baby shower etiquette?
March 20, 2009 10:59 AM   Subscribe

i volunteered to help throw a baby shower for a friend. i'm great at throwing parties, and i think it would be fun. plus, i love my friend. however, now i'm wondering what i got myself into. do i really have to front all the money?

i'm in my late 20's, grew up without a big family around me, and so this whole baby shower thing is new to me. i figured, you get people together, cook some food, give the mom some baby stuff, i hear there are games involved... i can handle that!

now im faced with a giant guest list, and feeling like certain expectations are being placed on me, most threatening - having to pay for it all. my co-host is my age and unemployed, so also doesnt have the capital to pay for all this either.

is there a tactful way to go about this? if someone else in the family would front the money, id be more than happy to execute it all.
posted by fillsthepews to Home & Garden (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When you host a party, you pay; you can't go around asking for sponsorship (that said, if people ask if you need help, you could always ask for them to bring something to the party, like drinks or snacks). That doesn't mean you have to throw a party beyond your means. Buy some crepe paper streamers, make some tea sandwiches, and tada! You're throwing a baby shower.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:02 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: im totally ok with that. im resourceful as a motherfuck. but how can i communicate that to the mom before hand? i dont want her to expect like, fine china and finger sandwiches when i can clearly not provide that.
posted by fillsthepews at 11:04 AM on March 20, 2009

Do you have any indication she's expecting those things? Baby showers tend to be pretty laid-back, at least where I come from.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:05 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

You do have the right to limit the costs to what you can reasonably afford. If the expectant mother wants more people invited than can fit in your venue (your apartment or house, I assume), then you can say, "I can only invite x number of people." This will then decrease the cost of food and other items exponentially.
posted by orange swan at 11:06 AM on March 20, 2009

Response by poster: yeah, she's quite particular about how she wants things. and also, the huge guest list tipped me off. i really want to make her happy on her special day. the last thing i want is to make it stressful and disappointing.
posted by fillsthepews at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2009

I would think having the event as a sort of pot-luck would take care of all your food worries, there's no harm in asking people to bring some food to share. Talk to the friend's parents, family and other attending friends about getting specific items, like bringing paper plates, napkins, cups, etc. Then you have a minimum cash outlay for maybe a few decorations from the dollar store and whatnot. Really I think your role here is as a co-ordinator, not financier of this event ;)
posted by lizbunny at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2009

You can do it on the cheap very easily. Punch is always festive, borrow a punchbowl and find a recipe with koolaid as the base. You don't have to do the finger sandwich and mints thing unless you want to, and if so those are pretty inexpensive. You can easily make it a theme party and serve whatever food you find easiest and cheapest. A table just like any other, except with baby decorations, would be fine. Especially if you're both young and broke, you don't need to make this a fancy traditional shower. Make it fun, and make it reflect the both of your personalities. Just have fun with it.
posted by raisingsand at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2009

If you're the hostess, you're in charge. You, of course, will consult the guest of honor and want to make her happy but that doesn't mean she gets to invite 100 people and insist upon a professionally catered multi-course luncheon. You just need to have a discussion with the mom-to-be about what her expectations are and how your limited means can or cannot fulfill them. She just may not realize what she's asking for so a frank talk will be helpful.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:10 AM on March 20, 2009

If the venue is not set yet, consider a park. (It looks like you're in San Diego, so that sounds feasible weatherwise anyway.) This will cut decoration costs, perhaps better accommodate her expanded guest list, and possibly cut down on expectations too, as people expect more casual food, self-service, etc. outdoors. The upside could be more fun and beautiful pictures of the event, and contained clean-up that is not happening at your dwelling.
posted by PY at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2009

Just to help brainstorm, what's "huge" in terms of the list? Is she wanting 10 or 50?
posted by tristeza at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2009

It sounds like less of you planning the event, and more like you are the gofer to get things done. You say your friend is quite particular, and they gave you a guest list. I wouldn't be surprised if they made suggestions for the location. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, it's best if you and your co-host sit down and discuss the event with the mother-to-be (this isn't a surprise event, right?).

