Baby Shower Planning for a Crowd

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baby shower custom cookies
Baby Shower Planning: Custom cookies

I just hosted a baby shower with 80 guests, which had me sort of freaking out ahead of time. I had about an hour to work with, about thirty-five couples of varying ages (mostly retired folks, including folks who have attended many baby showers over the years), so I tried to come up with a mix of familiar and new-for-them games to entertain them. Mostly, though, the key to success entailed thinking in terms of maintaining sanity. Here’s what I learned.

Baby Shower Invitation

Okay, seeing as it’s 2018, we went the Evite route. Sure, it’s nice to create paper invitations, intricate ones that can be put into a scrapbook and all that, but on the other hand, not having to manage the hassle of keeping a paper list of who is coming, not needing to individually call people as the catering deadline approaches, and being able to see—at a glance—what the numbers are looking like kinda rocks. So yeah, that option won out.

Lesson One: Take advantage of technology.

Baby Shower Decorations

The couple had revealed that their nursery theme would be Babar the Elephant, from the children’s book series of their childhood. While for some odd reason the local party supply stores didn’t carry Babar-themed decorations, elephant baby shower decorations are a thing, so I went with that.

Lesson Two: Clusters of decorations means you don’t have to decorate every square inch.

I didn’t want to drop a bundle on decorations that would only be used once, so I purchased a couple of themed tablecloths, a few table decorations, and balloons. Then, I borrowed a handful of Babar books from the library and set those around the room to enhance the décor.

Baby shower decorations
Baby shower decorations

Okay, admittedly, I did drop a bundle ordering custom cookies to match the theme (egg-free because the event was held in the temple), but that was seriously my only real splurge. And they’re so adorable! But even without that, it doesn’t take much to spruce up a place and make it festive. And the fact that my 11 year old arranged the cookies and decided on the placement of the decorations makes it look that much better to me.

treat bags for baby shower favors
Treat bags for baby shower favors

Finally, for the party favors, we took plain white bags and stenciled them to make fancy, unique favor bags. This may have been a bit more labor-intensive than necessary, but my sister came over one evening after work and we had a good time painting together.

Baby Shower Prizes

These are tough. We don’t *need* the prizes, but we need something. The guests were mostly, if not all, grandparents (with their grandkids living out of town), so getting them baby-related items was pointless. Especially as the grandkids ranged in age from newborn to college graduate. So even if something kid-related was in order so they could share with their grandkid, what age? No, the gifts needed to go in a different direction.

Both impending parents are into art, so I visited our local art supply shop and picked up various art-related gifts: Ear-rasers (i.e., Vincent van Gogh’s ear, but as an eraser), mini paint sets, llama pens (they’re pens in the shape of a llama; had there been more than two, this would have been all I got, but alas), and mini journals. These all went into a basket and prize winners could go through and pick what they wanted. I believe I ended up getting too many of the journals and should have opted for more of the other gift items. Or, better yet, I should have gotten what I get as my kids’ party favor gifts—gift cards for ice cream. That would definitely fall under the simple-yet-satisfying category.

Lesson 3: Nobody goes to a baby shower for the prizes.

Baby Shower Games

I had about an hour to work with, so I decided a mix of passive and active games was in order. At one end of the room, I set up a couple of tables with the passive games (done on your own time), announcing once or twice that people had to make their guesses within the next five minutes. In the meantime, I set up for the active games.

Game 1: Who’s That Baby?

In the invitation (and in a reminder message sent out a week before the event), I asked guests to bring pictures from when they were young. Preferably babies. Eighty guests and we managed to gather fifteen pictures. Many simply didn’t have them, some forgot, others enjoyed going through their albums but didn’t find anything they thought suitable (marriage pictures were the farthest back they went). This was, after all, from a time before everyone carried around a high-resolution camera with a case showing off a picture of your children/grandchildren. And honestly, I couldn’t get too upset, since I screwed up and didn’t bring my own picture. I did, however, get pictures of all three of my boys, each around 3 months old, all looking incredibly alike. And frankly, fifteen is a good number of photos to work with.

Ahead of time, I taped poster board to the wall with “Who’s That Kid?” written on it. As guests arrived, I asked them for their pictures, reassuring those who didn’t that it was no big deal.

Lesson 4: Painter’s tape works wonders for decorating. It’s tacky enough to hold things up, yet releases easily without causing damage to walls or pictures.

Once I had all the pictures, I taped them up and numbered them. Pen and paper sat nearby, and guests were encouraged to make their guesses.

When everyone had made their guesses, they sat in chairs that were set up around three sides of a dance floor with their papers in hand. Now, rather than gather up the sheets and have one person keep score, we pulled down the poster board and went through each picture one-by-one. Then we had the owner of each picture stand up.

