How to Throw a Shower (or Party) That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune
Being a woman is expensive, not least of all when it comes to wedding and baby showers. The average woman will attend about one thousand of these events in her lifetime, and while they are a great way to show love and support to a new family, they are not cheap, especially when it’s your turn to throw one. If you’re a man or not likely to throw a shower anytime soon, this post could read as “How to Throw a Party That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune,” as many tips would apply for festivities for other occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, retirement, etc.
I’ve thrown a few showers in my day, with guest lists ranging from 10-60+ people. Here are my tips and tricks for showering your friend with love, without breaking the bank:
My friend group is blessed to have several people who have purposely purchased homes with large spaces specifically for hosting. Because of this I’ve been able to throw several showers in people’s homes. This has the advantage of coziness and convenience as well as being less expensive. You’ll have everything you need on hand, without having to haul coffee makers and crock pots and food warmers around. I’ve also thrown smaller showers a.k.a. “sprinkles” in my own home, in my not particularly large living area.
Naturally not everyone will have this option available to them. At that point I’d explore community centers and park shelters. Often your community will offer resident discounts for its rentals. In my area these are generally not expensive, but can fill up fast, so plan ahead.
If that option doesn’t pan out, explore any connections you have. Does your workplace have a meeting area you could ask to use? Or maybe a friend’s workplace does? I’ve been to two showers in the meeting space of a local realty company. Some of the neighboring cities to me have less expensive, more available rentals, and I’ve asked a resident friend to book them for me at the discounted rate (and paid them back, of course). If the shower falls during warm weather, ask the bride- or mom-to-be how they’d feel about an outdoor shower. Use your backyard, a friend’s yard, or a picnic shelter in a park. Just make sure you have a plan for rain.
Now that you’ve got the venue, you’ll need to feed the guests. This can easily be the greatest expense. Catering isn’t cheap, and neither is cooking for a crowd all on your own. My solution: make it a potluck. Once again, I’m blessed with a great network of friends who are more than willing to pitch in and each bring a dish to share.
Potlucks don’t have to be disorganized or tacky. Pick a theme, provide a portion of the main course, and ask people to sign up for specific items or at least categories of items. Here are some successful themes I’ve seen or used:
- Brunch–egg casseroles, french toast casserole, build-your-own parfait station, fruit.
- Tacos–crockpots of taco/burrito fillings such as different meats, beans, and rice, plus all the fixings.
- Parisian/French–variety of quiches, croissants, pastries, coffee.
- Italian/pasta–lasagna, alfredo, pesto, salad, bread.
- Comfort food–fried chicken, mac n cheese, pizza, or whatever the guest of honor loves.
- Finger foods–our playgroup has a tradition of throwing “sprinkles” for second-time moms, and snacks like fruit, hummus and veggies, cheese and crackers, and cookies are a hit with moms and kids alike.
- The honoree’s favorite foods or cuisine.
If kids are invited, consider making up a “kids’ feeding trough” filled with goldfish crackers, string cheese, fruit, and carrots or cucumbers. Kids tend to take a plate of grown up food, eat two bites, and throw away the rest. Why not just give them what they really want in the first place?
Decorating has to be my least favorite part of throwing a shower, so I always enlist the help of people who are better at it than me. It does need to look like a party, but it doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy. You could spend unlimited time and money decorating with a theme. Or, like me, you could go with the theme of “it’s a wedding” or “it’s a baby” or “it’s a [boy/girl].”
To go for the latter, buy a bunch of balloons, plates, cups, and napkins of appropriate colors at the dollar store, Walmart, or party store. I’m extremely fortunate to have a friend who literally owns a decoration library. She has decorations for just about every occasion, from holidays to showers, and willingly lends them out to friends. I realize this is a rare set-up, but do consider saving and lending out decorations you choose to purchase or make for your event.
Fun and Games
Feelings about shower games vary greatly. Some people can’t get enough, and others are bored to tears by their one hundredth round of baby shower bingo. Ask your guest of honor what she’d prefer. Does your bride-to-be want to be quizzed about the circumstances of meeting her fiance? Does the expecting mother want people to cut ribbons and guess how big her waist has grown?
Then consider the guest list and what people might enjoy. Does Aunt Bonnie really want to blind-taste baby food and guess what flavor it is? Does anyone? And please, don’t ruin someone’s favorite candy bar for life by smashing it into a diaper and pretending it’s poop. There is some sick stuff that goes down at these events.
Purchasing prizes are where the expense comes in for the hostess. My stance is: buy something decent or skip prizes entirely. Personally, I do not want another random candle or bottle of lotion in my life. I once received the worst bottle of wine ever as a shower prize–and I drink box wine. Try something practical like a nice quality scented hand soap. And you probably can’t go wrong with a Starbucks gift card.
To be honest, I’ve immediately thrown out most of the tchotchkes I’ve received at showers, even if they were adorably hand-crafted. If it isn’t universally useful or edible, don’t send people home with it. If you don’t want to send more sugar or tchotchkes into the universe, skip the favors altogether. No one will miss them. (We didn’t even have them at our wedding.)
One nice touch is to provide envelopes for guests to self-address for thank you cards. Especially for new moms, this can save a lot of time and headache. And rather than recording the gift list on a random piece of paper, write it down in a pretty notebook she can later use as a journal. Some people also like to create a notebook of advice, well-wishes, or encouragements for the guest of honor. This can be a nice keepsake, although I find it a little redundant for those who have already written a thoughtful card.
Whatever event you’re throwing, keep in mind that’s it’s about the person you’re trying to honor, not a showcase of your cooking, crafting, or hosting skills. Focus on making it enjoyable for all the guests and you can’t go wrong.
What are your tips and tricks for hosting showers or other parties? Have you found ways to make it less expensive while still throwing a good party?
That’s easy! I’ve never been asked to host or really been in a position where I felt obligated to host one! yay me! 🙂 But, I will say that I second potlucks…for just about everything!
Wow, I’m stunned you haven’t found yourself in this position! And yes, potlucks are a great solution for lots of gatherings.
We once attended an unusual potluck. As people called in RSVPs the hosts asked people to bring a salad but they specified what type: a tuna salad, a fruit salad, a tossed salad, etc. As we arrived and asked each one what they brought the answer was always a salad! Worrisome answers at first until we all figured it out.
That would seem odd at first!
I hosted 3 bridal showers for my nieces in the last couple of years, and I loved doing it. Zero decorations. Each was a powerful gathering of women of all ages (from teens to 90+) in support of the bride-to-be. The “game” we played at each was something like, “What advice would you give Rebecca … ?” and these were read out loud by the guest of honour. Then we had an “open mic” time when anyone could speak to / about the bride to be. Great, great memories of those events.
I trust that your friends have thrown you a baby shower? You really are blessed by your friend group. Decorating library!
Encouragement is a great “activity” for showers and beats any game. Yes, my friends and family threw me a very nice shower for my first. My playgroup did a sprinkle for my second, and we celebrated with a Mom’s Night Out just last weekend for baby #3.
Being a man I don’t understand why baby showers even exist
Do you have kids? Even the basic baby gear really adds up, so it’s a chance for friends and family to gift those items and defray that start-up cost of parenting.