Baby Shower Etiquette 101: Tips For Every Mom To Be

Baby Shower Etiquette 101: Tips For Every Mom To Be

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Baby Shower EtiquetteSo you’ve made it through the first trimester, and hopefully the worst of that so-called morning sickness is in the past, too.  You’ve shared the exciting news with your loved ones, and when you’re not doodling baby names in the margins of your journal or oooohing over cute nurseries on Pinterest, you’re looking at lists of “must-have” baby items and starting to wonder…will anyone throw me a baby shower? Should I register for that super sweet stroller, or would that seem greedy? Will I have to eat a diaper cake, make a speech, or play embarrassing games?

Don’t worry, mama. We’ve got the answers to these and many more questions about your first-ever baby shower.

Who should host the shower?

Tradition dictates that a close friend, coworker, cousin, or other distant relative should host the party. Because the aim of the celebration is, after all, to “shower” the mom-to-be with presents, it was once considered impolite or self-serving for a grandmother-to-be or other immediate female relative to host. However, this rule has relaxed over time, and these days the Emily Post Institute says “it is appropriate for anyone to host a baby shower as long as there’s a legitimate reason,” such as geography (say, your closest gal pal lives far away) or other practicalities.

Co-hosting can also work really well if the most likely candidate has the desire to host, but is terribly shy and woefully inept in all areas of party planning (ahem, that was me, and I will remain forever grateful to my cousin and sister-in-law!). It’s also very common to have more than one shower (say, if both sides of the family want to celebrate with you but live hours apart) and in these types of situations, if you are approached by more than one host, you can gratefully accept both offers and let the hosts know in order to avoid conflicting dates.

Can you ask someone to host it?

Nope. Though if your due date is approaching and no one has stepped forward, you can drop very subtle hints or confide in someone who is unlikely to host the party herself but may be able to raise the issue with someone who could. For all you know, this potential host may even already be planning the party — some people simply adore the element of surprise! Throwing your own shower is still generally considered a faux-pas.

When do you have the Baby Shower?

Showers are generally given 4-6 weeks before the baby is due, though in some cultures, the shower is thrown after the baby has arrived.

Who do you invite?

Unless it’s a surprise, or being thrown at your workplace (in which case the guest list is probably limited to your fellow employees) the guest list should be determined by the host in consultation with you, with consideration given to the size of the venue as well as more delicate questions such as the resources or relationships involved: some hosts are perfectly comfortable throwing a party for 50 of your nearest and dearest, while others may faint dead away at the prospect of catering for more than 20.

If you are struggling to decide whether or not a casual aquaintance or distant relative should make the cut, consider whether you would feel comfortable expecting this person to give you a gift. If many friends or family fall into the ‘no’ category, you might consider mailing out a new baby announcement after the wee one arrives: it’s a special, completely obligation-free way to express your excitement and share the news with everyone in your social circle.

Are baby showers strictly ladies-only?

Traditionally, yes. However, this is an another area which has evolved with the times, and many dads-to-be are happy to be included in a “co-ed” celebration of the little one (or ones!) on the way. The guest list is ultimately up to both parents-to-be, in consultation with the host.

How involved will I be in the planning?

It is perfectly acceptable to express your preferences to the host in terms of shower games, themes, or venue, but, as Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, explains, the guest of honor “should not anticipate micromanaging the event.”  After giving the host your guest list and any other info she might request, such as nursery colors or your preference for cloth or disposable diapers (in case someone wants to present you with a diaper cake), your role is simply to show up, be gracious, and  enjoy the festivities: even if the shower doesn’t turn out to be the stuff of your daydreams, the event is a signifcant “labor of love” and should be received as you would any gift.

Should I register for gifts?

Though gift registries have their own etiquette (see below!) the short answer is yes, you should, and you should provide the information to your host before the invitations go out so that she can (discreetly) include it. If the idea of “telling” someone what to purchase offends your sensibilies, please be reassured that many guests will ignore the registry entirely and follow their own instincts, while others will be very, very grateful for the guidance: guests who are not parents themselves, for example, may be less interested in browsing the baby aisle and more concerned about getting the “right” thing. It is, however, considered improper to insist that guests shop exclusively from the registry.

Where should I register? And what for?

Ideally, you should choose a website with which the majority of your guests are already comfortable (such as Amazon) or a well-known store with many retail locations (such as Target or Babies ‘R’ Us), also for the convenience of your guests. (Can’t decide? Check out The best baby registries: Amazon vs Target vs Buy Buy Baby vs Babies “R” Us) Be sure to include items at all price points out of respect for your guests’ budget for gift-giving, and if you’re not sure where to start, take a peek at our newborn essentials guide, which includes top products as recommended by moms.

Expert opinion is divided on whether to include big ticket items such as strollers: some say yes, it is practical, especially if your host has suggested that options for a “group” gift are welcome, or a generous grandparent-to-be has asked you which of the “big” items you’re still shopping for. Others say it is best to plan on purchasing pricey items such as car seats yourself, and simply leave them off the registry to avoid giving offense to your more traditional guests. It is essentially a judgment call — one of millions you’ll make as a parent!

And last but not least: what’s the deal with thank you notes and hostess gifts?

Though on the whole, baby showers have become less formal events over the years, handwritten thank you notes are still the norm. Of course, face-to-face expressions of gratitude during the gift-opening are never out of place, and a gracious mom-to-be would also thank the host(s) before the party’s over. There’s no need to rehearse a big speech: you can keep it short and sweet. A hostess gift, either delivered after the party or presented at the occasion, is also a nice gesture but not strictly necessary if you have written a personal thank-you. The notes should be in the mail within three weeks of the party, though you do get a bit of leeway if your baby arrives during this time.

About the author

Rosalynn Tyo

Rosalynn Tyo is a freelance writer who lives in Ontario with her husband, two little girls, and an outrageous amount of Play Doh, glitter, and cookie crumbs.

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