How to plan a baby shower: A step-by-step guide

When you have a little one on the way, there’s so much to look forward to. A major life change, the promise of many tender memories to come, and the impending arrival of a new family member are cause for celebration—and so, the close friends and family of parents-to-be will find themselves trying to figure out how to plan a baby shower that everyone is sure to love.

Before the birth of a little one, a baby shower is a perfect opportunity to connect loved ones to share in the joy with games, gifts, and general goodwill. You’ll want to set a theme (perhaps a specific color palette or a sweet animal motif), send out your baby shower invitations, and map out a timeline of activities to help the good times roll. You’ll also have to consider your perfect venue, whether you keep it casual in someone’s backyard or if you want to book a space at the expectant mom’s favorite local restaurant. Planning a baby shower doesn’t have to be hard, but there are a few things to keep in mind that can make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Who is supposed to plan a baby shower?

Through the years, baby showers have most often been planned by the expectant mother’s friends, with the invite list focused just on female friends and family members—no guys allowed. Of course, today, anyone is welcome: Parents-to-be can get the help of friends, their own parents, siblings, or even co-workers to plan their modern baby shower, and they can feel free to invite whoever is most important to them. The person planning the baby shower can also act as the host on the day-of, making sure that everyone sticks to a broad timeline of activities, the food and decorations are perfectly in place, and making sure that everything runs seamlessly, so there’s nothing for the mom-to-be to stress over.

modern and floral baby shower invitations to set the tone for a baby shower

“Colorblocked Stripes” baby shower invitation by kate spade new york; “Royal Botanical” baby shower invitation by Oscar de la Renta.

 

Having more than one baby shower is also perfectly acceptable—make sure that guest lists don’t have any overlap, or if they do, that guests don’t feel pressured to give multiple gifts. You might consider having multiple baby showers if you prefer having a more intimate celebration with close family and a more lively one with friends, or if close friends or family members can’t make it to your original date.

Is it ok to plan your own baby shower?

Absolutely. If you’re planning for a more casual baby shower or you love the process of planning a party yourself, it’s perfectly acceptable to plan your own baby shower. It’s less traditional to take the reins yourself. Still, your friends and family will be thrilled to share in your joy however you decide to plan your celebration—don’t be surprised if your BFF offers to help out in any way possible (and don’t be shy in accepting some assistance). A sip and see is another way to celebrate a new arrival that the parents typically host. Our guide answers all your questions about what a sip and see is and why you might want to host one.

planning your own baby shower with a pink watercolor invitation

“Round Out” baby shower invitation by Paperless Post.

How to plan a baby shower during COVID

Virtual baby showers

Of course, planning a baby shower today comes with some extra challenges—namely, heeding social distancing and quarantine measures to ensure that everyone involved stays safe and healthy. A virtual baby shower is one way you can take care while still having a super-fun celebration—a little creativity goes a long way to make a digital affair feel just as special as an in-person party. By now, most everyone is well accustomed to Zoom, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime, so you don’t have to stress too much about technology. Instead, pour your effort into the fun stuff.

how to plan a casual baby shower with a animated invitation with flowers

“Chat Room Baby Shower”  by Paperless Post Flyer.

 

To make up for the IRL experience of a well-decorated fête, ask attendees to dress to a specific theme or color or put up a custom background on Zoom. For a virtual game, everyone can enjoy, ask everyone to email their baby photos ahead of time and arrange them into a slide presentation. Then, play a round of “Guess Who?” And if the mom-to-be wants to open presents on screen, make sure guests time their purchases at least two weeks ahead of time to make up for any shipping delays, and ship them directly to her home. We rounded up or parent-approved baby shower registry ideas if you’re still looking for gift inspiration.

Drive-by showers

Alternatively, you can also throw a drive-by shower—it’s essentially a mini-parade celebrating the mom-to-be. As guests to decorate their cars with washable paint and cheerful signs. Then, have them drive down the street (preferably, with their windows open and party music playing) as the expectant mother sits comfortably outside, taking it all in. Coordinate with guests so that the last car in the “parade” has all the gifts in its trunk, so it can park and deliver all the goods once the festivities are over.

drive by baby shower party invitations“Automotive Animals” drive-by baby shower invitation by Paperless Post, “Toy Parade” drive-by baby shower invitation by Paperless Post.

 

To make this distanced celebration even more special, consider sending the expectant mom some goodies ahead of time, like sweet treats from her favorite bakery, sparkling cider, or a bottle of champagne (as long as her doctor gives the ok to a single glass). If you’re using a delivery service, make sure to give her or someone else in the household a head’s up beforehand—many deliveries require a signature. An ill-timed doorbell ring can wake up any other little ones at home. This also works if you’re opting for a sip-and-see instead of a shower: After the birth of the baby, guests can “meet” the little one from a safe distance while mom relaxes with a glass of bubbly.

tips for how to plan a baby shower like serve Champagne and decorate with balloonsChampagne: Minibar, Rainbow cloud kit balloons: Meri Meri.

