How to Plan a Catholic Baptism in 7 Steps

Enjoy and create memories on your child’s Baptism Day with a well-laid plan. It can be an especially busy time already if your little one is a newborn and you are still adjusting and trying to find your new normal. However, with a little thought and preparation, you will be ready for this once-in-a-lifetime day.

Baptismal outfit
Baby’s outfit ready for Baptism day!

This is definitely a time when you’ll want to plan well, so you can enjoy the special moments on your child’s baptism day. To plan the Baptism, you’ll need to:

  1. Contact your parish,
  2. Choose godparents,
  3. Invite everyone,
  4. Be prepared for the actual sacrament at the church,
  5. Plan for a wonderful celebration afterwards,
  6. Record memories of the day,
  7. Say thank you to everyone.

It’s a big job, so accept any help you are offered! This day means a great deal to your whole family too–they’ll love being included!

1. Contact your parish

  • First, speak to your pastor and contact your parish office.
  • Usually if it is your first child, you’ll need to attend a Baptism prep class for a session or two.
  • Find out what the church requirements are for eligibility for godparents. Normally, they are required to be 16 years of age, and practicing Catholics.
  • Set a date with your pastor or parish office.

2. Choose godparents

Once you are aware of church requirements for godparents, decide whom you will choose. It could be family members or good friends. It may be a couple, but it’s also fine to choose from different families. When you ask them to do the honor, it’s nice to do so in person or at least with a phone call.

If there is a form from your parish that the godparents must fill out, send it to them right away. Sometimes verification of sacramental records is needed, which the godparents must call about themselves. Records are usually kept at the parish where an individual was baptized. So, they’ll need to call the parish office there.

Finally, double-check that forms have been returned on time.

3. Whom to invite and how

Part of what you’ll want to consider is how many people you’d like to invite to the baptism based on what you are able to do now and what you believe you’ll be able to do for additional children in the future.

  • Godparents – Of course they’ll be invited!
  • Grandparents – It means so much to them!
  • Great Grandparents – They will cherish this day, and your children will be delighted to have photos of themselves with any of their great grandparents later.

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged…”

(Proverbs 17:6)
  • The rest of the family – your siblings and their families, your child’s aunts and uncles and cousins – This can make a big difference in number of people attending, so you’ll need to decide what you can do. It’s probably best to invite all or none here. Invite them all–go for it!
  • Friends – This is up to you!
  • Pastor or deacon baptizing your child – It is nice to invite him to celebrate with you afterwards. However, personal schedule may not allow him to, so be understanding, especially if several families have someone being baptized on the same day.

Invitations can be done simply with phone calls or emails. Or you can choose to actually mail them out. This would also be a good time to choose lovely thank you notes which you’ll need later.

4. Be prepared for the sacrament at church

First you’ll need a baptismal gown or outfit for your little one.

Does your family have an heirloom gown that you will have the honor of using? You can find a process for cleaning a gown if needed. Look for more than one opinion. With a little gentle attention, it will be ready for baby’s Baptism Day. If Grandma offers to do this for you, let her help! She has more time than you do right now!

Or will you have the fun of shopping for a gown to begin your own tradition? There may be local Catholic or Christian shops that carry baptismal clothing. Some departments stores, such as Dillard’s carry baptismal outfits for boys and girls in the children’s department. Or you can order online. If you will be ordering online, begin early and allow enough time for a reorder in case sizing or any other aspect is different than expected.

Remember white socks and possibly shoes. You may also want a pretty blanket for baby depending on the weather.

Clothing and needs for the rest of your family

Consider what the other children in your family will wear, and what you and your husband will wear. You’ll want to look nice as you would for Mass. You may want to be dressier than usual. Men often wear a suit, but a shirt and tie are just fine. You might want to wear a favorite dress and feel beautiful. And do you have dress shoes? Lots of photos will be happening today! It’s actually possible to forget all about this while you’re busy getting everything else ready! So, if you have a plan for this now, you’ll be able to shop for, wash, or iron anything needed ahead of time. A month to two weeks ahead of time is not too soon!

Will your other little ones need someone to look after them during the actual baptism itself? Both parents and godparents will be involved with the sacrament, so ask grandparents or other family members to help you watch your other children. Especially if you have been to Mass and the baptism is immediately afterward, you might want to have a drink or books or a quiet activity ready for them.

In baby’s diaper bag, be prepared with a small bottle of formula or breast milk, or a pacifier if baby takes one. While some babies sleep right through the pouring of the Holy Water, others have much to say about it! You don’t need to feel embarrassed at all, but sometimes you just do! So having a pacifier or bottle at the ready can help calm parents and baby in that moment.

Also, you might want to add a water bottle or two to your bag for your husband and for yourself…especially if you’re breastfeeding. Or leave them in the car so you can re-hydrate as soon as you can.

Remember the stipend!

Typically, the baby’s godfather takes care of this and offers an envelope to the priest or deacon afterward. However, it can be so easy to forget about this in the excitement of the day. I can’t tell you how many panicked whispers and scramblings in pockets and purses we’ve had on family baptism days!

So, it never hurts to have an envelope ready just in case. There is no specified amount; it is simply a goodwill gesture. So we typically put twenty dollars in the envelope for baptisms, but this could vary for your family or culture.

I’d love to hear more about your family’s baptismal traditions if you’d like to share them in the comments below!

Have a camera ready

Although your priest or deacon may request that photos be taken only after the baptism, if photographs are permitted, ask family members to take them with a camera or phone! If it can be done respectfully and unobtrusively, there are some special shots during the baptism that you will love to have later:

  • the anointing with chrism oil,
  • the pouring of Holy Water,
  • the lighting of the baptismal candle.

