Katie Sanders helped introduce her friends Hilary Lehman and Aaron Sharockman. She served as the officiant at their wedding. It was only fitting that Sanders would throw a baby shower for the expecting couple.
Back in early March, Sanders, who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, was scoping out local breweries as venues for the event, but it soon became apparent she’d have to alter those plans due to coronavirus concerns.
So she pivoted and started planning a virtual baby shower over Zoom — complete with trivia, updates from the couple and a sneak peak of the nursery. Local guests participated in a drive-by parade to send the couple well wishes before the party started online.
“People said they really had a great time,” Sanders said. “I was really pleased with how happy it made people feel. [My friends] felt so loved at the end of the day.”
Although states are reopening after COVID-19 shutdowns, throwing a virtual baby shower instead of an in-person event is still ideal for many expectant couples. It cuts down the worry over contracting the virus while pregnant and allows loved ones from afar — who may not be able to travel — to celebrate the new baby.
Plus, hosting a virtual event comes with significant cost savings. A traditional baby shower could cost a couple hundred dollars for an informal function at home or over a thousand bucks for a fancy shower at a rented venue with catering.
Sanders said she was able to save significantly by not needing to book a venue, pay for food, mail invitations and buy a bunch of party favors and decor. It’s even possible to throw a virtual baby shower without spending any money at all.
If you’ve got a baby on the way or are in charge of planning a celebration for a family member or friend, follow these steps to host an inexpensive virtual baby shower.
1. Select a Date and Time
Even though your guests won’t be physically travelling to attend your virtual baby shower, it’s still important to give ample notice. Think about dates that are at least two weeks out. Keep in mind that some guests may be sending gifts for the baby and could encounter shipping delays.
Block off no more than an hour or two for the celebration. Throwing a virtual baby shower will probably take up less time than an in-person event. Be considerate about time if you’ll have guests joining the party from different parts of the country. You don’t want the event to start too early, too late or right in the middle of meal time.
2. Choose a “Venue”
And by venue, we mean which video conferencing platform you’ll use to host your baby shower.
You might already be used to different options if you’ve been working remotely or using video apps to stay in touch with friends and family, but you’ll want to consider the needs of your event and the tech savvy of your guests.
Are you hosting a bunch of friends who love to play around with fun camera filters? Are you inviting relatives who don’t want to be bothered with downloading an app or signing up for some new account? Are you keeping the baby shower small or inviting, say, everyone who attended the couple’s wedding?
Recruit a couple friends to help you test things out if you’re unsure which service you want to use. Here are several popular platforms that are free or have free versions:
Zoom’s free account allows you to include up to 100 participants on a video call with a 40-minute time limit. Your baby shower guests don’t need to have Zoom accounts to join the party — just a link to the scheduled event. Some popular Zoom features include screen sharing, group chat, the use of virtual backgrounds and having a gallery view that can show 25 people on the screen at once.
Sanders used Zoom’s polling function to have people guess when the baby would be born and the breakout room function to let guests chat in smaller groups while playing a trivia game. The parents-to-be were able to jump in and out of the different breakout rooms to talk with guests in a more intimate setting.
Facebook Messenger Rooms
Facebook’s new Messenger Rooms platform lets you invite up to 50 people to your virtual baby shower. You can even invite the grandparents who may not have a Facebook account — you don’t need one to join the party.
With Facebook Messenger Rooms, you don’t have to stick to a strict time frame for your celebration, because there aren’t any time limits for meetings. Features of this platform include fun camera filters, 360-degree virtual backgrounds, mood lighting and more.
Google’s online meeting platform lets you include up to 100 people on a video call for up to an hour. Through Sept. 30, 2020, Google Meet is extending premium features to all users so you can meet with 150 people for up to 24 hours at no cost.
Participants will need a gmail account, but signing up for one is free. For virtual baby showers with small guest lists, Google has other options. Google Duo allows up to 12 participants on a video call.
Celebrate using Group FaceTime with up to 32 loved ones. You’ll just have to make sure all the people on your guest list have an iPhone, iPad or Mac with an updated operating system.
Have fun using special filters, Animojis or Memojis during the video call. There are no time limits for calls.
Skype’s group video calling feature lets you meet with up to 50 people at once. This service from Microsoft allows anyone to join for free. Special features include screen sharing and background blur.
3. Come Up With a Theme
Many in-person baby showers have a theme — which doesn’t have to be lost with a virtual event.
Your theme could reflect the decor of the baby’s nursery or the interests of the parents-to-be. You could simply center your theme around a color palette. Check Pinterest for ideas and inspiration.
