How exciting! A baby is on the way and it’s time to shower the mom-to-be with gifts and well wishes. And, sure, having a baby can be expensive but the party celebrating the little one’s arrival doesn’t have to be.
I’m from the south, where showers are almost a sacred rite. I love hosting parties for friends and family— debating what to serve, which flowers to use and the games we should play—so I know first-hand how those costs can add up quickly.
But there’s no need for a tantrum; I have a few tricks up my sleeve (and have consulted with expert party planners) to help you keep things under $100.
1. Trim the Guest List or Bump Up the Hostesses
A good way to keep costs down is to encourage the mom-to-be to invite only her closest friends and family members for a more intimate gathering. The fewer people coming, the fewer food and drinks needed, right? If you or mom-to-be can’t imagine leaving anyone out of the festivities, consider assigning multiple hostesses so no one ends up spending more than one Benjamin apiece.
2. Avoid Rental Fees for a Venue
Sara Walker of Sara Walker Private Events in San Antonio, Texas, tells clients that the biggest expenses are the “venue and menu.” She suggests hosting the shower at someone’s home or tapping into your network to borrow a friend’s vacation residence. You might also consider a space that won’t charge you very much, like a community center or school facility, or hosting the event outside at a public park. “My house never looks so good as it does 12 hours before a party,” says Walker, but it’s sometimes easier to just find a place elsewhere so you can avoid hours of cleaning before and after.
3. Budget for Beverages
Bar tabs can add up. Mocktails for the mom-to-beare usually easy to make, inexpensive and can be enjoyed by all. But if serving alcohol for guests is important to you, Walker suggests choosing one signature drink—perhaps pink champagne—to avoid shelling out big bucks on liquor. A San Antonio-based event planner, Lauren Garza, owner of Timeless Event Planning, says she’s never had a client request alcohol at a baby shower: Punch or sparkling waters are popular and can keep you within your budget. (My personal favorite party punch involves O.J., lemonade, ginger ale and almond flavoring.) You might also consider simply hosting a BYOB event and leaving it up to your guests to supply their drink of choice.
4. Dodge Caterer and Bakery Costs
“I really don’t like to cut corners on food,” laughs Garza. But to keep under that C-note, she recommends planning your party away from mealtimes like brunch or dinner—afternoon parties, for example, require lighter fare. Make tea sandwiches, serve salted nuts or heat up quality chicken fingers and present them with an array of dips. Instead of going all in on a fancy cake from a bakery that might blow through your $100 budget, make cupcakes yourself—after you scour Pinterest for clever ideas, of course. (I love these Rainbow Cupcakes with white icing and arched, rainbow-colored candies.)
5. Don’t Try to Be Trendy
Garza remembers the candy stations that were popular a few years ago and declares them “a total waste of money.” The colorful display of dishes of sweets went untouched after guests sampled the hot food options and had cake. Instead, consider spending those resources on a few fresh blooms (Gerber daisies are always a happy, inexpensive choice) or fun fabric and a few balloons to create an Instagram-worthy backdrop for pictures with the mom-of-honor.
Walker’s team creates a hedge wall for Instagram shots, setting up faux boxwood panels in a corner and adorning them with flowers, balloons or signage (though this is best when a group of hostesses shares the cost, which hovers around $100).
6. Get Creative With Party Games
Some groups skip party games altogether, but a little interactivity moves the event along. I attended one baby shower where the dad-to-be and his buddies had to sample baby food blindfolded and guess the flavors. Hilarious! And the cost? A few jars of baby food and scarves from someone’s closet. Easy. My husband also told me about a shower he went to where the men had to “chug” beer through baby bottles. Simply borrow the baby bottles or grab them from the dollar store and get a cheap six-pack!
At a Garza shower, you might see women trying to dress baby dolls blindfolded—also fun and inexpensive. If games aren’t your thing, ask guests to write tips or words of encouragement for the new mom on cards. It’s a sweet tradition to sit in a circle and read these words of wisdom aloud, then give them to the mom as a keepsake.
7. Use That DIY Playlist
At lavish showers held in restaurants or event halls, a jazz combo or D.J. are standard. But if you’re keeping costs down, simply fire up your Apple Music or create a Spotify playlist ahead of time. Connect it to a Bluetooth speaker and voilá—the perfect, tailor-made ambiance for the mom-to-be. You can add her favorite songs as well as any funny tunes from your inside jokes throughout the years. Or, if you’re feeling really clever, make the playlist all songs that feature the word “baby” in it.
8. Choose Balloons Over Flowers
Flowers can be very costly, but you can pick up a pack of 50 balloons—and a helium tank if you want to get fancy—from the dollar store for relatively cheap. And Amazon sells balloon arch and trellis kits ranging from $15 to $40. But be careful: Walker says high demand and specialty balloons have upped the cost of some creations.
9. Forget the Favors
Mugs, chocolates, embroidered hats. While these are cute, Garza recommends trimming the cost of gifts for guests. “Sometimes guests get so caught up in the party, they just grab their purse and go,” she says, lamenting that she’s seen piles of leftover treats after parties in the past. Instead, consider handmade favors personalized to each guest—if you have the time—like paper origami if you’re feeling creative or place cards with the name and date of the shower to memorialize the event.
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Jennifer Chappell Smith has more than 25 years’ experience writing about lifestyle, personal finance and more. She and her husband live in San Antonio, Texas, where they’re raising three boys.