Are You Breaking the Rules? Baby Shower Traditions and Etiquette

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A Guide to Baby Shower Etiquette from the Baby Shower Experts at PartyPail.com!


You might say that parties of all kinds are our business, so here at PartyPail.com we have made it our mission to be your resource not only for party and baby shower supplies and decorations, but to provide you with expertise and know-how. And when it comes to baby showers, our blog and website have a great amount of ideas and inspiration that you can use to throw the best, most creative baby shower possible, on any budget.

Since we are constantly talking with our customers about how to throw a baby shower, we decided that it was time to write this article, devoted completely to baby shower etiquette. You can rely on these baby shower dos and don’ts to put you in the know. When combined with your creative baby shower ideas and inspiration, you will be able to treat your baby shower guests and guest of honor to a wonderful, memorable baby shower.

So you’re having a baby…

Who should throw a baby shower?

The lines are pretty clearly drawn when it comes to who should never host a baby shower, and that is the expectant mother and father to be.

In fact, for a long time it was generally held that no close family member should host a baby shower (as it is held to be bad manners for family members to be asking others for presents). Today, that rule has been relaxed a little, so it is acceptable for aunts, sisters, cousins or other family members to host a baby shower in many circles of friends.

Still, if you want to hold strictly to baby shower etiquette (and some circles still do), that leaves baby shower hosting duties up to best friends, co-workers, members of social or church groups, etc.

Dr. Seuss Baby Shower Decorations and Supplies
Dr. Seuss Baby Shower Decorations and Supplies

When should you hold the baby shower?

Traditionally, baby showers are held 6-8 weeks before the due date of the baby.

That said, there are factors which might dictate that a baby shower be held earlier than that date (such as a mother to be who will be moving, taking an extended leave from work or even leaving to become a stay-at-home mother, health concerns, or other reasons) or that result in a baby shower being held at a later date (or even after the baby is born).

For instance, if a mother-to-be is on bed rest for health reasons, or if a baby is born before the due date, it might not be possible to hold a baby shower for her until after the arrival of the new baby. Other factors might lead to the decision to have a baby shower after the baby is born; such as when the mother to be is having multiple baby showers, when the gender of the baby is not known or if the mother-to-be wants to wait and have a shower to introduce the baby first time instead of a traditional shower.

If you will be holding your baby shower at the traditional point of six to eight weeks before the baby’s due date, be aware that you need to start seriously planning your baby shower no later than six weeks before the date of the baby shower.

Buzz Babee Baby Shower Decorations
Buzz Babee Baby Shower Decorations

Who should you invite, when, and how?

Obviously, you need to make sure that the mother-to-be and those guests whose attendance would be most important to her will be able to attend. Sending invitations in a timely manner will be key. Check with the mother-to-be (or both parents-to-be) early in the planning process to be sure that you get the most important people onto the guest list.

You might also want to consult with the new baby’s grandparents, godparents or other close friends or family members to be sure that those people most important to the mother-to-be will receive an invitation. (That said, give the mother-to-be the chance to look over the expanded guest list in case there are individuals that she does not want to invite.)

Traditionally, baby showers have been held by women, for women, only.

But that is no longer the case. In recent years, many couples have opted to throw co-ed baby showers or baby showers held simultaneously celebrating the dad-to-be as well as the mother-to-be with guys and girls night out events or celebrations. Some people want to have baby showers celebrated by all members of not only their close, but large extended family members (of both genders and all ages).

Clearly, if your baby shower will not be a traditional women’s only event, your guest list and overall planning may be significantly impacted.

But regardless of the type of baby shower you will be holding, you must still invite your guests, and you must do so in a timely manner to enable guests to plan to attend, shop for guests and clear any conflicts from their calendars.

As a general rule, invite guests with a printed invitation sent around three weeks before the date of the baby shower. Relative to the point above as to “when you should throw a baby shower” that puts the “send date” for your printed baby shower invitations at 9-12 weeks (that could be as many as three months!) before the baby’s due date.

Traditionally, baby shower etiquette calls for printed baby shower invitations to be sent to guests; however, in recent years, with the advent of technology or depending on the composition of the guest list (such as a group of co-workers or people acquainted through a church or civic organization) it is not uncommon for digital invitations or announcements in church bulletins, etc., to be sent in addition (or even in lieu of) printed invitations.

We recommend that you purchase printed baby shower invitations, even if digital evites will be sent (or other types of announcements) will be employed to invite guests for several reasons:

  • Even though many people use email and social media, not all do, and sending print invitations to at least the most important guests on the list of invitees will ensure that all those most important to the mother-to-be (or parents-to-be) will be in attendance
  • Printed, themed baby shower invitations will be kept as mementos and keepsakes by the mother-to-be, grandparents, godparents and others. Electronic invitations? Not so much.
  • Sending or hand-delivering a printed baby shower invitation is more personal and a more appropriate way to mark such a special occasion.

