Baby Shower Etiquette: The Ultimate Guide to Getting It Right

Updated June 14, 2021
Pregnant woman embracing friend

Baby showers have changed a lot over time, but baby shower etiquette standards have remained fairly 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 Etiquette for the Hostess With the Mostess

While there is no standard of who is allowed to host a baby shower, the hard and fast etiquette rule is that you don'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 host your own. Don't fret over who is going to take the reins here. Chances are, friends and family will be fighting over who gets this esteemed honor.

Who Hosts and Who Pays for the Baby Shower?

A close female family member or friend of the mom-to-be is usually the one to host. Sometimes, several ladies band together to serve as hostesses and share the duties. 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 the baby's due and no one has asked, it's okay for you to ask someone if they'd host a shower for you.

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. Splitting costs is another reason that groups of ladies choose to take on hosting duties together. Showers do not have to cost an arm and a leg. Costs can be kept down by:

  • Sharing the hostessing duties
  • Making meals a potluck
  • Work in groups to make beautiful decorations
  • Hold the shower at someone's home as opposed to renting a space

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.

Female friends open gift boxes with a pregnant woman at a baby shower

Fast Facts on How Many Showers a Mama Can Have

Most people know that a shower for a first baby is common practice, but what about subsequent pregnancies, and what about different groups of people wanting to celebrate your baby at different times?

How Many Baby Showers Can You Have for One Child?

If you have a wide social circle, you might have a few 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. You can't always make this magic happen, but when you can, do it.

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 the first baby, you wouldn't have a shower for the next baby. Sometimes ladies who find that they are expecting again have smaller gatherings to celebrate another baby called baby sprinkles.

Baby Shower Etiquette to Help Planning Go Off Without a Hitch

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.

Choosing 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, but this is not a hard rule. 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.

Creating a Baby Shower Timeline

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. Other considerations sometimes affect the shower timeline, specifically issues involving the mother or baby's health.

Baby Shower Invitation Etiquette

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

The ABS's of Baby Shower Invites?

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.

Regarding who gets an invitation, this largely depends on the parents of the new baby. It also depends on whether the shower is the only shower that is being thrown or if there will be separate showers for different groups of people in the parents-to-be's life.

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. The new mom will likely provide addresses for all guests while the hostess physically puts the invitations together and mails them out. 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. Any guest 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. Thank-you notes to guests, and the hostess should be sent within three weeks after the shower if possible. If a baby's birth interferes with this, it's acceptable to send the thank-you notes as soon as you can. Make sure someone at the shower is designated to write down who gives the parents what, and pass this information along to the mother-to-be so that she can include it in the thank-you card.

Be On Your Best Baby Shower Behavior

Anytime you participate in an event, shower, or otherwise, you'll want to know the do's and don't of how to act.

Etiquette for the Mom-to-Be

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

  • Provide the hostess with information for the guest list, invitations, theme and design, food, and location preferences.
  • 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.
  • 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 co-ed 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

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

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 with 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 not make the shower you were invited to, it is up to you whether you want to give a gift to the parents and the new baby.
Mom-to-be with her grandma

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 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 also celebrate 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 woman 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 and Game Etiquette

You don't have to serve a full meal at a baby shower, but you should at least have various 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 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.

Parents tasting baby food at shower party in summer

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.

Baby Shower Etiquette: The Ultimate Guide to Getting It Right