I've added this to the Frugal Friday posts at Life as Mom.
My sister is pregnant with her second son, and she is due in mid-June. The entire family is thrilled, and we can't wait to meet that little one as soon as he enters this world. We wanted to celebrate her and this baby by having a baby shower that would coincide with Sunset Symphony in Memphis. The Sunset Symphony is part of the Memphis in May celebrations, and each year the symphony delights the audience with wonderful music. My sister is a music teacher, and she has been going to the Sunset Symphony since she was a teenager.
Luckily my cousin lives in downtown Memphis and very near the river. When I began bouncing around ideas for the shower, she suggested that we hold the shower at her place so that we could go up to the roof and listen to the music that evening.
Tips--plan the baby shower with a friend or relative to make the experience more fun, less work, and less expensive. Hold the shower at a home rather than a restaurant or renting a place. To make things more interesting, plan the shower around some kind of event. I've heard of people hosting cooking parties so that the mother-to-be has a fully stocked freezer when she leaves the shin-dig. In this case, the symphony provided enough entertainment that we never had to worry if guests were bored.
My sister has many food allergies which we needed to plan the food around. Because the Memphis in May celebration is centered around bar-b-que, we decided to go with that as our food theme. Because the symphony plays at sunset, we knew we wanted to feed our guests supper. I began shopping for the food about a month in advance so that I could get bargains to make the expense a little less. My sweet aunt purchased an edible arrangement of fruit she knew my sister had liked at Easter this year. It was also a BIG hit with my 3 year old daughter.
The menu was chips, salsa, and black bean salsa as appetizers. Then we had bar-b-qued chicken breasts, baked beans, salad, and roasted sweet potatoes for supper. For beverages, my cousin made limeade. We also had homemade sodas from my husband and orange tea. For dessert, we had gluten free and regular brownies with dairy free and regular ice cream. My cousin even made a homemade icing for my sister's brownies, which my daughter also loved.
Tips--if people want to bring some food to help with the celebration, by all means let them. My aunt was thrilled when she heard that my daughter had said her favorite part of the entire weekend was "the fruit, Momma". Start looking for deals and coupon match-ups to lower your expenses. The salsa, rotel for the black bean salsa, and bar-b-que sauce were free with coupons. The chicken was on a super-duper sale, and I froze it until the day before the party. The green onions for the black bean salsa and the salad were from our home garden. The tea, brownies, salad dressings, and baked beans were all very inexpensive with sales and coupons. If you do not want the expense of feeding your guests an entire meal, plan for mid morning or late afternoon. A few light snacks and tea is all you really need in between meals.
Because I very much believe in the importance of supporting local farmers, we made a trip to the downtown farmers market in Memphis the morning of the shower. I was thrilled to see over-wintered sweet potatoes, which we bought and roasted for a side dish at the party. There were so many beautiful flowers that it was hard to pick which vendor to buy from. I chose a lady who was making the arrangements while you waited, and she put together a huge bouquet of reds, whites, and blues. We couldn’t' resist some strawberries to snack on through the day.
Tips--see if the city you are visiting has a farmers market. The flower arrangement I bought was $10, and if I had been to a floral shop or grocery there is no way I would have come out with as large or as fresh of a bouquet as I did. I left the bouquet with my cousin as part of her hostess gift for having us over. Make sure that the flowers go to someone who will enjoy them at any function you have. For our wedding, we sent guests home with some of the flower arrangements and made sure that others went to a local nursing home.
Since the menu and theme of the shower was bar-b-que, we decided to decorate in a similar fashion. My cousin already had some white lights up in her loft, and she added some lit candles to add a party feel to the lighting. I had a few yards of bandana fabric, she had a few yards of plain red, and we each had some bandanas. I had some enamelware camp dishes which we used to not only reduce our waste but to round out the bar-b-que theme.
Tips--use what you have. These were items we already owned and ones that can be used again. This greatly reduced the waste at the party. We bought paper napkins and plastic cups, and those were the only disposable materials used throughout the evening. I place a sharpie next to plastic cups at parties so that guests can write their names on the cups and they won't get mixed up.
When I am hosting a party, I try and do as much as I can ahead of time. I put out the platters on the buffet in advance. I set the table the night before. Planning and prep work makes for an easy party. Remember, when the hostess is happy and relaxed, her guests will be too.
I planned two games for the party in the event there was a lull and games were needed. We only used one game, and in hindsight I wish we hadn't even bothered with that one. As party gifts for the guests, I had "bought" McCormick grill mates. These were something that the church, the food pantry, and our home did not use, but I hung onto them since they were free with my coupon. The day before I left Knoxville I realized I didn't have any party gifts ready. Voila! The grill mates were the perfect item given the theme of the party. I used raffia to make them look a little more festive.
Tips--guests really do not need a party gift, but it is a nice touch. When considering what to give, go for practical over cutesy. Think of something that they can use rather than give something that would end up in a landfill.
My sister was very pleased with all of the baby gifts she received for her son. My cousin had picked out these cashmere baby outfits for her. They were originally priced $50 and each was $4.99 at Pottery Barn Outlet!
Tips--you usually know at least a few months in advance when a baby is going to be born. I like to shop early because I am able to buy more items with the same amount of money. I picked up a bunch of diapers for my sister when there were good sales and I had coupons. My cousin was able to get this super duper deal just by checking the aisles. She knew that all of the bargain hunters in the family would be thrilled with the discount that she intentionally left the price tag on to show us. As part of supporting local businesses, think about where you can buy baby items in your town. I purchased some homemade shoes for the baby from a friend of mine and a few baby toys from Cutie Tooties in Knoxville.
This is my sister's second child, and therefore, she did not have a gift registry. If a mother does have a registry, stick with it. She knows what she needs and wants. If you are a first time mom and are signing up for a registry, go with another mom who has recently had a child. One of the best gifts a friend of mine gave me was walking me through the store and telling me what I actually needed and what was just fluff.
As the shower was nearing the end, we took the leftover food and sent my sister home with a large bag of leftovers. My cousin told me the next day that she was happy that she didn’t' have to think about what she was eating for any of her meals because there were still so many leftovers in her fridge.
Tips--I err on the side of having too much food when planning a party. I want my guests to know it is all right to bring someone to the party if they like. I don't want them to go home hungry. One of the bonuses of having extra food is that the hostess doesn't have to cook the next day. Because preparing food is so difficult for my sister due to her allergies, I like to send her home with leftovers whenever I can.