Baby Shower Invitation Etiquette

Traditionally, a baby shower is a “women only” affair held in honor of the mother-to-be. Today, however, baby showers for the expectant couple are gaining popularity and it is quite acceptable to include the father and his male friends.

So who should host the shower? The answer to that question has evolved as well. Etiquette used to dictate that the “proper” host(s) for a shower be a female friend or a group of female friends who weren’t immediately related to the couple. Today, it has become more common and acceptable for sisters, mothers, mother-in-laws, or other family members – anyone besides the couple themselves – to hold a baby shower.

The first thing you should do as a host is set a date and time for the shower. Begin by asking the guest(s) of honor at least two to three months before the baby’s due date about available dates. Because the weeks prior to and immediately after the baby’s birth are often hectic and because some people are superstitious about accepting gifts before birth, ask her whether she’d prefer a shower before or after the baby’s born. If the mother-to-be prefers a shower before birth, target a date four to six weeks before the baby is due. This time frame provides a good cushion in case the baby arrives early and allows her sufficient time before the baby comes to shop for items she didn’t receive at the shower.

If the guest of honor prefers a post-partum shower (sometimes called a “welcoming shower”), target a date one to two months after the birth. The advantage of this timing is that it allows guests to buy gender-specific gifts since some parents may choose not to learn or make public the baby’s sex before the baby arrives. This option also allows out-of-towners to meet the newborn as well as shower the parents with gifts in one single trip.

Speaking of guests, who should actually be invited? It’s best to consult with the mother-to-be to make sure no one is left out. If the shower is for a second or subsequent baby (every baby should be celebrated!), you may want to invite only close friends and family members or those who have not attended previous showers. If you’re planning a surprise shower, the couple’s parents or close friends can usually furnish a list of appropriate guests.

The size of the guest list, along with the theme of the shower and your budget, will influence the location for the baby shower. While showers are normally held in the home of the hostess, some other venues to consider are restaurants, clubs, banquet halls, day spas, and bed-and-breakfasts. Find a place that creates the right ambiance for the celebration or that offers activities your guests will enjoy.

With the date, time, location, and guest list completed, it’s now time to spread the word with custom printed invitations. If you have a small guest list, you can invite guests via phone or email, but custom invites are still the preferred way to kick off a shower. Custom invitations allow you to set the tone and theme for the party. They also serve as a nice keepsake for the baby’s scrapbook, not to mention a handy reminder for the guests to keep on their refrigerators. Ideally, the invitations should be mailed three weeks (two weeks at the minimum) before the shower date.

Wording for a baby shower invite can take many forms, but they essentially contain the same basic information: date, time, location (including directions and map) of the shower; name(s) of the expectant parent(s); your name, address, and phone number; theme information; and R.S.V.P. information. How the information is composed on the invitation depends on how formal you want the shower to be. An invitation with a formal composition is presented below, followed by the same invitation with an informal composition. However, you should not feel restricted to these wordings or formats. Additional examples can be seen in our Wording Ideas for Baby Shower Invitations.

Susan Marie Nelson
requests the pleasure of your company
at a baby shower in honor of
Rebecca Seymour Quinn
Tuesday, the seventh of June
at two o’clock in the afternoon
145 Park Street
Andover, Massachusetts

You’re invited to a
baby shower for
Rebecca Quinn
June 7th
at 2:00
145 Park Street
Andover, MA

Abbreviations should be avoided for invitations with a formal composition. The date and time, in particular, should be spelled out. For invitations with an informal composition, the format is looser allowing for numeric forms of the day and time, although the month is usually written out. You may add “a.m.” or “p.m.” to the time if there might be confusion as to the time of day. It is also acceptable to specify an end time (e.g., “2:00 – 4:00 p.m.”) if time is an issue. With either a formal or informal invitation, the year can be left out unless it falls on New Year’s Day.

Formal shower invitations usually use the full names of the host(s) and expectant parent(s). Informal invitations may use only the first and last names unless all the guests know each other by first names. If there is more than one host, list the names alphabetically. If the shower is being held at the home of one of the hosts, her name appears first followed by the others in alphabetical order.

How an address appears on an invitation is usually determine by how familiar the guests are to the location of the shower. If all the guests are from the same city, the invitation need only include the street. The city can be added if some guests will be coming from other cities. The state can be excluded unless there are out-of-state guests. Zip codes can be safely omitted.

Maps and directions to the shower location can be printed on the back side (or front side if there is room) of informal invitations. They can also be included as inserts on more formal invitations. If maps and directions are provided, it is not necessary to include the address in the main body of the invitation.

It is recommended, but not mandatory, to have R.S.V.P. information on the invitation. “R.S.V.P.” is short for the French “respondez s’il vous plait” which translates to “please respond”. Specify “R.S.V.P.” if you want the guests to notify you whether they’ll be attending. Use “Regrets only” when you want guests to respond only if they won’t be attending, which may be an appropriate request for larger parties. You should also give a deadline for the response (e.g., “R.S.V.P. by [date]”). If you feel some guests may be unfamiliar with the terms “R.S.V.P.” or “Regrets only”, then by all means use more direct language such as “Please reply” or “The favor of your reply is requested”. The R.S.V.P. line usually appears at the bottom of the invitation.

Lastly, if the expectant couple has a gift registry, it’s fine to mention it (e.g., “Rebecca has completed a registry at [place]”) since a baby shower implies “showering with gifts”. However, it is often more tasteful to offer that information when, and if, the guests ask.

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