Soon enough, just about everything in your life is going to revolve around your baby. If that's not reason enough to let someone throw you a fabulous mom-to-be bash, consider this: "A baby shower can really help you feel less overwhelmed by equipping you with a lot of what you'll need when the baby arrives," says Jodi Cohen, cofounder of JOWY Productions, a Los Angeles event company. Whatever helps relieve new-parent stress is a very good thing. That's why we're answering expectant moms' most common baby-shower questions.
The timing is important; you want to have the party at least four to six weeks before your due date so that you'll have plenty of time to borrow or buy any necessities for your baby that you still need – and there’s also less of a chance you'll go into labor prior to the party.
As an alternative, there’s a growing trend of waiting until after the baby is born and then having a "welcome baby" shower, which can be combined with a bris (ritual circumcision), baby naming, or christening.
Exactly whom to invite – tight-knit friends and immediate family only, coworkers, your grandma's friend Helga, husbands and boyfriends – is 100 percent up to you and the host. But for the most fun event possible, Cohen suggests inviting only the people who are closest to you, so everyone truly shares in your joy, rather than feeling obliged to attend.
Providing the hostess with a list of names and addresses ensures that everyone you care about gets an invite. But what if your sister, your co-worker and your pal from the dog park are all planning separate showers for you? Having more than one celebration has become commonplace. "It's fine to have multiple showers," says Diane Warner, author of Diane Warner's Complete Book of Baby Showers: Hundreds of Ways to Host a Unique Celebration (Career Press, 1998). "But the guest lists should be separate. If someone is invited to more than one shower, she is only expected to bring a gift to the first one."
Although it used be considered a faux pas by etiquette experts to have a second-baby shower, it's totally okay these days. "A shower is about celebrating the new life – and if people want to celebrate every birth, even if they have 20 kids, that's fine," says Cheri Osmundsen, a mom of three in San Clemente, California. If you feel strange about having a big baby bash when you've already celebrated childbirth once or twice before, consider a smaller-scale get-together or brunch so your friends can "sprinkle" you with love and token presents rather than showering you with gifts.
People love to see tiny cute clothes and stuffed animals – but if the pile is huge, gift-opening can get tedious for guests or make those who brought smaller gifts feel bad. You and your host should decide what feels right to you, but it often works out best when presents are opened later, says Cohen. "Depending on the size of your guest list, gift-opening can go on and on, and a shower should really be three hours long at the most," she says. And, of course, even if your guests insist that a thank-you note isn't necessary, you should always send one. (You have up to the baby's 2-month birthday to say thanks without being late, according to EmilyPost.com.)
Of course, you should be happy that someone loves you enough to plan an elaborate party for 50 guests with scads of pink ribbons and silly games. But what if all you want is a nice luncheon with your five best friends? Or what if you want to skip the traditional shower altogether and invite your female and male friends for beer (for guests only, of course!) and pizza?
Fear not: There are ways to gently drop hints about what you want, says Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave: A Guide to Modern Manners for the Socially Challenged. "If the potential party giver is very sensitive or has a strong stubborn streak, ask mutual friends or family members to talk to her," she advises. "Have them say, 'You know Sharon hates being the center of attention,' then let them plant hints about the kind of shower you want. If the host is a close friend and more reasonable, just be straight with her and lay out what you do and don't want."
More and more moms are opting for parties that feel closer to a girls' night out than a standard baby shower. In fact, fancy mom-to-be soirées have become so popular at Stephanie King-Myers' original art-and-wine studio, in Chicago, that she now offers "Baby Bump" parties at all 13 of her Bottles and Bottega locations around the country. Guests drop in, have light hors d'oeuvres, sip champagne, look at art – and, if they want to, even create some of their own with the help of the studio's resident artists.
Another popular option: The mani-pedi party. Just block out a couple of hours at your favorite salon, or find a local "mobile spa" service that will come to you and your guests. And one last idea, not for the faint of heart or bashful of body: a women-only group belly-dancing lesson. Talk about celebrating your baby bump! Get everyone matching tank tops and beach wraps or simple pareos, and let the hip shaking and belly quaking begin.
We've all been to boring baby showers where the games are dorky, embarrassing for the mom-to-be, or gross (guess the candy squished into the diaper? No thanks!). A few fun tips from moms and party experts:
Give everyone fabric paints and a plain white one-piece and bib to decorate. The best part of this messy-but-brilliant baby-shower activity is that it's not only fun for guests, but the mom-to-be ends up with handmade keepsakes that she'll actually use. Leave it casual, or turn it into a contest by having guests vote on their favorite piece and giving the winner a bottle of wine. Another option: Have each guest write a message or draw a picture with permanent markers or fabric paints on a square of fabric; then, post-party, Mom's craftiest friend can sew the squares together into a cute play blanket or quilt.
Play updated games.
"My favorite shower game is when each guest brings a picture of him- or herself as a baby and you have to guess who's who," says Nicole Zeman, a mom of two in Portland, Oregon. Another matching game to try: Linking up weird celebrity baby names with their famous parents. Give little prizes to the winners of both. (Anyone who knows that Bear Blu is Alicia Silverstone's son and Kal-El – Superman's real name – belongs to Nicolas Cage deserves some sort of reward for her trivia knowledge.)
Yet another fun option from mom Tracy Saelinger, of Lake Oswego, Oregon: "At my shower someone made up a list of traits and had me write down in advance whether I wanted the baby to get those attributes from me or his dad. The guests had to guess what I picked – eyes, dad; IQ, me, of course! It was hilarious, and we all had a good laugh about both my quirks and my husband's."
Serve fancy cocktails and mocktails.
"A signature specialty drink is always fun and it's an easy way to reinforce the theme of the party if you have one," says Cohen. "For a shower with a nursery-rhyme theme, the drink could be called the Itsy-Tipsy Spider; if it's a book-themed party, guests can drink Tequila Mockingbirds." Yum!