Planning A Baby Shower Successfully And Painlessly

Take the aggravation out of planning a baby shower and keep guests talking about it afterward. Make your own invitations, automate your mailing lists, and never forget a thank-you note.

Planning a baby shower for yourself, a friend, or someone in your family can be tricky, time-consuming, and very involved. If you are the expectant mother, you might already be tired and worried about more important things, such as appointments, your general health, your finances, or the baby itself. If you are planning a shower for someone else, you will have to work around their preferences and jumble of emotions, not to mention their due date. Ideally, you will want to hold a baby shower about three to four weeks before the baby is due.

Lists: A Real Headache Remedy

You will save yourself the migraine if you start planning by making a lunch date with the mother-to-be (or your friend who is planning it for you if you are the mother-to-be). Bring along a date book with a calendar large enough to write numerous notes on, a pencil (if you have to erase the first date or two), and an address book of people that you or the mother knows that you think will attend.

Here are a few helpful lists:

Guest List: This is a no-brainer. This list should include members of the expectant mother's immediate family, her immediate in-laws (if she has any), grandparents, and close acquaintances from work (particularly if the mother-to-be is not returning to work after having the baby, it might be the last time they see her). Another best practice is to invite people who attended the expectant mother's bridal shower previously (if she is married). The guests will appreciate being remembered and invited again, and they will most likely have a good idea of what kind of gift to buy this time, based on how they shopped for the last event. When inviting a guest and their whole immediate household, take a head count.

Food List: This should include what meal of the day (lunch, dinner, or appetizers and cake) that you want to serve, depending on the time of day that you plan to hold it. Other things on that list could include the following:

1. Cake: What flavor, frosting, filling, and theme/cartoon character. A Winnie the Pooh cake for a shower that already has Pooh decorations is a nice touch. A common well-wishing message on most shower cakes is "Hello Baby, Goodbye Tummy." Anything written on the cake is best addressed to the mother-to-be. Or it could be a welcome to the baby. Go with the mother-to-be's favorite cake flavor.

2. Number of hot or cold entrees: Two hot entrees is usually enough for any party, with one or two cold salads and appetizer or two. Topping it all off with cake and punch will be enough. Buying soda by the case or big jugs of fruit punch concentrate at stores like Price Club will knock down the cost of satisfying everyone's thirst.

3. Extras: If you are planning on party favor bags of candy or cookies, or any other little edible tidbits, include it on your list.

4. Chips or other "waiting" food: If you think people will be impatient about waiting for the main entrees to be served, keep some chips or any other appetizer platter that people can walk up to and pick from on the table before you serve everything else.

5. Pre-made platters: Figure out where to buy platters of finger foods and how many trays you will need, and figure in cost.

Wish List: This is a list of items that the mother-to-be wants the most, whether it is just a cute baby outfit or a preferred baby stroller. The easiest way to put this list together is just to have the mother-to-be print out a gift at the store where she registered. You can hint on the telephone about these things to guests as they RSVP.

Needs List: On this list, make note of all the vital items that are not just novelties that the parents-to-be have not purchased themselves yet. You will want to make note of a few of these on the invitation.

Address List: This is where the address book comes in. If multiple family members are being invited from one household, you may want to send one invitation that has the family name on it (i.e., "The Jones Family"). Save additional postage by hand-delivering invitations to people that you see frequently or that live near you. Hold onto this list, since the mother-to-be or the shower coordinator will use it again for thank-you notes (and in most cases, baptism invitations and birth announcements).

What to Include in the Invitations:

Include the obvious items on the invitation, using your day planner as your guide:

Date

Day of the week (make sure that the day and the calendar date match, or you will have to call everyone to clarify)

Name of the mother-to-be

Name and address of the location (if it is a restaurant, include the cross-streets and dining area or conference room, if applicable)

RSVP contact person (the shower coordinator or the mother-to-be; if it is a surprise, then a family member of the mother-to-be is ideal)

Contact phone numbers

Clarification on whether or not small children are invited; some mothers-to-be don't always appreciate small children at a baby shower that might want to stick their hands in the cake or rip open the gifts before it is time.

Here are a few more useful things to add on the invitation itself:

Name of the baby; keep in mind that you can omit this for mothers who have not found out the gender

An abbreviated wish list

Whether or not the mother-to-be is expecting multiples

The due date of the baby

Whether or not the expectant mother wishes for gift certificates from stores where she registered

Things to Tuck into the Envelope

You might want to include the baby registry list (print one copy at the store and make Xerox copies at an affordable copy store) and a small map to the neighborhood where it is being held. You can draw a small map yourself, create one in a graphics program on your own computer, or generate one using the links and options common to most Web browser homepages. You will most often find this option on the page near the fields that allow you to look for someone's email address or telephone number online. These maps are accurate and include cross-streets, legible street names, and landmarks in that area.

Preparing to Send Invitations

For hand-delivered invitations, tuck the flap of the envelope inside. For mailed invitations, seal them shut by dampening the flap, or by using a decorative sticker or seal.

Plan to send invitations two weeks before the shower. Your guests will need time to clear their calendar and buy a gift.

Custom Invitations

If you cannot find the perfect invitation at a party or office store, you can purchase half-fold envelopes for greeting cards, as well as greeting card stock that has folding marks that allow you to fold it neatly in half without puckers.

