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Baby Shower Etiquette For Moms, Hosts, and Guests

Updated
You don’t want to commit any baby shower faux pas, so check out our guide to proper baby shower etiquette.

With social norms changing so rapidly, it’s challenging to know what the “right” thing to do is in any situation — and baby showers are no exception.

There’s nothing wrong with starting your own traditions, but if you want to stick with established expectations, we’re here to help.

Between us, we’ve been to dozens of baby showers. Whether at-home baby showers or others in “posh” venues, female-only or mixed-gender get-togethers, large or small, we’ve seen them all.

So, don’t faux pas; follow our guide to modern baby shower etiquette, and you’ll be blunder-free.


Baby Shower Etiquette: What You Should Know

Baby showers, as we know them, are a relatively modern invention. Thought to have begun in the U.S. in the 1940s or 1950s, they do not have deeply rooted traditions. This means you can feel free to mix things up a bit and treat this as a guide to what has become the norm, rather than a rule book to follow.

When Should You Have a Baby Shower?

Baby showers are usually held roughly six weeks before a baby’s due date. This timing works for most people because:

  • The risk of miscarriage or the identification of medical issues has decreased.
  • A baby’s early arrival is less likely to scupper your plans.
  • The mom-to-be can enjoy the shower before the end-of-pregnancy energy drain begins.

That said, some people believe it’s bad luck to buy anything for the baby or bring baby items into the house before the little one arrives. Take this into consideration, and discuss with the mom-to-be whether she would like to defer the shower.

Where Can You Host a Baby Shower?

Traditionally baby showers take place at the home of the host. If you plan to hold the shower in the expectant family’s home, be sure to arrange for a team to hang around and clean up after the baby shower.

Some people hold the shower outside the home, making the setup and clean-up the responsibility of the venue. Another alternative that’s becoming increasingly popular is holding baby shower “events” such as a shower at a pottery studio or a mani-pedi baby shower at a spa.

We’ve attended showers in hotels and restaurants, church halls and parks. We’ve even been to a baby shower in a conference room at work. What’s most important is that anyone who attends can get there, be comfortable, and enjoy themselves.

When in doubt, the host’s home is the best option, as it’s often the most comfortable place for everyone.

Who Should Host the Baby Shower?

At one time, showers were hosted by friends or a family member outside the immediate family. This was because people were worried that if the family hosted a shower, they were basically fishing for presents.

Today, a friend or relative will usually host the baby shower, but people no longer worry if it looks “bad” for a mother or sister to host.

The host is usually the one to organize and pay for the shower, but it is reasonable to ask other people to help host the shower and contribute financially.

Whom Should You Invite to a Baby Shower?

A baby shower is not usually a surprise event, so it is not against baby shower etiquette to ask the mom-to-be who she would like or not like to invite.

When deciding exactly who to invite, imagine the mom-to-be’s friends and family as being in circles. You’ll start by inviting those friends and family to whom she feel the closest, and work outward from there, adding people until you get to your invitee limit.

However, if the mom has expressly asked for someone to be or not be there, it is bad form to ignore her request, no matter how awkward you might find that.

Can You Have a Baby Shower for a Second Child?

Baby showers are seen as a way to gift the parents items they need for their baby and help with the expense of a child, but they are also celebrations.

While a full-on baby shower with lots of gifts isn’t the norm for subsequent children, a celebration party is a fabulous way to shower the mom-to-be with love and share in the excitement of a new life.

Can You Have a Baby Shower If Adopting or Fostering a Child?

Yes, you can absolutely have a baby shower for an adopted or fostered child. They are as much a part of the family as a child related to their parents through biology.

The only difference would be that you can risk having the shower a little closer to the date of adoption.

When it comes to fostering children, parents are often contacted at short notice to take on a baby, child, or family group, so it’s not practical to plan a traditional shower.

However, when a family first shares they will be fostering, having a shower to set them up with baby supplies before possible placements is a fabulous idea. You could even take it a step further and host mini-showers every year or so to help them stock up on supplies.

Should You Have Alcohol at a Baby Shower?

People are divided about whether there should be alcohol at a baby shower. Some feel that as the mom-to-be can’t drink, nobody else should either. There’s also the issue that alcohol and party games do not always safely mix.

A good compromise is to tell guests you are not providing alcohol, but they are free to bring their own.

Must You Open Your Gifts in the Presence of Guests?

While some people enjoy the oohs and ahhs of watching mom open all of those darling little baby clothes, others may find it boring. Not only that, but with a larger group, this can go on for a while, and some people may feel embarrassed if they can only afford a small gift.

A good compromise is to wind up the shower and then open gifts, allowing those who wish to stay the option to do so.

When and How Do I Send Thank You Cards?

It’s best to send out thank you notes within two to three weeks of the shower. The exception to this is if the baby arrives during that period, then within two months is still considered polite.

One top tip is to address your envelopes and sign your cards ahead of time. Then you can add a personal message to the card after the shower, and the process feels less demanding.

How to Host a Virtual Baby Shower

With families and friends being scattered far and wide, virtual baby showers are becoming more popular. Not only do they allow you to include those who can’t travel, but it also means people can save their visit until after the baby is born.

To host a virtual baby shower:

  1. When guests are further away, be sure to check local time zones. Use your time zone on invitations, and ensure the shower is at a time that works for everyone.
  2. Begin by deciding who to invite. If any guests are uncomfortable with virtual events, pair them up with another guest who would be willing to spend the shower with them in person, in their home, and help out.
  3. Create a quick how-to guide so everyone can attend without difficulty. When you send the invitation, ask if anyone requires tech support.
  4. Set a timetable for games, and keep things short. This will minimize the chance of people becoming bored. You can share a rough timetable to help people better prepare themselves.
  5. Be aware that sites like Zoom have time limits on free rooms, so you may need to go for a paid option if you want a more extended event.
  6. Do a dry run ahead of time. This will help you identify any issues with virtual baby shower games.
  7. Consider sending a small box of decorations, props for games, snacks, or recipes for food and drink to each guest. This allows everyone to enjoy a similar experience and feels more like a party than a meeting.
  8. Decide how to deal with gifts. Do you want people to send them directly to mom so she can open them on camera, have guests hold them up to the camera, and send them to mom later on, or exclude the gifts from the shower entirely?

Have fun!

Wanting to do the “right” thing when planning or attending a baby shower is totally understandable. Nobody wants to be “that” person who does the wrong thing and casts a cloud over the festivities.

However, try not to fret too much. Read through our guide to baby shower etiquette a few times, take a deep breath, try to relax, and enjoy yourself.

And if something does go “wrong,” tell everyone you’re a trendsetter, mixing it up, establishing new traditions, and laying down the path they can all follow if they dare.

Headshot of Patricia Barnes

About the Author

Patricia Barnes

Patricia Barnes is a homeschooling mom of 5 who has been featured on Global TV, quoted in Parents magazine, and writes for a variety of websites and publications. Doing her best to keep it together in a life of constant chaos, Patti would describe herself as an eclectic mess maker, lousy crafter, book lover, autism mom, and insomniac.