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Baby Shower Etiquette: How to Have the Best Party


When you’re pregnant, trying to fit everything you need to go into 9 months can seem like a daunting task. Baby showers are a wonderful and exciting time to celebrate both baby and mommy, but they are also another event that needs to be planned. Many first time mothers are not sure what proper baby shower etiquette is.

There are many questions that can arise when planning a baby shower. Who do you invite? Do you send invitations to people out of town? Do men get invited? When do you plan the baby shower? What do you put on the baby registry? In fact, who plans the baby shower?

The questions can seem endless, but this article aims to answer everything that you want or need to know about baby shower etiquette.

When Do You Have a Baby Shower?

The most commonly asked question about baby showers is when to have them. The quick answer is that baby showers should be held four to six weeks before the baby is due. This is a generally a safe window of time that allows the baby shower to be held before the baby makes his or her arrival. 

Is it ever okay to have the baby shower after the baby is born?

There are a few exceptions to the 4-6 weeks before your due date rule. Those exceptions are usually because of religious or cultural reasons that consider it bad luck to receive any gifts for the baby before he or she is born. In these cases, having a baby shower after the baby is born is perfectly fine.

Additionally, there are times when nature trumps all schedules and the baby arrives much sooner than anticipated. This is another exception to the 4-6 week rule that will result in having a baby shower after the arrival of the baby.

Party Etiquette

Who hosts a Baby shower?

When it comes to who throws the baby shower, tradition dictates that a friend or distant relative, like a cousin or aunt, should host the baby shower instead of close family members. However, this tradition was started in order to prevent giving the impression that the family is just trying to get free gifts. Today, it is more than acceptable for the sister, mother-in-law, or even the mother of the mom-to-be to host the baby shower. Normally, pregnant mothers do not host their own baby shower.

How many people should be invited? Who gets invited?

Figuring out the guest list and how many people to invite involves the consideration of a few different factors and the mother-to-be’s help. You want to make sure that you invite her friends and family, but you also need to be sure that there is enough space to accommodate all of the guests. Invite guests that you know are willing to celebrate both mother and baby. 

The number of people invited is entirely up to the host. The host understands the limitations of the space being used for the baby shower, and she must sometimes make decisions to shorten the guest list because of those limitations. However, the host should always consider who the guest of honor would want to invite over who the host would like to invite.

Do you invite men, too?

Traditionally, baby shower etiquette did not encourage inviting men to baby showers. More recently, there has been a change in this unspoken rule. When deciding whether to invite men to the baby shower, consider the kind of baby shower you expect to have. Some women want to share tales about labor and parenting and gush over how adorable all the baby things are. Furthermore, some expectant fathers can be just as enthusiastic as expectant mothers and want to be included in the baby shower.

You can have a few different kinds of baby showers when it comes the genders that are invited:

  • Woman-Only baby showers – focuses on female bonding and shared stories between women, more traditional
  • Mixed-Gender baby showers – sometimes called “couples” baby showers, both expectant mother and expectant father are celebrated, their guests are all hosted in one big baby shower
  • Co-Occurring baby showers – two celebrations go on at once – the woman-only traditional baby shower in one part of the venue and the man-only celebration of the expectant father in another part of the venue; the celebrations tend to come together during the gift opening

Which day of the week and time of day should you have the baby shower?

Most often, hosts choose weekend days for baby showers. However, if you have an abundance of guests who cannot make a weekend date, you can choose a weekday that works for the majority of the guest list. For instance, if most of the guest list attends a book club with the mother-to-be every Thursday afternoon, that may be a good time to schedule the baby shower.

The traditional time of day for a baby shower is around lunchtime. There are other times of day that have become popular for baby showers as well. Some showers are scheduled a bit earlier than lunch time and are celebrated while eating brunch. One evening theme that is becoming popular for baby showers is a “happy hour” theme that involves mocktails and is held in the early evening.

Out of State Baby Shower Etiquette

The biggest obstacle when dealing with out of state baby shower etiquette is the gift-giving. Many people are wary of listing baby shower registries or wish lists or other gift-giving details on the baby shower invitations because they feel like it is rude or crass. However, sometimes it is necessary.

How do you word an invitation for an out of state baby shower?

If the mother-to-be is going to be flying to a different state for her baby shower, it can be extremely helpful to her if you direct guests to the best way to give gifts by putting the information on the baby shower invitation.

For example, you can add something like this to the invitation: “Please be aware that the mother-to-be is travelling from out of state for her baby shower. Gifts are not required, but if you would like to give a gift, please consider using the free shipping or ship-to-store options that are available where she is registered in order to minimize luggage on her trip home.