In addition to talking with the guest of honor, I suggest you do a bit of research. Find out how much it would cost to host [n] people at [x] facility. With these numbers, describe to the expectant mother how her wants and needs translates into the work and funds necessary to pull it off. You can then seek a compromise, or make/request suggestions on alternatives, whether it's a different facility, or as offered above, potluck-style instead of catered. You may also get some help from her family if everyone knows about these difficulties beforehand.

Also, don't think that this discussion is a one-time thing. Maintain communication with your friend and her family. Give her updates, remind her about whatever important details the two of you worked out, and ask her if she has any questions or concerns. This would hopefully prevent nasty surprises if she or someone in her family changes their mind.
posted by CancerMan at 11:30 AM on March 20, 2009

Best answer: I have thrown a lot of showers, baby and bridal. The guest of honor always has expectations, but you know what? You are throwing the party for her. Deep down, she does not want you to make yourself broke over throwing her a fancy party.

I think one issue is that she gave you a guest list. I don't know whether she just gave it to you unasked, or if you asked her for a guest list. Typically, what I have learned to do after a few frustrating incidents, is to ask for a list of a specific number of guests that they would like to invite to the shower. This way, you can set the maximum cap of guests from the get-go. If the guest of honor complains that they can't choose that few, just say that you wish you could invite more, but this is really all you can do. You do not need to say more.

If the guest list is really unreasonably large, I would go back to her and say that you really need her to narrow it down. Sure, it's disappointing, but it's fair.

In terms of shower cost ... you can throw a really nice baby shower for not too much money. Every baby shower I have thrown has been a sort of afternoon tea or brunch type of thing. There is no need for fine china. Get some pretty paper plates at Target or whatever. Bake some mini muffins and scones (or buy them at Costco or something similar), cut up some fruit, make some coffee and hot water for tea, put out some cookies, and you're fine. As far as decorations go ... you can go as simplistic as a few helium ballons and streamers, or you can make a diaper cake (it's REALLY easy, I have done this a few times, look on YouTube for how-to videos). One shower I went to used baby clothes that were gifts as decorations ... the hostess hung a clothes line across the room and hung up little baby outfits on the clothes line. It was very cute! Favors are unnecessary but fairly easy to put together inexpensively. Even if it's just some candy in cellophane bags.

The point of a shower is to open gifts. Really, no one is there to ooh and ahh over scrumptious cuisine or to be entertained. I have only ever been to baby showers held in people's homes. You could rent space somewhere, but it probably makes more sense to find someone's home you could have it at (if your own wouldn't work). You can rent folding chairs or an extra table if necessary from a party store.

For additional entertainment, you can easily put together some games. I pretty much always do Baby Shower Bingo and Baby Scattergories. They are easy to put together, and people seem to love them. I get a handful of prizes from the $1.00 bins at Target or a dollar store, and wrap them in tissue paper.

So ... moral of the story is, your friend can't tell you how to throw her shower if you don't ask her. If she unloads demands on you without being asked, that's really rude. Just tell her that you want her to be surprised so she backs off. Do the best you can.

We all worry about whether what we're doing is "enough", but if you are putting your time and thought into it, that is MORE than enough. Think about all of her friends who AREN'T helping to throw this shower? You are sweet and a good friend to do what you are doing. Try not to stress and in the end, your friend will be so overjoyed to spend time with friends, family, and celebrating her new baby that she will overlook paper plates over fine china and Costco muffins over catered fare.
posted by tastybrains at 11:31 AM on March 20, 2009 [8 favorites]

yeah, she's quite particular about how she wants things.

No, that is not how it works. She is the guest of honor, with the emphasis on guest. Guests do not get to dictate the parameters of the parties to which they are invited.

