Baby Shower or not?
January 22, 2007 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Baby Shower - How to have a non-greedy one?

Two of my friends have offered to host a baby shower for me, and I am feeling a litle conflicted about it. I love the idea of having a celebration with a few of my friends over, because hey, parties are always fun! However, I am uncomfortable with the idea of baby showers (they are not common where I grew up), because it seems to be such a blatant troll for gifts. We are not financially strapped so we need gifts to be able to provide for the baby, so I could just say no baby shower. However, my friend pointed out that many friends will buy me gifts anyway, and so I might as well have a registry to make sure they buy things that I would like/can use. The shower will be co-ed, no games, just a gathering of friends with a few drinks. I would like to find a way to communicate that gifts are not expected, and that I really don't want people to spend large amounts of money on us. At previous showers within the same circle of friends people have bought expensive stuff like strollers. This freaks me out. If I leave expensive items like strollers off the registry list will this ensure no-one goes crazy and buys one? Or am I just setting myself up to receive a different stroller to the one I would like (which is expensive, which is why I would prefer to buy it myself). I feel it would be presumptuous to spell it out on invites (because its rude to talk money/gifts on invites).

I feel all conflicted, please help mefites, with advice about baby showers you have attended or held that managed to communicate not to go crazy with gifts! I am still open to the idea of not holding one at all.
posted by Joh to Society & Culture (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's rude to talk about gifts on the invite if you don't want to receive any. It's almost better for the guests to come without a gift and just help you celebrate than coming with a gift you won't use or appreciate. I can't think of how off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's a courteous way to phrase it on the invite. Could you ask guests to contribute to some sort of savings account for the baby instead of buying gifts? Or, if you do feel like you can't get out of creating a registry, register for disposable things you're going to have to buy lots of anyway: diapers, wipes, etc.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:41 PM on January 22, 2007

In my family we often love it when expensive items like strollers are on the registry, so one of us can do the shopping and the rest can chip in. Then the gift is from all of us.

But yeah, a stroller from just one person is excessive. I think that if you register for inexpensive items, but enough of them to ensure that everyone has a chance to buy something, that would be safe.

Alternatively, you could ask for no gifts and blame it on the grandparents. Something like, "Our parents have been so busy shopping that we don't need a thing. Please just bring yourself to the party and shower us with your well-wishes!"
posted by christinetheslp at 6:47 PM on January 22, 2007

I don't think it's rude to talk about gifts on the invite if you don't want to receive any.
Or even a step beyond that: Tell them that if they must give a gift, please donate to (insert favorite charity name here) instead.
posted by Flunkie at 6:48 PM on January 22, 2007

Your shower organizers should be able to help you with this. You can communicate it simply: on the invitations. Maybe suggest some things that you would be comfortable receiving. Gift cards to the local grocery store that you prefer would be useful and probably danged welcome after the baby is born. Do you like to cook? Do you need some husband-friendly things that he can cook for you (my husband is a cooker but some guys just aren't)? Babysitting vouchers from trusted friends would be cool, but that might be opening a bee's nest. Donating to a charity would be good too-- the local children's hospital is an easy one that fits the occasion.

I'm sure that your buddies can help you have a shower that will be fun and not make you uncomfortable. I think it's perfectly all right to put on the invites, "Joh hasn't registered anywhere because [her family? I don't know] has provided her with all of the basic things she needs. Instead, please bring something that will be useful in the short term such as gift certificates to [local food outlet - grocery stores, take out, whatever, in x denomination or less], homemade gifts or recipes for tasty, baby friendly food for Joh while she's [taking care of Baby Joh, breastfeeding, whatever]. If you aren't crafty, that's okay, Joh will just be happy to have your company. Thanks for being a great friend and we look forward to seeing you!"

Now, this would go over well with my friends, but I don't know yours (they sound pretty cool), so YMMV and so forth.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:49 PM on January 22, 2007

Good recommendations above. Another suggestion would be to encourage your friends to make it a diaper party or a book party.

Where I come from, showers are held about 6 weeks after the baby is born. But, if you are doing one sooner, perhaps the guests could be told it's a "month of meals" party. Everyone brings something that could be frozen and reheated during that first month post-partum. Anything you don't want can be donated to a homeless shelver.
posted by acoutu at 6:52 PM on January 22, 2007

I suggest registering for lots of small things you'll use lots of, if you will have room to store the 10 boxes of wipes, and 10 cases of diapers in assorted sizes.