When preparing your invitations, be sure that each includes:

  1. The name of the mother-to-be (or parents-to-be, if desired or in the case of a co-ed baby shower)
  2. The day of the week and date of the baby shower
  3. The location including address and zip code where the baby shower will be held
  4. Directions to the location where the baby shower will be held, especially if it will be held in a hard-to-find location
  5. The phone number and / or email address of the host in case of questions
  6. Baby shower gift registry information or suggested gift items
  7. RSVP information (if needed)
  8. Instructions or any other important information (such as in the case of a mom-oriented or personal baby shower, co-ed baby shower or another type of baby shower where guests might need information ahead of time)

Curious George Baby Shower Decorations
Curious George Baby Shower Decorations

What should be included in your budget?

Your overall budget is going to depend on many things: how many people will be invited, where the baby shower will be held, what activities will occur at the baby shower, what type of baby shower refreshments you will serve, what type of decorating you plan to do, and many other factors. At the outset of your baby shower planning process, sit down and decide how much you can spend overall, then designate how much of those funds will be allocated to these types of expenses:

  • Baby shower decorations. How much you need to spend on baby shower decorations will depend on where the baby shower will be held, what other décor already exists there, how large the space is, and the areas where you want to provide special focus, such as focal points like refreshment areas, gift tables, where the guest/s of honor will sit to eat or open presents, etc.

    Traditionally, the baby shower host chooses a theme for the baby shower and this affects the decisions made for baby shower supplies (like invitations, thank you notes for use by the mother-to-be after the baby shower, plates, napkins, cups, silverware, etc.) and decorations in general (like banners, wall decorations, hanging baby shower decorations, outdoor baby shower decorations, baby shower centerpieces, and the like).

    One way to get more out of the decorating portion of your baby shower budget is to mix and match solid color baby shower supplies and decorations (like crepe paper, cutlery, plates, napkins, table coverings, etc.) alongside themed baby shower decorations.

    When it comes to choosing a theme for your baby shower decorations, you can choose a baby shower theme based on many different factors:

    • Let the mother to be choose her favorite theme.
    • Choose a theme that is indicative of the gender of the new baby (if known and public knowledge).
    • Choose a theme that aligns with the way that the baby’s nursery will be decorated.
    • Choose a theme that will coordinate well with the setting where the baby shower will be held (such as outdoor or nature themed baby shower decorations for an outdoor baby shower, garden party or similar setting).
    • Choose a theme based on the type of baby shower you will be throwing, such as a females-only baby shower, a co-ed baby shower, or another specialty type of baby shower.
    • Or, choose a theme based on the composition of the guest list such as a baby shower for a church or other religiously-affiliated group or a baby shower that will be attended by co-workers.

    Traditionally, throwing the baby shower is considered to be the gift for the new mother on the part of the baby shower hostess, so it is not necessary for the host to purchase a baby shower gift for the new baby in addition. However, to prevent any misunderstanding or hurt feelings, when extending the offer to throw the baby shower for the mommy-to-be, you might simply state something like this: “As my gift for the new baby, I’d like to host your baby shower,” or something similar.

Precious Moments Baby Shower Decorations
Precious Moments Baby Shower Decorations

What should happen at the baby shower?

At traditional baby showers, women gather to celebrate the mother-to-be in anticipation of a baby on the way with refreshments, gifts and baby shower games. Refreshments will vary based on the type of baby shower you are holding, the number of guests who will be invited, your budget, the time of day the baby shower will be held and a variety of other factors. However, it is customary for the host to provide a specially-decorated baby shower cake or cupcakes that coordinate with the overall theme of the baby shower, and to serve at least light refreshments, including snacks and a beverage (or beverages).

It is customary for guests to bring gifts to the baby shower. In the case of a traditional baby shower, these will be intended for use by the new baby. But in the case of a mom-oriented or co-ed baby shower, these might be gifts meant to be enjoyed by the mother-to-be, father-to-be, or both parents.

If your baby shower is one of these alternative types of baby showers, be sure to indicate this on the baby shower invitations and to make gift suggestions or provide a contact for guests to call with questions about gifts.

Make sure that someone is tasked with the assignment of keeping a list of baby shower gifts as they are opened by the mother-to-be (or parents-to-be). This will make it easy for the new mother to write and send personal thank you notes to her guests after the baby shower.

When planning baby shower games, you will want to purchase a few inexpensive items as prizes, and be sure to have a few extra on hand as sometimes "ties" might occur, especially when it comes to the typical word games and quiz contests played at baby showers. Alternately, you can keep questions in reserve as tie-breakers.

Finally, it is also customary to send guests home with treats, mementos or keepsakes of the occasion as baby shower favors. These could be as simple as a baby shower favor box or bag filled with the traditional baby shower Jordan Almonds or buttermint creams, a baby shower picture frame, or a similar item that matches or coordinates with your chosen baby shower theme.

What About You?

Would you host a baby shower for a family member or for yourself?

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Comments 3 comments

bemily521 profile image

bemily521 4 years ago

Great hub and great tips! Thank you!


partypail profile image

partypail 4 years ago from www.partypail.com Author

Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad you found it helpful. :)


BNadyn profile image

BNadyn 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

I hosted a baby shower last year and it does take well-organized planning and attention to details. It was fun, though, and I enjoyed doing it. I like your suggestions on how to choose a theme. Useful tips here!

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