Are you crafty? I understand that you don't want to disappoint your friend, so if they expectation is that this is a full blown 90210 baby shower, you can pull that off yourself for very little money if you are crafty. You can make awesome baby shower invitations with card stock and felt or ribbons, make baby-themed cookies and put them in cello bags tied with hand-made tags from your cardstock offcuts, and that should be swishy enough. Add balloons, food, and non-alcoholic drinks and it should look really festive, indoors or outdoors.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:36 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can her family help out at all, especially if you explain you want to make this a lovely day for her but she has a big guest list... ? Let them know you and Other Girl might be in over your heads, especially where she's now unemployed.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2009

Best answer: There's style and idea advice for baby showers everywhere (MeMail me if you'd like links - I write for a frivolous shopping website for mothers), but for your question about tact and assistance, there are a few things that you might consider (and on preview - that others mention too):

One way to go about it would be to make it a potluck theme, with a twist - that everyone brings something to serve at the shower, plus one more for the guest of honour's freezer or pantry. After the baby comes, having quick and easy meals and full cupboards is a gift that keeps on giving. Your co-host might have the extra time then, to coordinate it, so that you don't end up with fifteen broccoli cheese casseroles and one bowl of Chex Mix. Also, if the guest of honour doesn't like something at the shower and won't eat it later on, she can accidentally run over it with her car and save the freezer space. A theme like this can help keep it from looking grasping.

Everyone loves to buy cute baby things, of course, and probably will besides food -- but since I remember one of my favourite presents as being a brief visit from folks who'd swing by with a ready-made dinner and who'd watch the baby while I took a shower -- I often try to drop off a food hamper to my new-mom friends and stay only long enough for her to accomplish something and then leave before she gets tired. I also liked it when people brought things I could quickly serve to visitors who'd drop in to see the baby, because I felt so "together" if I could make a nice cup of tea and offer banana bread or muffins or something. So, if you did even a "sweet" theme shower, everyone could bring something for consuming during the shower and extra for the mother-to-be; and you could make a recipe book or something as the ruse...I mean, part of the theme.

Another thing to do with a giant guest list would be to break it into smaller showers, if you have the time and energy - I was lucky enough to have three: the one with the relatives who "owed" my mom for all the gifts she'd given to their grandkids over the years; the one with a few fun, close friends who were really generous and whose company mattered most; and the cocktail party one with lots of acquaintances who just wanted an excuse to get together and bringing a gift was a small price to pay. So, if her list can be divided, you might find other "sponsors" among family or close friends (some might even offer, without your asking - my godmother did), or you can adjust each get-together accordingly. Some people are happy to just show up at an eatery and buy their own drinks and meal and bring a gift (you arrange for a dessert or something, and centrepieces or festive things) - others will expect the crumpets and petit fours.

The time of day for the shower can be used to your best advantage - if you set it in between meals, nobody will expect more than a few appetizers and maybe a cupcake. Like, from 3-5 pm on a weekend, or at 7:30 one evening. You can make one theme drink, like punch (one alcoholic and one non-) to keep it reasonable. If there are too many people to host in your home or your co-host's, in our area, you can rent a room at the community centre for a pittance. Fill the room with tissue paper poofs made from tissue from the dollar store, and it will be lovely. For a friend's farmhouse wedding, we got flowers from a dumpster behind a florist the night before -- we only needed them for a day, after all. For a less-extreme version, you might want to check to see if a florist has some that aren't fresh enough to sell and so can be discounted, and make arrangements that disguise any limpness.

Perhaps, and this is kind of silly, but it's what I do, your co-host can have a garage sale or a lemonade stand or a bake sale or something to raise her share of the funds - or a percentage, and make it up with the labour-intesive stuff (like making the poofs). I always have stuff I can sell, on Craigslist or online somewhere, if I need a few bucks. Or I give up my fancy coffee-habit for a few weeks, because six fancy coffees equals about twenty bucks, and that buys enough Bulk Barn mix and supplies to make little mini cupcakes for fifty.

