Baby Shower Etiquette 101: Tips From The Emily Post Institute

Get valuable advice on who to invite, how to thank the shower host and much more.

CI-Rennai-Hoefer_Sprinkle-baby-shower-baby-belly-gift_h

CI-Rennai-Hoefer_Sprinkle-baby-shower-baby-belly-gift_h

Photo by: Rennai Hoefer

Rennai Hoefer

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While the celebration of childbirth can be traced back to ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, gifts weren’t part of the rituals in that time period. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s after World War II that gift-giving became part of the tradition that we know today as a baby shower.

Even now, times have changed and what was once a women-only event has transformed into an occasion to celebrate both parents. It is not uncommon nowadays to have what is known as a Jack-and-Jill shower where both parents are in attendance. We are also seeing gender reveal parties growing in popularity as well as baby sprinkles, which honor a second or third child.

And while the traditional baby shower has evolved, there are still a few rules regarding baby shower etiquette that remain much the same. Daniel Post Senning, author and expert in the rules of etiquette at The Emily Post Institute, shares his sentiments on proper baby shower etiquette.

Who hosts and organizes the baby shower?

Festive Baby Shower Games

Festive Baby Shower Games

No baby shower is complete without a few fun (and slightly silly) games. Enjoy this guide to a few favorite games that are simple, yet sure to be a riot.

Photo by: She-n-He Photography

She-n-He Photography

Traditionally, it used to be very close friends of the person who’s expecting rather than immediate family. "These days, baby showers can be hosted by anybody who is close to the person who's expecting. There used to be sort of a more limited group of people that were thought of as shower hosts, but that was in a time when people tended to be living and raising families in the same town they grew up in. In today’s world, where people travel and aren’t always as close to the support network they grew up with, we’ve broadened the thinking about who is appropriate to play the role of shower host," says Senning.

Who do you invite to the baby shower?

Festive Baby Shower Games

Festive Baby Shower Games

No baby shower is complete without a few fun (and slightly silly) games. Enjoy this guide to a few favorite games that are simple, yet sure to be a riot.

Photo by: She-n-He Photography

She-n-He Photography

People that are very close to the parents-to-be. “They’re pretty intimate gatherings, because they are one of the few things you get invited to where there is some expectation that you’re going to bring a gift for the guest of honor. You want to be careful about how broadly you cast the net when you’re inviting to a shower. You don’t want to create the appearance that you’re inviting people just for the sake of the presents that they’re going to bring. You want to really keep the focus on supporting the child and supporting the parents or the mother. And the best way to do that is to really be sure that everyone who is invited feels that closeness and has a good, strong connection to the mother and maybe father-to-be,” says Senning.

What’s an appropriate time frame to send thank-you cards after the shower?

CI-Michelle-Kim_garden-baby-shower-thank-you-cards5_h

CI-Michelle-Kim_garden-baby-shower-thank-you-cards5_h

©Michelle Kim Photography

Michelle Kim Photography

“Always the sooner, the better. Ideally, it is best within a couple weeks or a month that those thank-you notes go out before the baby is born. But just because you’re outside of those windows doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother to do it. Absolutely still get them out if you can,” says Senning. 

A baby shower for multiples — do you need to get a gift for each baby?

CI-Michelle-Kim_garden-baby-shower-baby-advice-book9_h

CI-Michelle-Kim_garden-baby-shower-baby-advice-book9_h

©Michelle Kim Photography

Michelle Kim Photography

"You don’t need to. Gift-giving is a really personal decision. Oftentimes there will be a registry for a shower. You can take a look at the registry at what’s suggested and pick something there. They’re provided for your convenience — that’s the idea behind a registry. It doesn’t mean you have to pick something off the registry. You need to think about your own budget and what you can afford. You need to think about the relationship you’re honoring with the gift. You certainly could get a gift for each baby, but you could also get something that would help the mother. One shower gift might be disposable diapers or onesies, and another might be a massage for mom," says Senning.

Do you include the baby registry on the invitation?

