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(Baby) Showers with Strangers

How to Throw Yourself A Baby Shower That Isn’t Tacky

By Amalah

First of all, I love your website. It is witty and funny, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I have a conundrum, and I am hoping you can set me straight. I am in my second trimester (15 weeks) in a new-ish place (2 years), and have not made a whole lot of close friends. We moved to DC for my husband’s job, and I am now working. The issue is a baby shower. It is our first baby. My family lives far away (250-500 miles away.)

My sister advised that she wants to throw me a shower, but she lives 500 miles away, is flakey with financial issues, and is extremely anxious and can barely endure everyday living, never mind plan anything. It would be a situation where she would say she is throwing it, and then it would just never happen. I do have a few close friends, but they just aren’t the type to step forward to do this type of thing. Even though I threw one of them a shower for her first baby last year. And now she is pregnant again.

My thought is to do one of two things: (1) have my husband reach out to one of my close friends in the area and say he is going to throw me a surprise baby shower, and ask for her advice and help, and then get a few of my other friends involved with small tasks (one does decorations, one does invites, etc.) That way there is no one person who has to take it all on. Or (2) the husband and I have a last hurrah cocktail party or barbecue to celebrate freedom before the baby, and just treat it like a big party (with no mention of gifts or anything; just a good time). I love throwing cocktail parties and dinner parties. It is kind of my thing.

Do those options seem like a good idea and NOT tacky?

If you don’t desperately “need” your friends and family to outfit your nursery and buy you baby gear, I would DEFINITELY vote for option 2. It sounds like fun, and steers completely clear of any shower etiquette faux pas, because it’s not a shower.

If you really and truly have your heart set on a “traditional” baby shower, option 1 isn’t the WORST proposition I’ve heard, assuming that none of your friends figure out that you’ve basically conspired with your husband to plan your own fake surprise shower. That would be…kinda yick, yes. I would only attempt this one if you’re really, really confident in your husband’s acting skills and this is really that super important to you.

As for the basic idea of a husband hosting a baby shower: I am fine with it, because in some cases it just makes sense if no one else steps up, or there isn’t an appropriate local hostess. Families are so scattered nowadays that plenty of women end up pregnant away from close friends/relatives, and traveling for a shower isn’t always possible either. I think a partner-hosted surprise shower can be done right — if it’s all about the mom-to-be and making her feel loved/celebrated and not a blatant gift grab. [NO REGISTRY INFO ON INVITES THIS IS THE HILL I WILL DIE ON, YOU GUYS.]  But I must add the caveat that not everyone agrees. You will run the risk of some guests being grossed out by a dude throwing a shower for his own baby. Completely up to you to decide how much weight you care to give their opinion(s).

From your letter, however, it sounds like the traditional shower isn’t all that important to you — you’re more concerned about other people taking on too much responsibility, but still want to do SOMETHING to celebrate, rather than wait around for someone to step up/follow-through and be disappointed in the end.

So. I would go with the Last Hurrah Before Baby party. Do it yourself, as it’s your thing. It’s a great idea and I bet you’ll have more fun than outsourcing balloons and streamers and shower games to flakey and/or unwilling friends. No gifts or registry info on the invites. (Not to say that you can’t register. Just only offer than information up when EXPLICITLY ASKED.) If people do bring baby gifts, take them and put them somewhere not visible to guests that don’t.

Just be prepared, however, that hosting a party at 8/9 months pregnant can be a TOTALLY different experience than what you’re used to. Consider making it a potluck, or a casual Open House sort of thing where people can drop by as opposed to all showing up at once demanding drinks/food on the same schedule. Make it clear on the invites when the party ENDS to minimize stragglers hanging out past your exhaustion point. And maybe treat yo self to a cleaning service post-party!


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Published May 6, 2015. Last updated March 27, 2018.
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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  • Amy Renee

    May 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Another thought- does your sister live near the rest of your family, and do you have other family that can “help” her throw the shower?

