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Baby Shower Etiquette – All You Need To Know

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Baby Shower Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts

Guests, first-time parents, and more experienced friends who are visiting or even hosting a baby shower often find they have questions about what they’re supposed to do.  Who plans a baby shower? Can the dad-to-be or his friends attend?  Do you RSVP to the new mom, the host, or both?  What’s the rule on presents?  Fortunately, the rules aren’t as stringent as they used to be, but that also makes it harder to figure out what’s permissible.  I’ve tried my best to cover all these and other baby shower etiquette questions.

Baby Shower Etiquette – Who Hosts the Baby Shower

Who plans a baby shower?

While baby shower etiquette is becoming more relaxed over time, this is still a pretty firm point: If at all possible, don’t host your own shower, and don’t ask someone to throw the party for you.  A close friend or family member should take on the responsibility of their own accord, and you’ll hear about it once they get a chance to start planning.

If you hear multiple friend groups planning a baby shower, (and it wouldn’t be a problem to combine those parties,) encourage the plotters to put their heads together.  This isn’t necessary, though – there’s no etiquette demanding you have one and only one baby shower, especially if people who would come to one can’t or won’t come to another.  Baby showers are supposed to be fun, and planning should allow that fun to happen. (Here is a helpful guide to planning a baby shower.)

Who Traditionally Pays For A Baby Shower?

The hostess will traditionally pay for the baby shower. However, if you are planning an extravagant baby shower, they can get quite costly. Therefore, it is always recommended that the host gets others to co-host with her. When there are co-hosts, they take up some responsibilities and the associated costs. This helps to reduce the overall costs of a baby shower.

If paying for the baby shower would be a problem, you could always set up a private online fund for the baby shower. That way, family, and friends could contribute money instead of helping to host.

Traditionally, the mom-to-be is not expected to pay for the baby shower.

Baby shower vs Baby Sprinkle

Baby showers are most commonly thrown for a new mom’s first child. The jury is out on this one but some people say that you should not have a “baby shower” for a subsequent child. Some say – who cares! Others say that the parties for all subsequent babies are no longer called a “baby shower,” but instead a “Baby Sprinkle.”

A baby shower is similar to a baby sprinkle, with a few differences.  A baby shower is there to celebrate the birth of the first child, with all that goes along with that experience for the new parents-to-be. By the time they are having their second, third… child, parents already have all the basics they need. Therefore, they now have a Baby Sprinkle to celebrate Mom and the newest member of the family, and to get diapers and wipes.

A baby sprinkle? A baby shower? It does not matter what you call it, but there is something special about a baby sprinkle because it comes with it’s very own “baby sprinkle cards and poems.”

When and Where To Hold the Baby Shower, And How Long Should It Be?

Have your baby shower at a time when the new mom can attend.  Six to eight months into her pregnancy is ideal since she’s not too exhausted from her pregnancy to enjoy the party and you don’t have to worry about the sudden interruption of her going into labor!  Here is the perfect guide and baby shower checklist to help you decide what to do, and when.

Cultural traditions can also impact the date, as in some cultures, it’s bad luck to accept baby gifts before the little one is actually born.  Make sure you check the possible shower dates with the new mom before writing up invitations, so you don’t set a date she can’t make.

As for location, the new mom’s or hostess’ house are both traditional, but consider the size of both the house and the guest list before you commit.  If you have more than about 30 guests coming, or the house you’d most likely have the baby shower in is very small, you might want to consider renting a bigger venue, such as a private party room at a local restaurant.

Do remember: While there’s nothing wrong with a surprise party in theory, in practice it could backfire quite badly if the new mom isn’t a fan of surprises.  Keep the guest of honor’s personality and temperament in mind as you plan, and only spring a surprise party on her at this stressful time if you think she’d truly enjoy it.

Finally – how long is a typical baby shower? Short answer – approximately 2-4  hours. Long answer – it depends on whether people came from far and wide to attend, and whether you’re having a lot of entertainment, food, and games planned. This post on planning a baby shower goes into more detail.

baby shower etiquette - who to invite

Baby Shower Etiquette – Who To Invite

ALWAYS run the final guest list by the new mom!  It’s her party, after all, so you don’t want to inadvertently leave someone off or include someone she doesn’t want to be there.

If the new mom has a friend or family member who has struggled with infertility or miscarriages, DO invite them to the shower, but make it clear that they don’t have to attend, if the reminder of their own struggles is too much to bear.

Whether to invite the new dad or other male guests is between you and the new mom.  Traditionally, baby showers are a ladies-only event, but co-ed or couple baby showers are becoming more common and accepted.

Whether guests who are parents can bring their children with them is likewise between you and the new mom, but make sure to put that information on the invitations, so there’s no confusion when the date of the shower arrives.  If the baby shower is going to include children, make arrangements to entertain the children. You might also want to hire a babysitter to ensure someone’s keeping an eye on them at all times.

If a friend is hosting the baby shower, it is considered a “friend baby shower” and your closest friends and close relatives will be invited. If a relative is hosting the shower, it is typically considered a “family baby shower” with only family invited. Do not worry about excluding anyone – you can have more than one baby shower.