CI-Rennai-Hoefer_Library-shower-invites_h

CI-Rennai-Hoefer_Library-shower-invites_h

Photo by: Jessica Downey

Jessica Downey

"The usual advice is that you make no mention of gifts on an invitation, but because a shower is an expected party where gifts are part of the nature of the event, you absolutely can include registry information with the invitation. Anything that you can do to keep the focus on the heart of the invite and not on the registry is recommended. So if there are physical invitations, you might include a little insert that has some registry information also. If you can keep it off the actual, physical invitation itself, that creates a little distance for the invite, but if it’s not possible, it’s okay to make a registry mention as part of the invitation," says Senning.

Is it appropriate to have a shower for a second or third child?

CI-Rennai-Hoefer_Sprinkle-baby-shower-invitation_h

CI-Rennai-Hoefer_Sprinkle-baby-shower-invitation_h

Photo by: Rennai Hoefer

Rennai Hoefer

"I think it’s a question of dosage. You want to have an opportunity to honor and celebrate a second child as well as a first child. The whole purpose of the gift-giving part of a shower is that you’re really setting up the parents for what is really often a difficult time or just a time when there are a lot of demands on them. Outfitting a nursery and preparing a parent with some of the basic supplies they need is really the intent behind the shower and the gift-giving part of the shower," says Senning. Consider making a second or third baby shower a smaller event where the emphasis is placed more on the celebration of the upcoming child rather than the gift-giving aspect.

When should the invitations be sent out?

Baby Shower Invitation with Rose Floral Theme

Baby Shower Invitation with Rose Floral Theme

Roses make beautiful baby shower theme. Personalize the time, place, and person of honor for the baby shower.

"Ideally, give people enough time and send out the invitations three-to-six weeks out. If you get them out much earlier than that, it feels like you’re sort of the A+ student doing their homework, but it actually starts to create a burden for people if they don’t know what they’re doing in two months," says Senning.

Gender reveal parties are a big trend nowadays. Do you need to buy a gift for the reveal party as well as the baby shower?

Lovely Tray of Decorated Cupcakes

Lovely Tray of Decorated Cupcakes

To ensure your shower remains interactive and engaging, enlist guests to pass around easy-to-eat finger foods on serving trays. Not only is this is a great way to show off your beautiful culinary creations, it helps break the ice in the event guests may not know one another.

"No. It’s certainly not inappropriate to bring a small gift (for the gender reveal party), but it’s not an expectation," says Senning.

What if no one plans a shower for you? Is it appropriate to plan your own shower?

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CI-Rennai-Hoefer_Spa-baby-opening-gifts_v

Photo by: Rennai Hoefer

Rennai Hoefer

Traditionally, you weren’t supposed to throw a shower for yourself, but you could talk to someone close to you about doing it. "If there’s no one around that you could talk to about actually playing the role of host for a shower for you, then there’s probably not anybody around who is going to be coming to your shower. Just find someone that’s close to you and appeal to them to help you do it and play the role as host," says Senning.

Should you send invitations to out-of-state friends and family?

Host a French-Themed Baby Shower

Host a French-Themed Baby Shower

Throw a fabulously French-themed shower for the soon-to-be-mother of a baby girl. Bold black and white details keep all that pink from becoming overly saccharine, and fun French bites and classic baby shower games come together to create a joyful afternoon that the guest-of-honor will never forget.

Photo by: She-n-He Photography

She-n-He Photography

"Only if you think there’s a good chance they’re going to come. While showers are exciting, they’re not necessarily like weddings. People aren’t going to make quite the same effort to be there. If there is somebody that you think would like to come, you certainly can invite them, but you don't need to cast your invitation net too widely. Shower invitations really should only be going to people you think would really want to be there, and you should have a pretty good sense of who that is," says Senning.

How should you thank the hostess of your baby shower?

When and How To Send A Thank You Note: Pretty Stamps

When and How To Send A Thank You Note: Pretty Stamps

"Warmly and generously. The genuine, warm verbal thanks goes a long way. You do it in person, you look them in the eye, you smile, and you do it at a time when you’ve got their attention and they’ve got your attention. There are many opportunities to thank someone along the way. It’s not something you do just once, you want to be doing it continuously: 'Oh, I saw the invitations went out, thank you so much for doing that. I really appreciate it.' Do it face-to-face at the shower after it’s winding down and people are going home. It’s a really nice idea to follow up with a handwritten note bare minimum. That is someone who has really gone the extra mile for you and hosted an event in your honor. That note becomes a real reminder and is something tangible and concrete they can take with them. It would not be inappropriate to get a little thank-you gift also," says Senning.

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