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(Baby) Showers with Strangers

The Etiquette of Baby Shower Guest Lists

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

I am trying to figure out how many baby showers I need to have. My husband and I have our first baby due early in fall. Early in my pregnancy, my mom and I had planned a small shower for close family and friends a little more than a month before the baby is due. When we discussed it with my mother-in-law, she asked if it would be alright to hold her own shower right after the baby is born. Mom and I have no problem with this idea, it’s Jewish tradition to wait until after the baby is born to have the shower and it’s not as though she and my mom have so many friends in common that there will be a problem with overlap. So, two showers and both seemed totally reasonable.

The problem is my husband. He’s in politics (local and not big name or money), and a lot of people have asked him (some have asked me as well) when the shower is happening. It would be hard to add a bunch of his friends and colleagues to the shower at my mother’s house — her house is rather small and she’s frankly not that interested hosting a bunch of people. My husband would like to invite those people to his mother’s shower; she would probably be less reluctant to host a bunch of people. The problem is, I really don’t want that. I’m a pretty anxious person and I don’t want a lot of people touching my newborn. Also, I really don’t want to feel obligated to entertain a lot of people right after I’ve given birth. To be honest, I am really opposed to this idea. I feel like it would be awful.

So, what should I do about my husband’s many friends? To be honest, I had assumed that people would be relieved not to be invited to a gift-giving party for someone they didn’t know very well, but it appears I was not correct. The ideal solution would be if someone from one of the organizations he works with would offer to host one, but nobody has offered so far (and I may have messed it up by saying my mother was hosting one, oops…). Should we try to host some sort of co-ed something? Do people asking when the shower is really want to be invited to a baby shower? How do we invite these people without seeming like we’re grasping for presents from them? What can I do to include these people and not make myself miserable?

You are under no obligation to invite anybody to anything. Think of this as no different than your wedding — did you simply invite every single person under the sun? Was anybody who found out you were engaged and politely asked about your wedding plans automatically added to the guest list? Of course not. Were there people who you had to cut for space/financial reasons who maybe still wished they’d been invited? Probably.

Same deal here. Unless your mom is willing to change venues for the first shower (like moving it from her home to a restaurant’s party room or other rental space), you’re going to have to limit the guest list for space. And your husband can tell his work connections the truth — your mom is hosting a very small shower with a very small guest list. If he feels like he can’t do that, he can pitch in on the shower planning and help find/pay for a larger venue. You could also approach another close friend/family member about co-hosting with your mom to help offset the stress of the larger-than-planned shower.

Note that it’s POSSIBLE all these people don’t really care about attending the actual shower, but are instead trying to awkwardly fish for registry details so they can get you guys something you actually need, or maybe even coordinate to have a larger group gift sent to the shower. (I attended a small shower where that exact thing happened — the husband’s “work friends” weren’t in attendance but all chipped in on buying a stroller. It was nice!)

What would make the most sense, like you mentioned, would be for the work colleagues to have their own little celebration right at the office. Maybe someone will step up and organize something like that once they’re told (honestly) that your “official” shower is going to be super small with a limited guest list. You said your mom would be hosting one but didn’t have the details then, so hey, turns out it’s just going to be at her very small house and mostly family and your best friends. Anyone with an ounce of social graces should understand that the mom-to-be’s close friends will take precedence over people who only know her through her husband (and even then, only through his work).

If moving the first shower is a no-go and your husband is weird/reluctant about sacking up and just telling all these people that he’s not in charge of the guest list and can’t force his MIL to pack guests into her house like sardines, then sure, host your own no-gifts co-ed party/open house thing. (If you feel up to it, that is.)

What’s NOT going to happen, though, is your husband pressuring you to add all these people to the post-birth shower. Your opposition to that idea is perfectly reasonable and the LAST THING ON EARTH you should be dreading or feel anxious about is your own baby shower. Even if he thinks your concerns are silly or you’ll change your mind and be fine with it later, WHATEVER. This is the part where this veers from the wedding comparison: You’re not being a bridezilla cutting your husband from the planning. You’re the pregnant lady and guess what! YOU GET TO HAVE THINGS YOUR WAY RIGHT NOW.


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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Laura

    June 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Would you consider a party at a later date? My shower had to be cancelled due to some pregnancy complications but my parents and in-laws hosted a very casual “meet the baby” party for friends and relatives when my son was 2 months old and it was lovely.

