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Baby Registry Etiquette

Out-of-State Baby Shower Gift Logistics & Etiquette

By Amalah

Hello Amy,

I read your article on the wording for baby shower invitations when the mother-to-be lives out-of-state. Most people realize my daughter lives out-of-state but these days things have to be spelled out and unless it’s not mentioned, they don’t think about it.

My daughter is listed at Buy Buy Baby and Bed Bath & Beyond. These places offer free shipping on most items however I don’t think it is appropriate to mention this. I am pondering back and forth and looking for a more current response in today’s world.

What are your feelings on noting in the invitation the following:
Please consider shipping large gifts to their home.

There must be something that would be appropriate to mention without getting people upset. Also it is important for the mother to have gifts to open.

I realize I am one of an ever-dwindling number of hopelessly old-fashioned people who still (STILL!) cringe at the idea of putting any registry- or gift-related mentions/instructions directly on invitations. I know, I know. Today’s world, these days, the times, they are a’changing.

But this is my advice column, and I’m sorry. I’m probably never going to give anybody a free pass on this, when they’ve specifically asked for my opinion. The proper approach is to offer registry information (and appropriate accompanying preferences like shipping large gifts or what stores are local to the guest-of-honor for gift card purposes, etc.) when people RVSP via phone or email, and when they specifically request said information. The end.


Yep. I get it. I see your point. It is a bit silly, I suppose, to even pretend at this point that gifts aren’t completely expected and obligatory at baby/wedding showers. I’ve certainly gotten invites with a small, discreet registry line on them and thought nothing of it, beyond clicking over to the website to see what I should buy. (Though if you put something super-grabby like WE WANT CASH MAKE IT RAIN GIFT CARDS on your invitation that’s a guaranteed “I’m sorry I can’t attend,” right there.) I also don’t find it to be all that inconvenient to simply type “I’m so happy I can come! Where is she registered?” when I RSVP to the host. And then the host is completely in the etiquette-free and clear to provide any and all guidance on gift-buying, because I have now indicated my desire to bring a gift, on my own, without being TOLD I need to buy a gift.

Gifts are optional, not an obligation

It’s a small distinction that I just…find more polite. Because technically, no one who comes to your daughter’s shower is obligated to bring her anything. Gifts are still optional. That is why they are gifts, not an entry ticket/fee for admission to your party. Putting registry information and other gifting instructions tells your potential guests that 1) yeah, we totally expect you to buy us something if you come, and 2) we also expect you to buy gifts the RIGHT WAY as to guarantee that your generosity does not inconvenience us in any way, shape or form. (Be it from having to return “unwanted” off-registry items, shipping things out of state, or getting weird tacky handmade stuff from your eccentric aunt.)

Again: I’m sure a large percentage of your potential shower guests will not care at all if you put registry information and a note like “if purchasing gifts online, please consider shipping directly to her home at [address].” But there might also be a couple old-school etiquette hold-outs who you’ll rub the wrong way. Completely up to you whether or not that matters all that much. (I’d suggest leaving out the “large” distinction, by the way, since that also implies expensive, big-ticket items and might make someone on a tight budget feel badly about only being able to select something small.)

Note that if your daughter definitely plans to open gifts at the shower, the folks who shipped directly to her house (as requested) might feel a little left out or self-conscious. “Oh great, now it looks like I didn’t bring a gift, so would it be tacky to suddenly be all ‘I BOUGHT YOU A CAR SEAT’ in front of everybody? Because that car seat is dope.” I remember once seeing a shower forum where someone suggested people ship gifts and then bring a photo of their gift, and the response was pretty divided as to whether that solved the issue or just amped up the weirdness. Personally, I would hate for someone to have to pay to ship my gift back home…but also can see how it would be find of a bummer to splurge on like, a stroller and not get to see the recipient open it while everybody’s oohing and ahhing over stuff that better fits in a suitcase. I dunno. Just throwing half-formed thoughts out at this point, I guess.

A solution that puts no strings or obligation on your guests

1) return large gifts locally after the shower in exchange for a store gift card, which your daughter uses to repurchase the items once she’s home, or 2) bulk ship items together (discard boxes and packaging, use baby clothes/receiving blankets in place of bubble wrap, etc.) using the cheapest ground option you can find. Just accept that expense as part of the cost to host the party. (Honestly, if she’s flying, you’re probably going to have to ship or return even the small gifts, given the crazy checked bag number and weight restrictions the airlines have these days.)

I wonder if there’s also a way to get the “OUT OF STATE” reminder in the invitation in a way that doesn’t explicitly relate to gifts. If she’s flying in for the shower, perhaps you could get invites with airplanes on them, and do some creative wording about how she’s flying in for a visit, so let’s celebrate with her before baby comes in for a landing or she takes off for motherhood. (Only less…corny and ham-fisted. I DON’T KNOW. IT’S NOT LIKE I WRITE FOR A LIVING OR ANYTHING.)

Or you could just make sure you mention how excited you are that she’s making the long trip in from [STATE] for the shower to as many guests as possible.

Again, once a guest has RSVP’d and inquired about her registry, you are completely in the clear (proper old school etiquette wise) to be explicit and direct about the idea of using the store’s free shipping to get large or unwieldy items to her home. Just remember it’s hard to have it both ways — if she wants gifts to open at the shower, reminding people too pointedly about her out-of-state-ness might lead to everybody shipping everything out of courtesy (no one wants to inconvenience a mother-to-be!), or shying away from larger items she might really need altogether. In that case, it might be better to simply accept the fact that an out-of-state shower is going to involve some shipping expenses or returning/repurchasing and be okay with that. And then have a great time at the party, no matter what the gift-related logistics end up being.

More Etiquette Advice from Alpha Mom:

  1. Second Baby Shower Blues When You’re in Need
  2. How to Throw Yourself a Baby Shower That Isn’t Tacky
  3. What to Do With Pre-Baby Shower Gifts 


If you’re considering an online baby registry, we recommend our affiliate Amazon’s Baby Registry, which offers free 90-day returns on baby store purchases. You can even add items from other websites onto to your baby registry.

Amazon Baby Registry 2

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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