Baby Shower Etiquette: Tips on Hosting, Gifts Invitations and More
Even baby shower veterans can find themselves flummoxed by the amount of conflicting advice on traditions and etiquette. If you’d love to host a shower but don’t know where to start, fear not! We’ve assembled a foolproof guide to everything you need to know about baby shower etiquette.
Who Should Host a Baby Shower?
Traditionally, baby showers are hosted by someone outside the family of the mother-to-be. A close friend of the new mother or her extended family as the host adds a sense of occasion and helps prevent a focus on gift-giving and receiving. These days, it’s commonplace for anyone close to the mother or parents-to-be to host the shower. A friend, coworker, relative, or even grandparent are all acceptable baby shower hosts. It’s also common that a new mother-to-be might have several people from different parts of her life offer to host a shower. For example, a coworker might host an office shower, and a good friend might organize another for personal friends and family.
It is proper etiquette to graciously accept an offer to host, but it is improper to ask someone to host your shower. A baby shower is an organizational undertaking, and it shouldn’t be forced on anyone. If no one is stepping up to host, consider hosting your own “welcoming party” once the baby arrives. Your guests will probably treat a welcoming party like a baby shower, and it could be a nice opportunity to introduce your new arrival to your friends and family. If hosting your own event feels like too much of a burden after the baby’s arrival, rely on personalized birth announcements to celebrate and spread the good news (many recipients will even send gifts following an announcement, particularly if there was no baby shower!).
Where and When Should I Host a Baby Shower?
Baby showers are traditionally held in the host’s home. Hosting showers in private homes creates a sense of intimacy at the event, but there’s no reason the shower can’t be held elsewhere! Parks, restaurants, churches, or anywhere people can easily gather are all suitable for showers, depending on the needs of the mother-to-be. Wherever you choose to host, do your best to make sure the venue is comfortable and accessible for the majority of guests.
Showers are usually held 4-8 weeks before the mother’s due date. Make sure not to schedule the shower too close to the due date; you wouldn’t want the mother to be too uncomfortable or for something unexpected to spoil the fun! Alternatively, showers can be held after the baby is born. Post-birth or “welcome” showers are helpful if the parents are keeping the gender a surprise, or if they’d like the baby to be the guest of honor. Check with your honoree on which she’d prefer.
When Should I Send Baby Shower Invitations?
Shower invitations should be sent 4-6 weeks before the date of the event. If you’re keeping track, make sure to include a date to RSVP by on your invite. Unsure of what else to include on your invites? Check out our helpful guide on baby shower invitation wording.
As baby showers are traditional and slightly formal events, paper baby shower invitations are preferable to emailed invites. Stylish paper invitations help create a special sense of occasion and make great keepsakes. Create personalized baby shower invitations that match the theme of the party or the personality of the mother-to-be and ensure some pre-event excitement!
Who Should I Invite to a Baby Shower?
Baby showers are traditionally intimate affairs. Traditional etiquette is that only a mother’s closest female friends and family are invited to the event. While it’s no longer necessary to restrict the guest list to this extent, it’s proper to confine the list to guests who are at least fairly close to the honoree. A good rule of thumb is that it should not be a surprise to invitees that the mother is expecting. If you have to explain the news to potential guests, they’re probably not close enough to be invited to the shower! Be sure to run the final list by the mother-to-be. She should make final decisions and ensure the right group is invited. If the shower is a surprise, do your best to keep the number of guests the honoree doesn’t know to a minimum.
Whether or not to invite children to baby showers is up to the mother and host to decide. It’s acceptable to dictate “women only” or “adults only” on the invitation, or to get around the issue by addressing invites to families or individuals. If you decide not to invite children, and particularly if you’re hosting a co-ed shower sans kids, be aware some guests will probably be unable to attend.
How to handle Showers for Second, Third, or Fourth Children?
Traditionally, baby showers were never held for any child after the first. This is no longer true, particularly if the children are far apart, or are different genders. In any case, there’s no reason not to celebrate the new arrival with as much enthusiasm as the first! As it can be safely assumed that the parents have most of what they need, however, showers for siblings are usually smaller affairs. If you’re hosting a shower for a sibling, consider calling it a “Baby Sprinkle,” and organizing a friendly, low-key celebration. Depending on the needs of the honoree, consider designating a shower for a second or third-time mother “no gifts, please.”
Are Men Allowed to Attend a Baby Shower?
Customarily, baby showers were women-only affairs. That tradition is rapidly changing, and some mothers-to-be prefer to have their partner and other male friends and family members there to celebrate. If you’re unsure of who to invite, a good compromise is to invite the father or important male relatives to join near the end of the party. This preserves the women-only tradition, while still including the father in the festivities. If your honoree has a lot of close male friends and relatives, or really wants to celebrate with the father, consider hosting a couple’s shower and encouraging guests to bring their partners as well! As always, check with the mother-to-be on her preferences.
Baby Shower Gift Etiquette
At traditional baby showers, guests bring gifts to the event and the mother-to-be opens them in front of the group. In this case, it’s up to the host to coordinate the gift opening, record who gave what, and ensure the whole process runs smoothly. Gifts are customarily selected from a registry the mother puts together before invitations are sent. It’s considered proper etiquette not to list registry information on the invitations themselves, but to leave the information in the hands of the host, who will hopefully distribute the information to inquiring guests. If you’re aware your invitees are busy shoppers and not bothered by traditional rules of etiquette, listing registry information on the invitation could save your guests a little time and effort. Most stores will also provide registry cards, which you could include with the invitation and adhere to both tradition and convenience. Do your best to ensure the mother-to-be registers at stores that are reasonable and accessible for a majority of guests. Whatever you decide, it’s not proper to list gifts the mother desires individually on the invite, or to ask for gift certificates or cash. A group of guests may band together to purchase a larger gift, and it’s up to the mother to decide to designate “no gifts, please” on the invitation.
Baby shower veterans, or close friends or relatives of the mother-to-be may skip the registry and opt to bring something they know the mother will need. Congratulations cards, children’s books, photo albums or personalized home décor are all thoughtful and reasonable options if you’re left without direction in regards to gifts. If the mother-to-be is having more than one shower thrown in her honor, it’s proper for the hosts of the other events to attend without bringing another gift. Hosting a baby shower is gift enough!
As a host, ensure the mother knows her job is to accept every gift graciously, and to send out thank you notes as soon as possible. Handwritten thank you notes are a must! Use matching personalized stationery for a classy touch.
Activities, Food and Beverages for Baby Showers?
Besides the guest list, what to serve and plan at a baby shower are some of the most important things to check with the mother-to-be. Traditionally, baby showers are held during “high tea.” That is, during the mid-to-late afternoon, and accompanied by light food and beverages. With modern baby showers, anything goes, and food and drink choices should suit the taste of the mother and the budget of the host. Food and beverage offerings do not have to be extensive, but there should be at least one food and one beverage option for guests. Depending on the mother and group of guests, games or activities may or may not be appropriate. See our boy and girl baby shower ideas pages for ideas!
Swan Baby Shower by Two Prince Bakery Theater. Images by Jessica Charles Photography.