When I found out that my sister, Heather, would be having a baby I was thrilled. The addition of a new baby to our family is something that makes my heart feel so full – and I knew that getting to watch my little sister, one of the people I am very closest to, discover the joy of motherhood would really be something special.
Of course, I was also very excited to plan her shower. Y'all know how I love a good theme party. When Heather told me that they wanted the shower to be a Jack and Jill backyard picnic I was even more excited.
I love co-ed baby and wedding showers. While traditions are great and all, these days it is much more common for men to take active roles in parenting their kids, so why should they miss out on baby showers?
This is one of your last opportunities to really kick up your heels before baby arrives, so why not do it right. Invite your best friends of both genders, put some cold drinks on ice, and turn up the music.
Making a shower co-ed is a great excuse to think outside the box and forgo the stuffier shower traditions for rowdier, more celebratory games and activities.
Plus, it takes the heat off of Mama. I don't know about you, but I feel a wee bit uncomfortable being the center of attention – never mind having a group of women measure my belly or guess my weight. Ugh.
My goal for this party was to make it as fun as possible. I wanted to make Heather and her husband Ben feel like it was a really special day while keeping things casual and laid back. This was going to be a pretty big party – with kids, families, and friends of all ages. We needed the decorations to pop, the games to be fun, and the food to be easy.
We chose a nautical theme since both Heather and Ben love of sailing, the ocean, and being outdoors in general. It just so happens that nautical themed kids clothes and decorations are super hot right now which made our party planning even easier!
The party was held in Heather and Ben's amazing backyard. To make this huge space look festive we took on one really special project – a balloon arch! I originally got the idea from one of my favorite blogs, The House That Lars Built. Ours didn't turn out quite as spectacular as Brittany's, but I still think it looked great and really made the yard say PARTY!
Filling the balloons was a group effort. I enlisted the grandparents, aunts and uncles in puffing them all up using both a balloon pump and good old-fashioned lung power. In hindsight I really should have invested in a few extra pumps OR something easier to use, like this electric pump. The next step was to stick the balloons into a strip of something called Decorative Balloon Tape. This was actually pretty easy, though the balloons sometimes popped out of place while I was working.
The strip gives you a very flexible tower of balloons that you can either curve into an arch, stack as a column, or hang in the air like we did. If you want to create a true arch (like an upside-down horseshoe), I'd suggest checking out an Arch Kit – or you can use my husband's favorite balloon arch method of sticking balloons to a curved PVC pipe with packing tape. We hung our balloon arch over the tables where folks would be eating and hanging out.
We used some hammock tree cords to attach one side to a large tree and attached the other side of the strips to a string of lights that was already strung up permanently. Wherever you choose to hang your balloon pillar, just make sure that the rigging is sturdy and the balloons are placed well away from branches or leaves that could pop them. When the wind picks up this decoration can really move!
Blue and White Balloon Arch | Shop the project:
- Balloon Hand-Pump or Electric Balloon Pump
- Balloon Strip or Arch Kit
- Blue & White Latex Pearl Balloons
- White Polka Dot Balloons
- Tree Cords
Our other decorations were fairly simple. We picked up some fun streamers, paper lanterns, and pom-poms at the local party store and hung them around party focal points, like the drink and gift tables. My Mom also bought some really cute decorative wooden sailboats. These helped dress up the tables and doubled as game prizes for the guests. You can find a list of the decorations we chose on this Amazon list.
Food & Drink
We had lots of fun working on the party's buffet lunch. Along with some delicious cold salads, savory appetizers, and flatbread pizzas, we included a few special party recipes that matched the party theme. Almost all of these were inspired by recipes we found while cruising Pinterest, so I've included links to several tutorials and recipes below.
Sailboat Deviled Eggs | One of the very first projects that caught my eye were these adorable deviled egg sailboats. Super easy and cute to boot! Our friend, Sara Holliday, put this perfect little fleet together for the party.
Carved Watermelon Ship | I love to carve things, particularly pumpkins and melons, so of course I had to make a nautical themed fruit salad bowl! This was so easy though. Maybe too easy. You seriously just cut a square out of the side of the melon, stick a chopstick in it and blammo! You have yourself a watermelon sail boat. The peskier park is scooping out all of the watermelon but again, that's no big whoop. I vote watermelon fruit ship as the best mix of easy and impressive.
Sailboat Cake Pops | I have never really mastered the art of creating smooth pretty cake pops. Mine tend to come out gloppy and oddly shaped, but that doesn't stop me from making them. To cover up my cake pop ineptitude I simply roll them in sprinkles before letting them cool. I figure everyone loves sprinkles so it's a victimless crime. I cut triangles of craft paper and punched little holes in them to make sails, then topped each of my "boats" off with a small piece of washi tape to serve as a flag. Stickers, cello bags, ribbon, done!
Sailboat Sub Sandwich | In my opinion, big sandwiches are pretty much the best-ever party food. They are relatively inexpensive compared to other kinds of catering and they are built to please a crowd. We used craft paper and skinny dowels to transform our sub sandwich into a massive sailing ship – making it both a main dish AND a centerpiece! I used blue bulletin board borders to add waves to the table, and to serve as labels for each dish. Easy peasy.
Aquarium Jello Shots | These were so fun! We made two batches, one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic, and made sure to use different colored jellos for each and to label each bunch clearly. Even so, little ones kept trying to run off with the booze cups so just keep that in mind at your own party. If we did these again I would probably elevate the alcoholic shots to keep them further from reach.
