyable shower ideas out there, but I hope these thoughts will get you folks going!
Etiquette Guru for Babies In The Wilde