Baby Shower Etiquette


April 30, 2013 | BY Lynn Fung

In honour of the upcoming Mother’s Day on May 12, we give a few tips on both hosting and attending a baby shower

Although most of us may think of baby showers as primarily an American tradition, we have found that more and more expectant mothers are sending out invitations to them, regardless of their culture or ethnicity. So what to do if you’re never been to one, or worse, you are asked to host your very first one? Fret not, our etiquette guide below will make sure you are able to both throw the perfect baby shower, as well as be an exemplary guest at one.

Hosting a baby shower

- Traditionally, baby showers are not thrown by a related member of the family, as it was deemed unseemly for the family to look like it was asking for presents.

- If you are the lucky host, always make sure to check proposed dates with the expectant mother. Some women prefer having a shower in the sixth month while they are still mobile, while others may prefer having it later.

- Also, it is important to check the dates with other important guests, such as the mother of the pregnant woman, or even the grandmother.

- Normally, baby showers are held for women-only, but some mums-to-be may prefer a mixed gathering. Again, double-check.

- Do not throw a surprise baby shower. Heavily pregnant women and surprises are not a good combination.

- On the invitation, make sure to put it down in writing if there is a theme, or if there is a gift registry. Like any other invitation, make sure to give guests a few weeks notice.

- Consider the guest list carefully: a baby shower should be an intimate gathering of the mother’s nearest and dearest, not a mass invite to her entire Facebook friends list.

- Make sure to have a clear list of activities planned. A lot of the time, a baby shower can draw together people from disparate social circles who may not know each other too well. Having a clear list of games or activities planned will ensure that the ice is quickly broken and you’re not left with too many awkward silences.

- Having said that, be flexible. There is nothing worse than going to a baby shower where only the mum-to-be and her own mother know the answers to a trivia game, while the rest of the guests try not to pass out from boredom. If your guests look bored, move on to the next planned activity and have games that involve everyone. For example, a trivia game that includes naming celebrity couple’s children can be a lot more fun and inclusive.

- Opening the gifts: some people may be uncomfortable opening gifts in front of a crowd, while others may expect it to be the main entertainment of the day. Ask the expectant mother what she would prefer prior to the shower.

- Regardless of when the mother chooses to open the gifts, it’s the hostess’ job to make sure she records who gave what, so that the mother can write appropriate and fool-proof thank-you notes after.

- A lot of people have coloured themes depending on the sex of the unborn baby, but there is no reason to infantalise the whole event. For food, in particular, a few baby-themed snacks such as cookies are expected, but grown-up food should be also served. There should not be an entire meal made up of baby blue cupcakes (see above). Make sure to serve something the expectant mother loves, but is also pregnancy-appropriate (no gooey cheeses or sashimi platters).

- This also includes drinks. Some mothers would prefer lemonade to be served, while others are absolutely fine with champagne for the guests. Again, make sure you ask beforehand.

- If you have a lot of guests, there is no reason not to have the event catered with waiters, so guests can relax comfortably and have hor d’oeuvres and snacks brought to them in neat portions (see the elegantly potted panna cotta below), rather than crowding around a table.

- Usually the biggest baby showers are held for a first-born, as the reasoning is by the time the couple has a second or third child, they would already have most of the baby gear they would need.

- Finally, a scrapbook should be organised where the guests can write a little note to the unborn child, and presented to the mum-to-be at the end.

- Visit our dining section here for baby shower recipes.

Attending a baby shower

- Be prepared to socialise, without alcohol: as mentioned above, baby showers tend to bring together a lot of people you may not have met before, and the kicker is, a lot of baby showers do not have alcohol. So if you usually rely on a glass or two as a social lubricant, come prepared with some PG anecdotes or questions beforehand.

- The gift: if the mother-to-be has a registry, just choose from it. It is likely that she will want something she actually needs. If she does not have a registry, however, then be creative. She doesn’t need another bag of diapers (or God forbid, a diaper cake). A beautiful edition of your own favourite fairy tale as a child is a tasteful gift.

- While it may seem logical for you to bring your own baby to a baby shower, most of the time that is frowned upon, as the attention is supposed to be focused wholly on the unborn baby, so make sure to ask before you bring your own brood along.

- Although the attention is meant to be on the unborn baby, don’t assume you can just go up to the pregnant mother and touch her belly. Never touch unless you’ve been invited to do so.

- Gauge how the guest of honour is feeling: is she thriving on all the attention? Or does she look awkward as someone is talking to her about epidurals? If so, don’t forget that she’s a person before a mother, and make conversation about some of her other interests.