French Themed Baby Shower: Game Plan

I co-hosted a baby shower this weekend for one of my best friends, Kim. We had about 25 people at my house on Saturday. I think a real test of a good entertaining house is whether it can stand up to a bridal or baby shower. These events are intimate, so the space needs to be cozy, but they can also be large so there needs to be quite a bit of seating, unlike cocktail parties where I limit seating to only the largest pieces of furniture. I have hosted at least 5 showers at my house over the years so I feel like I have a good general plan but I customize and tweak the details for the specific honoree.

Here is my general plan, and then I'll tell you how I tweaked it to suit Kim perfectly, in my opinion.

Timing - I really enjoy a brunch shower starting at around 11 a.m. and finishes 2 1/2 to 3 hours later.  No one wants to spend 4-5 hours at a baby shower if you can help it. Remember that people are often late so things really won't get started for 30 minutes after your start time.  For the first 30 minutes, have drinks available for people to serve themselves while the hostesses greet arriving guests and get food ready to put on the table. I often have the honoree stand relatively close to the door since she knows the attendees better than anyone else. I like to be relatively close to her and direct people to where to put their coats and grab a drink.

I start directing people to eat about 30 minutes into the shower. I always do a buffet so people can go in waves. Those who arrived late can enjoy a drink for a few minutes before getting their food.

Everyone then eats, drinks, and mingles for 30-45 minutes. If there's a craft project (more on that later), I ask people to work on that while others finish their food. Once people are close to finished eating, we play a game or two. Followed quickly by dessert and coffee while the honoree opens her gifts. Hopefully everything is close to wrapping up by 1:45 if you started at 11, so most people are on their way by 2.

Food - Since I usually do brunch food, I'll focus on those options. I like to have one main breakfast casserole. I try not to do something too sweet (e.g., French toast casserole), so I generally do an egg, bread, cheese, and chicken sausage combo which is sinful but completely delicious (the basis for my recipe is here). There are usually plenty of other sweets so people need a bit more substance by late morning. I supplement the casserole with veggie quiche or frittatas (especially if we have more than 15 people), fancy green salad, fruit salad, and pastries (muffins, danish, scones, coffee cake, etc.). For an especially large group, you can add a spiral sliced ham and rolls, which we did for this past weekend's shower. If people volunteer to help, say YES and ask them to bring a specific food contribution. Ask the bakers to do muffins, scones, or coffeecake. Cooks will be happy to bring quiche or frittatas, and those less handy can handle salads, or anyone can order and pick something up ready made! I generally do the breakfast casserole in case someone can't come at the last minute, I always know we have our main dish.
As you can see above, I use real silverware and glass plates. The plates cost less than $1 each at Bed Bath & Beyond or can be found at any dollar store. I like the BBB version because I know I can always get more matching plates - or at least I hope I can! I actually had to pick up 8 more plates after we broke a couple last time around. I also use inexpensive wine glasses for drinks because it feels more special than the plastic cups. I generally run two loads through the dishwasher immediately following the shower and we're done! Overall a great investment because if you only use them a couple of times per year, you s

Of course we also have cake and/or cupcakes. Kim loves chocolate cake so her mom got her a chocolate cake but felt that we should have white cupcakes for those who don't like chocolate cake. This was an AMAZING cake so even non-chocolate lovers were drooling over each bite.
 How pretty is this?
Games -  I think games should be either very personal or quick and easy. My favorite game is one where there are about 10 questions which are answered by each of the mothers of the soon-to-be parents. For example - At what age did Kim take her first steps?  What was Kim's first word? If the mothers (grandmothers) are present, they can explain the responses. Often some hilarious stories come out and it's a great way to learn more about the parents. I also like the game where everyone has to measure the name of the celebrity with their recently born baby. Those with US Weekly subscriptions have a distinct advantage. One or two games maximum is plenty. Starbucks or Dunkin gift cards are all you need for prizes, although scratch-off lottery tickets are also fun.

Activity - Sometimes, we do an activity in addition to, or instead of, games. For baby showers, I often set up a onesie decorating table in the kitchen where people can decorate pre-washed onesies with stamps and fabric paint. The stamps make it easy for even the least crafty person to participate. The results are often adorable and very personal. Kim LOVES this activity so we had to do it, although it's not an ideal activity when you have more than 15-20 people because of the space it requires. An alternative is to set this up on a porch or deck if the weather cooperates. At a smaller shower, everyone will generally do one, but at a larger shower, maybe half or more might do it. 

Favors - I have two thoughts on shower favors which you may or may not agree with. First, unless you can eat it, there is no reason to send anything home with guests. Second, if you forgo favors entirely, make a donation to a charity that means something to the honoree and let people know using a small framed sign near the main door of the house. Most people really appreciate this gesture, and I don't know anyone who really goes to baby showers for the favors. I would rather know the money that would have been spent on favors went to a worthy cause than have a ceramic baby bassinet filled with potpourri.  Again, the favor (or lack thereof) can be personalized for the bride or mom-to-be. For this shower we did individually wrapped sugar cookies shaped like onesies and decorated in pink and green icing. So adorable.
Gifts - Although it's generally really fun to see what everyone got for the mom-to-be, this can sometimes really prolong a shower indefinitely. One way to help this is to serve coffee and cake while the gifts are being opened. Recruit a few helpers to help cut the cake and deliver it to the guests while they watch the gifts being opened. You can move the opening along by having one person hand the gifts to the mom-to-be (making sure they have their cards and all of the pieces together), while another person collects the discarded paper and takes the open gifts and puts them back in the bag or box they came from and piles them neatly to the side.  Finally, a third person should write down the name of the gift giver and the gift as the gifts are opened. The list will come in really handy for thank you notes.

Decor - Decor is my favorite topic, of course, and I'll give you some pointers on that tomorrow!

Hosted any showers recently?  Any good tips to pass along to others?  Any shower horror stories?