The tradition of baby showers as we know them today began in the 1930s. The term “shower” comes from showering the expecting mother with gifts. Baby showers are so much more than presents. A baby shower is a celebration of becoming a mother and the new baby joining your family. You can choose to celebrate with all the prim and proper of a traditional baby shower, or you can opt for a get-together that throws all the rules out the window. However, you choose to celebrate your baby and becoming a mother, I hope you feel special and celebrated by friends and family. This article covers everything you need to know about a baby shower, including etiquette, planning tips, and ideas to make your baby shower the perfect celebration.
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The History of the Baby Shower
Traditions celebrating pregnancy and a new baby vary all over the globe. All cultures have a celebration or gathering relating to bringing a new life into the world. In the United States, neighborhood get-togethers to celebrate a mom-to-be started in the 1930s with “stork showers.” By the 1940s and 50s, the baby shower was a common celebration. The term “shower” comes from showering the expecting mother with gifts. Baby showers are so much more than presents. A baby shower is a celebration of becoming a mother and the new baby joining your family.
Traditional Baby Shower Etiquette
There are many rules around what is socially acceptable for baby showers. Those rules evolve, and you likely have different views than your grandmother on what is appropriate. You can choose to celebrate with all the prim and proper of a traditional baby shower, or you can opt for a get-together that throws all the rules out the window. Even if you have a nontraditional shower, there is value in knowing the etiquette for baby showers. These will be discussed throughout this article. Ultimately, how you celebrate is entirely up to you. I encourage you to do things your way and throw out any rules that don’t fit your idea of what a shower should be.
Timing Your Baby Shower
You could have a baby shower anytime before your baby is born. Typically, this celebration is early in the third trimester, starting with week 28. At a minimum, you should plan on a baby shower at least 4-6 weeks before your due date. There is always the possibility your baby will arrive early. That leaves you plenty of time to assess everything you have and what you still need to get before your baby arrives. Choosing a date involves coordinating your calendar, the schedules of key people you would like to attend, and considering the time of year and any upcoming holidays. As for the time of day, you can plan a shower at any time. Usually, this is during daylight hours and lasts between two to three hours.
Traditionally, someone who is not the expecting mother or a family member hosts a baby shower. From a traditional etiquette standpoint, a shower hosted by the mom or other family is rude because gifts are often expected. You may already have the perfect best friend who takes the initiative on events like this and plans like a professional event planner. If you do not have the luxury of someone volunteering to host, you may want to consider asking a close friend. While traditional rules say that a family member should not host, you can always decide to bunk tradition and have your family organize it or plan it yourself.
Speak Up About Your Preferences
Regardless of who is planning your baby shower, you should give input for the type of celebration you want. If you want something included or left out, please speak up. Although the person planning should know you very well, you may have different ideas about your ideal baby shower. At the very minimum, you should help coordinate the date, provide the guest list, and choose the theme.
Traditionally, the person hosting the party picks up the cost. Hosting a baby shower can get expensive very quickly. As you are giving input on your preferences, please keep the financial commitment and ability of the host in mind. If elements that are out of the host’s budget are important to you, you may consider pitching in to help cover some of the costs. While a catered and professionally planned event may be nice, you can have an amazing celebration with a small group and a potluck.
In the past, baby showers were female-only events. In recent years many couples have decided to have a co-ed shower and invite friends and family regardless of sex. A shower with everyone is sometimes called a “Jack and Jill” shower. This is a personal preference, and you are welcome to invite anyone you would like.
If you have family or friends who live far away, you may choose to send them an invitation to be courteous. Traditional etiquette states that you should still send a gift if you are invited to a baby shower and cannot attend. Obviously, you are not inviting people solely to get more gifts. If you have friends or family you know cannot attend, you may choose to send them a baby announcement after your baby is born rather than an invitation to your shower.
Having Multiple Baby Showers
You may live far from family, have different friend groups, and be close with co-workers. If more than one person wants to throw you a baby shower, that is perfectly okay. You can have more than one baby shower. This may also be preferable to having one giant shower with multiple social groups that don’t overlap.
Most baby showers have a theme. The theme drives everything, including the design of the invitations, decorations, food and drinks, and even the activities. Many expecting mothers will choose a theme to go with the décor of their nursery. According to Babylist.com, some of the top baby shower themes for 2022 are:
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star features moons and stars with white, gold, and touches of blue.
- Bees with taglines like “Celebrating a BeeAutiful mom to BEE”
- Dusty desert chic, which has a Joshua Tree vibe
- Baby-Que for a backyard barbeque-inspired theme
The theme for your baby shower can truly be anything. You could also skip the theme and use a simple color scheme. You can venture beyond pinks and blues and go with any color combination you like. There are endless possibilities for decorating and coordinating all of your celebration’s elements.