I think if you choose a simple theme, set at a time that indicates it's not a free meal, and keep it short enough that people won't have more than a nibble and a few drinks you'll find you can better keep it within a budget. All the fun will come from oohing and aahing at the wee baby stuff and offering advice to the mother to be and the silly games; and mostly what will be remembered down the road was how smiley and nice the hosts were - if you can manage that after all the stress!

And on preview - what everyone else said, with extra attention paid to the fact that the GUEST of honour might get one or two choices of hers considered (ask her for priorities) but that you can nicely assure her that you hope she thinks YOUR shower for her is lovely, and that she'll be able to relax and enjoy it. Pregnant women = hormonal messes, you know? So, if your question is more about "How can I consider her particular desires within my abilities and budget?", let us know them. We might have to help you think of ways to attract corporate sponsorship.
posted by peagood at 11:54 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Picking up from other crafty suggestions here, Mefite orange swan has produced loads of unbelievably wonderful posts about making very pretty things out of very little.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:08 PM on March 20, 2009

Here's the thing about baby-shower etiquette: the mom-to-be's family is not supposed to throw the shower, which is why she has to enlist friends or in-laws to do it. The fact that she's "picky" and supplying you with a guest list (btw, what does "picky" mean? and how many guests? and did you ask for the list, or she gave it freely?) means that she might have an idea of how she wants it and would rather throw the damn thing herself, but she's using you so it doesn't look like that's what she wants. Do you feel more like a means-to-an-end of her Perfect Baby Shower, or do you feel like the shower is a gift you're giving to her?

If the latter, just straight up tell her you can host x people in the location (your co-host's place? outside location?), then go cheap on the food and DIY decorations, and just make it as nice as you can afford. If it's the former, you can explain to her that you can't necessarily afford to do it her way although you'd be happy to make the effort if only you had the funds, and see if she offers up any of her family or herself to pitch in the $$ to do it up to her specifications. If not, you go back to the cheap, DIY option.

Normal baby showers involve sending out handmade or cheap store bought invites, some small snacky tea-time or brunch things, as mentioned, some streamers, hosting it in your home, and some games. The ones I've been to usually have no more than 25 people, mostly family and close friends. If she's got grand plans that exceed that, I don't think you should let yourself feel pressured into throwing some lavish soiree.
posted by booknerd at 12:33 PM on March 20, 2009

I've thrown a couple on very little cash but it really helps to get other people involved. Are you friends with any of her other friends? This helps a lot.

One of the easiest I've ever thrown was a onesie shower. Invites were shaped like onesies (you can cut these out on your own). Decor was made of onesies (cheap in bulk - then you can decorate or dye them). You can also get a onesie stamp at Michaels and stamp napkins, cookies with food dye, and if you're doing it outside have fabric flags hanging stamped or drawn with the onesie shape. I don't know where you live but there's usually a flower market that opens at 3 a.m. where local buyers go. See if it's open to the public and get your flower arrangements there.

Feel free to memail me if you have any questions or need any other suggestions.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:50 PM on March 20, 2009

Someone up above mentioned this briefly, but I want to emphasize: borrow stuff! Everytime I host any sort of gathering (yes, even a baby shower... sort of) I go to my mother-in-law's endless stores of servingware and tea cups, etc. If you don't have someone like that handy, than spread the wealth and ask everyone you can possibly think of, including the Guest-of-honor, "I am so excited about the shower we're doing for you! It'd be perfect if we can use your nice punch bowl. Does your mom have any platters we can borrow?" etc.
posted by purpletangerine at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2009

According to your profile, you're in San Diego. I was recruited at the last minute once to throw a shower for someone, and I found that our local Home Town Buffet offered group discounts. We had a group of tables to ourselves, and with our group of just over 30 people, it cost us just a little less than $6 per head. Not to mention they provided all the china and flatware (and cleanup). No muss, not much fuss.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:18 PM on March 20, 2009

In my family there's usually more than one shower—one for family and one for friends. Usually an aunt or cousin threw the family shower and a friend threw the friend shower (obviously). I personally think it's a lot to ask a friend the throw a shower that includes someone's extended family that the friend probably doesn't know. Maybe you can limit yours to a 'friend' shower and let the family sort out the family shower?