    In my family, I could call up my aunt and say “Flaky Sister offered to throw me a shower, but I’m concerned she will get stressed out about the details and just not do it- could you help her?”

    This would go over just fine in my family, and it is a well known open secret that showers are “officially” hosted by sisters or cousins but in reality it is my mother and aunts doing most of the coordinating, just leaving it up to the hosts to decide between option A,B or C.

  • leslie

    May 6, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Another suggestion…could you go back home for a shower? Is there enough family and friends around one place to make it easier to have it there rather than D.C.? Leading up to my wedding, I was living in Florida while most of my friends and family were still in the Midwest. So I traveled back home for two different wedding showers (one family, one friends). I realize that’s a bit more cut and dried, b/c bridesmaids are sort of obligated to throw you a shower, but it might be worth considering if there is a family member that would be willing to throw it for you…or help your sister with it. I’ve known lots of friends to travel “home” for a family-hosted shower. Both wedding and baby.

  • gemma

    May 6, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    My sister adopted and couple of weeks before their new child was due to arrive, they held a toddler shower / last-party-before-parenting. Best. Party. Ever. – BBQ, impromptu band made up of guest who’d brought instruments, really relaxed vibe, it went on into the small hours and of course attended by both men and women (and dogs, small children, neighbours etc.).  I’d totally echo Amy’s advice and suggest you go for the pre-parenting-party approach.

  • LMo

    May 6, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    I just want to echo Amy’s warning about how tired you’ll be at 8/9 months pregnant. My friend and I are due at about the same time. In my excitement, I offered to throw her shower when we were both about 13-15 weeks pregnant. It seemed like a GREAT idea, because I felt GREAT! The shower was last weekend, when I was 34.5 weeks pregnant. I did NOT feel great at all. I was exhausted and in pain the rest of the weekend, because I had overdone it. And let me be clear, I didn’t do anything more than I have done for every other party I have thrown, it’s just a lot harder doing it when you’re lugging around 25 extra pounds and not sleeping well! So factor that in when you’re making your plans. It’s really hard to understand how hard the end of pregnancy is until you’re living it…and it’s hard!

  • Sarah

    May 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but throwing yourself a shower is bad etiquette. How about a “sip and see” after the baby is born? 

    • Karen

      May 7, 2015 at 2:47 am

      I did this with two of my kids and it was great.

      Also, you don’t mention what your main goal is of having a shower. Is it just the party? Do you need stuff? Do you have an image in your head of sitting and taking pictures of a just-gifted onesie draped across your belly? These are all totally normal but it’s super tacky to host a party where people bring you gifts so I think the only option if self-hosted is the party. Or a sip and see.

  • Bea

    May 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    What about combining your two options and having your husband throw the Last Hurrah Before Baby party, perhaps getting a couple of your girlfriends to help with it. With any luck, one of them will volunteer to host it and other people will bring all the food/drinks! Then you won’t have to worry about being tired and hosting a big party.

  • Alicia

    May 7, 2015 at 2:18 am

    How about the sister is the “hostess” but you hmjust throw your own party and have it sound like she’s doing it? Evite with her name, but you send out invites. Or if paper invites, address them, but stamps on them and Mail the whole lot to her.

    When day comes she can help you warm up appetizers and put up decorations. Done!

    • Emily

      May 7, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      I agree.  I think this is the best of both worlds.

  • Melinda

    May 7, 2015 at 5:59 am

    I hate how up tight people get about baby showers. You can throw yourself a birthday party, why not a baby shower?

    Every mom & baby deserve to be celebrated regardless of if they have someone to step up for them!

    It’s so stupid that people in America can do a million tacky and tasteless things, but good forbid a woman have a party for herself & her baby.

    I would recommend not planning a “baby viewing party” for soon after the baby is born because of issues with exhaustion/messing up your one chance to sleep during the day/germs/screaming baby/possible baby blues/etc, but I’m more introverted than some people.

