When it comes to life’s biggest events, you don’t get much bigger than the birth of a baby. And so it follows that the shower leading up to this occasion should be appropriately meaningful. Happily, this does not require slaving over a fantastically elaborate spread. To truly honor these new beginnings (and elicit oohs and aahs from your guests), all you need is a little creative vision and a few personal touches.
Make your baby-shower invitation into a mock library slip for the mom-to-be’s “Great Expectations.” Write the party details on a vertical index card, stamp the book’s (er, baby’s) due date at the bottom, and mail the card in a coin envelope. (Everything to make this invitation is sold at office-supply stores.)
Long considered mere filler (and unwanted filler, at that), baby’s breath is strikingly lovely on its own when gathered in a large, airy bunch. Sold at most florist shops, it’s inexpensive and neutral enough to work in any setting. Drop a generous handful into a tall ceramic or glass vase.
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If you don’t have a dozen extra chairs lying around (or room to set them up if you do), provide throw pillows or ottomans for the (younger, more limber) guests to sit on. And, if possible, limit the gift-opening portion of the party to one hour or less. Any longer and all guests can start to get antsy.
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To give your shower a garden-party feel, buy small pots of thyme and slip in Popsicle sticks that identify the herb (and, thanks to a play on words, announce the upcoming big day). Bonus: The plants double as party favors.
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Personalized Favor Idea
Block letter stamps turn a stack of blank matchboxes into custom favors. (You can find blank matchboxes and stamps at party-supply websites.) If you wish, make extra for the couple to use at their own parties. And try customizing some paper cocktail napkins, too.
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Garnish a baby-shower table with Champagne glasses, each filled with a perfect coupling of jelly-bean flavors (coconut with pineapple, lemon with lime, and cherry with vanilla).
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Pretty Place Settings
For a baby shower, it’s child’s play to turn ho-hum white napkins into little bundles of joy. To make this sweet take on the napkin ring, knot a narrow ribbon around a plastic rattle, then loop the ribbon around the folded napkin and finish it off with a bow.
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Gifts as Centerpiece
Instead of splurging on an elaborate (and probably expensive) centerpiece, let the guests’ gifts do the work. Stack presents on the coffee or buffet table for an instant, eye-pleasing still life of patterned papers and pastel bows.
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Food & Drink
Each of these traditional shower delights—crustless tea sandwiches, dainty desserts, bubbly cocktails—comes with a little twist.
Chicken Salad If desired, stir in one of the following to your recipe: • 1½ cups watercress and 1 Granny Smith apple, both finely chopped • 1 pint quartered cherry tomatoes and ½ red onion, finely chopped • 1 teaspoon curry powder and ½ cup jarred mango chutney • ½ cup store-bought pesto
Egg Salad If desired, stir in one of the following to your recipe: • 1 tablespoon chopped capers and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley • 1 tablespoon olive tapenade • 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon • 1 tablespoon sweet relish
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A successful shower game is easy to play, appeals to all ages, and does not overly embarrass the honoree (or, worse, her mother).
If you’re throwing a baby shower, ask each guest to bring a photograph of herself as an infant. String the pictures along a wall with a clothesline and pins, and have guests try to decipher one adorable face from the next. You can keep it casual and have guests point out their pictures as they walk down the line. Or, to make a true game out of it, number the clothespins and have guests write down guesses as to which pin is holding whose photo. Keep a master list and act as judge. Added benefit: The clothesline doubles as a sweet decoration, and you can hang some of the cute shower loot—onesies, booties, bibs— on the line when the honoree is opening her gifts.
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Stick the supplies the honoree will need under her chair so you won’t have to part the sea of guests to fetch them in the middle of the party. Include scissors, large trash bags, a notebook and a pencil to record the gifts and their givers, and sticky labels to help keep similar gifts (such as platters or glassware) straight.
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Opening the presents is the easy part. Helping the honoree pack them back up (and doing it quickly and efficiently) is more challenging.
Group them: Arrange the gifts in labeled shopping bags or boxes according to type (baby clothes in one, toys in another; linens in one, kitchenware in another). When the honoree arrives home, she’ll have an easier time unpacking all the loot.
Carry them: When a shopping bag is stuffed with presents, it can be difficult to grasp both handles at once. Make it easier to carry the bag by fashioning a sturdy handle out of packing tape. Cut a 16-inch strip of tape and fold it in half lengthwise, adhesive sides in, so that it is still 16 inches long but half as wide (and not sticky to the touch). Thread the strip through the bag’s handles. Tie the ends of the strip above the handle and seal them together with more tape. This loop is your new handle.
Ship them: If the guest of honor lives in another town, have a supply of shipping boxes and labels on hand so the gifts can be sent directly from your house to hers. That way, she won’t get stuck with excess-baggage fees on her flight—or a car too full of boxes to fit the people she’s traveling with.
Stuff them: Don’t have an economy-size carton of packing peanuts stashed in your garage? Then use the discarded wrapping and tissue paper from the opened presents to cushion fragile items before the guest of honor lugs them home. (Even if the breakables are nestled safely in individual boxes, stuff extra padding between boxes to safeguard against jostling.)
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