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Complete Baby Shower Etiquette Guide

Michele Meleen
Pregnant woman embracing friend

Baby showers have changed a lot over time, but baby shower etiquette standards have remained constant. Use this guide to baby shower etiquette to help you plan a great shower or be the best baby shower guest you can be.

Baby Shower Hosting Etiquette

While there is no standard of who is allowed to host a baby shower, the hard and fast etiquette rule is that you can't host your own. The point of a baby shower is for friends and family to shower you and your baby with love and supplies, so it might appear greedy if you hosted your own.

Who Hosts the Baby Shower?

A close female family member of the mom-to-be is usually the one to host, but that isn't a requirement. Often, several family members such as the grandmother-to-be and new mom's sisters serve as hostesses. Once you've announced your pregnancy, wait for someone to ask about hosting a shower for you. If you get to about three or four months before baby's due and no one has asked, it's okay for you to ask someone if they'd host a shower for you.

Who Pays for the Baby Shower?

The hostess typically pays for the entire shower, but she can ask for financial assistance from the mom-to-be's closest friends or family members if needed. It is acceptable for guests to bring pot luck dishes for the main meal to help keep costs down.

What Does a Hostess Do?

Aside from planning and setting up the shower, the hostess is responsible for greeting guests and leading the events at the shower. After the shower ends, hostesses clean up the event space and help carry gifts to the mom-to-be's vehicle.

How Many Baby Showers Can You Have for One Child?

If you have a wide social circle, you might have up to three separate showers for one baby. The mom-to-be's family may throw one shower, the dad-to-be's family may throw one shower, and your co-workers may throw one shower. Whenever possible, you should combine groups into one shower.

Can You Have a Baby Shower for a Second or Third Child?

You can have a baby shower for each of your children if desired. General etiquette suggests you do not have a shower for a second or third child if they are born very soon after your last child. For example, if you find out you're pregnant 2-6 months after baby 1, you wouldn't have a shower for baby 2.

Baby Shower Planning Etiquette

Planning a traditional baby shower should be a collaborative effort between the mom-to-be and her hostess or hostesses. Use a party planning checklist to help make sure you've got everything right.

Who Chooses the Baby Shower Theme?

The mom-to-be should choose the shower theme if she wants to. Often, the shower theme will match her chosen nursery theme. Hostesses should ask the mom-to-be what theme she would like for the shower and follow her wishes. If the mom-to-be does not want to choose a theme and permits it, the hostess can choose a theme.

When Do You Plan a Baby Shower?

Baby showers are usually held about 4-6 weeks before the baby is due. You should start planning the shower at least six weeks before it is held. If factors like travel or religious beliefs dictate a different time for the shower, that is fine as long as the mom-to-be agrees on the date.

Baby Shower Invitation Etiquette

The hostess and mom-to-be will need to work together to handle baby shower invitations.

Who Gets Invited to a Baby Shower?

The mom-to-be has the final say in who gets invited to her shower. For a traditional shower, you would invite all female family members of the mom-to-be and dad-to-be, including immediate and extended family members, and close friends of the mom-to-be. For a work baby shower, you should invite all members of the mom-to-be's department for large employers and all employees for small businesses.

What Do You Include in a Baby Shower Invitation?

Baby shower invitations should include all the information guests need to find the event and feel prepared for it. You should always include:

  • The directions to the shower and maybe a map for harder-to-find places are good additions.
  • The names of the stores where the mom-to-be has registered and information for accessing the registry should be included.
  • Add the gender of the baby, if it is known.
  • If the mom-to-be has special requests like using baby books in place of baby shower cards, make that clear.
  • Be clear about whether a meal or snacks will be served.

When Do You Send Baby Shower Invitations?

Make sure you get invitations out at least a month in advance so guests can plan ahead. Provide an RSVP number that is easily reached.

How Do You Send Baby Shower Invitations?

The new mom provides addresses for all guests while the hostess physically puts the invitations together and mails them. While the traditional method is to mail invitations, it is also acceptable to hand-deliver them or email paperless invitations.

Baby Shower Thank You Etiquette

The mom-to-be should always thank her guests and hostess formally after the shower.

Who Gets a Baby Shower Thank You?

Any guests who attends the shower or gives a gift should receive a thank you note from the mom-to-be. All hostesses typically receive a small gift and thank you note from the mom-to-be.

When Do You Send Thank You Notes?

Thank you notes to guests and the hostess should be sent within three weeks after the shower if possible. If baby's birth interferes with this, it's acceptable to send the thank you notes as soon as you can.

Baby Shower Etiquette for the Mom-to-Be

While the mom-to-be isn't expected to do much aside from have a good time, she does have a few key duties. She should:

  • Provide the hostess with information for the guest list and invitations.
  • Complete a gift registry before the invitations get mailed if gifts are desired.
  • Sit in the best seat in the house, preferably at the front of the venue where everyone can see her.
  • Allow guests and hostesses to serve her food, drinks, and gifts.
  • Be gracious and thank everyone at the shower.
  • Write and send "thank you" notes after the shower.

