Initially, I debated about whether I wanted a baby shower because I knew I’d become stressed out during the planning process, but I also knew that the expectant arrival of a baby is one of the most exciting moments in a mother-to-be’s life, and the special time should be celebrated with family and friends. We are the vessels through which human life enters into the world and it has been this way since the beginning of time. We should celebrate each other! I also considered that my baby girl will be my parents’ first grandchild, so having a shower in my hometown of Chicago was important to them which made it all the more important to me.
There are so many benefits to having a baby shower. Gifts are an obvious one, but how often do you get to have most of the women you care about, from all ages, under the same roof at the same time? I’m talking about generations of women coming together to celebrate new life! There is something very sacred about that.
Not long after my mother started planning my shower, she took a break because my paternal Grandfather became very ill and passed away. Once we all bounced back from grieving his death, I could have taken a backseat and left all the planning up to my mother, but being the persnickety woman I am, I had to be involved, plus after what we had just been through, I felt that she needed the help.
I wanted a simple, ladies-only, pink and green, garden-party-themed shower that felt airy and intimate with the perfect amount of sweetness. My preference was to hold the shower at my parents’ house, but my mother was adamant about renting a space. My Mother scouted venues for a couple of weeks, sent me photos and videos, and we were not impressed with any of them. Again, I had a vision and did not want to settle. I searched online for rental spaces in Oak Park, the village I grew up in adjacent to the west side of Chicago. I stumbled upon Austin Gardens which, despite limited information and photographs online, seemed like a better fit for the number of guests we planned to invite, plus they had very large windows overlooking the park. A close friend of the family volunteered to tour the site, and if it was to my liking, she’d secure it for my preferred time and date, but she failed to do so. After a couple of weeks, my Mother visited the Oak Park Park District‘s main office and after meeting with the rental coordinator, paid and reserved Austin Gardens before seeing the event space in person. Either way, securing a location offered a tremendous amount of relief. Next, we could direct our focus on the other details.
I ordered my invitations and mailed them out 5 weeks before the shower. Regarding décor, I didn’t want a room full of balloons and excessive decorations; I wanted everything to be simple and elegant. I wanted pink and green table settings with a small floral arrangement as centerpieces. I also wanted separate tables for the drink station, dessert bar, and the main course(s) with accompanying wine cork food labels. Though the party size was average (about 35 women total), I wanted a buffet-style setup because food is a key element when bringing people together. Our menu was as follows:
Spicy Mini Cream Cheese Balls with Turkey, Bacon, Walnuts, and Almonds on a Pretzel Stick
Black Bean Dip with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Garden Tray with an assortment of Chopped Vegetables
5 Types of Wings – Plain, Buffalo, Teriyaki, Mango Habanero, and Lemon Pepper
Italian and Angus Meat Balls
Mini Turkey Hoagies
Macaroni and Cheese
Strawberry and Banana Cake
Pastry Tier – Assorted French Macaroons, Mini Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes, and an assortment of Cookies
Sparkling and Still Water, Fruit Juice, and an assortment of Soda
When my friend Jenna and I landed in Chicago the Thursday morning before my shower, we stopped by Austin Gardens so that I could see the space to finalize some details. Upon our arrival, we discovered that the space was used as a preschool during the week, and the rude woman who answered the door would not let us inside. We understood that we could not go in for safety reasons, but what we didn’t understand was the nastiness coming from every inch of this woman’s body. Maybe she was having a bad day, or maybe our pretty brown skin was an issue for her. Anywho, what I noticed from the door and even from the outside of the building was finger-paintings taped to the large windows and messy shelves of children’s toys. I called the park district to ask about whether those things would be removed from the space, and was told that they’ve “never had anyone else complain about those things before.” I responded, “Well, I’m cut from a different cloth.” My response must have set the woman off because she, as well as one other coordinator, gave us trouble over the next two days.