Candy Fish Aquarium Jello Shots
Makes about 16 2-oz. shots
- 2 6-oz. boxes Berry Blue Jello
- 2 cups boiled water
- 1 cup Margarita Mix
- 1 cup tequila (or for a virgin version, use cold water or juice)
- 2 cups ice
- 1 package Swedish Fish
- 1 package Lifesaver Gummies
- Mix boiled water with contents of Jello packet and stir continuously for 2 minutes.
- Stir or shake margarita mix and tequila with ice and strain into bowl of jello. (Use a cocktail strainer or colander.)
- Mix the jello well before pouring into cocktail cups.Pour about 1/4 cup (2 ounces) into each cup.
- Chill for four hours to allow the jello to set.
- Top each cup with one Swedish Fish and one Lifesaver Gummy.
Oyster Pearl Cookies | My Mom made these little cuties. We opted for Pepperidge Farm Lemon Cookies over the more commonly used Nilla Wafers. This gave the "shells" a prettier texture. The candy eyes were my mother's idea. It took something pretty and made it goofy in the best possible way. Big win on the googly eyes, Mom. Big win!
By the way, that sand that you see on the tray full of cookies is just plain old brown sugar. My mom is a genius.
Oyster Pearl Cookies
Makes 20 Cookies
- 2 6-oz. packages of Pepperidge Farm Lemon Cookies
- 1 batch buttercream frosting (recipe here)
- 2 – 5 drops blue food coloring (optional)
- 40 small Candy Eyes
- 40 white/shimmer sixlet candies
- Mix buttercream frosting with food dye, if using. These also look very nice without color, or you can dye them to match your shower's theme colors.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with buttercream frosting.
- Place 20 cookies onto a baking sheet or tray, flat-side up. Pipe a generous dollop of frosting onto each cookie. (If you don't have a pastry bag you can simply spoon the frosting on.)
- Place one cookie on top of each frosted cookie, flat-side down.
- Fit the pastry bag with a writing tip, then frost two small dots on one cookie to adhere the candy eyes. Stick the eyes onto the cookie before moving on to the next cookie (or they may dry before you can glue them on.) If you aren't using a pastry bag, try using a chopstick or the tip of a teaspoon for this step.
- Finally, stick one sixlet candy into the "mouth" of each cookie sandwich.
- Serve right away or cover (gently) and refrigerate for up to four hours.
Fondant Shower Cake | My sister, Sarah, who runs the adorable handmade clothing shop Bub Bub, makes amazing cakes. (Just LOOK at this Dragons Love Tacos Cake she made!) Her works of art in fondant never cease to amaze and the cake she made for Heather and Ben's shower was no exception. Just look at that tiny knotted rope border! Stupendous. She even crafted two little kitties (modeled after Heather and Ben's beloved Chairman and Frattie) to ride in the wooden boat placed on top of the cake.
No party is complete without some interactive fun. We tried to put together games that fit the casual atmosphere of the party and would help keep guests of all ages well entertained.
Little Fishes Guest Book | Our friend, Rachel, put together this beautiful art project to serve as a guest book for the party. Guests signed tiny cut-out fish that Rachel later mounted on a paper background and framed for the new parents.
Kid's Craft Station with Cork Sailboats and Sailor Hats | Since we knew we'd have little ones in a pretty wide range of ages we thought a craft table would be the perfect way to get them in on the fun. We set up a station with supplies for making cork sailboats and for decorating kid-sized sailor hats. By the end of the party there were even some adults with funky sailor hats running around.
Kiddie Pool Boat Pond | This one couldn't have been easier. We picked up a few plastic sailboat toys and filled a kiddie pool with water. The kids did the rest! Splashing, sailing boats, and even diving right in. Nothing keeps my kid happier than water. It seems to be true for most others too!
Nautical Knot Tying | Ben's sister, Betsy, stopped by an old-timey candy shop in town to pick up several yards of rope licorice for guests to practice tying knots with. My Dad, a diver, sailor, and former merchant marine, manned the knot-tying table where guests stopped by to try their hand at a variety of tricky nautical knots. I made up a picture board to help things along and my Dad, the knot-master, handed out prizes to the best knot-tiers of the day.
Donut Eating Contest | This was hands-down the best baby shower game I've ever instigated. This wouldn't be a great match for just any baby shower, but if your friends are silly, adventurous, and really love donuts, than have I got a game for you. We tied glazed donuts to long pieces of ribbon before hanging them from Heather and Ben's clothesline.
This would work just as well with a tree, or a rope strung across the yard. We rounded up our most rowdy guests and challenged them to gobble up the donuts WITHOUT using their hands. Whoever finished the whole donut hands-free won the game. This was absolutely hilarious to watch!
Backyard Sack Boards | My husband took on the project of crafting two boards for sack (also called cornhole) to double as a party game and a shower and housewarming gift. To tell you the truth, I don't know exactly how my crafty man cut, sawed, and shellacked these two gorgeous game boards from scratch, but I know he did an incredible job! My Mom even sewed the bean bags herself.
This game kept folks busy all day long and well into the late afternoon. Impromptu tournaments erupted throughout the day while the guests kicked back with a little cold beer and friendly competition. If you don't want to build your own boards from scratch you could always buy a pair from a hand-maker on Etsy OR swap out corn hole for another backyard game.
You can check out even more fun ideas for your own nautical baby shower by checking out my Nautical Baby Shower Pinterest Board. The board includes pins for the projects we used and many more that we didn't get to.