When should you start to plan a baby shower?

Baby showers are typically held late in the second trimester of pregnancy. This timing allows parents to stock up on baby essentials long before their due date, whether they’re receiving those essentials as gifts from their registry or buying them themselves after the fact. This way, they have time to really nest and make a special space for their newborn in their home. It’s also early enough timing, so the mom-to-be has enough energy to enjoy her celebration—and isn’t likely to go into labor mid-party.

Ideally, it would be best if you started planning six to eight weeks in advance—so, earlier in the second trimester. This will give you ample time to map out all the party’s moving parts: Location, decorations, food, and guest list. Send out baby shower invitations six weeks to a month ahead of time, so guests are likely to have space in their calendar and enough time to pick out the perfect gift, whether they’re snagging something from the registry or they’re opting for something even more personal. Using a checklist will ensure that you’re not missing any major components of the planning process.

Baby shower checklist 

Set a date and time

Baby showers are typically held around lunchtime on a weekend day. When you’re picking your date and time, you’ll want to avoid any major holidays or days when you know some of your guests might be unlikely to make it (e.g., at a time that coincides with another family member’s milestone or a big event you know a few friends are likely to attend). Sending out invitations early will also help ensure that guests’ calendars are open.

GIF baby shower invitation with a pretty brunch scene“Pink Candlesticks” by Paperless Post Flyer.

Determine the guest list and budget

Like with any party, it’s best to set a budget upfront. This way, you have specific parameters for determining how much you want to invest in your party’s aspects. Consider what you’re willing to spend for each aspect of the celebration and determine your priorities: This will make it easier to figure out where you can save and where you can splurge. For instance, if a friend is hosting the shower in their backyard, you’re saving money on a venue and might have more money to spend on catering. If a friend is baking cupcakes, you might have more money for florals—and so on.

Your guest list goes hand-in-hand with your budget. The more people you invite, the more people you need to accommodate with invitations, food, favors, and the like. Figure out if you want to have any strict guidelines for who’s invited (only close friends and family versus a larger circle) and if you’re open to allowing plus-1s. Then, write down everyone you want to invite. Check it twice to make sure you’re not missing anyone important.

Choose a venue

Picking your venue is the first step in setting the scene for the baby shower. If you want it to feel a little fancier, you can look into renting a space at a restaurant (maybe the mom-to-be’s favorite), or you can book pretty outdoor space at a local garden or hotel. For a casual affair, you easily throw a great baby shower at someone’s home, whether you’re making the most of a backyard, sunroom, or dining room. Just make sure the location isn’t too far from the expectant mother’s home—a short commute means way less stress (and traffic!).

Pick a theme

The theme for the baby shower can be as simple or extravagant as you want, but it’s best to consider the preferences of the mom-to-be. Do you know she loves the color yellow? A sunflower theme may fit the bill. Is she planning an animal theme for her little one’s nursery? Evoke that same imagery in the shower. If you know she loves a good theme party get creative. If the shower is at someone’s home, consider asking guests to show up in their pajamas for an extra-cozy feel. Or, if you’d rather keep things simple, pick a color palette and coordinate accordingly.

Set the tone with invitations

set the tone with a floral baby shower invitation

“Bambino” baby shower invitation by Venamour.

The invitations you send to the guest list give them the first sense of the baby shower’s vibe. If it’s a more formal affair, make sure the baby shower invitation wording reflects guests’ titles and use an elegant design. If it’s a bit more casual, have fun with puns and more playful invites. Either way, make sure that the invitation aligns with the party’s theme for cohesiveness.

Plan the menu and decorations

The logical next step is figuring out what the shower will look like, which means sorting out decorations and the menu. For decorations, flowers are always a great option, and balloons and garlands (in your color palette, of course) liven up any space easily. To make capturing memories even easier, design a space where guests can take photos together in front of a pretty backdrop. Make sure that mom-to-be has a seat of honor, where she has easy access to all her guests and can open presents for everyone to see. If you’re hosting at someone’s home, looking into renting chairs or borrowing from neighbors to make sure everyone is comfortable throughout the party.

Your menu will largely depend on what time you hold your baby shower and where. You can easily make the party a lunch affair at a restaurant, or if you go for a backyard event, you can serve light snacks around tea time in the mid-to-late afternoon. Or, you could even go for a dessert-only plan. Whatever you decide on, make sure that it’s clear to your guests in the invitations what kind of food will be provided, so no one shows up overly hungry or full.

What to do at a baby shower

Similar to a bridal shower, baby showers are an activity-centric kind of party. That means, in addition to your typical nibble-on-hors-d’oeuvres-and-chat plan, you’ll also want to set aside the time to play some baby shower games.

