It’s a huge bummer to have to cancel your baby shower for any reason, especially a global pandemic. While no one will be surprised by the fact that your party is off, it might not have to be totally off, either. There are tons of ways to throw a virtual baby shower and it may end up being just as good as an in-person celebration because everyone can attend, and no one has to buy a plane ticket.
“The beauty of a virtual environment is that it’s way more inclusive than in-person can ever be because there aren't childcare restraints, or people who can’t attend because they’re sick or immunocompromised,” Jessica Brandes Kingrey, event planner and founder of Events By JBK tells Romper. “I think the nature of virtual events is actually really positive. In order to make the virtual party work, however, you need to do some pre-planning and set up the structure.”
"If the party can’t be postponed, then invite people to a virtual party!" Emee Pumarega, founder of EJP Events, tells Romper. "Most families have access to Zoom and Google Hangouts which can be used by any device."
In fact, both of these event planners have hosted virtual parties with great success, so they know a thing or two about which ideas work and which aren't worth trying when it comes to planning a virtual baby shower.
1. Send Out Detailed Invitations
If you haven’t sent invites yet and you know your shower will now have to be virtual, it’s a good idea to send e-vites through a website like Paperless Post, or you could even opt for mailed invitations.
“A paper invite is always appreciated,” Brandes Kingrey says. “If you’re not spending money hosting a big in-person event, you could go big on the invites.”
You want the invite to clearly include details of the virtual party including the start and end time, and on what platform the party will be hosted, (this may be Zoom, Hangouts, or even WebBabyShower, a platform that’s specifically designed for this occasion).
If you already sent invites to what was supposed to be an in-person shower, the host will have to issue an update letting guests know that the party is now virtual. You could update the details of the e-vite, but sometimes these go to spam or “people breeze over the updates thinking they’re promotional” Brandes Kingrey says.
The best idea is for the host to personally reach out to every attendee either by phone or email making sure everyone has the link to the party. “The most stressful thing is people asking, ‘where’s the link, how can I dial in?’ So making sure everyone has access in a couple different ways is helpful,” Brandes Kingrey tells Romper.
2. Tell Guests What They Can Do Beforehand
Virtual parties may begin a bit abruptly with everyone logging on at once, so it’s always a good idea to make sure guests have clear guidelines before the party starts. “It can be nice to have a few people, or in these times, just one other person to actually be in-person with the mom-to-be,” Brandes Kingrey says. If everyone is actually alone, it’s even more important to designate one person (maybe a sister or partner) to act as a host who keeps things moving. You can tell guests to make brunch foods for example, and if there are different time zones involved, it can be fun to see some people sipping on coffee while others have wine or beer.
"Everyone should bring the mocktail or cocktail of their choice and if it’s a really good one, share the recipe on chat," Pumarega tells Romper.
If there’s time, the host could even “send each attendee a little care package beforehand with something silly like a flower crown or a barette,” Brandes Kingrey says, so everyone can wear it on the video chat. What you probably want to skip is sending something (like decor) to the mama-to-be that’s cumbersome to install. “Don’t send her a DIY balloon garland and expect her to set it up herself,” Brandes Kingrey says.
3. Make A Timeline (& Stick To It)
Make sure guests know the start time and the end time of the party. "It’s important to timebox it out, no more than an hour and a half. It’s almost better to keep it closer to an hour, and manage the time well," Brandes Kingrey tells Romper. "I think when it’s longer, people get fatigued, people start having side conversations, if some people are physically together they start talking to each other."
The host can make a schedule that includes time for a bit of chatting in the beginning, then games, gifts, and goodbyes. "You want it to end on a really nice note instead of just disintegrating," Brandes Kingrey adds.
4. Have Planned Activities
Just because the event is virtual doesn't mean baby shower games are off the table. "You can play measure the belly," Brandes Kingrey says, "and guests can send in their guesses via the chat function." If the game involves guessing or filling anything out, it's easy to play digitally with guests typing in their answers. You can also have everyone share a bit of advice on parenthood which is a sweet time where each person gets the floor for a minute.
Gifts are also a go for virtual parties. "My recommendation would be to mail a gift ahead of time so the mom can actually open them on camera and everyone can watch. This makes for a more similar experience to the real baby shower," Pumarega says. If the shower went virtual at short notice, then this may not be possible and it's fine to have people unbox the gift they bought to show the mom before sending it out.
"Shopping for a baby gift is so fun, as is supporting local businesses. Plus the information you can get from baby shops is amazing. These people are experts in the product," Brandes Kingrey says. "If you’re kind of clueless about what new moms need, [local shops are] a wealth of information. A lot of them will ship directly from their store.” You may not be able to shop in person right now, but many stores are still available for phone calls, and may even offer a "virtual shopping" experience where you FaceTime with an employee and pick something out together.
5. Expect A Few Hiccups
A virtual party can be really fun, but it's a new forum for most people and may not go perfectly smoothly. That's okay! If you’re concerned about people talking at once, you can have a "bell or a baby rattle that the host can shake if things are getting off track, but in my experience with virtual events, things will get off track for about a minute and then it comes back," Brandes Kingrey says.
Some interruptions, side conversations, and even small tech glitches will likely happen, which is why it can be especially helpful to have one person bringing everything back if things start to get chaotic. Most importantly, it's good for everyone to be able to laugh at any hiccups and recover quickly. Also it's nice to remember that if the party was a last-minute cancellation and you find yourself stuck with an excess of leftovers, you could "consider arranging for donation to a homeless shelter or food pantry," Pumarega tells Romper.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here on this page, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Jessica Brandes Kingrey, Founder of Events By JBK
Emee Pumarega, Founder of EJP Events