Choosing a Shower Theme

Themed baby shower decorations will help make the planning process a lot easier, since you can look for decoration kits or shop according to that theme.  If the new mom knows baby’s sex and wants to decorate traditionally, there are plenty of color-coded themes out there; you can also find gender-neutral options if the new parents have chosen to keep baby’s sex a mystery or don’t want to stick to traditional colors.

baby shower etiquette for guests

Baby Shower Invitations

When you prepare shower invitations, don’t forget to include all the key information:

  • The new mom and host’s names;
  • Where and when the shower is being held (with driving directions);
  • RSVP information, dress code;
  • What to bring, if anything; (The “Guess The Baby Picture, ” is a very popular baby shower activity but to play it, guests bring a photo of themselves when they were babies. If you are planning this baby shower activity or anything similar, you will want to let the guests know – in your invitations.)
  • Whether children can attend,
  • Baby registry information to make buying gifts and baby necessities easier.  Standard shower etiquette still recommends listing registry information on a paper separate from the invitation or allowing guests to ask about it on their own, so they don’t feel pressured to stick to that list, but including it can help avoid doubling up on baby gifts.

Also, a lot of new moms are specifically requesting that guests bring diapers as gifts. This is because diapers will most likely be the parents’ highest expense. As such, many new parents are having diaper raffles during their baby showers, to encourage guests to bring diapers. If the mom-to-be wants to have a diaper raffle, be sure to include diaper raffle tickets in the baby shower invitation.

Guests should RSVP to the HOST, not the new mom.  The host will be the one keeping track of everything, so they need to know most of all who are coming and who can’t make it!

Standard baby shower etiquette advises sending invitations out four to six weeks before the shower, to give potential guests enough time to RSVP and shop.  Remember that some of the new mom’s family and friends may be coming from out of town and need time to make travel arrangements.

Baby Shower Entertainment

When it comes to entertainment, there are several things to choose from. They are:

What you choose to do, depends entirely on the type of baby shower you are planning.

Another great idea is to have your guests fill out advice cards for the new parents, “wishes for baby” cards, or baby predictions cards.  These are typically considered to be “baby shower activities.”

Games are fun but they aren’t required, so keep the new mom’s personality and party style in mind as you plan – the whole idea is for her to have a good time!

It’s traditional for the new parents or grandparents, and sometimes the host, to give a short speech toward the end of a baby shower.  Consider whether the new mom will be up to that when you’re planning, and set things up accordingly. If you do plan on having games, do be sure to get baby shower game prizes.

If there are any important guests that couldn’t attend, consider videotaping the event or have them call in on Skype.

How Many Games Should You Play At Your Baby Shower?

Since a  typical baby shower lasts 2-3 hours, you cannot have too many because that would eat up a lot of time. But, once your guests are settled in and enjoying the company and the food, you can begin the games.  3-5 Games is the norm because depending on which games you play, your games should last 30-45 minutes in total.

Assuming you started the games 45 minutes after everyone arrived and it takes 45 minutes to play the games, you would already be 1:30 hours into your baby shower. Therefore, 45 minutes for games is plenty of time because gifts still need to be opened, the cake needs to be served and baby shower favors distributed as guests leave. Having said all that – this guideline about timing only applies to a traditional baby shower. If your baby shower is also planned as a family reunion for example, then you can make up your own rules about timing.

Do keep in mind that game times vary. A game like Baby Shower Jeopardy and Baby Shower Bingo will take significantly longer than a diaper raffle draw, for example. Also, a popular game like “don’t say baby” takes hardly any time because the game is played while people mingle. Therefore, the games you choose will depend entirely on the type of atmosphere you are trying to create.

Baby Shower Favors

Baby shower favors are a tradition, and they are expected. Your guests would have taken time out of their lives to celebrate with the mom-to-be, and they would likely also have spent a bit of money on the baby shower gift. As such, it is appropriate to offer a baby shower favor, as a token of gratitude.

Baby shower favors need not be expensive. It can be handmade also. More and more, it is a sign of affection and gratitude for them sharing the day with the host and the mom-to-be.

baby shower etiquette - who hosts Image Credit

Baby Shower Etiquette For Guests – Gifts

Baby gifts are, of course, the most important part of your average baby shower, and budgeting for them is an important part of the process.  The new mom’s family is traditionally expected to help chip in on the major expenses, while friends don’t have to spend as much but should still bring something that speaks to their relationship with the new mom.  Non-family members should expect to spend between $30 and $50 on a good shower gift, depending on what else they might be bringing.

Be considerate of mom-to-be’s wishes. If she has a baby registry, buy from that registry. Diaper raffles are extremely popular, and the new mom may request that you bring diapers instead of traditional baby gifts.

Another common occurrence is that parents request that guests do not bring cards, but books instead – to help grow the baby’s library.

The parents-to-be may also ask that guests don’t wrap the presents. This too is a strong and ever-growing trend – it’s called a “display shower.” The reasoning behind is, is that opening presents at a baby shower can be time-consuming. Guests may get antsy, quickly. As such, it is suggested that you save everyone’s time and bring gifts, unwrapped. Follow this link for cute poems that go with having a display baby shower.

Baby Shower Etiquette For Mom: Thank-You Notes

Sure, the whole purpose of a baby shower is to honor the new mom BUT very importantly, it is to help the family get a head start on baby’s necessities. Those baby shower gifts can be expensive.  As a thank-you, it is customary to offer favors, but it’s also important for the new mom to send thank-you notes.  The host should designate someone at the party to keep track of who bought what, so that when the time comes to write all those notes, there’s a handy list and no one gets thanked for the wrong gift, or not thanked at all. Consider having your guests self-address some plain envelopes, to take out some of the hard work afterward. Find this, and other helpful tips on planning a baby shower, here.

Another helpful tip which may help with the thank-you notes is to have a baby registry at a place like Amazon. Amazon automatically sends out digital thank you cards, on mom’s behalf, when a gift is purchased from the registry.

The new mom should send her thank-you notes out one to two weeks after the shower, if possible.  Sometimes the baby has different ideas though. If you go into labor early, take the time to settle in with baby first – your shower guests will understand.

I trust this post has been comprehensive and helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.


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