Get creative

Figure out the best plan, according to who you’re inviting and the kind of tone you want the party to have. If you’re with a crafty bunch and planning to spend the day out in someone’s backyard, have a onesie tie-dye session. Buy plain onesies in a variety of sizes (so the little one can grow into some), and let guests get creative with rubber bands and dye. One person can volunteer to take the dyed onesies home to wash and dry to make the mom-to-be’s life a little easier, too.

tie dye or decorate onesies as a baby shower activitypack of onesiestie-dye kit.

 

Share a memory

If you want a more sentimental activity, at the beginning of the party, ask guests to write a piece of advice or a favorite childhood memory (if most guests aren’t yet mothers themselves) in a keepsake book. The expectant mother can either read all the notes aloud during the fête or save them for later at home. Instead of cards, you can also ask guests to bring a favorite kid’s book instead, with a personal note inscribed on the inside of the cover. During the party, guests can go around and share their memory of the book—whether it’s something they loved as a kid or something they read to their own little ones—and the expectant family can grow their library for their baby.

Open gifts

Of course, gift-unwrapping is also a classic baby shower activity—just make sure that the mom-to-be feels comfortable doing it in front of everyone. Make sure she has a comfortable seat where everyone can see her, and assign two people to help out: One person to hand her the gifts, and another to write down who brought what gift (this will be key when it comes to sending out thank you cards later down the line, ideally two to three weeks after the party).

How to plan a baby shower on a budget

Typically, the baby shower host or the grandparents-to-be pays for a baby shower (the expecting parents already have plenty of costs to consider), but there are no hard-and-fast rules to abide by. A group of close friends or family members can also split the bill in different ways. That said, an extra-special baby shower doesn’t have to break the bank, but it does help set your specific budget upfront to determine your financial priorities.

Keep it small

One way to keep costs low is by having a more intimate guest list—especially if you do want to serve a full meal at the event. Digital invitations will also save you money on printing and stamps; plus, you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of getting everyone’s address if you don’t already have them on-hand.

 

Host at home

Hosting a baby shower at someone’s home will inevitably be cheaper than renting out a space or going to a restaurant. With that money saved, you can spend more on fancier food delivery or get catering. But if you want to cut even more corners, you can also cook in advance or make it a potluck—be sure that your guests get a good head’s up on what to bring. If you host mid-morning or late afternoon, you can avoid serving a big meal and instead supply light appetizers and desserts, too. Alcoholic beverages often run up a big tab, especially if you’re hosting many people—so skipping the booze is a good idea if you want to save even more. Plus, it will make sure the mom-to-be doesn’t feel left out when she can’t have a drink.

Keep it simple

There are lots of frills and special touches that can take a baby shower to the next level, but this celebration doesn’t have to be a big blow-out at the end of the day. When it comes to decor, pick one thing you want to focus on to make your venue feel extra-special. Floral arrangements are nice, but grocery store flowers can look just as great when placed in a few pretty vases. White holiday lights can work multifunctional magic inside or out. And a good array of balloons will always make any place feel perfectly festive—bonus points if you have the skill it takes to design a balloon arch.

While favors are a great way to show your appreciation to your guests, they’re not necessary and can be easily cut from your budget. If you do want to give them a little something, though, you can easily pick up some small food containers to set out by a candy bar or cookie spread so they can bring something sweet home—after all, the best favors are oftentimes edible.

Ask for help

There’s also no shame in accepting—or asking for—help. If friends, parents, or anyone else asks how they can be more involved, don’t be afraid to delegate certain tasks. If someone’s known for their amazing baking skills, see if they’d be up to bring a few batches of their homemade cupcakes to provide dessert. If someone’s artistic, ask if they might pitch in with decorations. And if someone wants to help in any way they can, give them a concrete assignment: To pick up the catering, buy the balloons, or any other task on your to-do list that you could use a hand with.

Baby shower planning tips

At the end of the day, planning a baby shower doesn’t have to be stressful, but it helps stay organized and work ahead of time, so by the time the day comes, everything goes swimmingly. Use a checklist to make sure that you don’t miss anything major—if you have to order catering by a certain date, you don’t want to let it pass you by.

To ensure that your guests are prepared, too, make sure they have access to the gift registry well ahead of time (you can even include it in the invitations), and secure their RSVPs no later than two weeks before the shower. Then, a few days before the event, send them a quick reminder that you’ll see them soon.

Unless they want to be involved, keep parents-to-be out of the planning process save for big decisions. They’ll want to give their input on the guest list, and they may also want to ok the theme and menu. Instead of asking them more open-ended questions, try to provide a few options to make decision-making as easy as possible. They’ll also set their own boundaries on gifts: If they want to make a registry and if they want to open presents at the party or later.

Most of all, it’s important to remember to have fun. A baby shower is the celebration of a new life coming into the world—and that’s something to smile about.

 

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