How to Plan a Baby Shower: An Ultimate Checklist
How to Plan a Baby Shower: Your Ultimate Checklist
January 30, 2020

How to Plan a Baby Shower: Your Ultimate Checklist

How to Plan a Baby Shower: Your Ultimate Checklist.
Photo by @missenocha
How to Plan a Baby Shower: Your Ultimate Checklist

Every baby deserves a celebration, whether they’re being born into a family, carried by a surrogate or lovingly adopted, and whether they’re the first child in a family or the second or the third. But no matter how baby arrives or in what order, one thing is for certain: baby showers can be a fun and special way to welcome them into the world and celebrate the parents at the same time.

If you’re planning a baby shower, or if you’re having one planned for you (congratulations, by the way!), you might’ve already figured out that a party this special involves a lot of tasks. From themes and food to RSVP management and gift tracking, there’s a lot to remember. So we’ve created an ultimate checklist to keep things on track and help you plan the most memorable baby shower ever. With all the tasks organized in order of operation (though the timeline is totally flexible), we hope you can eliminate some of the stress that comes with party planning and focus on having fun with it.

When does the baby shower happen?

You can technically have a baby shower at any point before or after baby comes. If the shower is going to happen before baby, throwing it about one to two months before baby’s arrival date gives most parents-to-be enough time to sort through the shower gifts, put together anything that comes in multiple pieces (like a bassinet or swing), wash any clothes or toys and put everything in its place.

If the celebration is going to take place after baby’s arrival—which is common in certain religious and cultural traditions—then you’ll want to give the family enough time to settle in with their new addition, get used to their routine and, if you’re doing gifts, figure out what they need. That means the shower could be anywhere from one to eight weeks post-baby arrival—or later.

Do I have to follow this exact timeline?

The timing of some baby shower–related duties depends on the type of party. Is it a fancy, formal event that requires lots of coordination with caterers and decorators? Or are you throwing a more casual gathering that can be planned on shorter notice? Keep in mind that involving services like catering means more people’s schedules to work with, so you should leave more room in your timeline.

The timing also depends on who’s planning the party and how much they actually like to plan things. Some hosts love a strict, organized task list while others thrive on just winging it—take this checklist as guidance, not gospel.

Want your own copy of each checklist to keep on hand as you get to planning? Download them here!

For the Parent(s)

Three–Four Months Before Baby’s Arrival
  • Decide if/when you want a baby shower

It’s totally up to you whether your baby shower is before or after your baby arrives, the proximity to baby’s arrival date, or if you have a shower at all.

  • Create your baby registry

You may have started your registry already, in which case, good for you for getting on that early! Your registry doesn’t necessarily have to be finished at this point, but you should feel pretty good about what’s on there by the time your baby shower invites go out, because that’s when friends and family will start thinking about what gift to get you.

  • Create a guest list

It’s your party and you can invite who you want to. Adults only? Kids allowed? Mixed gender? The only limitation to keep in mind is the venue’s capacity, so ask whoever is hosting the baby shower what sort of venue they plan on using.


Day of the Baby Shower
  • Just relax—you’re the guest of honor!

Unless you really want to give the host a hand with things, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the celebration—it’s a party for you, after all. If the shower isn’t at your home, just be sure you’ve arranged a way to take all your gifts with you.


One–Two Weeks After the Baby Shower
  • Send thank you cards

It’s good etiquette to send thank you cards in general, and when it comes to baby shower thank yous, the sooner the better—especially if your shower was pre-baby, because you’ll have a lot less time and energy for writing cards once your little one arrives.

For the Host

Two Months Before the Baby Shower
  • Decide who will host the shower

While tradition says it should be a close friend who hosts, we think it’s totally okay for the party to be hosted by a family member or co-worker, too, as long as it’s someone close to the parent(s). Keep in mind, too, that extra hands to help with planning can come in handy, so consider hosting as a group!

  • Set the budget

Planning a baby shower often means decorations and food for guests, which also means spending money. If you’re going to hire services like a caterer or an event planner, or if you’re going to buy everything yourself, we recommend setting a budget early on so you don’t accidentally go overboard. (If you’re looking to track costs as you go, plus keep tabs on every other aspect of baby shower planning, this Excel template keeps all the party info in one convenient spot.)


Six Weeks Before the Baby Shower
  • Set the date

Whether the celebration takes place before or after baby’s arrival should be determined by the parent(s). When planning the exact date of the shower, take into consideration the parents’ schedules as well as guests’ schedules (especially if anyone is traveling for the occasion)—that should help you decide if a weekday or weekend would be better, and what time of day.

It’s important to have the date set, or at least have a couple in mind, if you’re planning on reserving a venue.