A caveat though, to getting so many wipes or whatevers... every baby is different and you may find that yours won't tolerate whichever you've chosen ahead of time. In that case, you may donate whatever (unopened items) you've received in bulk with a clear conscience to a food bank or women's shelter.

I don't think you can open an account in the baby's name until you have a social security number assigned, but a good idea to start saving for college now. The rule of 72 being the magic that it is, a few hundrer dollars now will multiply like crazy in 18 to 20 years.
posted by bilabial at 6:53 PM on January 22, 2007

Best answer: Can you call it something than a "shower"? That might make it easier for people to come empty-handed.
posted by kmennie at 6:55 PM on January 22, 2007

I don't think it's rude to talk about gifts on the invite if you don't want to receive any.

I disagree. I also think it would be confusing- baby showers are for gifts! It's fun! People without babies get to go to the baby store and buy something cute and frilly for little baby to wear. I'm going to one Saturday for a dear friend, and I can't wait!

I don't think anyone would buy a stroller/crib/expensive item if it wasn't on the registry- register for lots of little things you'll need (Babies R Us will sell you everything but the titchen sink), and have fun!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:01 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

acoutu, where you're from, they have very big freezers!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:03 PM on January 22, 2007

BTDT on both the receiving end and as a host of friends' showers. Just have the host(ess)s let people know you only need diapers and wipes. The great thing is that it's true, and everyone will feel good about getting you something so practical and appreciated. The people who end up buying the baby little outfits would have bought them even if you said 'no gifts' on the invite, so you won't have damaged anyone's gift-giving impulses one bit. And congrats!
posted by cocoagirl at 7:06 PM on January 22, 2007

Instead of asking for gifts, why not ask them to donate to a charity focused on children? "I am lucky enough to be able to provide for my baby, but there are many families that cannot. Instead of buying my child gifts, please give money to [such and such organization] to help less fortunate babies."
posted by schroedinger at 7:06 PM on January 22, 2007

You can have a theme - books or diapers were mentioned above.

If it were me, I'd ask for the stuff you can never have enough of - help. Ask people to give you a Saturday morning off, or a gift certificate to Molly Maid, or food you can reheat when you don't feel like cooking (i.e. pretty much every day).
posted by joannemerriam at 7:12 PM on January 22, 2007

Help is a great suggestion. I would have appreciated that more than the baby gifts! Someone to run errands, vacuum, clean, hold the baby while I had a shower...

(And your freezer doesn't have to be that big. I have a standard fridge/freezer and I cooked a month's worth of meals before I had my baby. Then we just microwaved things. I even had paper plates, in case the dishes got to be too much. But I didn't really use those.)
posted by acoutu at 7:18 PM on January 22, 2007

If you are wanting to be completely true to correct etiquette, you should never mention anything about gifts in an announcement. A party is a party, mentioning gifts is presuming your guests need to give gifts, and if your hosts bill the occasion as "come celebrate Joh's pregnancy" and not a baby shower, then I think that would be a nice way to back off on the gifts. It is also the host's job to inform guests if you are registered anywhere, and in that time they can also mention any desire for gifts that you may have.

In short: Printing on an invite what you want people to give you or not give you is just tacky.
posted by haplesschild at 7:42 PM on January 22, 2007

Best answer: a good friend who happens to run a popular collaborative weblog empire had a "bring your favorite children's book" baby shower and it was such fun building her library.
posted by judith at 7:48 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I love the idea of a book-themed party. Everyone can bring their favorite children's book - you will appreciate them for years and they need not be expensive. Don't mention it in the invites, just have the hosts inform guests later.
posted by mai at 7:50 PM on January 22, 2007

Best answer: It's nice of you to have a non-materialistc attitude. On the other hand, your friends want a piece of the fun. Buying teeny tiny things is quite fun for some people. Showers are allowed to have a theme. Suggest an affordable theme that is meaningful, like books or music. Getting your best pals' favorite children's books is a great start of the baby's library. Or getting a good start on lullabies and Raffi will help you introduce music.