If you are working with a word processing program that has a "mail merge" function (i.e., one that allows you to merge address book entries from your email or from a database program with your envelope document), you can print a large run of pre-addressed envelopes quickly.

If you want the graphic letterhead on your envelopes to match your invitation, then save a small version of your graphic file and import it into the letterhead of your envelope. The image should be about one inch by one inch, preferably no larger than a postage stamp. You can place it above, beside, or below the return address as an embellishment.

When you print a card that you created using a desktop publishing program, remember a few pointers:

Choose the landscape option on your inkjet or laser printer

Make sure your printer can handle the color and half-screen options that you specified in your document setup

Use low-memory images that do not look pixelated if you have a printer with low resolution

Feed the invitation paper into the printer face down; to make it double-sided, print the first page only, wait for it to dry (for inkjets), and then run it back through, with the first printed side facing up

Always run a test copy on a piece of cheap paper before using your card stock or fancy paper

If you are printing a small invitation on a standard sheet of paper, you may want to add hash marks and registration marks that will allow you to trim them neatly with a paper cutter later. Many desktop publishing programs with greeting card templates offer this option in the print setup.

Parking

Make sure you have adequate parking for everyone who is attending the shower. Ask your neighbors ahead of time if it is okay for your guests to park in front of their houses if you run out of room. If you hold the shower at a restaurant, ask them if you can reserve some parking.

Pointing the Way to the Party

A sign in the front yard is an excellent idea, in case the house where the shower is held looks like the ones around it. Another sign at the intersection of the nearest cross street is also helpful, much like a garage sale. You can purchase some nice signs for the yard at the party store that you can spike into the ground.

Games

This is another item that might need a short list to save a headache. Shower games can occasionally be purchased at party stores or craft shops, or you can buy books that suggest shower games and other ideas. Baby shower games might follow general knowledge themes of childbirth, old wives' tales, and baby paraphernalia.

Here are a few popular old standbys:

The Gerber game: Guess which kind of baby food is in the jar, with the label removed. Pass the jars around for people to look at the color and smell the aroma.

Safety pins and rice: Old-fashioned cloth diapers are held shut by safety pins. They are almost impossible to pick out of a bowl of dry rice when you are blindfolded. Whoever picks out the most pins in three grabs wins.

Scoop the cotton balls: Fill a big bowl with cotton balls. Blindfold each guest and have them scoop them out of it with a spatula. It is virtually impossible, but fun. The most cotton balls successfully scooped out of the bowl wins the game.

Crossword puzzles and word finds: Occasionally you can purchase these from party shops.

Name games: For a baby boy's shower, have guests write down as many boy's names beginning with or ending with a specific letter in two minutes. For a girl's shower, do girls names.

Guess the object: Fill a paper grocery bag with baby objects like washcloths, rattles, bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, and teething rings. Make guests fish around in the bag without looking so they can feel and identify each object and write it down. The most correct guesses wins.

Diaper the baby: Have each guest attempt to diaper a teddy bear in 30 seconds.

Pacifier necklaces: Using twine or ribbon and plastic pacifier favors from a party store, make necklaces out of them and give each guest one upon entering. Each time a guest crosses their legs or ankles, they have to forfeit their necklace to the person who caught them. The most necklaces taken by the end of the party wins.

Party Prizes

You can purchase affordable gifts at discount or "dollar" stores to use as prizes for the party games. Stick with ungender-specific prizes if you are having a co-ed shower. Keep the prizes gift-wrapped in a basket on the mantle or gift table.

Playing Secretary

The shower coordinator will do well to keep a scratch pad and to stand by as the expectant mother opens her gifts. Write down which guest gave what gift. Accurate and personalized thank-you notes depend on this list.

Kid-Proofing Your Shower

Keep the punch bowl on a high counter, and keep the cake in the refrigerator until you are ready to cut it. Keep those things out of temptation's reach.

Move gifts packaged in gift bags with tissue moved toward the back of the gift stack, or somewhere high. Kids can get into these and pull everything out before anyone can write down who gave it.

Buying Clothing for the Baby

When purchasing gifts or making suggestions to guests, keep the season in mind. A baby born in January will need winter clothing in small sizes (zero to three months, six months, and nine months); spring clothing should be in medium sizes (nine, 12, or 18 months), and winter clothing that will fit them by their first birthday should be in toddler sizes (24 months or 2T). Use this sizing method based on the baby's birth month and logical cycle of growth.

Bottle-Fed Babies

If the mother is not going to nurse, formula is a good item to include on the needs list.

Don't Forget Big Brother

Or Big Sister. On the invitation, include the older siblings in the family (if there are any) as "cohosts" of the shower, as well as in the gift giving. Try not to leave them out.

Pets

Put large or rambunctious pets in the garage or back yard as weather permits so they do not disturb the gifts, the games, or the guests.

Gift Wrap Bonnet

Make the mother-to-be a bonnet out of a paper plate by covering it with bows from all of the gifts. Take a snapshot to include in the baby book.

Camera

The shower coordinator should keep a camera handy, with indoor film and a flash. Disposables are all right as long as they have a flash. Using 35mm, 300 series film is perfect for indoor pictures. Get closeups of the mother opening the gifts. When you develop them, ask for doubles.

Last Tiny Details

Add a shower invitation to the baby book. Give your guests a party favor as they exit. If there is a baptism planned for after the birth, mention the tentative date and church.

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