Please try not to let yourself get hooked into something you can't afford. I was once asked to "co-host" a wedding shower for a friend (I was a bridesmaid). I agreed when it was a cookout but then when it came down to it the mother arranged it all, invited tons of her family, got catering and told me to bring my checkbook. I am still angry about it and that was 7+ years ago.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2009

I really, really like peagood's potluck plus idea. Every baby shower I've been to has been a potluck (and I've been to a lot, I have 23 cousins who are all older than me, most of whom are married and have spawned multiple times). I've found people like to show off their culinary skill, and the idea of making a 'little extra for the new mom' to be strikes me as a really good one.
Borrowing china and fancy linens is a good idea, as is making your own invitations if you have the time. Though as my sister-in-law discovered during her wedding prep, handmade invitations aren't necessarily cheaper. It depends on what you get. Also, if you need a bigger/fancier venue than you have, is it possible to 'borrow' someone else's house? It sounds odd, but my brother and I once hosted an anniversary party for my parents at an aunt's house. We did it for surprise reasons, not for space reasons, but it worked. My aunt & uncle were guests, of course. It may not work in your situation, but it is possible. Just so long as you reassure whoever's house it is that you'll do all the set up, the hosting duties, and the take down/clean up.
The focus is supposed to be on the mom-to-be, so minimal decorations are good, and cuts down on cost. A few well-chosen decorations are better than a hundred streamers.
posted by sandraregina at 1:48 PM on March 20, 2009

Response by poster: thanks for everyone's suggestions! if anyone has any crafty/cheap type ideas of decor, please feel free to mefi mail them to me or post them here for all to see.

i think the key is just going to be communication. maybe it would be nice to just do it all for her, and make her feel special, but knowing her personality i think she wants to be involved. and then, no surprises.

i'm diggin' the potluck idea for sure, and will float it by her. and just as a data-point she's inviting 80-100 people. that's a lot of pots :)
posted by fillsthepews at 1:58 PM on March 20, 2009

HOLY crap. 80-100 people? That is by FAR the largest baby shower I've ever heard of. In my experience, baby showers are usually a little more intimate than that and there ain't no way I'm sitting through 80-100 gift openings. You are well within reason to ask her to trim down the invite list.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:01 PM on March 20, 2009

WTF?!?! I have never, ever in 38 years heard of a baby shower with more than, at most, 25-30 invitees. Anecdote, of course.
posted by tristeza at 2:04 PM on March 20, 2009

and just as a data-point she's inviting 80-100 people.

No, she's not. If you're hosting, you do the inviting, and it's perfectly reasonable to limit the number of people you can afford to host, so long as you sit down with her and clarify.

How about:
"I see that you have a pretty extensive guest list. That's more than I can afford to entertain. Why don't you break it into a few different showers hosted by different people? I can have a party for [x number of people] at my place --- which [x] would you like that to be?" Have a copy of the list in hand so you can actually break it down into smaller groups together.
posted by Elsa at 2:09 PM on March 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

A million votes for Elsa.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:19 PM on March 20, 2009

adding another million votes for Elsa.
posted by Wolfie at 2:39 PM on March 20, 2009

Wow, with those numbers - that's not a baby shower, that's a typhoon!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:44 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

80-100 peeps ain't a baby shower - that's a tsunami and you don't want to drown.

on preview - damn, Jody, I owe you a coke!
posted by saucysault at 2:46 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: snarky but necessary: yeah, 80-100 ain't a baby shower, it's a parade.

