Planning a baby shower is one of those parts of adulting that can sneak up on you before you feel all the way prepared. Whether you’re the one being showered, the hostess of the big event, or a guest, baby shower etiquette can sometimes feel like a mystery. Some traditions have changed in recent years, too, meaning a lot of the old rules aren’t so important anymore. And with social media and other technological advances in the past decade plus, some new rules have been established. 

Receiving, planning, or attending a baby shower this year? Here are all the etiquette tips you need to know. 

Baby Shower Etiquette for the Parents-to-Be

Can I ask someone to throw me a baby shower?

Yes and no. This is an intricate one depending on your friend and family group. Only you know if you have that special someone (like Mom, your sister, or a lifelong bestie!) that you can kindly ask to throw your shower. Bear in mind that there is a financial implication in hosting a baby shower, so if you do feel close enough to this person to ask them if they’d host one, make sure to offer to assist with the money aspect in case that’s why they hadn’t offered. Also, be prepared to hear “no” if they don’t have the time to put a shower together and know you’ll be okay with that answer if it’s the one you get. 

Can I throw my own baby shower?

Yes! Hosting your own shower is totally appropriate in the new world of party etiquette. If you feel funny about doing so, you can always plan the party but have the RSVP’s go to your partner or parent, so that guests don’t overtly see you’re the one doing it. But in short, yes, it is totally okay to throw your own party to celebrate the precious new life joining your family soon. 

Is it appropriate to have a baby shower for a second child? 

Yup! Ditch the old thinking about only first babies getting showers and embrace a new world where every sibling is celebrated and fussed over. If you don’t feel comfortable with a full-blown baby shower for #2 (or 3, or 4…), consider the newer tradition of a baby sprinkle, or the alternative of a sip-and-see party after the baby arrives. 

Can I have more than one baby shower for one baby or pregnancy?

Sure! Different groups of friends, your work colleagues, and your intimate family might all offer to celebrate you and Baby with an intimate shower. There is nothing wrong with having multiple showers, and this often occurs with a first child. Just make sure to speak to your hosts about scheduling and figure out who is invited to which one, so there is no overlap and so that no guests feel they need to attend multiple showers (and buy a second gift!). 

What if there are baby shower traditions I don’t feel comfortable with? 

Don’t be afraid to speak up! It is more than okay to tell your hosts in a gentle manner that there are certain elements of baby showers or things you’ve seen done at other people’s showers that you don’t want to partake in. One classic baby shower game, for example, involves guessing the measurement of the expectant mother’s bump and measuring her to see who got it closest. Lots of moms feel uncomfortable with comments and games focused on their size—understandably! 

Even if it’s something small and seemingly silly, this is your day, and you have a right to opt out of anything you don’t want to do. Just give your host a heads-up to make sure it’s a non-issue on the big day. And on the day of, if anyone suggests an activity (like sitting through ages of unsolicited advice or weird games), just pull the host aside and ask them to pivot. They’ll make it happen!

Do I need to send handwritten thank-you notes after a baby shower?

Traditional etiquette says it’s a good idea, but modern mothers everywhere say it can be a pain in the you-know-what. If you open gifts at the shower and thank people face-to-face, you’ve done the most important part. Above that, you can always take care to snap a photo of their gift in use later and text it along as a follow-up “thanks.” Another option, if an electronic invite was sent, is to write an email that can be sent to everyone on the invite list thanking them for attending and saying how much you loved all your gifts. 

Great Aunt Susie might be miffed if she doesn’t receive a written thank-you in the mail, but your mental health is more important than anything else. If you have the time to pen these notes, particularly to the older generation of gifters, go for it. But for the most part, modern etiquette states that a verbal or phone thank-you is sufficient. (Here's what to write in a baby shower thank you note!)

Who should I invite to my baby shower?

Cast the net as wide as the baby shower venue and budget allow so that everyone who loves you feels included. If there’s a finite capacity, you’ll have to prioritize. Very close friends, your immediate family, and the immediate family of your partner are the priority. Outside of that, newer friends, and anyone you feel close to who has supported you or shown an interest in your baby-to-be is fair game. Don’t feel like you need to invite your partner’s entire side of the family or friend group, but do have a chat with them to see who they feel is most important to include. 

Is it rude to register for expensive baby shower gifts?

It’s okay to register for the gifts you really want and need—including big-ticket items—as long as you understand that they might not be accessible for everyone. Consider using a registry, like the Happiest Baby Registry, that allows group gifting, so friends and family can chip in what they’re able! It’s also wise to include items at a variety of price ranges to give everyone a chance to fete you with a gift, if they’d like.

Baby Shower Etiquette for the Hosts

Who pays for a baby shower?

If you’re hosting the shower, expect to foot the bill. If other friends are getting in on the hosting, discuss openly how much everyone is comfortable spending and budget from there. If you’re holding a shower at a restaurant, coffee shop, or wine bar, it is possible to do a pay-for-yourself type of shower where guests will pay for their own food and beverage. However, in that case you and the fellow hosts will have to handle the cake, paper goods, balloons, etc. And make sure if guests are expected to contribute financially in any way, the invite clearly states as much.

You also might learn that a relative of the parents-to-be might want to contribute financially to the shower. In that case, they will let you know. Do not presume to ask; it’s always better to go budget-friendly with a party than to seek out additional funds to pull off a lofty vision. 