To cut down on cheating, you can have people exchange their guess sheets before scoring begins. Or you can say, who cares, it’s a baby shower, who cheats to win baby shower prizes? (And you can be wrong, but again, who cares?)

Activity: Baby Advice Box

I wrapped a box, drew pictures and wrote “Baby Advice” on it, and set it on a table with a stack of index cards and pens. I figured we’ve got hundreds of years of parenting advice in the room, so why not let them share it. And by writing it down, the new parents can take advice if and when they are ready for it. It’s not so much a game, but it keeps guests engaged.

Game 2: How Much Candy?

Let’s be honest. I doubt anyone needs over 2,000 pieces of candy. And while the large jar looked nice, I really could have done with a much smaller glass container. Still, I counted these candy gems, layering white on the bottom, a large section of green in the middle, and gray on top (to look like an abstract representation of Babar in his signature green suit), a resemblance that exactly zero people remarked on.

Then, rather than have people write their guesses on little scraps of paper that I’d have to unfold and organize, I just set out a pad of paper and a pen. People wrote their name and guess down, which allowed me to quickly peruse the list and easily find the number that most closely matched the actual count. Option two, if secrecy was deemed necessary and a bit of geekiness was desired, was to go with a secret ballot via a Google Form (which took five minutes to create), which saved results to a spreadsheet that I could then run a quick equation (computing the difference between the entered guess and the known solution) to quickly yield the winner. I suppose I could have done that after all, since it turned out there actually was working WiFi at the party location, but I didn’t want to worry about keeping track of my laptop at the event and opted for the paper option.

Lesson 5: Cut down on active work during the party.

Group Game 1: Baby Pictionary

Eighty guests playing a big guessing game could be kinda chaotic. And it was. So we divided the group into three teams. On the middle of the dance floor was a table with two easels angled 120 degrees apart, with a third full-length easel between them (so all three were optimally angled away from each other). On each easel was a giant pad of paper. We had gone through my entire collection of markers and managed to find a handful that actually still worked… mostly. On the middle of the table was a stack of clues. I had Googled baby-related words, then added some popular baby book titles (Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss). This list was a great start, and I probably should have stuck with that, but then I had to obnoxiously go for some more difficult words that the artists ended up passing on.

From each group, one lucky volunteer chose to draw (or was volunteered reluctantly, whatever). I set a timer for five minutes, and let the madness run its course. As their team guessed a word right, the artist would grab another word from the stack. To help it go smoothly, I would have a card ready. As this went along, I started sifting out the cards that they deemed impossible (it seemed only fair not to raise the level of intensity beyond the abilities of the crowd). Once the timer went off, the artists counted the number of cards on their stack, and a winner was declared.

Fun Group Baby Shower Game: Who Did That?

This final game took a little more pre-planning and was a bit more demanding of the crowd. Meaning, they were expected to actually move around. Mind you, all my planning was designed to have minimal downtime where I’d have to sit and count ballots or actively keep track of who has the right answer. Instead, I borrowed an idea from a school fundraising event to find an easy way to separate the crowd and find a winner.

Ahead of time, I asked the expectant couple to each send me ten little-known facts about their childhood. Some turned out to be pretty obvious (these came early), while others were more obscure. Then, when it came time to play the game, with the crowd still gathered, I had the couple sit at one end of the dance floor about five to ten feet apart.

I read out a statement, and people would stand in front of whoever they thought the statement was about. If they were wrong, they were out. We kept going until we were down to only one person on the correct side of the dance floor. Sadly, that meant we missed out on sharing lots of fun facts. But everyone had a blast.

Baby Shower Planning as a Parenting Exercise

As this was a couple’s shower, we dragged the kids along. In fact, I enlisted them to help set up. Turns out, there are plenty of ways for kids to help set up for a shower. Assembling favor bags, laying out the tablecloth, taping up decorations (and game posters). The other place where it was incredibly beneficial was in offering autonomy. I went in without a complete plan as to how the room ought to be laid out.

Lesson 6: If you can delegate, it’s worth sacrificing your perfect vision.

My 11 year old had some ideas, so I followed his lead, giving him ownership of those decisions. When appropriate. Sometimes I overrode his decision but explained why, and he concurred. Then I made sure to ask him for input whenever I could. For as long as he was actually invested in the project, I planned to engage him. His brothers were more in worker-bee mode, willing to do exactly as asked, which was also rather helpful. I try to delegate as much as possible, and let go of preconceived notions of how things must happen. That way, I leave room open for others. And that’s the best part. Yes, there was arguing, complaining, griping, and attitude aplenty, but despite that, I’d say it was overall a parenting win.