Host Your Own Baby Shower: a Budget+Eco-Friendly Guide
Ahem. And on theme. Always.
Welcome to the Ella Adeline Edition:
The Baby Shower DIY Theme: Woodland meets Silver & Gold- an environment and budget-friendly way to introduce your future baby to your loved ones.
I know this may seem atypical; I threw my own baby shower!? Here’s the thing. Saying I’m not one for surprises is an understatement. I LOVE to control and organise: planning of events, spreads, meals, decorations and colour coordination- I cannot be stopped. One major theme which ran through my entire pregnancy was -ahem, wait for it- insomnia, which made me want to plan everything at my own pace, without having to speak/coordinate with a bunch of people (because lack of sleep clearly begs for little to no communication with the outside world) and, most importantly, in my own environment. It felt so good to wake up the morning of the special day and not have to drive around and bring decorations to another location such as a hall, family member’s house or a restaurant. It also helps that my family mainly lives in other townships or in Australia. So hey, home sweet home it was for me. Also, my boyfriend designed our kitchen in such a lovely way how could I not want to decorate and shoot it?
I should also specify that this was April 2019, almost a year before our city would be hit with this guy: covid. This day knew no government restrictions, and no fear of spreading anything but fun and wine. Oh the marvels of gatherings.
Note: I had purchased the letters for 'baby' to be place on top of 'girl', however 2 out of the 4 letters would not inflate for the life of me. So although this feels incomplete, I grieved this concept between 2 appetiser preps.
Picking the Date
I believe a shower past the 30 weeks mark is perfect: you not only know the sex of your baby (if you choose to share it of course) but also their health conditions and you are most likely very used to living with your bump and many fabulous symptoms of pregnancy so there are less risks of you passing out while attempting to prepare cocktails for your guests. Also, the worst symptoms usually go away during your second trimester (to swing back and slap you in the face during the last weeks of your third hehe) so a couple of months before your due date is just grand. As our baby girl was due end of June, I organised our shower for the end of April. For our out-of-town visitors, making it a Saturday affair is a nice gesture so they are not stuck driving/flying late on a Sunday night to rush back to their work week. You know, just a tip so people know you care.
A harsh truth: you are incubating a human life and you need to accept help here and there.
Before starting my countdown, I should add that something which I have always found excruciatingly hard my entire life but that I am starting to practice (perhaps monthly) is accepting help. It’s very nice for people to feel included in this special moment in you and your partner’s lives so I made sure to let people close to us have a task of their choice without it being too complex to coordinate the day of: my partner's mother surprised me with a cake of her own design, my parents brought the wine for the punch and various types of breads and vegetables for the platters (which means they got to arrive earlier to finish up the preparations with me and welcome guests as they arrived), and my love got to pop all the balloons once the event was over- you know, delegating. Another fun aspect was to ask both mothers to pick their favourite childhood photos of both my partner and I so they could be hung all around the venue (kk my living room), it was so sweet to see!
One: Oh No You Fondant! Ok, the Cake
Hear me out. The simpler, the better. If you have ever attended a wedding, you know how it goes: although people meticulously taste-prep and pick out every detail for their beloved cake, nobody really cares for its taste as they are too stuffed from the charcuterie platters, dips and breads of all kinds and the endless sweets table. So I would go for a simple vanilla flavour (although I have stacked both chocolate and vanilla-flavoured cakes in the past and it makes for such a beautiful cutting/reveal). All that to say that, although my cake for my baby shower was a beautiful and intricate gift, no everybody gets this option, so I went ahead and created an easy, aesthetically-pleasing cake and broke down the costs for you: angel's food cake mix and vanilla icing both from the store (of course you make both from scratch but you are pregnant and tired- it's your signature brand right now), a cute cake stand from the dollar store, along with wired plant garlands and a cake topper (ahem, all dollar store finds, but you could easily print your desired font/logo and stick it on your chosen glitter paper as a stencil and then cut, glue to a stick and voilà! I have done it many times and it looks fabulous). So first picture is my quick at-home solution and second is the gifted cake from a professional! I know they're different but hey, both worked perfectly for the aesthetic I was seeking.
A bonus with anything fondant: you can keep the ornaments on the cake and use them as decorations in the nursery (a sweet souvenir!), I still have a few items from her baby shower cake and I will treasure them for a very long time! They basically harden into a cute figurine.
Two, Punch vs. Wine, the Eternal Battle
There is a magic behind serving punches vs. serving wine in individual cups. It's called savings.