  • Set the theme

Baby showers don’t have to have a theme, so if traditional pastel colors, pacifiers and diaper pins are more your speed, you’re sure to find plenty of matching decor. But if you’re thinking of doing something more trendy or unique, we recommend deciding on that pretty early, since the style of party could have some influence on where you have the shower. And since you already have your budget, now is a good time to start thinking about decor, games and favors that will fit the theme.

  • Set the location

Once you know your theme, it can help determine what kind of space you need. Are you throwing an elegant afternoon tea that requires an intimate indoor space? Or is it a large, casual gathering in someone’s backyard? Or maybe it’s some mix of the two. Whatever venue you decide on, be sure to clue in the parents so they know how many guests the space will allow for. If it’s a surprise shower, you can work with others close to the parents to devise an appropriate guest list. And once you know how many people the location will hold, make sure there’s enough room for the guests to sit and eat and have the guest of honor open gifts.

  • Order invitations

We know how exciting it can be to finally let everyone know about the party you’ve been painstakingly planning, but don’t order the invitations until you have all the crucial information gathered, especially the date, time and location. It’s also a good idea to include yourself or a co-host as the contact person for RSVPs, the RSVP deadline, baby registry information and directions to the party.

If there are guests coming from out of town who would rather send their gift ahead of time, list the address where shower gifts can be received (preferably not the parents’ house, since that might spoil the surprise; have them sent to someone who can bring them on the day of the shower).

Ordering invitations about six weeks before the shower really only applies if you’re ordering custom printed ones online. If you’re buying pre-designed invitation cards from a store, then you only need to reserve as much time as it will take to fill them out by hand. If you’re emailing invitations, it’ll take even less time (we recommend going the email route if you’re pressed for time or concerned about environmental impact).


One Month Before the Baby Shower
  • Send invitations

Regardless of whether you’re emailing invites or snail-mailing, it’s customary to send them out four weeks before the baby shower. This leaves enough time for guests to mark it on their calendars and, if necessary, take time off from work or plan for their travel.

  • Plan food and drinks

No matter what type of party or what time of day, the partygoers are probably going to want refreshments of some kind. It’s a good idea to start planning the menu ahead of time so you can secure catering or ask for friends’ and family’s help with food and drinks. A potluck can make a shower menu fun and easy if a lot of the guests want to pitch in. If the guest of honor is pregnant, be sure to include pregnancy-friendly foods like mocktails, veggie sushi and pasteurized cheeses for a charcuterie board. It’s also a good idea to check with any guests for food allergies.


One–Two Weeks Before the Baby Shower
  • Finalize headcount/confirm RSVPs

There’s always a good chance that one or two invitees won’t RSVP by the deadline—check in on those few stragglers and finalize the headcount a week or two out to ensure there’s enough time to adjust any reservations if need be.

  • Confirm reservations for location and/or food

If you’ve booked a venue, catering or any other service, it’s a good idea to confirm the reservation about a week out. If the shower is at a friend’s or relative’s house, or if guests will be bringing food, double check with them.

  • Get decor, favors and everything you need for the games

The baby shower’s theme should be solidly in place by now and represented in the invitations, venue, food and drinks, but you can really bring it to life through decorations, party favors and fun games to entertain all the guests. If buying a bunch of decor and favors isn’t in your budget, we fully support going the homemade route. Origami baby clothes? Adorable. No-sew bunting? Easy peasy. A stack of wrapped diaper boxes with letters that spell out baby’s name? Genius.


Day of the Baby Shower
  • Prep snacks or any food that isn’t ordered

We suggest making a grocery run one to two days before the shower, especially if you’re doing any cooking or baking. If food can be prepped the day before the party, that means less for you to do day-of—but small, ready-made snacks can wait until just before the shower starts. And if you plan to serve cold drinks, put them in the fridge or on ice at least four hours before guests arrive.

  • Set up/decorate party space

If you can take a look at the party space beforehand, even better. And if possible, it’s a nice touch to have some decorations like balloons outside to make the location really noticeable for guests.

  • Assign someone to keep track of/write down gifts

If the parents don’t have a baby book yet, or if someone purchased one off of the registry, assign a willing guest to write down the gifts inside the baby book. A lot of baby books have a special page or two just for baby shower gifts, but if it doesn’t—or you don’t have one—you can always write the gifts down on a separate paper.

  • Assign one or two people to take photos

Some people are really great at remembering to photograph memorable events. Others, not so much. If you fall into the latter category, then you can ensure pictures will get taken if you designate a photographer or two. It can be any partygoer with a camera or smartphone. And the baby shower itself doesn’t have to be particularly Instagram-worthy—but the parents are going to want to document those memories.

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