13 Baby Shower Etiquette Questions, Answered
Baby Shower Etiquette Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask, Answered
March 9, 2020

Baby Shower Etiquette Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask, Answered

Baby Shower Etiquette Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask, Answered

Having a baby shower can be one of the most exciting parts of prepping for your new little one. Celebrating with loved ones, 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 (and sometimes awkward) questions about baby shower etiquette, and here are our answers:

Does the parent-to-be ask someone to host or does the parent host?

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: we think it’s totally fine for parents-to-be to host their own baby shower. While Emily Post may be rolling in her grave, we completely understand that some expecting parents might want a certain level of control over the celebration of their little one.

Or maybe you’ve dropped hints (or flat-out asked) friends or family members to throw your baby 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!

I’m having my second/third/nth baby. Do they get a shower like my first?

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 “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 registry.

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Can I have a baby shower if I’m in the process of fostering to adopt?

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 official 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 overkill—you can add some baby shower elements like themes, games or a registry to your adoption party.

Can I put something really expensive on the registry?

Etiquette experts of yore have stated that particularly expensive items (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 as a group gift. Some of your gift givers may see it and roll their eyes, but if you want it, ask for it.

Is there a way I can politely request money toward a single large-ticket item?

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 do I invite?

We’ve all heard the classic baby shower rule: only women should attend. Pish posh, we say! We whole-heartedly believe that a baby shower can be a co-ed event if you want it to be. And if you’re more inclined to have separate, gender-based parties, that’s cool too! We’re firmly on the Do Whatever Feels Best for You side on this one.

As far as individual 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. And whether you invite a small-ish group of people (think 10-15) who are all familiar with each other or a large group of strangers/potential friends 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.

Is it rude to invite people from out of state?

Not at all. 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 Skype or FaceTime at your shower so they can join in the fun from afar!

Where can I host the shower if I live in an apartment or don’t have enough space for guests?

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 your number of guests).

The parent-to-be is pregnant. Should alcohol still be served to guests?

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 people to include receipts for gifts?

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 two gift givers buying the same thing. 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.

Should I get a gift for the host?

If you’re the parent-to-be and someone else is hosting your baby shower, we think it would be a really 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 are typical “I appreciate you so much” gifts.

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.

When do I send thank you cards?

While a lot of baby shower etiquette has adapted for the modern world, we always stick with tradition on this one. It’s good manners to send thank you cards in general, and when it comes to baby shower thank yous, the sooner the better—especially if your shower was pre-baby, because you’ll have a lot less time and energy for writing cards once your little one arrives. We recommend shooting for one to two weeks after the shower to send your thank yous out. (And don’t, under any circumstances, leave a “please take one” pre-filled thank-you-note basket by the door at your shower.)

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