Etiquette for Men at a Baby Shower

With a traditional shower, it is customary to invite the dad-to-be for the end of the shower where gifts are opened. He can then help load them into their vehicle. If you are having a coed baby shower, the dad-to-be should be treated the same as the mom-to-be in all aspects, and all male guests should be treated the same as female guests.

Baby Shower Gift Etiquette

The point of a baby shower is to help prepare the new parents, so gifts are an important part of showers.

Mom-to-be with her grandma

Do You Have to Bring a Gift to the Shower?

In general, you should always bring a gift to the shower. If the invitation explicitly asks for no gifts, do not bring a gift.

  • If the invitation says to bring a baby board book in place of a card, honor those wishes.
  • If the invitation includes a baby registry link, purchase an item from the registry as the mom-to-be has hand-picked the items.
  • Your relationship to the new mom suggests the amount of money you should spend on a gift, but the thought really counts more than the cost.
  • Guests can pool their money to buy large, expensive items to give as a group gift as long as all names are included on the card.

If You Can't Attend the Shower, Do You Have to Send a Gift?

A baby shower invitation is meant to be an invitation to an event, so if you don't attend you are not expected to send a gift. Since you were invited to the shower, you are an important part of the mom-to-be's life. It would be a nice gesture to celebrate the new baby in another way, like dropping off a gift after the baby is born.

Does the Mom-to-Be Have to Open Gifts at the Shower?

Baby shower gift opening etiquette dictates that the mom-to-be opens all her gifts at the shower where everyone can see. When the mom-to-be is opening gifts, watch attentively and express positive reactions to each gift. Shy women and some modern moms choose not to open gifts at the shower to save time and any embarrassment from bad gift reactions. If the new mom doesn't open gifts at the shower and you really want to see her reaction, you can ask her to open it privately with you another time.

Baby Shower Activities Etiquette

Traditional baby showers include some type of food and beverages to keep guests comfortable and include games to encourage interaction.

Baby Shower Seating Etiquette

Baby showers are all about the mom-to-be, but they are also about celebrating all the important people in the new baby's life. Assigned seating is not necessary, but certain people should have reserved seating with the mom-to-be. If this is not her first child, her other children should sit with her. Any women who will be closely involved in the baby's life, such as Great Grandma, Grandma, and the mom-to-be's mother-in-law should be seated with the guest of honor.

Baby Shower Meal Etiquette

You don't have to serve a full meal at a baby shower, but you should at least have a variety of snacks. Plan for more food than is needed to feed guests and create a baby shower menu that covers special dietary restrictions. The mom-to-be and anyone seated at her table should be the first to go through the buffet or be served their meal and dessert. Baby shower etiquette for grandmothers, particularly the grandmothers of the mom-to-be, suggests hostesses serve their drinks and food.

Baby Shower Game Etiquette

Baby showers games are a part of traditional showers because they make the event more fun, encourage interaction, and help you get to know the baby or the mom-to-be. If there are games and special activities at the shower, all guests should participate in all activities.

Etiquette Tips for Nontraditional Baby Showers

Modern baby showers can follow tradition or follow a more modern format. No matter what type of shower you have, baby shower etiquette remains the same.

Come and Go Baby Shower Etiquette Tips

A come and go baby shower, also called a drop-in shower, is a casual event where there are no set times for any activities or meals. Guests are welcome to come any time during the scheduled hours and leave at any time they desire.

  • Although the point is to come when you can, plan to stay at least a half an hour.
  • Arrive well before the ending time of the event, so the mom-to-be doesn't have to stay longer than planned.
  • Bring your gift directly to the mom-to-be as soon as you arrive so she can open it with you.
  • Say goodbye to the mom-to-be before you leave so she knows you've left.

Sprinkle Baby Shower Etiquette Tips

Moms who already have kids and the large baby gear items they'll need for the new baby might have a sprinkle instead of a shower. Sprinkles are much more casual and smaller than a traditional baby shower.

  • Invite only very close friends and relatives.
  • Give practical, smaller gifts such as diapers, wipes, and clothing.
  • Forgo baby shower games and activities to allow for intimate conversations.

Coed Baby Shower Etiquette Tips

A couple's baby shower or co-ed shower gives dads-to-be and their male friends and relatives the chance to celebrate the new baby too. Account for all the extra guests and make everyone feel comfortable.

  • Ask both the mom-to-be and dad-to-be if they are okay with this type of shower first and respect their wishes.
  • Include the names of both husbands and wives on the invitation.
  • Choose games that don't focus on potentially uncomfortable interactions like wrapping something around the new mom's belly.
Coed baby shower party

Minding Your Manners

Every woman, family, and baby shower is unique, but most run under the assumption everyone will use their best manners to make the day special for the mom-to-be. Don't get caught up in the etiquette details. Instead, mind your manners and try to have a good time as a group.

Complete Baby Shower Etiquette Guide