Those moments are the story of what’s happening for your child on this special day! So very beautiful!

Baptism pouring of water
Pouring of the Holy Water

After the baptism, you can also get a few nice photos of the parents, godparents, and child in front of the baptismal font, and even better if your priest or deacon can join. It’s an opportunity for some nice family photos on this special day. So if you can, it’s well worth it to take a little extra time for those!

Light a candle, say a prayer

Last but not least, enjoy the Mary moments. Take a few quiet minutes to light a candle in church before the Blessed Mother, or St Joseph. Say a private prayer for your new little child of God. Ask a special saint to intercede before the Lord. Ask family to pray for your little one too.

5. Plan the celebration afterward!

Where to host everyone?

Possible options for where to host everyone include a restaurant, your family’s home or apartment, or perhaps the grandparents’ home if they have offered.

Choosing a restaurant can work if your group of guests is smaller and if your budget allows you to treat everyone to the meal. Reservations would be helpful if possible. If not, then choose a place that will have plenty of seating for your group. You could choose a favorite pizza place which offers a little fun and affordability.

Hosting everyone at your place can be a lot of fun! You may be overwhelmed and still adjusting since your new little one came into the world, and that’s okay! People will only be there for a couple of hours, so you can tidy up by tucking things temporarily in closets or in a room that won’t be used for the party. Don’t hide anything in the oven. You need the oven. If you are worried that you won’t have enough seating, you can plan the food accordingly. When people offer to bring something or help out, say yes!

And finally, if baby’s grandparents offer to host the party for you, say thank you and let them! You can plan things together or decide who will be taking care of what. You could bring the cake and choose cute plates and napkins and let grandma take care of the rest of the food. This can make things so much easier for you and your family. If they offer to do this, then they are happy to help! Baptism days are delightful celebrations…a time of joy.

Speaking of cake…

Baptism cake
What kind of cake would you like to celebrate your baby’s Baptism Day?

If you have a cake you’d love to make for this occasion or a special family recipe, then that is worth doing. You can also order a decorated bakery cake which is always a special treat and so pretty. Another idea from a local bakery is a sheet cheesecake and the decoration is only the writing on top in any color you like. It is simple and so tasty!

Here are some possible ideas for what to say on the cake:

  • God Bless Child’s Name
  • Happy Baptism Day, Child’s Name, Date
  • Jesus Loves Child’s Name
  • God Loves Child’s Name
  • Child of God, Child’s Name, Date
  • ask bakery for additional suggestions

Order the cake approximately a week ahead of time and pick it up the day before the Baptism. Refrigerate overnight if necessary.


Begin with a pretty tablecloth, and add something simple for your table decoration. It could be flowers, or a white candle, or even a few scallop shells.

When you get home from the church, you can place baby’s baptismal candle, baptismal certificate and any other keepsakes received on a shelf or small table making a little display. Everyone will enjoy seeing them.

I’ve been wishing for a door wreath in order to share our joy on the days we are celebrating sacraments, but I haven’t quite found the one yet!

If you decide to use disposable plates, which will make cleanup easier, you can have fun looking for something baptism-related. Party City has online baptism party supplies. These along with the cake add to your baptism decor and you’re ready to go!

Food ideas, menu options, and estimates

Two things to consider when choosing your food options for the party are:

  1. How much you can afford considering your number of guests
  2. The fact that those guests will be arriving with you or even ahead of you from the church. You won’t be present to prepare food for the hour and a half prior to the party starting because you’ll be at the baptism. This is a way of life with regard to Catholic family celebrations, so it’s good to look for creative solutions from the beginning.

So, you can choose a cake and appetizer style party, or an easy meal where you make ahead as much as possible and won’t have too much last-minute cooking going on. If you choose the appetizer party, it can also be a big help in solving seating issues because people can stand and talk and eat from their plates. If you choose an easy meal it can be on the more affordable end, or you can go all out!

Cake and Appetizer (under $50)

Strawberries and Fruit Dip

Cake and Ice Cream

Taco Dip and Chips

BBQ and sides (under $100)

BBQ and buns

Mac n Cheese



Fried Chicken and sides (under $150)

Fried chicken (ordered from store)

Mac n cheese

Baked Beans

Fruit Tray

Champagne for a toast

Strawberry and two dips

All your preparations will serve you well now! You’ve done the planning and once the guests arrive, the party takes on a life of its own. You’ll have a few refills to look after and forks to set out, but it’s time for you to enjoy watching everyone enjoy themselves!

Other family traditions

You may want to include any special cultural or family traditions from either side of the family in your celebration. I’d love to hear about them if you’d like to share!

You can also begin your own meaningful traditions. We have recently included a toast to the newly baptized child, made by the godfather. It helps to let them know ahead of time, but the toast can be sweet and simple!

6. Remember baptism day…

As your day winds to an end, and you are able to successfully retrieve your baby from the loving arms of grandmas and aunties, take some time to savor…

Look through the photos. Enjoy the scent of the chrism oil on that dear little head. Record this baby’s sacramental info in your family bible. Consider how you want to remember and celebrate this day each year. Tuck baby’s keepsakes into a special box. Pray from your heart.

7. Say “Thank You”

For the week following the celebration, plan to write the thank you notes for your little one’s baptism gifts and to let everyone know how much you appreciated sharing the day with them. Say thank you to God too. He likes thank you notes.

At day’s end on this once-in-a-lifetime celebration of your child’s Baptism, may you sigh and smile and feel the best kind of tired knowing that all the planning and effort helped make this day memorable–this day when your child became a Child of God.

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