In the beginning, we were under the impression we could arrive 30 minutes early to set up, and that we’d have a certain amount of seating. During my call, they told us we’d have 15 seats less than their maximum capacity, and we were not allowed to go in until 4 p.m. which was the start time for my shower. The representatives at Oak Park Park District were consistently rude and caused a bit of a headache for us. Needless to say, we will never recommend or rent a space from them again.
The day of the shower was surprisingly relaxing. I got a manicure and pedicure with my mother, Jen, and aunt, then we had lunch. Once we got back home, I took a nap. The weather was very unkind – 30 degrees with rain and light snow flurries. We arrived at the space at 4 p.m. when the attendant told us he had been waiting for us for an hour. All we could do was laugh because just the afternoon before, we were told something very different. Since some of my guests were on time, my Mother and a few of my friends scrambled to get everything in its place while I mingled with guests. Of course everything we had planned as far as décor was not put out but we decided to push forward and make the best of it!
The shower ended up being very enjoyable in spite of our difficulties. I got to spend time with my closest relatives, childhood friends, and meet some of my mother’s colleagues, and that’s what mattered most. Several people traveled from out of state to be there, and I was very appreciative. We laughed, played fun games, and took a ton of pictures. After the shower, the celebration continued at my parents’ house. At that point, I was relieved that it was over! It was time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the weekend.
I learned some very valuable lessons during this process, and urge you to learn from my mistakes and successes. If you’ve taken the lead in hosting a baby shower for a close friend or family member who is expecting a bundle of joy, or if you’re planning your own, read below to learn more about why you should have a shower, and get some vital tips that will help you stay organized, on schedule, and worry-free which may lead to the perfect baby shower!
You can never start planning your shower too early. If you know that you’re having one, start brainstorming as soon as you find out the gender of your baby. If the gender is being kept a surprise, you can start planning even earlier. Be sure to keep a notebook specifically for your shower where you can keep all of your ideas, schedules, list of supplies, to-do lists, etc.
Coed or Ladies Only
My shower was for was the ladies only. I didn’t think to specify that on the invitation, so a few women assumed they could bring their husbands. When they called my mother to R.S.V.P., she kindly informed them that this was not an occasion for the men.
Ladies Only isn’t everyone’s preference, and this should be decided early in the planning process. Men can totally be involved! For some couples, having men attend the celebration adds a different dynamic to the celebration and plenty of fatherhood laughs.
Boy, Girl, or Gender Neutral?
I know that gender reveals are a big thing now, but I couldn’t care less. I wanted to know the gender of my baby as soon as the ultrasound could detect it, and told my closest family and friends the very same day. If the sex of your baby is a secret, be sure to use neutral colors and themes for your shower, and encourage people to buy gifts off a registry or gift cards. Everyone’s idea of “gender-neutral” is different, and you don’t want to spend time exchanging gifts, or wasting gifts by not using them at all. If your shower will have a gender-based theme, well, there are no holds barred. You can practically do whatever you want. Just remember to keep it fun!
Choose a Location and Date
One of the biggest tasks on your to-do list is to choose a location and date. Your guest list will help to determine the location as it will dictate how much space is needed. If space permits, you may want to consider having your shower in your home. At-home showers feel more intimate and are easier considering you won’t have to transport food, beverages, and décor unless it’s catered. If holding your shower at home is not an option, I suggest booking a party room at a restaurant or catering hall, and make sure parking is convenient. Make sure you tour the space and all of the logistics are discussed and get a copy of your contract. Also, you typically want to hold your shower near your 32nd week of pregnancy. At this point, you know the gender of your baby, you aren’t entirely run-down with pregnancy, and your bump is the perfect size for great photos!
