From the Guest List to the Menu, Here Are All Your Baby Shower Etiquette Questions Answered

Whether you’re the host or the mom-to-be, you’re here because someone’s got a bun in the oven and there’s a baby shower in your future. But what happens at a baby shower anyway? Should the mama-to-be have to open gifts during the event of after? We spoke to Myka Meier, author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy and got the answers to all your baby shower etiquette questions.

Who hosts a baby shower?

Good question! Per Meier, a baby shower is traditionally hosted by someone other than the mom-to-be. Usually, a close friend or family member will reach out and inquire into whether or not the mom-to-be would like to have a baby shower, and then take it from there. So, what do you do if you’re the one expecting, and no one has stepped up? In this situation, Meier stands with tradition (i.e., don’t throw your own), but she does recommend that you go ahead and create a registry anyway. Perhaps no one was available to host a big bash, but chances are your loved ones will still want to shower you with gifts to help you prepare for the big arrival—and that’s what a baby shower is really all about.

...And what’s plan B if no one offers to host?

If you’re feeling a little sad that no party took place, chin up—there are other ways you can celebrate instead. In this instance, Meier says that “the couple can throw a ‘last hurrah’ party before the mother-to-be gives birth (such as a BBQ or lunch) which is usually for couples to attend, or a ‘sip and see’ which is a small gathering following the birth where people come meet the baby.”

baby shower etiquette what kind of food should be served

What kind of food should be served at a baby shower?

The kind of food you serve at your baby shower is entirely up to you and should simply be chosen based on what you know your guests like to eat. That said, finger foods are generally the best choice for a baby shower as you can easily build a spread that has something for everyone. (Don’t like deviled eggs? No problem—hit up the cheese plate instead.)

Is it appropriate to serve alcohol?

The mom-to-be won’t be imbibing, so does that mean the event has to be dry for everyone else? Good news—Meier tells us that it’s absolutely OK to serve alcohol even if the mom-to-be cannot partake. “While the celebration is about mom and baby, you also want to make sure the guests are enjoying themselves,” she explains. We couldn’t agree more. However, if you’re hosting the shindig, be sure to have a variety of non-alcoholic beverages on offer in addition to the booze—you know, so the guest of honor can sip on something other than water if she likes.

Who should be invited to the baby shower?

This party is all about the mom-to-be so, as you might expect, the guest list is typically composed of her closest friends and family members. To this end, “The host(s) should ask the mom-to-be for a guest list of who she would like to be invited,” says Meier. The host might have a good sense already but going directly to the mom-to-be ensures that no colleague or neighbor is left behind. That said, Meier also points out that it’s important to consider the venue when building the guest list, since a host’s two-bedroom apartment won’t be able to accommodate as many guests as, say, a country club. Makes sense, right?

What about loved ones who live out of state?

Fair game says Meier. The caveat? “When the host extends the invitation, the mom-to-be may wish to write a separate note via text or email to the out of state invitee saying she wanted them to know how much she wishes they could be there, [but there’s] no pressure at all to attend.” If an out-of-state invitee isn’t able to make the trip, the mom-to-be can also choose to include them virtually (think: Zoom or FaceTime)—a video call when presents are being opened or a quick hello at any point will do the trick.

baby shower etiquette when should the gifts be opened
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When should the gifts be opened?

Not a fan of opening presents in front of an audience? No problem. Meier says the decision of when to open gifts is entirely up to the mom-to-be. Aside from personal preference, there are some practical considerations to keep in mind as well. “With a small, intimate shower, it may be very easy to open everyone’s gifts, however with a party of dozens, the time spent at the shower would be taken up entirely of gift opening and no socializing,” adds Meier. Of course, regardless of when the gifts are opened, someone (typically the host) should be in charge of keeping a list of who gifted what.

What goes on the invitation?

A baby shower invitation should essentially just cover the basics—the date, time and location of the event, the name of the mother, the name and contact information of the host, and finally an RSVP date. As for the baby registry link, Meier advises that it should not be included on the invitation “because you never want a guest to feel that they have to bring a gift in order to come, or that they were invited only for a gift.”

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Photography by Rayleigh/Getty Images

What’s the best way to share a baby shower registry?

But wait, if you don’t include the registry on the invite, how is anyone supposed to know what the mom needs for the baby? Fear not: The baby registry can and should be shared with friends and family members who reach out for it directly (and they will)—and once one person has the link, word will spread like wildfire to all interested parties. Furthermore, Meier says that if you’re sending paper invitations, it’s fine to include the registry link on a second separate, enclosed card within the invitation. Bottom line: The registry will be known even though it’s not printed on the invitation itself.

Should registry items fall within a certain price range?

There’s only one rule when it comes to the items on your wish list: variety is key. You can certainly include big ticket items, as long as there are also options that only cost a few bucks. Meier also recommends adding a gift card option to the registry to make it easier for folks to contribute to the cause while still staying within their budget. Gift cards are also a great way to get financial contributions towards big purchases that no single guest can take on.

Can I have a baby shower for a second or third child? just might look slightly different. According to Meier, there’s nothing wrong with having a baby shower for an additional child since it’s still a celebration to welcome a new baby. That said, everyone knows baby showers primarily serve another purpose—namely, “to ‘shower’ the new mom with gifts she needs to build her nursery and care for her new baby.” If the mom-to-be has been there, done that, she will likely have many of those bases covered already. As such, Meier says that a more toned down celebration is appropriate for moms expecting additional children. Fun fact: This smaller version of a baby shower is sometimes called a ‘sprinkle.’ Cute.

When should I send thank you cards?

Typically, thank you cards should be sent within one to two weeks of an event, and baby showers are no exception to the rule. There’s a lot going on when you’re expecting a baby, but you really shouldn’t skip the thank you cards, so it’s best to get them out of the way as soon as possible. (Hint: Those thank you cards will gather dust for a long time if they don’t go out before the baby arrives.) The good news is you don’t have to write a novel, just a quick note of gratitude that identifies the guest by name and the specific gift they gave.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...