skip to main content
Baby Shower Etiquette: Common Questions and “Rules” It’s Ok to Break
January 26, 2024

Baby Shower Etiquette: Common Questions and “Rules” It’s Ok to Break

Babylist editors love baby gear and independently curate their favorite products to share with you. If you buy something through links on our site, Babylist may earn a commission.
Baby Shower Etiquette: Common Questions and “Rules” It’s Ok to Break

Having a baby shower can be one of the most exciting parts of prepping for your new little one. Celebrating with family and friends, playing games and receiving all those special gifts make baby showers a truly special occasion. But sometimes they can also be a little bit…awkward. Especially if you’re nervous about following (or breaking) “proper” baby shower etiquette.

Ever since baby showers started gaining popularity in the US in the late 1940s (hello, baby boom), etiquette experts have had something to say about them. Strict rules like “female guests only,” “the parent-to-be or their immediate family can’t host the shower” and “you shouldn’t have a shower for any baby after your first” were largely indisputable 60 to 80 years ago. Some people love sticking with those traditions, but with new decades come new flexibility. So which rules are we still following? We asked Babylist users on Instagram for their most burning questions about baby shower etiquette. Here are our answers:

Who hosts a baby shower?

There are several ways hosting a baby shower can happen: you can specifically ask a close friend, family member (yes, we think the grandmother-to-be can host if she wants to) or a group to host, someone can throw a surprise shower for you or you can host it yourself. Yep, you read that right. It’s totally fine for parents-to-be to host their own baby shower. We completely understand that some expecting parents might want a certain level of control over the celebration of their little one and enjoy party planning.

Or maybe you’ve dropped hints about wanting friends or family members to throw your shower and don’t have any takers, in which case you can take matters into your own hands. Just be sure to mention to your loved ones that you’re planning the shower. If they’re throwing a surprise party, that might be the time they let you in on the secret!

Does my second baby get a baby shower?

Traditional rules may say otherwise, but every baby deserves to be celebrated. If you’re having your second baby and you still have a lot of gear from your first, you can opt to have a “baby sprinkle”—a party with fewer gifts, but a special celebration nonetheless. A baby sprinkle can still have a theme, games and food just like a regular baby shower, or it can be low-key. Just check to make sure your baby gear isn’t expired before you forgo gifts.

If it’s been quite a few years since your first baby and you’re in need of new gear (or if you just want new gear in general, which we totally get), feel free to go all out with a full-blown shower and create a registry for baby number two.

Pro tip: If you already have a Babylist registry for your first little one, it’s super easy to create a second registry—here’s how. On your registry settings page, you’ll see a dropdown menu where you’ll be able to switch between your active registries or create a new one. You can even copy items over from sample registry templates or from one of your existing registries.

Can I have a baby shower if I’m adopting?

Absolutely! Having a shower to celebrate the transition can make the process even more special. It’s a chance for friends and family to meet and dote on the newest addition (and for you to receive any gear you may be missing).

If you’re already planning an adoption party, though, two events might be a bit much—you can add some baby shower elements like themes, games or a registry to your adoption party.

To-Do: Create Your Babylist

With Babylist, you can add any item from any store onto ONE registry. You’ll even get a Hello Baby Box full of free (amazing!) goodies.

Can I add expensive items to my baby registry?

Etiquette experts of yore have stated that particularly expensive items (things like cribs, strollers, luxury bouncers) should be left off the registry and purchased only by close family. But if you’re comfortable with a not-as-close relative or friend getting you something expensive, then we see no harm in putting it on your registry. Some baby shower guests may opt to go in together on a pricier item, and our group-gifting feature makes it really easy to do so.

Is it okay to ask for money on my baby registry?

Two words: cash funds. Having a second baby and plan to use most of the stuff from your first? Or maybe you plan to inherit a lot of baby gear from a relative or friend whose baby recently outgrew their stuff. Whatever the case, if you don’t need or want a bunch of items, setting up cash funds for specific things means you can still have a registry and your gift givers will know that you only need one (big) thing. You can even use cash funds to request contributions to a diaper fund, childcare fund, college fund or something similar. When you send shower invites, let your guests know then: “We don’t need a whole lot. If you want to buy a gift, please contribute to this ONE thing, it’s the only thing we need, thank you.”

