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SHOWER ETIQUETTE: Old rules don’t always apply to modern baby and bridal showers

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Elena Mauer - Photo credit: Todd France2 / 3
Jamie Miles - Photo credit: Todd France3 / 3

Twists on tradition are changing the rules for bridal and baby showers.

Instead of showering second-time moms with gifts, friends might host a “sprinkle,” where guests bring small gifts or none at all and celebrate the impending birth.

And, brides are trading toilet paper wedding gowns for a couple’s shower with their groom and close friends.

Experts from The Knot and The Bump weigh in on shower trends and offer tips for being a great guest or host with the most.

Bridal showers

Expert: Jamie Miles, editor of

  • What should people remember as they start planning a bridal shower?

All the decisions involved in planning a shower depend on the bride/couple’s personality.

“You really need to understand that before planning anything. Who they are as a person should inform your planning,” Miles says.

“Relax and realize that you’re planning this really special event for your friend and you want her (or the couple) to have a really fantastic and memorable day. If you go and do it with those intentions, you can’t do it wrong.”

  • Who typically plans a bridal shower, and who’s responsible for footing the bill?

The maid of honor customarily covers everything related to the shower, including planning, hosting and paying, Miles says.

But, it’s OK to suggest that bridesmaids chip in since costs add up.

  • Should you throw a shower for second marriages?

Miles says it’s “completely fine” to throw a shower for second marriages.

Are couple’s showers common?

Couple’s showers, sometimes called “Jack and Jill” showers, are growing in popularity, Miles says.

The usually larger celebrations are a fun spin on traditional bridal showers.

“It is kind of nice because it’s an opportunity for your entire bridal party to get together prior to the actual wedding,” she says.

Scheduling a cooking class for everyone to attend or a bartending class where people can help the couple create a signature cocktail are entertaining options for a couple’s shower.

  • Who should be invited to a shower?

Ask the bride (or couple) who to invite. It’s important to include the people who are close to her/them.

“The bridal shower is really supposed to be a more intimate event to celebrate the bride and potentially the couple if it is a combined shower,” Miles says.

  • Is it OK to include registry information on the shower invitation?

Yes, because gifts are a substantial part of the shower.

“It’s tradition to open gifts at the shower in front of everyone. It’s a large part of the party, to see the bride’s reaction. People don’t see that at the wedding,” Miles says.

  • Should guests stick to purchasing items on the registry?

It’s always safe to buy off a registry, but if you know the bride really well, straying from the registry is OK, Miles says, just include a gift receipt.

  • Is it OK to ask for cash or donations toward a honeymoon rather than gifts?

Some brides request honeymoon showers where guests contribute to a honeymoon vacation rather than purchase a gift.

People can gift portions of the honeymoon, like a wine tasting, for instance, or one night at a bed and breakfast.

“It’s better than cash because it outlines how they will use it. It creates this unique connection,” Miles says.

If a bride/couple prefers cash, she says it probably shouldn’t be stated on the invitation.

“I would informally have the maid of honor pass it through word of mouth,” Miles says.

  • Are online-only invitations (emails, Facebook events, etc.) OK?

They can be.

Miles says it depends on the theme and formality of the shower.

“I think there’s something to be said for receiving a more formal invitation, not only because it is more formal and this is a pre-wedding event, but it’s easy to miss things that pop up on Facebook,” she says.

She suggests simple flat cards to save money. For electronic invitations, companies like Paperless Post allow people to customize some invitations for free.

  • Can you suggest a few shower games?

Purse Raid: For this classic bridal shower game, guests earn points for having certain items in their purses.

Wedding Night Preview: While the bride opens her gifts, an anonymous bridesmaid takes notes of her responses.

The mystery maid comes forward at the end and reads the bride’s responses as “the sexiest things she’ll say on her wedding night.”

  • How should you react to a bride who has extravagant expectations about her shower?

“Listen to her first and figure out what requests are reasonable and what aren’t,” Miles suggests. “You can say, ‘I understand why you want this many people but having it at this expensive venue… not doable.’ Say ‘I’m going to do the best I can for you and try to plan the perfect shower.’ “

If the guest list is large and the bride won’t trim it, pick an affordable venue and keep food cost down by suggesting a potluck shower.

“There are ways to cut corners and you obviously don’t want her to show up the day of and be upset that people aren’t there, but I think she should understand if you don’t have the most expensive venue,” Miles says.