    • abbie

      May 7, 2015 at 9:58 am

      I love this comment! I’ve always wondered the same thing. I too live in a place where I am relatively new, my sister lives 9 hours away in a place where no other relatives live and my mom is 11 hours in the other direction, again with no extended family in that town either. In this day in age where people are so spread out from family it would be so helpful if you could just throw your own shower. Alas, I chose just to not have a shower (or it was chosen for me since there was no one to throw a shower).

      • Becky

        May 8, 2015 at 12:27 am

        I sorta understand this … except that when I throw a birthday party for myself, I’m not really expecting gifts – just friends to come celebrate. If that’s your intent, that’s great — but I’ve known many mothers-to-be that would have been horribly offended if your presence was not accompanied by a gift.

        Likewise, if I throw a birthday party for myself and someone happens to bring a gift, i”m grateful. On the flip slide, I do not provide all my guests with a list of acceptable gifts ranging in price from $20-$1,000. (And yes, I’ve been invited to numerous showers that included gift options in the $500-$1000 range. So yes, I think showers and birthday parties are different. However, if the original poster is low-key w/ different expectations – none of this applies.

    • IrishCream

      May 7, 2015 at 12:48 pm

      Go ahead and throw yourself a party–great! Everyone deserves to be celebrated–sure!

      But don’t, for the love of Miss Manners, call it a shower. A shower (unlike a birthday party) is about presents. It is rude to solicit gifts for yourself. It’s a lovely idea to invite family and friends to celebrate a milestone with you, but it is not lovely to invite people to give you things.

  • Kim too

    May 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Here’s the thing about baby showers – everybody loves shopping for babies,and almost everyone can find something in their budget.  Itty-bitty liddle clothes!  Favorite picture books!  Blankies!
    Baby showers=/=wedding showers, which have become much more gift-grabby by nature because the original intent – outfitting a couple’s first home- isn’t applicable for most of us anymore.**  But baby showers still are about the basic, and it’s easier to get excited about giving a new little person something as opposed to upgrading a friend’s bath towels. So personally, I think your husband should just talk to your closest friend, tell her he wants you to have this experience, and ask for her help flat out.  No surprise, just something he wants to do, but has no experience in.  Chances are, your friend will jump at the chance to throw it for you, especially if your husband insists on footing the bill, or hosts at your house so the friend doesn’t have to clean hers.
    The other thing, if you don’t need/want stuff, is to throw a themed party. Everybody bring a favorite kids’ book – not even necessarily a baby book, but a Start-the Bookshelf party.  I went to one where they had white onesiesand fabric paint, and everyone decorated a onesie for the baby  Or ask everyone to bring you a onesie, or a pair of pjs*. Nobody will mind that, I promise, and if they do -phooey on them anyway.
    *Do ask for different sizes.  The newborn ones are adorable, but they will not fit that long.  It was extraordinarily helpful to have larger sleepers on hand when you realize the babies toes are curled up inside the little footsies because they grew that day.
    **We should start “first apartment” showers, really.

  • Heather

    May 7, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    The Sip and See is a good idea, because the parents throw those and most people don’t bat an eye…otherwise, why not suggest to Sister that she do a virtual shower, since you live far away (and if your family is too spread out to do an “at home” shower)?  Then all she would have to do is send an email to party “guests” (i.e. all your friends and family) saying that she is throwing you a virtual shower since you moved away now.  Surely she can handle an email?  Here’s a link for more info on virtual showers, but just Google it and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

  • Paige

    May 7, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Also your friend who you threw a shower for is totally tacky for not offering to throw your shower. Your friends should be more aware that you don’t have any family around and should be throwing a shower for you. I’m sorry.

  • liz

    May 8, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Ask your husband to ask your best friend in the area to throw you a shower, and ask for either diapers in various sizes, or packs of onesies (ditto), or favorite books. 

    If you throw it for yourself, ask people to shower you with advice: ask them to write the most useful thing a parent should know on an index card (send the card with the invitation). If they’re not parents, ask them to write a memory of a fun thing from their childhood. Then say that this is the only gift you’re asking for.

  • bioskop

    February 19, 2016 at 1:28 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on baby shower etiquette.