As we had minors invited (and you can never guess who is pregnant!?), I made sure to prepare 2 large jugs of punches with pineapple juice, mint, peaches, basil, Sprite with one of them with added white wine and made sure to mark them differently: the bow is for the jug containing the alcohol because wine truly is, my friends, a gift. By doing so, I diluted the amount of alcohol consumed, which ensured I could keep the bottle count at 3-5 throughout the afternoon instead of a much larger amount. By serving individual glasses of different types of wine, you are setting yourself up to having to supply many more bottles. The idea of individual servings of anything = drinks typically disappear much faster. And let's be honest, at an event with 20+ people, how many times do people leave their half-consumed drinks unattended and forget where they saw them last? My heart breaks for that wasted wine.
Also, who doesn't want to provide a signature cocktail on their special day? The herbal Ella? Summertime goddess? I didn't name it.
Bonus: adorable matching water jugs which you can fill with citrus and herbs for additional refreshment! It's just water. But cuter.
Three, the Wooden Touches
People may say this all the time, but it never loses its value: it's all in the details. Repeating your tones and textures throughout the room in subtle ways really helps tie the event together. For example, repeating a pattern of kraft paper flags, wooden pins, golden accessories and brown ropes ensured that everywhere you looked, a piece of the woodland theme remained, no matter how many pink bows and bright fuchsia gift bags filled the room (they were darling and fit in perfectly in their own ways). But do remember, themes are truly tied together in the smallest of details- like an adorable clothes line hung in the kitchen which you will see whilst you are looking up and washing your hands (or rolling your eyes at someone's comment, that works too).
Four, Food platters vs. Full Meals
By inviting your guests around 2 pm instead of noon or evening time, you get to serve snacks and platters rather than full-on sit-down meals which makes it easier to prepare in advance and less costly. It is also easier for people to walk around and socialise holding their plates instead of having to sit down to eat your fabulous bowl or ramen or world-famous bolognese (both are worth it, just saying). They can easily walk around with their bite-sized food picks, which avoids the need to provide 25 available chairs (or less, and then people have to play musical chair to eat).I went for typical cheese platters with jam, nuts and crackers, freshly chopped vegetables, bocconcini skewers with tomatoes and basil, charcuterie platters with melon, three types of pasta salads, olive selections, meringues, etc. I got to prepare a lot of it the night before and cover everything in the fridge, or the morning of. René rolled a few salami slices and he would like you to know that.
One of the many nice ways to respect everyone's lifestyles is to separate most ingredients when possible. For example, instead of rolling the prosciutto around the melon, serve the meat, melon and tooth picks separately on the same platter (but not touching), that way people can choose to either roll them on their own or simply enjoy the melon. It's a small touch and it does not seem like much, but it shows you care and people appreciate it.
Five, Cardboard Box Garlands : Hold Onto the Old Cookie Boxes
Or cereal boxes. Or moving boxes? I don't know your life. The point is, every single type of paper or cardboard box can be used to create garlands! I spent an entire evening going through our pantry and taking out cereal bags from their boxes and cutting them up into flags (using the first as a stencil for the rest of the bunch- but also making sure to add an irregular one here and there for a little more wonder, an adorable DIY look). You can then glue whichever paper you choose to add on the back (I used a mix of leftover sheets I had- all the paper you cut out to fit the box you're trying to wrap? KEEP IT for this glorious moment: brown kraft, bridal white, a textured motif one and gold dots). It was so fun to work with my hands whilst watching movies (fun fact, I always do- if I'm not importing photos from my camera, baking, meal prepping or posting on Instagram while watching Netflix, I am creating something with my hands because I have a very hard time sitting still).
Six, Game Time: Guess the Baby, Notes to Ella and Advice to Mama Board
Okay there are hundreds of different games out there but I knew one thing for sure: none of my guests would be tasting weird baby food flavours (why waste perfectly good purée containers!? leave'em for the babies), nor would they be trying to compete on diaper changing skills (I was serving alcohol after all, I just wanted the ladies to have some fun and not get too sweaty or competitive). So here are the three activities I picked, two of which did not need to be scheduled in any way, simply available throughout the event:
Guess the Baby: I handed everyone a sheet of paper and passed around pens (I purchased a huge pack just for that occasion and placed them in a cute new cup, always wanted to do that for some reason) and asked everyone (annoyingly reminding them by text the week prior) to bring a baby picture of themselves. Then you put them up on a board, number them from 1 to however many there are and have people write down (in secrecy but let's be honest alliances form quickly) who they think which baby is. A prize is of course mandatory (it's not): I went for a vegan, almond-milk Baileys bottle (make sure you are mindful of everyone's lifestyles when purchasing said gift!). My sister and our friend Daphnée ended up with the same, highest score, so they made a Baileys date out of it. Proud of how cute we all are!? Now I will say this game gets a lot more competitive and exciting if you friends look alike, I messed up on at least 3 or 4 which made it fun! One boy was invited. We guessed rather quickly, it felt like cheating. But that was a treat for all of us.