You can host a baby shower anywhere. The easiest place to host a baby shower is at a home where you have a lot of control over the setup and no time limit. If you have the space, you could have it at your home and eliminate the need to transfer gifts back to your house. If your shower takes place during a time of year with nice weather, you could opt for an outdoor event at a park.
Paper invitations in the mail are the most formal way to invite your guests. Your grandmother may expect a paper invitation, but an electronic one would be acceptable for your friends. You know the crowd best and what would be most appropriate for sending invitations. Invitations should be sent 3-4 weeks before your shower, or potentially earlier if people will need to make travel arrangements.
Invitations should be specific about who is invited, whether children are welcome, and any other details guests need to know upfront. There are mixed opinions on whether to include where you are registered on the invitation. On the one hand, people may see this as explicitly asking for gifts. On the other hand, anyone who will be purchasing a gift will want to know where you are registered. A common workaround is to include a separate piece of paper with a note where you are registered. If you choose to send electronic invitations, you may decide to add a message about where you registered within your message or at the very end of the invite. If you would rather not include that information, you are welcome to omit it.
Some hosts add a note on the invitation to “please include a gift receipt just in case we need to make an exchange.” This is a personal preference. While some will see this as tacky, others may view it as a helpful reminder.
Amazon has a lot of options for blank invites that you fill out with the information for your event. You can also order custom paper invitations from sites like Minted or Shutterfly. If you order custom invites, ensure there is plenty of time for production and shipping before your or the host sends them to your guests. Paperless Post or Evite are great resources if you opt for electronic invitations.
Decorations for a baby shower can be extravagant and include everything from a balloon arch to flower arrangements. You could also opt for something simple and have very few decorations or focus on one small area like a table with food or drinks. Amazon has an excellent selection of baby shower decorations at reasonable prices for any theme or color scheme.
Food and Drinks
Most baby showers include some form of food and drinks. If you want to avoid having a more substantial meal, do not plan your shower when people typically eat lunch or dinner. Small appetizers or snacks are perfectly acceptable. What food and drinks to serve is up to you and your host. This can be extravagant with a caterer or be a potluck where you ask guests to bring a dish to share.
Most baby showers will have some type of dessert or cake. While professional cakes look amazing, they can also be expensive. You could also set up a dessert table or opt for something like cookies or mini cupcakes.
Whether you choose to have alcohol available for your guests is up to you. You know your friends and family and what they expect and would like to drink. It is always nice to include non-alcoholic options, especially for mom-to-be.
Games are a long tradition of baby showers. Most showers will have 2-4 games for guests to play and will offer prizes for the winners. Prizes could be anything like scented candles, bath gift sets, bottles of wine, gift cards, or anything you think guests will enjoy.
The stereotypical baby shower games involve ice cubes filled with tiny plastic babies, melted chocolate in diapers, tasting baby food, or drinking from baby bottles. You could also opt for games like guessing the baby photo and asking your guests to bring a photo of them as a baby. A pool to guess the due date is fun, although you will not know who the winner is until the baby is born. You could also do a quiz about who knows the mother best.
One game is not to say the word baby. Everyone starts with something like a clothespin or necklace. If someone catches them saying the word “baby,” they take the clothespin or necklace and whoever has the most at the end wins. You can also ask guests to guess the belly size of mom by cutting a ribbon or string to the length they think will fit around mom’s belly.
There are endless possibilities of games you could include. Some people expect and enjoy playing games at baby showers. Others would rather skip them. Talk to your host and let them know if you want games or if there are specific games you would like to avoid.
Activities and Additional Ideas
There are also many activities you can include in your baby shower. Some ideas are to set up a station with diapers and sharpie markers where guests can write a note on the outside diapers. This could be a motivational quote, a joke, or words of encouragement.
You could set up a craft station for guests to decorate onesies or bibs with fabric paint or markers. Perhaps consider supplies for people to make bows or headbands. You may also consider note cards or a book for guests to write in or share their best parenting advice.
Some expecting parents request books instead of cards. The cost for a children’s book isn’t much more than a greeting card, and you can stock up your baby’s library with notes written in each book from your friends and family.
You can ask everyone to bring a box of diapers to stock up the parents. If you ask for diapers, you should specify the brand and sizes you want. You may consider skipping the newborn size and going for sizes one or two.
You will want to purchase many things for a new baby, and having your friends and family pitch in to help you can be a lifesaver. If you are in a position where you don’t need assistance purchasing things for your baby or do not want gifts, you can still have a baby shower. Please state if you prefer not to receive gifts clearly and politely on the invitation. Inevitably, some people will still get you gifts.