Some guests may feel awkward attending the shower without a gift in hand – even if they have purchased a gift and shipped it to the guest of honor’s home. One suggestion to help guests in this situation is to take a picture or print a picture of what you purchased for the mother-to-be and put it into a card for her to open at her actual baby shower. 

Invitations and Thank Yous

Invitations need to be sent out in enough time that everyone invited has enough time to plan for their attendance. Then, there is the question about Thank You notes. Does the mother-to-be send Thank Yous for her gifts? Does the host send Thank Yous for attendance? Do both types of Thank Yous need to be sent?

When do baby shower invitations get sent out? What do you include in them?

Baby shower invitations, as per baby shower etiquette, should be sent out at least 3 to 4 weeks before the baby shower is scheduled. You can send the invitations out as early as 6 weeks before the scheduled baby shower, but the goal is to have all of your RSVPs in by 1 to 2 weeks before the baby shower.

Baby shower invitations should include all of the important information dealing with the baby shower, such as:
  • The name of the mother-to-be
  • The date, time, and location of the baby shower
  • The RSVP date and contact information
  • The host’s or hosts’ name(s)
  • Any gift registry information

Some other information that can be included in the invitation (but isn’t required) is the baby’s name (if you have the parents’ permission to do so) and the theme of the baby shower. Make sure that you don’t insist that guests only use the gift registry. 

Do you send baby shower invitations to close friends and family that are out of state?

Yes! It is okay to send shower invitations to close friends and family that live out of state. If they are informed about the shower in advance, they may actually be able to attend. If they cannot attend, they may want to send a gift. Just because they live out of state doesn’t mean that they should be discounted from the guest list.

When do you send Thank You cards after a baby shower? What kind of Thank Yous should be sent out?

Generally, baby shower Thank You cards are sent out about 2 to 3 weeks after the baby shower to all guests that were in attendance. To help with the Thank You cards, have someone write down each gift that is given and who gave it. In addition, have a sign in sheet or book to record everyone that attends.

It is common to send out Thank Yous to everyone that attended to let them know how much you appreciate them celebrating your new baby with you – and you can add in appreciation for specific gifts when applicable on the Thank Yous. 

Of course, sometimes baby has his or her own plans and arrives early. If your baby arrives before you can get your Thank You cards sent out, know that you can take your time and get settled in with your baby before sending the cards out. In fact, you can send thanks in different ways – like sending pictures of your baby in an outfit to the person that purchased it.

Etiquette for Mom-to-Be

When you are an expectant mother, baby shower etiquette can be confusing. You aren’t sure what kind of requests you can make because someone is hosting this party for you, but you want the baby shower to be what you want and reflect what your idea of a baby shower is. 

How involved should the expectant mother be in planning the baby shower?

As the mother-to-be, you can be as involved as you and the host or hosts like. First, you will need to provide a list of your closest friends and family for the baby shower. Some mothers-to-be enjoy letting the host take full reign of planning the baby shower once they give their list of guests. Others may want to be more involved, helping with the theme or designing invitations. Your involvement is completely up to you.

When should you start your baby registry?

Most moms-to-be begin their baby registry when they are about 12 weeks. This gives them enough time to figure out what they need or want and gives them time to make changes to the registry as needed. Additionally, having a registry made before sending out baby shower invitations lets the guests see what you need and can help them decide on a gift idea for you.

Should gifts be opened at the baby shower?

Whether or not gifts should be opened at a baby shower is less about courtesy and more about time restraints. Baby showers shouldn’t be over 3 hours long, so if there are a ton of gifts to open, it may be better to wait to open gifts once the shower is over. While shower guests are usually excited to see adorable baby gifts, most of them do not want to spend an exorbitant amount of time at a party to do so.

Grandmother Etiquette

Grandmothers-to-be are usually just as enthusiastic as mothers-to-be when it comes to grandbabies and baby showers. But exactly how much should grandmothers be involved in the baby shower process? 

Can a grandmother-to-be host your baby shower?

Of course! In fact, most of the time mothers, sisters, or best friends that are very close to the mother-to-be, plan the party. One thing that grandmothers-to-be need to make sure of is that they are planning the baby shower for mother-to-be and baby and not for themselves. If you are an expectant grandmother and baby shower host, make sure to give mother-to-be the baby shower she wants instead of catering to your own desires.

