How to Plan a Baby Shower

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Countdown to a Very Special Event

Your best friend has announced that she's expecting a baby. You are so happy for the mother-to-be that you decide to throw a baby shower for her. After all, this might be one of the last chances she has for a get-together with her BFFs, at least for a while. And if that's not a good reason to have a party, what is?

Get By With a Little Help

You can divide party organization with fellow attendees, especially if the party is going to be a large one. One person might be in charge of games, another in charge of favors, another in charge of the guest list and RSVPs, with other tasks to be taken on as necessary.

Besides being a fun time with friends, a baby shower often equals useful gifts. The expectant mother is provided with things she can use right from the start. She'll feel less overwhelmed by her own preparations. And, of course, the support of friends is the best gift of all. Now, having made the commitment, how should the party planner proceed?

Note: The old rules were that a baby shower was held only for the first baby. These days, it's okay to have showers for the 2nd or 3rd or 10th baby. So if you want to hold a shower, go ahead and do it. If the previous children are old enough, they may even want to help!

When and Where Will it Be and Who's Coming?

Pencil in a date about seven to 10 weeks ahead of time, bearing in mind that the majority of baby showers take place about seven months into the pregnancy. This gives you plenty of time to prepare and also gives the mom-to-be time to do her own prepping. Consult with her (unless this is to be a surprise party), but it's best not to task her with any of the grunt work. She does, of course, have veto power over the slate of guests.

Decide how big this party should be, then draw up the final guest list and a guesstimated budget.

Email the potential shower-goers; in the email, ask if the recipient knows of other friends or relations you might have inadvertently left out. Also, ask for everyone's address so you'll be ready to send the formal invitations by post three weeks before the event. Request invitees to let you know of any special dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, nondairy, no-peanuts, no-gluten, and so on).

Choose a place. No matter the number of guests or the tightness of the budget, you have plenty of options. A friend's backyard, deck or living room could be the perfect place for a cozy gathering. A park setting could work well, as could a restaurant, the function room of a hotel, or a convention hall. Check out what's available and when. You may need to reserve the space far ahead of time.

If the party is especially large and you have a big budget, consider using a venue that offers catering, set-up, decoration and cleanup_—_for a fee, naturally. You could also investigate local independent services. Having professionals handle the details would enable you to enjoy the party with the rest of the guests instead of running yourself ragged getting the food ready and doing all those little tasks that come up during the party itself.

Putting it all Together

If possible, choose a theme for the shower, anything from general baby decor to something of special interest to the soon-to-be mom. Is she a gardener? A dog or cat lover? A sportswoman? Take your inspiration from the guest of honor and decorate with abandon!

Send out the formal invitations RSVP about six weeks before the shower, and allow some time for the replies_—_until a week or so before the event.

Provide a map and the theme in any additional emails and in the formal invitations. Three weeks before the shower, plan the menu and finalized budget.

Go shopping. Buy decorations, favors, small paper bags with handles for favors, goodies and whatever theme-related gewgaws you will need.

The Opening of the Gifts

Gift-opening is the whole point of many baby showers. The guest of honor opens her gifts gleefully as everyone else oohs and aahs. No gift is too small, if given with love.

However, if the party is a very large one, the gift-opening can take a great deal of time and become tedious even for the future mom herself. In order to maintain a semblance of order, the guests may decide ahead of time to set a predetermined time limit.

Fun and Games

Special activities and games can pep up the party and bring folks together. For example, you might give everyone a plain white baby-bib (from a craft store, dollar store or local shop) and no-ironing-needed fabric markers. The guests will have a good time creating their own "wearable art" which will, in turn, be given to the mom-to-be_—_a personal yet decidedly useful extra gift.

Another idea involving all of the guests would be for everyone to bring their own baby photographs. The game then consists of mixing up these pictures and everyone guessing who's who. Little prizes can go to the game winners. You can also play trivia concerning the mom-to-be, especially in relation to her own childhood, her family and friends. Continuing the photograph theme, guests could be encouraged to bring memorabilia and/or photographs of the mother-to-be from various stages of her life.

Later on, all this material might be used to assemble a scrapbook right there on the spot, giving future-mom a tangible reminder of this special day.