How long should a baby shower last?

Nobody wants to be at a baby shower longer than 3 or 4 hours. Two, even, is enough if it’s a small gathering. Put an end time on the invitation so your guests know what to expect. Having an endpoint in mind should also prevent people from showing up late.  

What kind of food should I serve at a baby shower? Does it have to be a whole meal? 

It depends on the time of day. A brunch or lunchtime shower definitely requires enough food to fill a plate, whether that’s waffles, fruit, and yogurt parfaits…or sandwiches, salads, and cookies. If you’d like to save money on food or would rather not serve a hefty meal for convenience and cleanup purposes, time the shower toward the late afternoon or early evening after lunch and before dinner (like 2 to 5pm). In this case, it’s perfectly acceptable to serve simple drinks and desserts, or passed appetizers and cake.

Can I serve alcohol at a baby shower?

There is no hard-and-fast rule against or in favor of serving alcohol at a baby shower. Generally, this is an occasion where daytime cocktails, something bubbly, or white wine fits in well. Just make sure that you have more than water for those who are not imbibing, especially as the guest of honor will likely be sticking to the non-alcoholic beverages. Sparkling water, juice, and a signature mocktail are great things to add to your well-stocked bar cart for the big day.

Can we skip the present-opening at a baby shower?

Feel free to skip presents if the parent-of-the-hour doesn’t want all eyes on them as they open gifts. (Many of the guests may feel relieved to skip this time-consuming tradition, too!) On the other hand, sometimes it’s easier to open all the gifts together so there’s less of a need to write formal thank-you notes later. Bottom line: Let the expecting parent take the lead. 

Do I have to do baby shower games?

It’s totally acceptable to skip structured activities or icebreakers, especially if you’re planning a shorter timeframe or very intimate shower with people who are all close friends. Stick to one or two cool and fun baby shower games, or avoid them all together and fill the time with another activity like a craft or photo booth instead.

Baby Shower Etiquette for the Guests

Can I bring my kids or significant other to a baby shower?

Maybe! It all depends on the invitation. Unless clearly stated that children or plus-ones are welcome, do not assume you can bring yours. If it’s unclear based on the verbiage on the invite or the shower venue, you can ask the host ahead. Or, if the day of the shower your childcare falls through and you’re left in the lurch, a last-minute request to bring the kids might be okay, venue and food dependent. Be prepared to be asked to come solo though, or miss the event if kids can’t be accommodated, as most baby showers are for the expectant parent(s) and their friends only. 

What if I’m running late to a baby shower?

It’s better you arrive late than never, so don’t skip the party just because something came up earlier in the day. Make sure to say hello directly to the guest of honor and thank your host even if you walked in late and they seemed busy at the time of your arrival. 

Is it okay to buy a gift that’s not on the baby shower registry? 

It is acceptable, and sometimes preferable, to go “off-registry” if you are bringing a handmade gift, an heirloom-style item, or something very special. However, registries exist for a reason, so if you’re going store-bought and straightforward/functional, make sure to browse the list first. It would be silly to gift a bottle rack or baby carrier that’s not the one they picked out, for example. 

Do I have to bring more than a gift if the invite asks for it? 

Lots of trends are floating around these days, including asking guests to bring a book instead of a card, or to bring a pack of diapers for a raffle in addition to the gift. While some people find these ideas adorable and fun, others feel like it’s one more expense that takes away from what they can spend on the gift. Don’t worry so much about the “extras,” as the most important thing is that you show up and shower the parent-to-be with love. Any add-on’s are optional and can be completely ignored if they take you outside your budget. 

What should I write in a baby shower card?

It's up to you—as long as the message comes from your heart! Typically baby shower cards offer well wishes for the parents-to-be and baby. If you're in need of inspiration, here are 46 wording ideas for what to write in a baby shower card.

What if I don’t feel comfortable attending a baby shower for personal reasons?

If you are facing infertility, mourning a loss, are in a tough parenting season, or otherwise do not feel up to attending, you deserve to give yourself the grace of skipping the baby shower. There is no need to provide a reason; a simple RSVP “no” or telling the hostess you’re sorry that you can’t make it will suffice. A gift card is an easy present that can be delivered virtually and saves you from having to browse baby gear, if that feels too heavy.  

When can I share pictures of the baby shower? 

It is always best to let the parents-to-be post their own photos first of anything baby related, including the shower. Let them decide when or whether these images are shared. Also, keep in mind that pregnant people can be sensitive about their appearance with all the changes happening to their bodies during this time. Once you’ve gotten the green-light to post photos, send them to the shower-ee first to see if they have favorites…or ones they’d rather not share.

More Baby Shower Advice and Ideas:

About Jenny Studenroth Gerson

Jenny Studenroth Gerson is an Atlanta-based lifestyle journalist and novelist (Let Me Let You Go, 2020). Her work can be seen in publications including HuffPost, Cosmo, and WSJ, among many others. Jenny has researched thousands of baby names, combed through hundreds of nursery designs, and curated dozens of baby shower guides, making her absolutely the mom—and writer—you want to talk to when planning for Baby. When not meeting deadlines, she is chasing toddlers or chugging coffee—or both! Find her on Instagram @ourlifeinrosegold for mom hacks and more.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.