Baby Shower Etiquette

As the host of a shower, you face a unique challenge: Make the honoree happy without making yourself crazy.

When should the shower be held?

A baby shower should be held four to six weeks before the due date unless the honoree prefers to have it after the child is born. (For example, her religion may encourage this, or she may have chosen to keep the baby's sex a surprise and doesn't want gender-neutral gifts).

Who decides who is invited—the guest of honor or the host?

Since the host bears the expense of the party, it is up to her to determine the number of guests she's comfortable accommodating. If the shower is not a surprise, the host should give the honoree that figure and ask whom she'd like to invite. For a surprise party, the honoree's college roommate trumps the host's book club buddies (sorry).

How many guests?

A shower should be an intimate affair, not a gathering of anyone the honoree has ever known. Limit the guest list to close friends and family. (Hint: It should not come as a surprise to anyone on the guest list that there is a baby on the way!) Keep in mind that if your home can hold only 20 people comfortably, inviting more is doing no one a favor.

Should the invitation include registry information?

Many shower invitations do, but that can make the shower seem like a bit of a gimme-fest. Better yet, keep registry information off the invitation but feel free to pass it along if guests ask you for it. Or have them contact the honoree's family or the honoree directly.

I'm hosting a shower for someone. Do I have to attend her other showers as well? And if so, should I bring a gift?

If you're close enough to the mom-to-be that you're throwing her a shower, you should try to make an appearance at one of the other showers if your schedule permits. However, if any of these showers require a train, plane, or lengthy car trip to attend, it is completely acceptable to decline politely. Whether you attend additional showers or not, there's no need to bring or send a second gift, since hosting a shower is like a second gift in and of itself. But if you feel uncomfortable arriving at a shower empty-handed, come with a small token, like a gift certificate for a manicure or a child's storybook.

How much should I spend on a gift?

As with any gift, how much you spend should have more to do with your relationship with the recipient and what you feel comfortable spending than with an arbitrary, "customary" dollar figure. Traditionally, the family of the mother-to-be takes on the more expensive, utilitarian gift items, like cribs or kitchen appliances, while friends bring gifts that are more creative, personal, and, yes, inexpensive. If you're not a family member of the honoree, a basic rule of thumb is to spend no less than $30 and no more than $50 on a baby-shower gift, bearing in mind what other gifts you plan to purchase.

The guest of honor doesn't want a typical ladies-only, afternoon affair. Are there other ways to celebrate?

Try opening up the event to husbands and male friends, and ask guests to bring themed personal gifts, like entertainment tickets, items to stock a bar, or, in the case of a baby shower, food to fill the freezer. And remember—there's no rule that says the honoree has to open her gifts at the party.

What if the guest of honor starts making other demands about the party?

The honoree surely has plenty on her mind and is probably in full-throttle decision-making mode. Try to be patient. If it's simply that she must have lilac napkins or her mother's ginger-ale punch, make every attempt to accommodate her. But if she is pushing you, say, to invite more guests than you feel comfortable hosting, then you are within your rights to gently let her know why you can't give her what she wants.

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