Notes to Ella aka Write Messages on Diapers: although the concept was utterly adorable, I don't think we had the best markers for the job- we got non-toxic ones of course but the words got blurry very quickly. Nonetheless, the idea is to leave a pack of newborn diapers in a basket next to a cup full of markers for people to write messages on them as the day goes on. Such a sweet thought and funny to see months later while changing diapers (my favourite was from our friend Stef who wrote 'Daddy this one is for you to change'- of course I did, but hey I had a laugh). I guess buy different pens and test them out before the special day, I still really enjoyed the concept and highly recommend!
Advice to Mama Board: this one is fairly self-explanatory, purchase a thick presentation board from the school supply section at the dollar store and fill it with rows of envelopes. I of course covered my board in kraft paper and left a pile of pre-cut sheets for people to write their best parenting tips! It was really sweet to read them later on - byt the way, I have kept absolutely every note or card ever addressed to Ella (or baby-shower related notes like this game) in a large box in her nursery. One day, she can go through all of these and know how excited everyone was to meet her and get to know her!
Seven, Party Favours : Pop it When She Pops!
Thanks to Pinterest, I found many original and personalised ways to thank our guests for celebrating this day with us. I opted for the very simple mini-Champagne bottles to which I added a bow and a label which read: Pop it when she pops! It took about 5 liquor stores to prepare my order with the right amount of mini bubbles and a drive to the middle of nowhere but hey, made it happen! POP- June 25, 2019! Also, for the minors invited, I went for a fun sparkling guava drink which looked super cute and also still gave that fizz-pop effect. I still have an empty one in our dining room- which incidentally, was my first postpartum drink after many, many months of being sober and was consumed a few weeks after her birth (I was SO nervous to drink again and pass out after a sip- but my body remembered what to do- a true trooper). I also loved getting photos from my friends who cheered/popped after being notified of her birth! Just typing that made me so emotional. Ugh. Time for another!!!!
I also flirted with other concepts which I thought I would mention: Etsie's Baby's Breath nail polish bottles which I would have adorned with beautiful bows (or you could shop around and find a shade name which reminds you of your baby's name!), they were a perfectly conventional nude shade which would have been a crowd pleaser. This, however, depends on your number of guests and is much more costly (about twice as much) as the mini Champagne bottles came down to. Maybe for your bridesmaids?
Another idea would be to gift wrap individual pop corn bags (beautiful rustic bags with matching bows) and a tag on which you would write 'thanks for popping by!' also very sweet and still a good word play on pregnancy. Honestly guys, the possibilities to say thank you in an adorable and theme-friendly ways are endless. Enjoy falling down countless Pinterest rabbit holes. I swear by the end I was planning someone's unborn baby's baptism in my head.
Eight, Nature's Gift: Look Down When you Walk
As far as I know, dead branches on your sidewalk are free. Use them to make your event look whimsical and oh-so on theme: I put mine in a large, tall vase and adorned them with baby socks. You can't go wrong with that- baby feet are simply the cutest.
Nine, Surrounded by Memories: Clothes Line for Baby Pictures
You know what looks even better than putting baby pictures all around a room and I mean every inch of the wall? Doing it with wooden clothespins. I mean come on. So inexpensive, and truly helps to capture our theme here by adding wooden accents to an already whimsical and rustic feel. The bonus is that the beautiful, older pictures which family members have entrusted you with guarding for the day are not damaged by tape of any kind, simply pinned together with soft wood and then slipped out and handed back intact. A plus.
Ten, Serving Bowls and Platters vs Original Packaging
I've seen it so many times: people trying to save time and leaving the jam for the charcuterie and cheese board in their glass jar, or even worse, the pickles (heck no). You may think that transferring every ingredient into its own serving bowl or platter is only for looks, but think again. No double-dipping in the original container (instead of ruining the entire jar with double dips, you can refill a little at a time as the day goes on and not ruin your entire precious stash) paired with portion control (why serve too much and watch it lose its freshness, sitting all alone and exposed on the counter?) can save the day.
Bonus tip along this concept,
Something I did not do for my baby shower but 100% will for kids' birthday parties when the entire classroom storms into my kitchen, is that you can mix old chips bags bottoms into nice bowls and make them look like overpriced party mixes.
Lastly, Eleven: the To-Go Leftovers Bar
You know how people do donut stations, or decorate your own cupcake stations? Okay, but what about the version where your girlfriends live on their own and you'd like to clear a meal or two off their schedule? Enter the To-Go Leftovers Bar. Warning: this will leave you ziploc-less, so I highly recommend stopping by your nearest dollar store and buying several containers, but it's so worth it once everyone gets to bring a little of their favourite pasta salad/appetisers home! And be honest with me: if I couldn't finish all these leftovers on my own whilst being super pregnant, how could anyone!? SHARE.