In my previous comment, I meant to say: your observation (i think the key is just going to be communication) is absolutely spot-on! It sounds as if the communication so far has consisted of her telling you what she wants. That's not enough; the communication should go both ways, and it still should allow you a chance to surprise and please her!

Open it up, sit down and talk with her about the shower. When this kind of communication is flowing right, it's great: she gives you an idea of what she might like, you give her an idea of what you can reasonably do, and you secretly plan a few small frills that will delight her.

So, feel free to limit the number of people you can entertain and to set boundaries on what is realistic or affordable, but get her ideas of what might be nice so you can use them as a rough template, a framework around which you'll build your party. This is not a planning session! This is a brainstorming session.

Share your own ideas, too. These might be bigger, over-arching thematic stuff ("I was thinking of a tea party!") or smaller nuts-and-bolts type things ("For food, I was thinking a sandwich platter and a fruit plate, maybe some cupcakes. What do you think?"), but just seeing her reaction to these ideas will help you get a sense of her expectations, which will let you figure out better how to make her happy without making yourself crazy. It will also give her a chance to veto something that she absolutely cannot bear. If she says, "Ugh, the smell of tea makes me queasy since I got pregnant!", that would rule out a tea party.

In a case like this, it's often most productive to keep your tone enthusiastic and positive, rather than lapsing into critical tone. (That's code. What I'm really saying is: it seems a little nutty to me that she expects you --- or any one person --- to host 80-100 people for a baby shower, and someone who expects that may well have lots of kinda nutty expectations. But you don't need to tell her that she's nutty.) Just make sure she knows that, as you said in your original question, you're excited about hosting a shower for her.

First you manage her general expectations, by cutting down to a guest list you can manage and nominating a few other friends as likely candidates to host other showers. Then you make sure she knows you're pleased to be hosting your shower. Then get some input from her on her preferences and float some ideas by her. Then plan everything in detail on your own, and add in a few small treats and fillips that you think she'd like.

This question hits close to home for me, but, uh, sorta kinda in reverse: my Best Woman is planning a pre-wedding party for me, and she wants to make it quite grand and elegant... but I just want a little at-home party with some friends and some wine and some cake. Once we sit down and talk out our expectations, I think it will be a lot less stressful for both of us.
posted by Elsa at 3:00 PM on March 20, 2009

Absolutely, what Elsa said. Sounds like she's trying to recreate her wedding to celebrate the baby. That should be like, 3 different showers for different groups of people.

If she insists on doing it this way, bow out gracefully.
posted by booknerd at 3:07 PM on March 20, 2009

A kajillion more votes for what Elsa said.

You're right, that's too much potluck, and probably three hours of present opening; and really, that's a monkeysphere - not a guestlist.

You could also point out every so gently that at a baby shower with that many guests, there's no way she could spend a decent amount of time with each guest, which kind of ought to be a consideration. And in her delicate condition, it might be tiring and overwhelming for something to go on for more than about two hours. (How far along is she? I'm used to showers being held closer to the finish line.)

The only other thing that I can think of, and how can I put this nicely, is...Is she from a culture that is used to such numbers at events? Because, well, I'm Italian, and there were proably 200 people at my First Communion party, and we still have huge funeral and Christening brunches, but even my family has toned it down quite a bit in the last decade (and I eloped and specifically requested that only family friends and relatives that I'd personally spoken with in the previous year or two be invited to the baby shower). If that's the case, I'd definitely work with a few different showers. Go with the term "intimate", and see where that takes you.

As an aside, 80 - 100 guests will bring so many more things than any newborn baby or mother-to-be needs. In which case, she'll end up with way too many things for the early stages, unless people are smart and buy years ahead or go in for big things like furniture and well...that's a whole other post.
posted by peagood at 3:09 PM on March 20, 2009

Response by poster: to expand on that a bit, she had a vegas wedding with no shower, and is looking to have this be her *one big event.*

if she wants to really have 80 people, that's fine, but i'm gonna tell her those 80 people are gonna have kool aid and pretzels. personally id rather have smaller and nicer.
posted by fillsthepews at 3:10 PM on March 20, 2009

fillsthepews, do not let her do this to you. There are weddings that are not that big. That is not a manageable or reasonable request. I am the queen of cheap ass awesome parties and cannot figure out how to entertain 100 people at less than $10 a head, even including the venue that a guest list that size requires.

