This spring my friends and I spent a sunny afternoon toasting our friend Beth and her baby boy on the way. We skipped the usual baby bottles and blue food, and instead focused on the party details we knew Beth would appreciate: a fresh, sophisticated salad bar spread, sunny and colorful decor, and a fun, simple craft table where guests personalized burp cloths for her to take home.
Here's a full look at the party, from the set-up to the beautiful bundt cake finale, including all the resources we used to make this shower happen. Planning a baby or bridal shower this year? Here's some inspiration for making it feel extra special.
Getting Ready for the Party
A Few Weeks Before
With a little over 20 people on the guest list and a full lunch planned, I knew I needed assistance even beyond my friends Lydia, who was handling all the decor, and Jen, who offered her tree-shaded yard and porch for the party. We recruited one artistic friend to make signs for the craft table and salad bar, so guests would know what everything was, and another wine-loving friend to pick up an assortment of wines. (It's always best to play off of people's strengths when asking for help!)
We were also lucky enough to have the help of Lydia's friend Rebecca Simms of Wylie West Creative, who offered to make paper garlands and tassel hangings to decorate the yard.
In the weeks leading up to the party, we each chipped away at our individual to-do lists. Lydia purchased or borrowed the decorations we needed, Jen cleaned up the yard and porch, and pulled extra tables out of the basement, and I wrote out my master prep list and did what work I could, including par-baking and freezing the fantail rolls and baking and freezing the bundt cake. (I'll talk more about my cooking timeline on Friday, when I'll be sharing my tips for putting together a salad bar like this for a party.)
A Spring Shower Menu
For 22 people
The yard before the party
...and after setting up the tables
The Day of the Party
Lydia and I arrived at Jen's house about two hours before the party to start setting up. I had rented three round tables, white tablecloths and enough chairs to seat all of the guests, and the rental company had dropped them off earlier that morning. (We considered just cobbling together enough tables and chairs from friends to accommodate everyone, but ultimately decided to save ourselves some work and just rent them.)
That morning Lydia had stopped by a local grocery store with some giant metallic balloons purchased online that spelled out "OH BOY." For about $20, she had them filled with helium, and they were such a fun, eye-catching addition to the party.
Rebecca also arrived and started hanging her decorations, so we took a short break to oooh and aaah over her creations.
The Drink Station
Jen had an old wood dresser on her porch, which she mentioned had been used as a drinks table at her own baby shower — a brilliant idea. On top of the dresser we set up three big glass drink dispensers, filled with the lavender lemonade, rosé sangria and ice water, and placed glasses and straws in one of the open drawers below.
The Craft Table & Guest Book
I liked the idea of providing the guests with a craft project, so they could create something special for Beth as a gift, but because she lives in a teeny 550-square-foot house, I knew the gifts also had to be truly useful. Lydia had to idea to stamp cloth diapers with permanent ink to turn them into burp cloths and we found the perfect set from Yellow Owl Workshop, a farm stamp collection that was a nod to Beth's horse-riding, Iowa roots. We also set up a clothesline and provided small clothes pins for guests to display their work.
At the same table, we placed a book of illustrated fairy tales — a childhood favorite of Beth's — and some pens, so guests could sign it as a guest book.
Beth and me (our due dates are just 2 weeks apart!)
The party started at noon and I planned on serving lunch around 1 PM, so I kept the appetizers fairly light: crisp radish slices, good butter and sea salt on baguette slices, and a mix of pasteurized and raw aged cheeses that were all safe for pregnant women to eat. (We'll have a full post on pregnancy-friendly cheeses later this week.)
The Salad Bar
All of the food for the salad bar was made ahead and ready to go, so all I had to do when it was time for lunch was finish baking the rolls and transfer the rest of the food to serving dishes. I had purposely selected recipes that would taste good cold or at room temperature, so I didn't have to worry about reheating anything or keeping it warm once it hit the buffet table.
Each guest's place was set at the tables, but we didn't assign seating, so when the salad bar was set up, I just asked people to grab a plate and help themselves.
The spread included a mix of different proteins, some starch options and three different types of dressing. I purposely used romaine lettuce as the base, since it holds up so well even after being washed and sliced. In the end, there was plenty of chicken and salmon left over (the items I had been worried about running out of) and the roasted asparagus and carrots were long gone. More roasted veggies next time!
After everyone finished eating, we shared a toast to Beth, then played a short, fun, non-cheesy shower game. (Jen had quizzed Beth's husband Tony on various baby-related facts and Beth had to guess his answers.) After the laughter died down, it was time for presents and cake.
A party like this seems to call for an impressive cake, but I was dreading the idea of making a frosted layer cake for 20+ guests, especially considering how much kitchen prep work I would already be doing for the salad bar — and did I mention I was seven months pregnant? Enter the bundt cake, my savior in times like these.
Tessa developed a recipe for a lemon poppyseed cake that stayed moist and delicious even after a couple weeks in my freezer, and looked stunning when made in my favorite bundt pan. I let the cake thaw on the counter the night before the party and topped it with a vanilla-speckled glaze and sliced almonds the following morning. It was a winner.
As the party wound down, the guests made sure to sign the guest book and stamp some burp cloths before they headed home, and after clearing the tables, the other hosts and I took a moment to sit down with Beth and nibble on another piece of cake before we started cleaning up.
Beth was glowing with happiness over every moment of the party and I remembered, this is why we work hard for weeks to plan a shower. This is why we throw parties for the people we care about. All the thought, planning, late nights and swollen ankles are so worth it in the end.
Featured Party Resources
(Image credits: Leela Cyd)