And if I show up, there will be a wonderful book, and a pair of tiny baby shoesies, cause they are irresistable.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 PM on January 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

I agree with haplesschild. I was given two baby showers (one for my first born and one for my third) and not once did I mention gifts. In fact, I never registered anywhere. I never expected a single gift. If anyone wanted to buy me something, that was fine and totally up to them.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:02 PM on January 22, 2007

For my friend's wedding, he set up a website. On said website, it had a 'registry' section, where the first suggestion were links to a few charities he and his fiancee liked, and then for anyone who still wanted to do the registry thing, he set up a couple of registries. Lets you guide your guests but still lets them decide what to do.
posted by anonymoose at 9:07 PM on January 22, 2007

It's the hostess' job to invite people, and to indicate what the gift expectations are (similar to how it's really inappropriate for someone to include their registry cards with their wedding invites, but okay for the person throwing the bridal shower to spread the word). Can your friends not pass along whatever your wishes are when they invite people?

Having said that, your friends probably want to give you things. Shopping for tiny things: fun! If you'd prefer not to receive spendy gifts, have the hostess(es) pass this along, and/or put small things on your registry, and/or have your friends spread the word that you'd be happiest if people just brought themselves and a ten-dollar check to donate to a scholarship fund you'd like to support, in your baby's name, or something?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:18 PM on January 22, 2007

I also like the book party idea. And I want to underscore the point that for a lot of folks (like me!), shopping for all those precious tiny things is part of the fun when I celebrate a new baby in my midst! Giving gifts on this sort of occasion is a genuine expression of joy and love and excitement at welcoming a loved one's little one into the world. So while I absolutely commend your non-materialist desires, I also think it's worth recognizing that under these circumstances, gift-giving is about more than just the literal objects being purchased.
posted by scody at 9:23 PM on January 22, 2007

theora55, scody, etc have a good point. I don't have a ton of money (certainly not going to buy anyone a stroller any time soon!) but maaaan I jump at the chance to buy baby things. Everything is so cute! I think a book theme is great - it's a good way for your friends to share their favorite stories with your new baby.
posted by radioamy at 9:30 PM on January 22, 2007

TheHMSBeagle is right about the etiquette for handling such a thing.

When my son was born, one of my friends threw a shower. My parents lived out of town and wanted to show off my baby, too. So my mom held a "Welcoming Tea", with no expectation of gifts. However, everyone who attended brought a gift, although they didn't spend as much as the baby shower people did. That might be a case of demographics, though.
posted by acoutu at 9:31 PM on January 22, 2007

Response by poster: Just to clarify, I do understand that it is the hostess' job to invite people and take care of the gift expectations, but I wanted to get my thoughts in order and then pass them on to her.

I do also understand that many people enjoy buying baby shower gifts (I certainly did when my friends had babies) and I don't mind people bringing small gifts if they want to. I just want to avoid making people feel obliged to bring a gift instead of just coming to enjoy the party, and I definitely don't want people going crazy and buying super-expensive stuff. Its all a balancing act! Expressing that is a hard thing though.
posted by Joh at 11:34 PM on January 22, 2007

Check out for what some people have done in your situation.

If you get a stroller you don't want, smile, thank the person, and either return it or (even better) give it to a charity. There are a lot of mothers out there who don't have a stroller or friends to give them one.
posted by watsondog at 3:40 AM on January 23, 2007

If you're new parents, one of the benefits of having a shower is receiving consumerist wisdom of other parents. it never would have occurred to me to get, say, the Miracle Blanket over the SwaddleMe, 'cause i thought they were essentially the same, but the SwaddleMe's velcro ripping sound really wakes up my kid. One of the benefits of having people get you the stuff is that it allows you to try out new things. Ideally, though, they'd just be passing on their hand-me-downs, since anything baby related has a shelf-life of only a few months. I think you could specify a preference for used items on the invite, alongside your registration info, which would cut down on the surfeit of onesies you're likely to get anyway.
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:17 AM on January 23, 2007

Best answer: I felt exactly as you do 6 months ago before our son was born. We are older first time parents and we felt very uncomfortable at the thought of laying out a list of what we wanted people to buy for us. I did not have a shower at all - I just felt so uneasy at the idea of a party focused on presents for a little being not yet here. Superstition played into it a little but mostly I didn't like the idea of having a party just to give gifts. And that's what a shower is. I just couldn't get comfortable with the idea of having a party to celebrate the baby before the baby comes. All our friends who wanted to give gifts still did so after he arrived. The best were the ones who dropped by and gave the presents in person, because we got to show off our precious baby and thank them on the spot (of course I still wrote thank you notes).