Send Invitations with Plenty of Notice
Ideally, you want to send out invitations 6 to 8 weeks in advance. I ordered my invitations from Zazzle and sent them out 5 weeks in advance. I felt that was plenty of time for people to figure out whether they could attend. The cut-off time was one week before my shower. There were a few people who R.S.V.P’d that didn’t show up, and a few who did not R.S.V.P that did show up. We even had people calling the day after the deadline to say they were planning to attend. The point is you could give people a year to decide and some still will not R.S.V.P. on time. Once you have your confirmed list of guests, you can better gauge how much food, drinks, seats, and games you will need.
Create an Agenda
When it comes to events, I like to have an agenda to follow. Having an agenda helps to stay on track, and ensure you don’t skip over anything. We didn’t follow our agenda minute-for-minute, but the order of the shower flowed very smoothly, and although we had a late start, we finished closer to 6:40 than 6:30. We weren’t all over the place scrambling to decide what should come next. Trust me, with everything else that could arise, having an order of flow helps a lot.
I knew from the beginning I wanted a comfortable, long, floral print dress that framed my larger breasts and belly nicely. I looked at several maternity websites but chose my dress from Pink Blush. It was absolutely perfect.
Finding a comfortable maternity dress isn’t hard. You really just need to know what style and color you’re looking for. The hardest part is making sure you order the correct size. You don’t want to order too soon because you may grow out of it before you even get into it. You don’t want to order too late because it may not make it in time. I ordered my dress 12 days in advance, but I also had a backup that I ordered from Asos.
I also had a preference for my guests’ attire. I asked everyone to wear pretty pastels because they fit my theme.
Food, Beverages, and Décor
My favorite part about the shower was planning the menu. I spared my guests from having to eat vegan food and decided to include animal protein. Having something everyone could enjoy was very important to me. When planning your menu, consider finger foods and light appetizers because they are easy to eat and don’t take up much space. We catered most of the food but left the macaroni on the homemade list. Let’s face it, there is nothing like homemade macaroni and cheese.
For your beverage station, have something from every category: soda, juice, and water. Some women serve alcohol at their showers. I recommend a few bottles of white and red wine, sparkling wine, or champagne.
Decorations can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are detailed-oriented. One thing you can count on is having an array of options when it comes to décor. The possibilities are endless. You can choose a theme and have it represented in your cake as well.
Speaking of cake, I loved my pastry tier. Everyone knows I love cupcakes. Dessert is another area where you can keep it simple or get as creative as you want. I definitely say that whatever you decide, keep it petite, and always have a cake! Place the order for your cake in enough time so you can pick it up the day before. No one wants to rush around the day of the shower to do anything!
Choose a Master of Ceremonies
Naturally, I would have asked my mother to MC my shower, especially since she was the one hosting it, but since she was busy being pulled in many directions by family and friends, I asked Jenna to act as the master of ceremonies. She was perfect for this role because not only does she have a degree in theater, she has a great personality and is used to MCing other events. She commanded the room and kept the order flow moving smoothly.
Since I don’t live in the city where my shower was held, I asked everyone to give gift cards as gifts. I didn’t want the hassle of packing and shipping a ton of items back to Atlanta. Not everyone got me gift cards, but with fewer items to get back to Atlanta, I was able to pack some in the extra space in my suitcase, and ship the rest in two medium-sized boxes. The crib that we were gifted unfortunately had to stay in Chicago.
My husband and I chose not to do a registry in the best interest of everyone. I was shocked at how much baby stuff is out there. My mind was going in circles! We are very particular and do thorough research and comparisons before purchasing anything for our baby. We read materials and ingredients, reviews, compare quality and prices, and felt it would be easier for us to pick our items after the shower. The important factor for us is whether or not something is organic. Organic is a big deal for us.
I also hadn’t made up my mind about the colors in the baby’s nursery, so I didn’t want a ton of items that don’t complement each other. We are so very grateful for our gifts and gift cards because preparing for a baby comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
Will you have a registry? If so, I recommend getting your registries together very early, especially if this is your first child. It can be a bit overwhelming.
