Organize a stress-free fête for the proud parents-to-be.
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Hosting a baby shower for a friend or family member who's preparing to welcome a little one gives you the chance to create beautiful, celebratory memories for a growing family. Without a plan, though, this process can also leave you feeling overwhelmed. "As a host, your job is to make sure the mom-to-be has a great time," says Brenna Gilbert of Feste, "and if you're stressed, leaving everything to the last minute, and you're not having a great time, then she's not having a great time."

Gilbert recommends hosting the shower in the mother's sixth or seventh month—the sweet spot between first-trimester nausea and third-trimester exhaustion—and leaving yourself about two months to organize a venue, menu, and décor. Talk to the parents about whether they'd prefer to help or be surprised, who's on the guest list, and what type of event they want in month five—or a little earlier if you plan to host the shower at a restaurant or event space. "Spacing out the workload makes everything feel that much more manageable, so that ultimately you're able to enjoy the event more."

Six to Eight Weeks Out

Discussions with the family should help you secure the overall plan—the number of people, the date, the location—at this point. "Now is when you should make decisions on the guest list, because that's going to drive your space," says Gilbert. "Decide how many people are going to be there, what you want the event to be, and how much you want to spend. With large venues, you need two months, but if it's hosted at home, you're fine with a six-week planning process."

Six Weeks Out

Use the guest list to send invitations with an RSVP date of four weeks before the shower, suggests Gilbert. "Six weeks out is also the perfect time to have mom finalize her registry, to make sure gifts are getting there on time. You should also start ordering anything that's personalized, like gifts or décor."

Four Weeks Out

Once your RSVPs are in, you can move forward with the rest of the planning. "Especially if you're entertaining at home, now is the time to set a menu," says Gilbert. "It's time to talk to a bakery about cakes, place orders for personalized cookies or cupcakes, and start to plan your next few weeks." Consider how much of an at-home menu you're able (or willing) to make yourself; you might want to order larger entrees and make crudite or charcuterie platters; enlist family to contribute the parents' favorite homemade dishes; or book a caterer to handle it all. (In peak event season, you'll also want to touch base with a rental company this week to go over your options for tables and chairs; they'll give you a deadline for finalizing your order closer to the event.)

Two Weeks Out

Wrap up the rest of your décor by sourcing specialty glassware for the mimosa bar, ordering the balloon installation, and preparing any handmade favors or other accents. "Talk to a florist, if you haven't already," says Gilbert. "This is the perfect lead time to make sure the florists know what you want so they can add your request to their weekly order and get it in on time."

The Day Before

Gilbert recommends preparing as much of the event as you can with at least 24 hours to go: Set up tables, chairs, and place settings; batch prepare cocktails and canapés; stock the bar with glassware and mixers. Ideally, you'll have everything set out the night before, save for a few final details, like flowers, perishable foods, latex balloons—and anything that your kids or dogs might be tempted to get into overnight (if you're hosting at home, that is). "The nice thing about showers is your usually doing them with friends or family, so it's great to have them there the day before to set up with you," says Gilbert. "It's a great place for partners to pitch in."

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