The role of baby shower hostess has evolved and can include pretty much anyone in the expectant mom's life, including friends, relatives, and even spouses. But there are party-planning basics to ensure that the celebration is a success. We checked with event planners for a step-by-step guide to hosting a fun and festive party.
Select a date and time. Consult with the guest of honor to come up with a date and time for her party. Most baby showers are held when the expectant mom is about seven months pregnant -- she's safely into her pregnancy by then but she's probably still pretty comfortable. This time frame will also give her and her partner plenty of time to organize their gifts after the shower and decide what they still need to purchase before their little one arrives.
Determine the guest list and budget. Once the guest of honor has given you the complete guest list (be sure she gives you addresses, too!), come up with your budget so that you can plan choose a venue and start thinking about the food you'd like to serve. "If you have $500 and 10 people, you can probably splurge a bit on the venue and food," says Sabrina Hill, of Everyday Event Planner in Los Gatos, California, and co-author of The Everything Baby Shower Book. "If you have $500 and 50 people, you might need to scale back."
Choose a venue. Consider the time of year, number of guests, and budget. Hosting a shower in your backyard or living room is intimate, and you won't have to pay a fee to reserve the space. If the guest list is large, or you have a bigger budget, consider a nearby hotel or restaurant. "The setup, catering, and cleanup will be managed by their staff, so the host can sit and enjoy the event," says celebrity party planner Mindy Weiss. Parks can be a good option if you're hosting a shower in summer or fall -- just be sure to ask your local parks department whether you need a permit, and make sure to have a backup plan in case it rains.
Send the invitations. Guests should receive their invites about six weeks before the shower. "That way they'll have plenty of time to reserve the date, RSVP, shop for gifts, and find a babysitter if need be," Weiss explains. For a casual shower, an email invitation is perfectly fine. If you're hosting a more formal shower, go with a paper invite.
Plan the menu and decor. Nail down these details about three weeks before the shower. Purchase decorations that aren't perishable (wait until the day before to buy flowers, for example), and make or purchase place cards. Finalize the menu, making sure that it meshes with the guest of honor's tastes. If she's craving comfort food, try mini sliders, mini fried chicken, small bowls of potato salad, and mini cupcakes. Expectant moms who are into Mexican might like tacos, guacamole, a salsa bar, and nonalcoholic margaritas. And so on. Consider serving miniature portions to make it easier for guests to manage the food and take part in the event.
Come up with an agenda. Most showers include games, gift opening, eating, and drinking. The key is organizing these activities to create a fun flow that keeps guests entertained and engaged. Give guests 15 to 20 minutes to arrive and offer drinks to people as they come through the door. Once everyone is there, start an activity. You might want to set up a bodysuit-designing station, for example, or have guests add photos and thoughts to a scrapbook for the guest of honor. Serve food while gifts are being opened, followed by dessert and coffee.
Pick up favors. A parting gift is a simple way to thank your guests for attending, and it doesn't have to be extravagant, Hill says. One approach is to stick to your theme: CDs are great gifts for showers with a musical theme, for example, and take-home bags of candy or homemade chocolates are lovely for a sugar-and-spice theme. You should also consider your guests. Moms might appreciate magnet picture frames; pencil cups and paperweights are a good option if your party is packed with coworkers. Scented soaps, candles, or bubble bath are also common crowd-pleasers.