  • Rachel

    June 22, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Honestly, I wouldn’t invite work colleagues to any family/friends shower. That seems awkward to me. When I was pregnant, my husband’s work threw him a small shower, I think it was basically just cake and presents (there are only a few people in their office in this area) and I didn’t even go because I didn’t want to miss work.

    I’d just have your husband tell them there are small baby showers planned and leave it there. You’re under no obligation to invite them to anything, they are more than capable of organizing a small celebration for him if they want to.

  • Rachel

    June 22, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Forgot to add, I had three baby showers (one family, one friends and one work) along with the celebration for my husband at his work. It’s pretty standard here to have multiple showers.

  • Autumn

    June 22, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I agree work/political connections of your husband’s don’t belong at small friends/family showers.  

    I am wondering if there is some(unknown to the  OP) tradition/rule about baby showers with this group of people.  Is there a spouse of one of your husband’s “associates” for lack of a better term you are friendly with/facebook friends/ exchange pleasantries with at the company picnic about the situation, and find out if there is a tradition of baby showers with this crowd you are unaware of vs this is just a “thing” of your husbands?  

    If it’s just your husband’s thing, I would say sorry I’m not up for it, but if it is a tradition which is expected and would be career awkward to skip, could you compromise and have an open house/winter party/meet the baby afternoon when kiddo is about 3 months old.  Still would fulfill social obligations/expectations but let you be a little more into your new role as Mom.  And look into a good sling for baby wearing- nothing cuts down of “pass the baby” faster than baby in a sling!  Good luck

  • Suzy Q

    June 22, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    I cannot even imagine why anyone would have any interest in attending a baby shower for someone they are not related to or are close to.

     I have been forced to attend multiple mandatory baby showers at work (complete with no pay and mandatory gifts!) for people whose last names I barely (or don’t even) know. The last one gave photocopied thank you notes. So special.

  • Laura

    June 23, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    I would argue it is definitely not the norm to have extended colleagues (esp of the husband) attend a shower. Don’t change your plans to have your 2 small showers with close family and friends. If the coworkers want to do something, they can plan an at-work shower for your husband. They can even reach out to you and offer for you to attend also if you like.But don’t feel obligated – if you do not wish to attend just kindly insist you are busy or exhausted.

  • Ellie

    June 23, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Would having a third, inclusive non-shower for friends and acquaintances work? I also had a fall baby and ended up hosting an end-of-summer BBQ with my husband. We just told people we were celebrating the end of summer and oh yeah! We’re about to become parents, too, so this might be the last time we can host a party for a while! And had a super low-pressure cookout where colleagues and friends hung out for as long as they cared to stay, and those who wanted to discreetly brought gifts that I opened after everyone left. It was really nice and low pressure and a chance to catch up with folks that didn’t attend my baby shower (which was small and lovely and hosted by my mom).

  • Amy Renee

    June 23, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    I just have to say – your husband being in local politics does not require you to put on command performances like Princess Kate.

    I wonder if these asks about baby showers are sly ways to get around political donation limits – my husband is in politics, and while people know he can’t (and doesn’t) accept gifts, we’ve had more than one offer for gifts for me and our kids that seemed to have implied strings attached or seemed strangely generous for people we didn’t really know. So I’d say no shower with political folks to avoid appearances of impropriety.

    However, from the way you are phrasing it, it sounds like people are just saying “so, when’s the shower?” Or “so, are you having a shower?” They might just be making polite conversation, not actually angling for an invite. An appropriate response would be “oh, we’re having a small family shower in the fall” and leave it at that. Obviously, the advice differs if people are being more pushy like “Are you having a shower and can I come?” But they might just be trying to politely fish for “has anyone arranged a shower for you or do we need to throw one?”

    OP, unless your husband is a career politician and your livelihood depends on him getting re-elected, its OK to draw your line in the sand and say “no, not interested in a party with these people”. As I mentioned my husband is also in politics, but we have agreed that we both can call “this is the line” and if he can’t get re-elected without crossing that line, well maybe he shouldn’t be in politics because our family life is more important.

  • liz

    July 7, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I’m IN local politics (running for state delegate, election’s this November) and around these parts it’s really not a done thing that people go to baby showers for a political colleague’s baby, unless they are close friends.

    My office held a shower for me AT THE OFFICE when I was pregnant with my son (before politics).

    Just say, “sorry, these are small showers!”