An Expert-Approved Guide to Planning, Hosting, and Attending a Baby Shower

opening gifts at baby shower part

Baby showers are not just an event: They are a special time of celebration for a parent-to-be. "Baby showers are a very sweet milestone event and have many traditions that hosts like to include," Virginia Frischkorn, the founder of Bluebird Productions, says. "Prior to starting the planning process, we strongly encourage the host to have a conversation with the honoree to assess and get a sense of what they have in mind!"

It's import to have everything organized ahead of the day, note our experts. "My motto for any party I host is lists, lists, and more lists!" Manna Kadar, a lifestyle expert, says. "I also keep separate lists to organize food, guests, decorations, games—you name it. It all gets written down so I can keep track. I keep the lists on my phone so I can add to them as soon as I think of something new."

Whether you're planning a big shower or an intimate affair with family and friends, the focus should be centered around the parents and the arrival of their little one. "My final piece of advice is to not stress," Kadar notes. "No matter what happens, don't fret— your parents-to-be will appreciate your thoughtfulness and they will be talking about the party for years to come!" Ahead, get expert-approved ideas for baby shower invitations, food, and activities—plus, gift suggestions for the parents.

01 of 07

Set the Date

baby shower save the date note in calendar
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The baby shower is usually held during the last two months of pregnancy—but get a sense of the vision the expected parents have for the event well in advance. "Guest comfort and experience are paramount at events and making sure the guest of honor is considered is the best place to start," Virginia Frischkorn, the founder of Bluebird Productions, says. This way, you'll be able to bounce ideas off of one another before the planning process really gets going. "In my experience, if you sit down together to discuss what they are looking for as far as venue, headcount, the time of day the event should start and end, as well as a theme, you will have the basics set and should be able to run with it—while periodically sharing your ideas with them to make sure you are on the right track," Manna Kadar, a lifestyle expert, adds. Some parents, however, hesitate to stock a nursery before the child has arrived and some like to hold out until the baby can be the guest of honor. Ask the couple if they would prefer a pre- or post-birth shower to accommodate.

02 of 07

Pick a Host

friends and family at baby shower party
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While parents-to-be can choose any close family members or friends to host the shower, this individual or group of people will typically be in charge of any and all planning leading up to the event and running things day-of to ease stress for the person of the hour. "There can either be one host or multiple," shares Myka Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette and the author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy ($11.59, "The only contribution the parent-to-be should make is giving a registry if they have one and a list of who they would like to invite and their contact details if needed! The host(s) are then in charge of choosing a location, venue (or home to throw the shower at), creating and sending out invitations, collecting RSVPs, decorating, ordering or preparing food and beverages, and also coordinating any activities that may take place—from optional gift opening to games."

03 of 07

Showers for Baby Siblings

woman opening gifts holding baby
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Etiquette dictates that a shower for a second- or third-time parent is a smaller party, with very friends and immediate family only, than the one given in honor of the first child. After this point, a couple is generally assumed to have most of the items they need, and their friends should not feel pressured to continuously purchase gifts. But if it has been several years since the birth of their first child, for instance, they might need some new items. "It is perfectly acceptable to have a baby shower for an additional child after the birth of a first, as it's still a celebration held by family and friends (the hosts) to welcome a new baby!" Meier says. "After the first child, however, many parents prefer to have a 'sprinkle,' which is simply a smaller version of a baby shower; it still celebrates the parent and baby. Traditionally, a baby shower was held to not only celebrate the upcoming new arrival but to also 'shower' the parent with all the gifts they may need to build a nursery and take care of a new baby."

04 of 07

Get the Word Out

baby shower rabbit invites
Billye Donya

Although a phone call can be a sufficient invitation, digital or paper iterations are best and honor the momentousness of the occasion. Physical invites should be sent at least three weeks in advance to an intimate number of friends and family members. The parents-to-be can help curate the guest list so that no one is forgotten. "We suggest that invitations are sent out at least one month in advance and that there is a comprehensive checklist to ensure you've considered every element," Frischkorn says. Plus, Kadar notes that sending invitations in advance will help the host get a headcount to prepare the food, drinks, and more.

05 of 07

Choose a Menu

baby shower martha stewart appetizers
Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Keep last-minute work to a minimum by choosing foods that are tasty and easy to prepare and can be eaten out of hand at room temperature—cheese-and-vegetable tarts, grilled-chicken salads, homemade pizzas, and fruit or green salads are great options. There's no shame in a potluck style, either, especially if each guest brings a dish for which they or their local gourmet store are famous. "One of the most important aspects when hosting however is to always make sure you have asked for every attendee's dietary restrictions," Meier says. "It's completely up to the host whether they serve alcoholic beverages; just be sure to always have enough non-alcoholic options available for all."

06 of 07

Let's Play a Game


Gift opening is the typically the main event (though it is not required, says Meier), but another activity can enliven the shower. It can tie into the theme (bingo for a polka-dot-themed party) or serve as a way to educate the parent-to-be. "Entertainment can vary from themed games to cake decorating parties," Meier says. "It's completely up to the host."

  • The Best Games to Play During a Baby Shower
07 of 07

Consult the Registry

Pregnant woman opening presents after baby shower
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When attending a baby shower, guests should bring a gift, preferably purchased off the registry. "The parent-to-be has likely taken the time to choose the exact things they need so they don't end up with items they won't use or already have," Meier says. "If you shop off-registry, simply include a gift receipt so they can exchange or return where needed." If the parent is happy to consider ideas outside of the registry, consider one of Martha's go-to presents: Her favorite gift for a pre-birth baby shower is a European goose-down comforter and pillow. For parties held after the baby is born, she likes presenting the infant with engraved calling cards that the child can then slip into thank-you notes and such for years to come.

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