Life is a series of phases. One day, you’re at your friend’s graduation party. Then you find yourself planning a bachelorette getaway before that friend’s nuptials. And, finally, you’ll find yourself wondering how to host a baby shower for that very same friend after she calls with the big news.

I’d done this enough now that I’ve picked up a few things. The first baby shower I helped throw did not go well. The second was a little bit better than the first, and the third was a little bit better than the second.

Of course, now that I feel like I’ve got the whole how-to-host-a-baby-shower thing figured out, I’m moving on to first birthday parties. Figures, right?

But, if nothing else, I can help you avoid some of the tragic mistakes I made. When you’re wondering how to host a baby shower, here are 14 tips for creating the perfect celebratory event.


1. Hosts

So you know that you want to be a host. But who else should join you? Mothers and sisters traditionally do not serve as hosts. Why? Because a close family member hosting a shower feels like a solicitation for gifts.

So, instead, try to find a group of people you’re close enough to that talking and planning won’t be a problem. Budget is going to be important, too. Make sure you’re finding a group that is willing to decide on a reasonable budget — and then stick to it.

And here’s a pro tip: Identify someone who can be an enforcer. We all know people who aren’t afraid to have a tough conversation and who are more than willing to lay down the law when needed. It’s nice to have someone like that on your side if someone else is suggesting things that are going to blow the budget or otherwise causing discord among the hosts. Your enforcer can call that person to have a forceful-yet-friendly conversation.


2. The Date

Here’s the first big decision for the hosts to make: Does the mother-to-be want her shower before or after the baby arrives? Before is traditional, but some prefer celebrating a baby only after the baby has safely (and healthily) arrived.

If the mother-to-be prefers before, plan the shower for the last two months of pregnancy. If after, make sure the new parents have at least a month with their newborn before they have to worry about attending a shower.

And, finally, always make sure to check the date with two important groups of people: 1) important family members (like grandparents-to-be), and 2) guests who will have to travel long distances. Don’t plan the shower for holiday weekends, and steer clear of any other obvious conflicts that could diminish the amount of people. For example, if a large portion of the guest went to Michigan, don’t plan the shower for the Saturday of the Michigan-Ohio State game.


3. Venue

Where will this shower take place? In my experience, homes are better than venues for a number of reasons. The best reasons? You have more control and you spend less money.

Whose house? Location and space are most important. You want a location that isn’t taxing on the mother-to-be to get to, and you want a location that offers plenty of space for the likely attendees.

And don’t be afraid to ask a non-host to have the shower at his or her house. I know this sounds strange, but it often makes for a perfect solution. An example: I once co-hosted a shower with a friend, and we ended up having it at her parents’ house. They had the most space and the perfect location, and they were more than happy to help out.


4. Format

Most of the showers I’ve been to are daytime affairs with firm start and stop times. But don’t feel constrained by tradition. There are plenty of other ways to have a shower. Let me share two alternatives.

First, you can have an open house-style shower. Decide on a 3- of 4-hour window of time, and then tell people to pop in, have a drink, chat with the bride, drop off a gift and pop out whenever. The hosts and family members typically stay the whole time, but each of the guests gets more focused time with the mother-to-be in a more relaxed setting. This is perfect for mothers-to-be who are uncomfortable being the center of attention and who prefer something more laidback.

And, second, you can have a party rather than a shower. This is my favorite. Invite couples rather than just the ladies. Have the party-shower at night, turn up the music and have just a little more fun. For course, this introduces guys to the mix, which leads me to my next decision point.


5. Men

Are men invited? There are three ways to go with this decision. There’s the traditional path of “no,” men are not invited. There’s the middle-road path of having the father only. And then there’s the more modern approach of having couples rather than just women.

I prefer the latter — having couples rather than just women. For whatever reason, it helps ramp up the fun factor. That said, you can’t go wrong with any of these approaches — but you have to pick one.


6. 2nd (And 3rd And 4th) Kids

The big blowout shower is traditionally reserved for first children only. It’s generally assumed that after a first child the parents have the big things that they need for subsequent children (car seats, cribs, monitors, etc.).

Two exceptions to this rule. First, if you have a friend who has a surprise baby WAY after her last one, it would be appropriate to have another shower — especially if she gifted off some of her baby supplies to friend, assuming she was done. And, second, if you have a friend who’s having a boy after a first girl or a girl after a first boy. A second child of a different gender demands different types of clothing, décor, etc.