I think you need a two-pronged attack plan:

1) "You seem to have a really clear idea what you want here. Do you want to do all your own organising and booking and just put my name on the invitations so it doesn't look like you're throwing your own shower? I'm totally happy to manage all the RSVPs and help with the invitations and do the decorations."

If she says yes, assume she's footing the bill and start helping. I bet she will be all over this if what she really wants is a wedding do-over. If she says no, move on to a location-specific boundary:

2) "Well, honey, there's no way I can fit 100 people in my house / apartment / backyard and honestly, that seems like a lot of guests since people will really want to be able to spend time with you. I was thinking that it would be nice if X and I threw you a shower for the group of friends we all share, the twenty or twenty five of us, and then maybe your mother or mother in law could throw you a shower for your family."

If she says no, plead poverty and back out. Completely. Because this is crazy, and you cannot reason with crazy.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:14 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

to expand on that a bit, she had a vegas wedding with no shower, and is looking to have this be her *one big event.*

Wait, what?

So... in essense, she's tacitly asking you to host and pay for her belated wedding reception? That's how it sounds, anyhow.

On preview: If she says yes, assume she's footing the bill and start helping.

Don't assume she's footing the bill. Make it crystal clear that she's footing the bill. This is serious nutty-nutgirl stuff, here, and serious nutty-nutgirls don't share common assumptions.
posted by Elsa at 3:17 PM on March 20, 2009 [8 favorites]

Your friend is asking far more of you than is reasonable. Think about it: she's asking you to take the entire responsibility for planning and financing all of the festivities she missed by eloping. This is quite a different situation than anyone could have suspected when we started dishing out ideas and tips.

I think DarlingBri is giving you excellent advice for handling this situation --- and she's even giving you useful scripts for approaching the conversation. If it were me, I would skip conversation #1, in which you offer to take on this huge responsibility, but only because I suspect someone who would ask a friend to undertake such a staggering task might well have other unreasonable expectations, too.

If you do decide to make that offer, be absolutely and unfailingly clear that you cannot be responsible for the bills, that your friend is responsible for all of the costs associated with the party. And then stick to that, which means not only do you not pay for things, but you don't become a co-signer on any contracts. Make sure any vendors (caterers, venues, whoever) understand that you are not the client, and that they have contracts signed by the responsible party.

DarlingBri's script #2, in which she describes the smaller shower you'd like to throw, is just perfect. It hits all the important points: it outlines how her initial request is impossible for you, then goes on to express your desire to do something loving and celebratory for your friend, but within the limits of reason. It's perfect.
posted by Elsa at 3:45 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

80-100 is insane . . . However, if it ends up being that way, may I suggest having the shower be an "open house" type - where the guests can come and go between say, 3 and 5 pm. They come, they present a gift to her, she can open it then and there, the guests can take a few cookies and some punch and off they go. No guest in their right mind is going to want to sit through her opening 100 gifts. This approach allows you to do away with the games (cuz, I seriously hate the games aspect). Just have a nice spread of fruit, cheeses, crackers/cookies and drink (and the drink could be as simple as some ice cold water in a pretty pitcher with some lemon slices in it.

Decorations: For my baby shower - my family had an old baby cradle that was put on display and little stuffed animals (that used to be mine when I was little) were placed in side. That was about it. I also love the idea of decorating with baby clothes on a clothes line - I like decor that's not going to end up in the trash at the end.