I'm with you on wanting to pass on the shower. And the idea of asking for stuff - whether gift certificates to a Babies R Us, a local grocery store, or a college fund for the baby - hits me as just completely grasping and rude. Your friends will give you what they like for your baby. There's a lot to be said for a gift that is lovingly chosen by someone who took the time to pick out something special for your baby. It's a lot more meaningful than selecting this or that off a registry. We got a lot of neat things we never would have chosen ourselves. Some were gifts from experienced parents, who knew better than we did what might come in handy. Nearly everything is exchangable or returnable or you can always find someone in need to donate it to.

Good luck and best wishes to you! I wish you good health and much happiness with your baby.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:04 AM on January 23, 2007

As some people have mentioned, Showers are presumed to be for the purpose of showering the new mother with gifts - which makes them the only type of party where it's permissable to mention gifts with the invitation. Strictest etiquette still doesn't let you put the registry information there, but theme information is allowed. Anything less than strictest etiquette does let you include the registry information (though generally on an enclosure rather than on the invitation itself), so most people would. Registries, in a case like this, seem greedy, but can really be your friend. Register for inexpensive things - if there's nothing on your list over $30, that's all most people will spend.

Very many people dislike being asked to give to charity instead of a real gift - they want to give you a token of their caring, not make a tax deductible contribution to another organisation - so I'd tread cautiously on that front. But a lot of other shower themes or registry items could put you way down in terms of inexpensive or novelty items. A book themed shower, a diaper themed shower, a stuffed toy / rattle / other small item theme. An 'advice' shower seems to be the baby equivalent of a recipe shower for a new bride - guests are asked to bring their favourite piece of parenting advice in a card, and perhaps a small token related to it.

You can also do a 'do something' shower - like have a knitting lesson and everyone make a square for an eventual baby blanket - that sort of takes the attention off the opening of presents, which is otherwise the main focus of these events. Having the shower after the baby is born also shifts the focus away from gifts, since people are rather more interested in meeting the baby than watching you open presents.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:42 AM on January 23, 2007

I Nth the theme notion. It can be books or frozen meals or whatever, but give your friends a chance to give you something; that's what a shower is for.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:57 AM on January 23, 2007

Nthing the book shower. We did that for a male colleague of mine when his wife was due with their first. It was a really fun, easy going get together and the men didn't feel uncomfortable (no breast pads or other scary things). You'll get a zillion copies of Goodnight Moon, but then again Baby will probably chew all but one of them eventually.
posted by orangemiles at 8:03 AM on January 23, 2007

I felt like you did at my baby shower. We were older and had plenty of resources when our daughter was born. But, people coming to a shower WANT to give you something. They're happy and excited for you. I didn't register and didn't put anything on the invitation about gifts and I think people gave us what was in their budget-- from picture frames to clothes to little commemorative do-dahs. Some of my co-workers asked if we'd gotten a car seat yet and we had not, so several went in on it together. We had already bought a stroller and when people asked, I told them that too. I think everyone had fun and enjoyed the experience.
posted by BluGnu at 9:02 AM on January 23, 2007

Best answer: I was just at a Favorite Childrens Book Tea (in lieu of a Baby Shower) last Saturday and it was totally cool. All of us passed the books around, reminisced about favorites that we had forgotten about, enjoyed learning about new books, and had a great time. People brought some very creative and obscure books. Not just baby books, either. Everything from new baby to pre-teen. The tea was good too!
posted by jeanmari at 9:05 AM on January 23, 2007

Best answer: I love the idea of the book & music shower (The Mysterious Tadpole! Free to Be You & Me!) but would also like to add that you will need more onesies than you can possibly imagine, take 'em where you can get 'em.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:07 AM on January 23, 2007

Book showers are wonderful. YOu will be so glad b/c the books mean more when they come from friends.
posted by chickaboo at 11:56 AM on January 23, 2007

While I definitely understand how personally-chosen gifts are more meaningful and everything, for someone like me who has absolutely no clue what is a helpful gift for a baby and what isn't, some direction is actually *really* appreciated.
posted by audrey the bug at 2:32 PM on January 23, 2007

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