One approach I love for subsequent children is the sip-and-see. A month or more after the baby has arrived, have an open-house style event with plenty of drinks. Invite friends and family to stop by, have some champagne and hold the baby. Sip and see. Get it? Gifts are welcome, but they should certainly be smaller in nature — like a book with a message written inside.


7. Invitations

I’m no traditionalist, but I’m a stickler for one thing: mailed invitations. E-vites and web-based invitations are hit-or-miss. Sometimes you get a bad email address, sometimes they go to junk, sometimes they hit an inbox on a busy day and get missed. So just send a cute mailed invitation.

Feel free to follow up and rustle RSVPs via email, text or phone. But don’t rely on those channels entirely. A shower is a celebratory occasion that demands a legitimate invitation.


8. Décor

Here’s my simple rule for shower décor: Co-opt the mother-to-be’s style. You may know what she likes and prefers, or you may have to ask. But the décor should create a look and feel that she loves.

And you don’t have to go overboard with décor. Keep it simple, keep it elegant, keep it on the mother-to-be’s style, and you can’t go wrong.


9. Food and Drink

Are you considering a booze-less shower? Don’t. A shower demands drink. It doesn’t take much effort to find decent champagne and get it on ice. If you want to have more fun with the drinks, consider something fruity and frozen.

On the food front, make it real. Don’t just toss out some fruit, cheese and crackers and call it a day. If the budget allows, have something catered that the mother-to-be will love. If not, put in the effort a menu that includes sandwiches, pasta salad, a green salad, etc.

One no-no on shower food: nothing with a powerful smell. Stay away from garlic, fish and anything else that’s going to create an odor that overwhelms the party.


10. Games

I may get some pushback here, but I recommend passing on games and themes. It should be enough to gather friends and family and to enjoy food and drink. It would nice for the hosts or just one host to welcome everyone, to say something nice about the mother-to-be, and to thank everyone for attending. Then open presents. That’s it. Aren’t we tired of the tasting-a-candy-bar-in-a-diaper thing?

If men attend, you can craft some sort of game that pits males against females. But that’s as far as I would go. If you desperately need an activity, enlist the help of attendees in creating a keepsake for the parents-to-be — perhaps a special book in which everyone shares a message. And, if you insist on having a game, here’s a list of games that aren’t too miserable as shared by Today’s Parent.


11. Gifts

Some people think registries are tacky. I think those people are ridiculous. Thanks to modern technology, we have the power to choose what we wish for our children, to make that list available to friends, and for friends to order from that list without ever leaving the home. Take advantage of it.

As a host, you’ll get questions about gifts. What do they have? What do they need? What about this thing that’s not on the registry? You should have ready answers. Talk to the mother-to-be or to those closest to her to familiarize yourself with what they’re hoping to do with the nursery and with other baby-related spaces.

Also, don’t fully wrap gifts. A little ribbon and a card is just fine. Wrapping paper looks nice, but the gift-opening portion of the shower will take hours and hours and hours if every gift must be fully and carefully unwrapped.

And, finally, always send a gift. Can’t come? Send a gift anyway. Today’s 20- and 30-somethings are awful about gifts in general. Give one. Always. No questions.


12. Stories and Advice

Horror stories about pregnancy, giving birth and being a parent to a newborn should be discouraged and snuffed out. Also, any unsolicited advice should be discouraged and snuffed out. There’s something about those who have already given birth that makes them want to tell those who have not just how awful it’s going to be. This should be resisted.

As a host, you get to set and enforce the rules. You don’t need to post them or anything, but make sure everyone understands that this is a celebration — not a lecture and not a campfire around which to share tales from the past.


13. Favors

Don’t lose your mind over favors. You can buy tiny potted plants in bulk, and they make an ideal favor. Or, you can also bake some sugar cookies, ice them, wrap them in a clear plastic bag and tie with ribbon. Done. No one’s going to lose their mind about receiving a favor, and you shouldn’t lose yours over creating one.


14. Documentation

Two assignments here: 1) someone to write down who gave what gift, and 2) someone to take tons of photos. You probably have a fastidious, detail-oriented friend who will be perfect for the writing-down job. And you probably have a friend with a nice camera who will be perfect for the photo-taking job. Make assignments and trust them to get the jobs done.


Final Thoughts on How to Host a Baby Shower

The mother-to-be should be happy and comfortable throughout. The shower is not for the guests. It is for her. Do whatever you can to make it an event that she will always remember and treasure.

Other than that, have some fun. Too often host a baby shower (especially the first time) is overwhelming, chaotic and stressful. Follow the 14 tips above, and avoid making the first time mistakes that I made.

Did I forget an important planning tip? Let us know in the comments section below, or message me directly using our contact page.