Fun & Games
The most fun part of my shower – the games! I chose the games I was interested in playing and designed the layouts myself. Jenna printed them, and my mother’s friend turned them into game booklets and added an adorable cover page. This worked well because there wasn’t anything that needed to be passed out at the beginning of every game. All the ladies had to do was flip to the right page and get started. We played 3 games and I chose games where the ladies could stay seated because the less hectic and congested the space, the better. We gave out gift bags to each winner:
Unscramble the Words Winner: Bathed in Love Gift Bag (loofah, pumice, gel eye mask, body scrub and lotion, and scented soy candles).
Mommy vs. Daddy Winner: Champagne Wishes Gift Bag (champagne and strawberry scented body lotion, shower gel, and body mist with lavender bath salts).
Word Search Winner: You Nailed It Gift Bag (mani/pedi tool set, pink nail polish, polish remover, cuticle oil, and hand moisturizer).
We also gave a Beautiful Morning Gift Bag to the first guest who arrived. It was two gorgeous white and gold coffee mugs. One read Good Morning Beautiful, and the other She Could so She Did.
Once you figure out what games you want to play, decide if you need more than ink pens to play. If you need specific materials, don’t forget to make a list in your baby shower planning notebook so you don’t forget anything. Also, be sure to space them out during the shower to keep it exciting and something to look forward to.
I received some very sound advice from the mothers at my shower. Some advice was comical, some were serious, but all were equally valuable. My friend Tiffany told me to make sure I spend time on self-care. She asked, “How can you be great to and for your baby and husband if you aren’t taking care of yourself?” My mother’s friend said, “Don’t give 100% of your attention to baby. You have a husband. It’s OK to give him attention as well. That’s your partner, and don’t forget it.” My cousin Wendy offered the best advice. She said, “Everything you think is wrong.” The entire room laughed with confirmation. Now I’ve decided to stop obsessing so much and just roll with the punches!
Having time allotted for advice was important because it gave women a chance to briefly share their stories and be heard. Pregnancy is not always a walk on the beach, and although every woman’s pregnancy is different, it is wonderful to hear what previously pregnant women learned along their journeys because some of the information may very well apply to you.
You all should know by now that I love photographs. Other than video, photos are an incredible way to document life’s journey. We will be able to look back and reminisce about such a special occasion. Camera phone photos are perfectly fine for some people, but I highly recommend hiring a photographer. The right photographer will capture all the best moments so you don’t have to. Since I have a professional camera, I decided not to hire a photographer. Instead, I let Jenna and my mother take the photos. I knew they wouldn’t be able to adjust the camera settings for lighting but I didn’t care. I wanted to focus on being in the moment as opposed to worrying about whether they are getting my best side, white-balancing, etc.
Although I already had all of my guests’ addresses, I still had them fill out a guest book which also allowed me to record the gifts they brought for baby. I only opened gifts at the shower at the request of certain people who wanted me to open their gift(s) in front of them. For the rest, I waited until later that evening and opened them at home with the people who came over after the shower.
Thank You Cards
Yay, you made it through your baby shower! Guess what, though? The work isn’t over. It is imperative that you send thank you notes to each guest in attendance, and don’t forget the people who sent gifts but did not attend. I sent hand-written thank you notes to everyone, including my parents. I even thanked each person for the specific gift they gave. If you have the time, I urge you to personalize each card. It speaks volumes when you say to someone, “Thank you for the gorgeous floral print dress, plush pink blanket, and $100 gift card for our baby girl!”
After the shower, gather all of your greeting cards, print your photos, and invest in a beautiful scrapbook for baby. While baby is in the womb, he or she has no idea what is going on out here, but you could always show them the lovely scrapbook you made when they get older. Baby should know how loved he/she was long before they were born. I know we live in a digital age, but a physical book is very sentimental.
I hope this thorough guide helps you when planning a baby shower. Remember, babies are a gift and should be celebrated, and if you prepare properly, it will be a joyful, stress-free time. Best of luck, and well wishes!