This might sound weird, because obviously I really enjoy planning and throwing parties, but I tend to really dislike baby showers. It might be the games (can we all agree that baby showers have the worst games? Grown women having to sniff melted chocolate in a diaper to figure out what kind of candy bar it is?! Please...), it might be all the talk about the horrible things that happen to your body when pregnant and giving birth... I don't know; but I'm not a fan. So I have already decided that if I ever have kids, the only kind of shower I want is the what I call the anti-baby-shower baby shower.
Basically it is an open house rather than your traditional sit down shower. This can be used for bridal showers, as well, if you have a less traditional bride or one who doesn't like to be so much the center of attention in large groups, but prefers one on one contact.
The premise is this: rather than sitting people down and forcing them to play games and watch the mom-to-be (or bride-to-be) open every gift, you could instead set aside a time (a little longer than a normal shower) and allow guests to arrive and leave as they like. When a guest arrives, the mom/bride can open their gift then, in a more personal setting.
Print up cards with each guest's name on it before the shower, and once a gift is opened, set it out on a display table with that guest's name card next to it. This way guests who come later can see what other people have given.
This kind of format allows the mom/bride to mingle more with each guest as they come and go and give a more genuine 'thank you' as she opens each gift (I know at my own shower there were a few people who arrived a little late and left a little early that I never got to say hi to at all). It also spreads out the gift opening more, which makes it a little less overwhelming (and therefore the mom/bride can savor the process more). Anyone who has had a shower may know that it's almost too much to take in when you open 30 gifts in a row in a matter of 30-40 minutes.
You can still serve food at this event, but make sure it is something that will be good over the course of say... 4 hours. You can either have a variety of finger foods that can withstand this, or you could keep things refrigerated between guests. Be prepared that some guests may stay the entire time, so have something to nibble and sip on out at all times.
Don't forget to keep a log of what guests bring what gifts, like a normal shower, so the bride will have a list to go off of for thank you notes. The name cards are mainly for other people to see, but won't make the mom/bride remember what every single person got her, so make a list, as well.
I also have to mention that if you are planning a co-ed shower, I think this format is a particularly good way to go. If there are women who dislike baby shower games, imagine how the guys feel!
As always, refer to "General Party Planning Tips" also, and happy planning!
(Credit for first picture: Blue Shutter Studios, dress by Mercedes Hill)