As social distancing efforts stretch on, more and more families are spending milestone events apart. Weddings, birthdays, holidays like Father's Day, and yes—baby showers—have all been affected. Thankfully, though, many of these traditions don't have to be flat-out cancelled. There's another option: online gatherings.
And while these alternate plans might initially seem like a disappointment, there are even some very real pros to celebrating this way, says event planner Allison Carter of Allison Carter Celebrates.
"Before social distancing, showers often consisted of local family and friends getting together to celebrate the beautiful mama-to-be," says Carter. "Now, we have a special opportunity to open that circle up and have all of their loved ones present to celebrate, like grandmas that may not have been able to travel or best friends that live in different states.
But what exactly is a virtual baby shower? And how do you throw a gathering or happy hour when partygoers—including the guest of honor—are confined to their own homes? Surprisingly, it's not as difficult as one might think.
Start by choosing a "venue."
There are a number of free or low-cost "venues" for your virtual baby shower. The most popular is Zoom, since it can accommodate a large number of "guests," plus offers the flexibility of decorative backgrounds and even breakout rooms to team up for party games. (Note: Some of these features require an inexpensive account upgrade.) Still, there are plenty of other digital platforms that work just as well, like Google Hangouts and Skype.
Then, send formal invitations.
Online invitations from companies like Paperless Post are an obvious choice for virtual baby showers, but sending traditional paper invites is a nice way to formalize the event. When everyone is home spending so much time on their devices, snail mail is a welcome surprise. To keep things contactless and moving as swiftly as possible, you can even download and print custom invites from Etsy.
No matter what kind of invitations you send, don't forget to include important details like any password required to enter the online event, any supplies guests might need handy to play party games, registry information, and attire (the party will feel much more special if people change out of those sweatpants!). Offering to do a trial run for guests that may not be as tech savvy as others can go a long way to ease everyone's nerves, too, says Carter.
And don't forget to decorate.
How exactly? If the mother-to-be has a partner, this is a great way to involve them in the celebration. The host can ship a box of festive accoutrements—a sash, a banner, balloons, and a personalized cup, for example—to the guest of honor prior to the event.
But skip the food.
While brunch is a normal focal point of any in-person baby shower, it's not a standard part of virtual celebrations. It's a nice idea to ask guests to have a refreshment on hand to toast the mama-to-be, but otherwise, this is one thing you can check off of your list.
Of course, if you really want to go above and beyond, you can create consistency by delivering a treat and some paper plates or napkins to all guests, says Carter. Bonus: This type of surprise can double as your party favor!
And shift the focus away from traditional presents.
Encourage guests to send gifts from the registry directly to the mother-to-be before the shower. Alternatively, gifts can be dropped at her doorstep in a safe, contactless manner.
But on the day of the shower, shift the focus from present-opening. Why? In-person showers generally last three to four hours, but virtual baby showers should only go on for about an hour to an hour and a half, says Carter. To make the best use of that precious time together, consider coming up with one or two sentimental group gifts to unveil at the shower and leave the big pile for the parents to tackle in private.
Some ideas? "Email guests ahead of time and ask for their dreams, wishes, hopes, etc. for the new baby," suggests Carter. "Once you gather them all, turn those sentiments into a piece of art for the nursery." There are many print designers on marketplaces like Etsy that will do this for you, or you can create your own graphic with a free tool like Canva.
Or, give her a book of parenting advice from all of the mothers in her circle. "Compile letters written from her grandmas with their advice on mothering, tips from best friends that have gone through this journey before and know the best products on the market, or words of encouragement for boosting that self love and confidence to read on those inevitable hard days," says Carter.
But do plan extra games and activities.
Since virtual parties bring all guests together for conversation at once, a string of activities and games help keep the flow and minimize any awkward silence or confusion about who should talk next.
Plus, games for long distance baby showers are actually very simple, because so many come as digital printables, says Carter. Find something like Baby Scattegories, Mommy or Daddy Said, Guess the Celebrity Baby, or Baby Trivia. Purchase the digital file, then email it to guests ahead of time so they can print and be ready to go.
Alternatively, opt for something a little more interactive like Baby Charades. Split guests into two teams and use the chat feature of your virtual conference call service to message each guest their word individually. Guests take turns acting out their word while the rest of their team guesses.
And whatever activity you choose, don't forget the prizes. Great options include emailed gift cards for restaurants, or to local boutiques and businesses that have transitioned to online sales, says Carter. For a more philanthropic option, consider donating to the charity of the winner's choice instead.
Last, but certainly not least, go with the flow.
No matter how meticulous your planning, a virtual baby shower inherently has its limitations. Try not to stress about small technical glitches or other factors out of your control—like a guest who didn't get the memo about attire. Focus on what really matters: Despite the current circumstances, you're still able to come together to celebrate one of life's most precious gifts—a brand new baby.
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