Father-to-Be Etiquette

Most fathers-to-be do make an appearance at their baby’s shower, but it is typically not until the end when gifts are being opened. This is so they can share in the joy and appreciation of the gift-opening process. 

Where do fathers-to-be fit into the baby shower guest list?

Modern baby showers are including fathers-to-be more and more. Some of them even have a co-occurring male celebration along with the female celebration. More fathers are taking an active role in pregnancy and child-rearing today, as well. Because of this, fathers-to-be are absolutely welcome at baby showers. It is entirely up to you and the type of baby shower that is being thrown.

Baby Shower Etiquette for Subsequent Babies

There is some debate about whether or not baby showers should be planned for second, third, or more babies. However, there are some factors to consider when deciding if a baby shower is appropriate. The main thing to remember is that the parents should not throw their own baby shower. 

How many years have passed between your pregnancies?

Some parents will have a second baby shower when their babies are born years apart because they may have gotten rid of baby necessities over the years and are starting from scratch again. This is the most common reason for parents to have multiple baby showers.

Is it okay to celebrate all pregnancies?

Yes! You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to celebrate each baby you have. There is actually a new trend that has developed called a “sprinkle.” Sprinkles are a celebration of new babies that don’t include all the big gifts that a baby shower tends to include. Guests may bring small gifts – like cute onesies or baby medicines, but a sprinkle is mostly about celebrating the new baby and having fun together.

Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Showers

Q. Are kids allowed at baby showers?

A. Kids being allowed at baby showers is entirely up to the host and the mother-to-be. For instance, if the mother-to-be has other children, she may not mind having children present. If you are having a more adult themed baby shower, kids may not be the best guests to have.

Q. Are there topics of conversation to avoid during baby showers?

A. In general, it is important to keep the conversation general and light at baby showers. Bringing up topics like parenting or birth plans can being unwelcome debates that can stress the mother-to-be and cause tension between the guests. Focus on celebrating the baby and having positive conversations.

Q. Does the baby shower have to have themes and games?

A. Lots of baby showers have themes and games, but it is not necessary to have them. In fact, some mothers-to-be may not be a fan of loud games at their baby shower. The hostest and mother-to-be should discuss this. Baby showers can be fun with or without games. Themes are more or less always included in a baby shower plan, but they are not required.

Q. Is it okay to serve booze at a baby shower?

A. While it used to be taboo to serve alcohol at a baby shower, today’s baby showers are much less traditional. If the expectant mother is okay with serving alcohol, then it’s fine to serve it. 

Q. Do baby shower invitations have to be snail-mailed?

A. Nope! Honestly, more and more people are sending e-vites to all of their planned occasions. A baby shower is no different. Some people even prefer getting their invites through email or social media. It is also acceptable to send out invitations through regular mail and make an event on social media that can be used as a place for any intended guests to ask questions.

Q. What kind of refreshments should be served at a baby shower?

A. The type of refreshments served at a baby shower should be catered to the time of day that you are having the baby shower. If you are having a lunchtime shower, you can serve finger sandwiches, chips and dips, and other finger foods. If you are having a brunchtime shower, you may want to serve a mixture of breakfast and lunch finger foods, have a fruit bar, or serve coffee or mimosas. Most baby shower food is simple and easy.

Q. Are gift cards a good gift idea?

A. Gift cards are actually a great gift idea! As many gifts as an expectant mother may receive at her baby shower, there will always be other things that she needs either before or after the baby is born. Gift cards can relieve some of the cost of extras and can even allow the expectant mother to purchase things from her registry that she wanted but did not get.

Q. Are you required to give a hostess gift?

A. It is not required to give a hostess gift, but it is a very nice gesture to gift your hostess for the time and effort she put in to create an amazing baby shower for you. If your baby shower is planned, you can bring your hostess gift with you to give the hostess before the guests arrive or leave with her to open after.

Maybe your baby shower is a surprise, so you won’t be able to gift the hostess at the time of the party. Although, it is considerate to bring her something or send her something after the fact. If you have multiple hostesses, you can get them all something small or stick to individualized thank you notes if money becomes an issue.

The Bottom Line on Baby Shower Etiquette

When baby showers were first popularized in the 1940s and 1950s, they were much more different than they are now. Rest assured that your baby shower will not be like your mother’s baby shower or even your grandmother’s baby shower. If you do not want to keep with tradition, you don’t have to! As a mother-to-be, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy celebrating your baby with all of the women – and maybe even the men – that you love the most.

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Baby Shower Etiquette for host, mom-to-be and guests to enjoy the perfect party

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