Best of luck.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:09 PM on March 20, 2009

I have actually been to a baby shower this large, but there were very special circumstances. Preemie baby after Mom was in hospital for two months prior to birth, so the three to four baby showers that would have happened were combined into one big one after the baby was born. It was not given by just one person, I think there were six to ten friends who all contributed and were the hostesses. I've never heard of a shower this big being hosted by just one person, even in wealthy circles. And IMHO, attendees at a very large shower do expect a certain level of hospitality, don't know why but there it is. So, enlist some friends to do the big one or have the mom-to-be break it down so you only do the 20 or so people that you both know.
posted by raisingsand at 4:11 PM on March 20, 2009

another idea for decorations: can you find out ahead of time if someone is going to be giving a large gift - like a crib, stroller, car seat, etc? If so, set those up and use them as the decorations - you can put the smaller gifts in the crib, car seat, etc and display the gifts that way. Or, set the stuff up as a little nursery - set the crib up and the changing table and the glider chair and the big teddy bear and make it look like a nursery.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2009

If you are still going ahead with the guest list so large you will need to recruit more help than just one friend. What is impossible for two may be doable for 6-10 people in charge of specific areas.

How do you feel suggesting having a small friends-only shower and saving this spectacle for a christening/naming ceremony after the baby is born - it is traditionally more elegant than a baby shower and the costs are expected to be paid by the parents. If she is doing this in hopes of presents, then let her know christening presents usually nicer (especially the most invitees have not been to a shower for her and people will have a chance to personalise gifts with the baby's name and gender) and the ceremony will satisfy her need to have people acknowledge what a momentous occasion it is for her.

It is great that you love her so much you want to make her dreams come true but my wedding had 80 people and although is was very low-key and held in a backyard it was a LOT of work and cost over $2000. I've been to one shower (for a wedding) of 100 people and it was boring as fuck, the focus was on opening the gifts, yaaaaawwwn.
posted by saucysault at 7:06 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Two words: dollar store. They have everything you need for cheap. I go there every time I have to do party planning.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:53 PM on March 20, 2009

80-100 people??! That is just ridiculous. I had 86 people at my *wedding* and that was a NYC Saturday night wedding.

How well do you know this girl? Is she a childhood friend and you feel that you owe it to her to do your humanly-possible best? She's just being obnoxiously selfish to inflict this sort of greed upon you - Vegas elopement or not.

Are you in contact with her mother at all? If so, perhaps she can either knock some sense into her daughter or be willing to cough up some cash to help foot the bill. Regardless, your 'friend' needs to lower her ridiculous expectations - and guest list to something much more manageable (25-30 people, perhaps). Otherwise, the suggestion of an open house is a good one. Do it for a period of 2-3 hours and serve platters of cookies with maybe some fresh fruit and tea and call it a day. Costco recently had huge party packs of really beautiful coordinating paper plates, napkins, cups, etc. for less than $25 and I think they were for maybe 20-25 people. I know, because I bought them ;). They should probably still have them out for Easter.

If you want to do more than just cookies, then go with hors d'oeuvres (mini-quiches, and mixed ones already boxed and good to go in the freezer section at Costco) and veggie platter (once again, Costco). I have a good recipe for a non-alcoholic punch that's fast, and not expensive to make. It's also good with white wine thrown in. Memail me if you want it. Screw the favours - waste of money and nobody will miss them. As far as 'decorations' go, you can get a big bunch of flowers and put them in the middle of your food table. Honestly, everybody is going to be looking at the pile of presents. Don't waste your time or money on going crazy.

Girlie, you have your hands full. I personally would consider bowing out of this one if your friend is going to be this demanding. I can't see it ending well if this is how it's already begun.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:27 PM on March 20, 2009

How about doing it at an outdoor bar/restaurant? You would just have to do a bit of decorations, small snacks, and invites? If guests need more they can go order what they need but you wouldn't need to fork out for it. I am sure you could get a place that is generally slow in the daytime to allow you to use the place. They would be making extra money themselves.
posted by Vaike at 10:58 PM on March 20, 2009

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