The Long-Distance Baby Shower
I’m in the process of planning a baby shower for a friend who lives out of town. Specifically, lives a three-hour plane ride away. She and her husband just relocated, so all of their family and friends are here, meaning this will be their big baby shower. It is obviously totally unrealistic/not very helpful to expect them to transport all the wonderful goodies you get at a baby shower from here to their home all the way on the other end of the country. I was hoping to include something in the invitation about shipping gifts directly to their home, and bringing maybe a picture of the gift to the shower? I have two questions:
1- is this unforgivably rude? I really, really hate to tell people how to give gifts. It seems tactless and ungrateful. Unfortunately, like I said above, I don’t see any way for the couple to get everything home without major headaches. And if it IS okay, any thoughts on how to phrase that?
2- if there’s a way to say this nicely, is there a way to make things more fun? I mean, I know watching someone open gifts can be mind-numbing, but the gifts you get at a baby shower are usually cute enough that gift-opening is a fun part of the festivities. My only idea, as I mentioned above, is to bring a picture/print-out of the gift you’ve bought, which seems…lame.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts-
Okay, let’s get the first bit out of the way, even though already I know the comments on this post will be divided between the Old Schoolian Etiquette People and the Who Cares As Long As Everybody Has Fun People:
To answer point one: Yes. Not only is it rude to put anything in the invitation that asks for gifts, or assume people will bring gifts, or put any kind of limitation or suggestion as to what SORT of gift will be considered acceptable…it is indeed also rude to ask guests to pay extra to ship those gifts. You might think, “Oh, everybody buys online anyway, they won’t mind shipping to one address versus another,” but this simply isn’t true – especially if the guest list includes older relatives who may not be so technologically savvy, or people who prefer to make handmade gifts, or are on a super-tight recession budget and are watching every penny. So THEN, not only are you asking people to pay for shipping, you’re also potentially adding a trip to the post office to your guests’ pre-party obligation. Bad idea jeans, man. Don’t do it.
And onto point two: You’re totally right. A baby shower without gifts – and the accompanying oohing and ahhing and squeeing — is kind of lame. It’s one thing to skip the gifts at a wedding shower (“Oh wow, measuring spoons!”), but…people bringing photos or pages from a catalog? No. I don’t like the sound of that very much. The point of gifts at a baby shower is to make the mother-to-be feel loved and special — not for the guests to compare and take notes over who brought what and spent what and etc.
What you need to do here is get some quotes on shipping prices — honestly, both USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate and UPS Ground are really very reasonable — and factor a rough estimate into your hosting costs. I’m guessing, since the mother-to-be will be FLYING, that the shower isn’t going to be held crazy-late in her pregnancy or super-close to her due date. There’s no need to overnight the stuff. Just get it on a truck and it’ll get to her when it gets there.
Then, after the shower, spend some time with the mother-to-be and the gifts, sorting out the small, easily packable things like clothes and gift cards and such for her to carry back. (Provided this isn’t a surprise shower, she can plan ahead and pack lightly in a bigger-than-she-needs suitcase.) Toss out packaging and boxes and condense what you can into as few shipments as possible. (Start saving any big boxes you have now, or order some large Flat Rate boxes to have on hand and start loading them up.) Baby gear may sometimes be awkward and oddly shaped, but unless people are splurging on strollers and big-ticket items, you’ll find that most shower gifts are things that people can easily wrap and carry themselves. As in, not huge or heavy or made of priceless Waterford crystal.
If she does get things like a Pack n’ Play or exersaucer, you ship them yourself using the most economical option possible. And while I know you can never underestimate the obliviousness of some people, I DO think that 99% of your guests are already aware that the guest of honor lives a plane ride away, and that large gifts may pose a logistical problem. They may call and ask you what the mother-to-be prefers, at which point you can suggest the shipping-directly option, or even (if they are very close friends or family) mention that you’re planning to ship gifts afterwards and that pitching into the postage fund would be super-appreciated.
If this means fewer decorations or a cheaper cake, so be it. This is just going to be part of your hosting duties, and one that you really cannot foist off on your guests – at least not without ruffling quite a few rudeness-alert feathers.
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to email@example.com.