Who should I invite to my baby shower?

We’ve all heard the classic baby shower rule that only women should attend a baby shower—we disagree! We wholeheartedly believe that a baby shower can be a co-ed event if you want it to be. But it’s also fine if you just want the women of your family (and friends group) to be there. We’re firmly on the Do Whatever Feels Best for You side on this one.

As far as guests, close relatives and friends can make for the most special experience since they know you best as the parent(s)-to-be. If that means your mom, sister and childhood friends—fantastic. Or if that means your second cousin, your father-in-law and your coworkers—wonderful. The amount of people is totally up to you. The main things to keep in mind are 1) what you’re comfortable with as the guest-of-honor, 2) the capacity of the party space and 3) the host’s budget.

Can I invite people from out of state?

While some of your out-of-state invitees may not be able to make it to the shower, it’s likely they’ll still appreciate just being invited and knowing you thought of them. You could also consider setting up Zoom or FaceTime at your shower so they can join in the fun from afar!

Where to host a baby shower

No matter who’s hosting, finding the right place to have the shower can be stressful—even more so if you’re looking to save money by hosting at your own home or the home of a close friend or relative. But what if no one’s home offers enough space for party guests or games? Community centers, parks and churches often let you rent their space for low or no cost. Alternatively, if you have room in the party budget, consider renting an Airbnb in the area (just make sure the Airbnb host is okay with events and your number of guests).

Can baby showers have alcohol?

It’s really up to the parent-to-be and whether they feel comfortable with others drinking alcohol around them while they can’t. If you’re the pregnant parent, let your host know how you feel about it. If you’re not the pregnant parent, you should ask before planning to serve alcohol. One popular baby shower drink is the Mom-osa—a non-alcoholic mimosa—so while other guests can have regular alcoholic mimosas, the pregnant guest-of-honor and any other alcohol-free guests won’t feel left out.

Can I ask guests to include gift receipts?

We get it; this can be a touchy subject. You don’t want your guests to feel like you don’t appreciate their hand-picked gifts. But sometimes gift givers forget to reserve items on your registry after they’ve purchased, resulting in duplicate gifts. Or maybe they bought something off-registry and it’s the wrong size. So we see no problem with politely asking gift givers to include receipts. Including somewhere on the baby shower invitation or registry insert a simple “Please include a gift receipt just in case we need to make an exchange” hopefully won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Do baby shower hosts get gifts?

If you’re the parent-to-be and someone else is hosting your baby shower, we think it’s a nice gesture to show how much you appreciate everything your host has done for you. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant; a bottle of wine, a potted plant, a gift card or something unique to the host’s interests all make for a great “I appreciate you so much” gift. Do I have to open all the gifts at the shower…in front of everyone? Don’t worry, we totally understand the sentiment behind this question. While more extroverted parents might relish in the limelight of opening gifts for a crowd, others may not feel the same way. If making a big deal out of your gifts seems a little awkward, we encourage you to let your host and guests know that you’ll be opening their gifts to you in the privacy of your own home after the shower.

What to write on baby shower thank you cards

What to write: Unlike your baby shower invitations, the thank you cards should be entirely personalized for each guest (not just their name). But they don’t have to be long, so try not to stress over writing full-length letters. A short, personal message about how nice it was for your guest to come to your baby shower and how you plan to use their gift is usually enough. Did they gift diapers, a home-cooked meal or a gift card? Tell them it’s a much-appreciated necessity. Did they bring a toy or a board book? Let them know how much you look forward to your new baby enjoying it.

If some of your guests weren’t able to attend the party but still sent a gift, a brief message about how they were missed is always a nice gesture.

When to send: While a lot of baby shower etiquette has adapted for the modern world, we always stick with tradition on this one. We recommend sending thank you cards out within one to two weeks after the shower. (Don’t worry if you send them outside of this timeframe, sending them at all is a sweet gesture and will be appreciated either way). But when it comes to baby shower thank you cards specifically, the sooner the better, you’ll likely have a lot less time and energy for writing cards once your little one arrives.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.