Baby showers

Expert: Elena Mauer, deputy editor of

  • What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for throwing a baby shower?

Make it fun for everyone by serving tasty food and having fun activities, Mauer says.

When’s the best time to have a baby shower?

Mauer recommends scheduling the shower when the mom-to-be is six or seven months along.

If the expectant couple is finding out the gender of their baby, they’ll know it by then and will have time to register for gifts.

Hosting a shower after that point could be stressful for the mom-to-be since she’ll likely be fatigued and could deliver.

“You want the mother-to-be to be showing a nice big belly, which is fun to show in the pictures. She looks and feels really pregnant, she’s really anticipating the baby at this point,” Mauer says.

  • Who typically throws the shower?

It doesn’t really matter — a sister, a friend, Mauer says.

Some people have more than one shower, like one hosted by a family member and one hosted by a co-worker.

  • Are there any baby shower trends?

“A sip and see” is a party thrown after the baby’s birth, and they’re becoming popular, Mauer says.

Friends and family come by to meet the new baby, have a cocktail/beverage and munch on goodies.

Some people do it instead of a shower; others do it in addition to a shower.

“It’s popular for second babies because they don’t need the baby gear but want to celebrate the baby in some way,” Mauer says.

The celebrations can be elaborate or laid-back, and parents can host the celebrations themselves.

  • Is it appropriate to throw a shower for a second child?

“It’s not that this kid, just because they came second, they rank second. They should be celebrated just as much,” Mauer says.

Some moms opt for a “sprinkle,” or a baby shower for second-time moms who don’t need as many items for the baby but still want to acknowledge the impending birth.

Some sprinkles don’t have gifts at all, and they’re usually smaller celebrations focused on connecting with friends and family.

  • Are there any special guidelines for showers for adopted babies/children?

A parent-to-be who’s adopting has every right to have a shower, even if there’ a chance the adoption won’t happen, Mauer says.

She says to consider the age of the baby/child being adopted so the registry reflects the needs of the parents-to-be.

  • Who should you invite to a baby shower?

Consult the mom-to-be.

If there’s a budget or capacity for the event, let the mom know she can invite a certain number of people.

  • Is it OK to have a themed shower, like a book shower?

Yes, and a lot of times the theme comes from the nursery or something the mom enjoys.

The book theme is really popular, Mauer says.

“People are still doing it because you stock up the bookshelf for the baby and everyone knows reading to babies is really good for babies and their brain development,” she says.

  • Is it OK to include a gift registry on the invite?


“That’s part of the whole idea of the shower, to shower new moms with gifts and how else is everyone supposed to know where to go to do that?” Mauer says.

Remember that moms-to-be create their registries for a reason.

“They really want to pick specific things for their baby, they want things to match, they don’t want too much of one thing, not enough of another,” she says.

Guests should try to go from the registry, but if you see something really adorable it’s OK to get something else, just include a gift receipt.

  • Are electronic invitations OK?

If it’s a casual shower, Mauer says online invitations are fine.

But, remember that not everyone uses computers and you still may need to send some physical invites.

Paper or postless, include direction to the venue on the invite.

  • Is it OK to ask for cash?

“While times have changed and there are a lot of different things you can do, asking for money is not OK,” Mauer says.

  • Can you suggest shower games or activities?

Decorate onesies.

Supply fabric paint and plain white onesies and ask guests to make a special fashion statement for the baby.

Play a photo guessing game.

Ask guests to bring a baby picture of themselves, and then hang all the photos on the wall and have guests guess who’s who.

“That’s a great icebreaker for guests who don’t necessarily know each other,” Mauer says.

Manicures and pedicures.

Hire someone to come to the shower to give manicures and pedicures.

Baby shower bingo.

It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Guests mark off squares as the mom receives gifts.

Mauer also recommends having a party favor. Edible treats like a tasty cookie or some chocolates are usually a hit with guests.

  • Is it appropriate to bring a baby to a baby shower or sip and see?

The host and new parents should decide.

One thing new parents are concerned about are germs and they might want to avoid the germs from a preschool-age child, for instance.

But, in most cases, they’re OK with it, Mauer says.

“The kids can go play together and it’s more like a family party,” she says.

  • Any other tips to make the shower a success?

Moms should write thank-you notes as soon as possible. The host could even order thank-yous that match the invites and write guest names and addresses so it’s easier for her.

“Doing the notes as soon as possible is important because you’re going to be even busier after the baby comes,” Mauer says. 

Anna G. Larson

Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 

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