If you are expecting gifts, there are several reasons you should consider a baby registry. First, many people want to buy you a gift, and a registry helps them figure out what you need and want. Secondly, it will be easier to return items if you have duplicates or end up not needing something. Third, most registries offer a completion discount. This means you can save money on any remaining items you purchase off your registry. You should complete your registry before baby shower invitations go out. A separate episode will cover everything you need to know about creating your registry.
Opening gifts in front of everyone is a long tradition of gift-giving parties. Today, some people opt to open gifts privately after everyone has left. This is a personal preference. While more birthday parties are skipping opening presents, gifts are still typically opened during a baby shower. You should know that some guests will expect you to open presents with everyone. Who doesn’t love to see adorable baby outfits? If you plan not to open gifts, it could be nice to let everyone know that you want to maximize your time with them and wait to open presents.
Thank You Cards
Proper etiquette states that you send a handwritten thank-you note anytime someone gives you a gift. When you open presents, keep a list of who gave you each gift to thank them specifically. If someone attended your shower but did not bring a gift, you may still want to send a thank you card and thank them for celebrating with you.
You may prefer to communicate your gratitude via email or text. Any electronic method is less personal than a handwritten thank you card. You know your friends and family best. If you feel it is appropriate to email or message someone, you are welcome to do that instead of sending a physical card. Most importantly, you acknowledge them for celebrating with you and thank them for any gifts. The goal is to send cards immediately after the event, preferably within a week or two.
If someone hosts a baby shower for you, please thank them after the event. In the past, it was customary to get a small gift for the host. If you want to get a gift, you absolutely can. It can be something small, like a bouquet or a decorative candle. A handwritten thank you note is also a great way to ensure they know you appreciate them.
Favors are another way to show guests appreciation for attending an event. These are usually small and relatively inexpensive gifts. Favors are common at weddings and children’s birthday parties and have become popular at baby showers. Typically these coordinate with your party’s theme. If your theme is around bees, you could gift miniature jars of honey to your guests. If you decorate with succulents, you could give each guest a small succulent in a cute pot. This is another area of planning where the possibilities are endless. You could gift each guest a small bottle of champagne to pop when the baby is born. Other ideas are bath bombs, candles, and sweets like macaroons or cake pops. If you are ordering anything that requires personalization, make sure it will arrive in time for your event.
Alternatives to a Traditional Shower
If a traditional baby shower isn’t your ideal way to celebrate your baby and becoming a parent, you have other options. You could opt for a mani-pedi party and enjoy pampering with your friends. You may consider a girls’ night out. If dad or your partner wants a way to celebrate, they could have a diaper party. This is basically an excuse for your partner to hang with their friends, but you ask each guest to bring a box of diapers.
Sprinkles and Sip and See Parties
If you don’t want a full baby shower, you could have a sprinkle, which is a smaller version of a shower. These are most common for parents expecting baby #2 or more. You could also forego a celebration and host a sip and see after your baby is born. A sip and see is where you have an open house and invite friends and family over to meet your new baby. The name comes from guests having a drink (sip) and seeing the new baby.
Alternatives to an In-person Baby Shower
The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for celebrating in-person events. While it seems in many ways life is back to normal, some people are still not comfortable with large gatherings. There are some alternatives to a traditional in-person baby shower. Typically, an invitation for one of these alternatives has cute wording about wanting to celebrate even though you can’t be together in person. Please clearly state the invitations’ details, so your guests know what to expect.
One option is a virtual baby shower. This is held online via a platform like Zoom or Facebook. This tends to work best with smaller groups of people. No one needs to travel, and they can celebrate from the comfort of their own homes. The downside is that navigating online meetings can be difficult for people who are not tech-savvy. Be prepared for multiple people talking at once and working out some technical difficulties.
A drive-through baby shower is best if you don’t live on a busy street and many of your guests live nearby. You can have some decorations outside, and you and your partner can hang outside as your friends and family drive by, say their congrats, and drop off gifts. You could even encourage guests to decorate their cars for the occasion. This allows you to see everyone who drives by briefly, but it isn’t ideal for people who live far away or do not have transportation.
Shower by Mail
A shower by mail invites guests to mail gifts or cards, and there is no virtual or in-person meet-up. Other than the invitations, no additional time or money is involved in planning. The downside is this is the most informal way to celebrate and may be seen as purely a request for gifts since nothing else is involved.
The Downside to the Alternatives
The biggest downside to these alternatives is that they are not the same as getting together with close friends and family to celebrate your baby and becoming a parent. Some people feel these alternatives are an excuse to ask for gifts. Others see it as an opportunity to celebrate mom and baby when there are concerns about large gatherings.
However, you choose to celebrate your baby and becoming a mother, I hope you feel special and celebrated by friends and family.
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