Deciding on a theme will help you select a design for your invites, thank you notes or a custom background for the video call. Get your guests involved by asking them to wear something aligned with the theme — sunglasses for a beach theme or their favorite team jerseys for a sports theme. Another way you can incorporate your theme is by sharing a related recipe — like your Aunt Mary’s famous crab dip for a nautical-themed shower.
4. Have the Parents Create a Gift Registry
Or create one yourself if you’re organizing the shower to celebrate your own bundle of joy.
No one even has to set foot in a store. Retailers like Buy Buy Baby, Target and Walmart let you create gift registries online. Or you can create your registry on Amazon or Babylist, adding merchandise from all over the web.
When creating a baby shower registry, it’s good to include a range of items at different price points. If your registry of choice has a group giving feature, you don’t have to shy away from adding higher-end baby gear to your list. Group giving allows multiple loved ones to split the cost of big gifts like a stroller set or crib.
5. Send Invitations Online
The baby shower is going to be held online, so it makes perfect sense to send invites over the internet.
Your invitations should clearly indicate that the baby shower will be a virtual one. Include a link to the event if you have one. If not, let guests know that you’ll follow up with information about how to join the video call on the day of the baby shower. Sharing tips or best practices on how to use the video conferencing platform you’ve chosen can be helpful.
Including an RSVP request on the invite isn’t as essential as if you were throwing an in-person celebration, but it can be useful to know how many people are coming, especially as you’re planning activities to do throughout the party.
Save money on more than just stationery and stamps by searching for free invitations online. Sites like Evite, Paperless Post and Canva provide good options to choose from.
6. Come up With a Schedule of Things to Do
You can’t recreate the whole mingle-and-small-talk aspect of a traditional baby shower at a virtual event. It’s better to implement some structure to the celebration so you don’t have guests talking over each other or awkwardly staring in silence.
Once the majority of guests have joined the video call and introduced themselves, share what you have planned for your time together and run down some general housekeeping rules (like keeping yourself muted when you’re not speaking). You may also want to record the event, if possible, for the parents-to-be to rewatch later. In that case, you should give guests a heads up.
To start things off, have the expecting parents give an update about how things are going with the pregnancy and the baby before jumping into party games. Sanders suggests having the grandparents or older siblings provide some remarks too.
As for the entertainment, there are plenty of baby shower games you can play virtually. Here are a few ideas:
- Trivia: Have guests answer questions about the parents-to-be when they were young or guess the mom’s biggest pregnancy craving.
- Poll: Ask people to guess the circumference of mom’s baby belly or place predictions on when the baby will be born and what the birth weight will be.
- The Price is Right: Have loved ones guess the cost of various baby items.
- Baby bingo: Have guests use a bingo card generator (like this one) using a pre-selected list of baby-related words, or create custom bingo cards to send to each guest ahead of time.
- Name that tune: Create a playlist of songs with the word “baby” in the title. Play the first few seconds of each track, and see who can come up with the name of the song and the artist. Or keep playing the song until someone blurts out the answer.
- Guess the number: Get an empty vessel — like an infant bathtub or an oversized baby bottle piggy bank — and fill it up with jelly beans or marshmallows. Have people guess how many there are.
- Who’s that baby: Ask guests to email you baby photos of themselves and show them on screen during the baby shower, one by one. Have guests write down who they think each baby is and share their answers.
E-gift cards can make great prizes for whoever wins the baby shower games.
Another thing you can do during the baby shower is to have guests share their well wishes. You can provide prompts, like “advice for the new parents” or “what you want the baby to know.” In lieu of having everyone share during the event, have them sign a virtual guest book or record their sentiments in advance.
If enough guests are local, you might ask them to join up and drive by the parents house with signs and balloons to show their love.
Toward the end, you may have the mom-to-be open presents on camera. Some guests may leave once gift-opening starts; others will enjoy seeing their own gift opened. Like in-person events, some parents might want to wait until guests leave to unwrap presents.
7. Send Thank You Notes
After the baby shower is over, use the same service you used for invitations to send out your thank you cards. By choosing e-cards, you’ll save on the additional cost of printed cards and postage. If the baby has arrived, you might choose to send out birth announcements online, too.
Hosting a virtual baby shower gives you the perfect excuse to avoid buying party favors, but you could opt into sending small tokens of appreciation to your guests — like e-gift cards to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. If local friends will be driving past in a baby shower parade, you could set up a table on the front lawn with small trinkets or individually wrapped baked goods.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at Codetic.