The Hostess's Responsibilities

Traditionally, only friends threw the mommy-to-be a shower, not family. While it is now considered acceptable for a sister, sister-in-law, cousin, or aunt to act as a hostess, according to etiquette experts, it is usually not considered proper form for a mother or mother-in-law to host such an event.

The shower guests of honor are the mommy-to-be and her baby. As guest of honor, her responsibilities are to arrive at the appointed hour, be as gracious and charming as possible and to accept with gratitude the gift of the shower and the array of presents and good wishes she will receive.

As the hostess, you have responsibilities, too. You should consult with the mommy-to-be (unless it’s a surprise) to give her a range of dates, tell her the maximum number of guests your home or budget will accommodate, and find out if there are any dietary considerations you should know about. You should also find out where she is registered for baby gifts (if she is). Beyond that, it is your job to plan and arrange the party and her job to be a good guest of honor.


If you choose to throw a surprise shower, you will need an accomplice — preferably a close friend, family member, or spouse who can keep a secret and has a good poker face! Let guests know on the invitation that the secret must be kept. Also be sure to make special parking arrangements — a dozen cars in the driveway is a dead giveaway that a party’s afoot!

Though most American baby showers are held prior to the baby’s birth, there is nothing wrong with having one early in the pregnancy or after the baby arrives. There are advantages to both.

If you are planning one ahead of the due date, the new parents will have a chance to relax and enjoy the party and be able to unwrap and put away the wonderful presents without the interruption of feedings, diapers, and sleeplessness. Showers held after the baby’s birth have the very distinct upside of knowing the baby’s gender, size, and name.

Shower Essentials

Most showers take place over two to four hours and include refreshments —ranging from tea and biscuits to a meal with dessert—games or an activity, and gift giving and opening. Use this as a general guideline as you begin gathering the information you will need to party plan.


Unfortunately, there is a new trend to forego opening gifts at a party. However, since guests have taken the time to shop, select, purchase, wrap, and carry a gift to the party, it is only natural that they would want to see the reaction upon opening the present. Allow time for the guest of honor to open each gift and acknowledge the giver “in the moment.”

The guest list may be determined by default — all the people in a certain group, such as work colleagues, will be invited. It may be determined by geography — all the neighbors in the cul-de-sac — or by social group. Whatever the case, the size and makeup of the guest list will determine many of the party’s details.

One thing to consider when embarking on this planning endeavor is to make sure that no one in any guest group is excluded on purpose. It is easy enough to squeeze in one or two extras rather than deal with a lifetime of hurt feelings.

Important Shower Know-How


As hostess, make the new mommy’s life a little easier by addressing thank-you notes at the shower! Have a package of notes on hand at the shower. Give an envelope to each guest and ask her to write her name and address on the front. Gather them in a bag, ready for writing and mailing.

Because today’s new mothers-in-waiting may be in the workforce, belong to a religious or social group, be involved with the activities of school-aged children, and so on, it is possible that more than one group may wish to plan a shower. That’s great, as long as guests are not expected (or required) to bring a present to each party.

Several baby shower websites and articles have indicated that it is alright to excuse the new mom-to-be from writing thank-you notes for shower gifts. They are wrong. Ask any etiquette expert, from Amy Vanderbilt to Emily Post — thank-you notes are a must. No one expects a two-page report from a new mother, but a brief, gracious acknowledgment is required.

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