Print   |   Back
May 8, 2014
The Real Issue
Does Grandma Host the Baby Shower?
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


My oldest daughter is having her first baby this fall. I’ve never been the mother of the mother-to-be, and I’m wondering what my obligations are with respect to the baby shower.

Do I host the baby shower? Do I put together the guest list? Should I offer to help pay for it? I live across the country, so I would have to travel, but I want to do my part.


A baby shower is a small, private party given for a woman by her close friends when she is expecting her first baby. Its purpose is to celebrate her happy state by showering her with the accoutrements of motherhood, such as bibs, bottles, diapers, books and clothes.

It should be given near—but not too near—the end of a pregnancy.

In the case of adoption, a shower is usually held after the baby has been placed and has settled in with the family; the adoptive parents should be consulted about the date. (And if an older child is being adopted, they may prefer a different kind of celebration altogether.)

But because a baby shower is a solicitation and a celebration all in one, there are three main rules about who should host it, who should be invited, and how many showers one mother should have.

Rule One: Friends of the mother-to-be, not her relatives, should host the baby shower. (This rule also applies to bridal showers.) The purpose of a shower is gifts, and it is not correct to ask people to give gifts to your family. If you want a family member to have something, you should give it to her yourself. This does not change if you cannot afford to give her what you’d like her to have.

If a family member is expecting a baby but no shower has been planned by her friends, one solution is a family shower. A family shower is one hosted and attended by only your family. If your family has a close and friendly relationship, it is a fun way to celebrate a baby on the way. If your family is distant and contentious, it should not be attempted.

As a family-only event, you have more leeway in planning. For example, if your family is far flung, you could have a Skype shower. Invitations are still issued, but each person attends in her own home and brings her own refreshments.

Gifts are mailed in advance and opened by the expectant mother in front of her webcam, where she expresses the same delight as she would at a live party. Then, she sends a thank you note to each giver.

Rule Two: Baby showers are not general invitation parties, like a Relief Society dinner. Only the mother-to-be’s actual, real friends should be invited. Again, the reason is that attendees are expected to bring gifts, and it is an imposition to ask someone to bring a gift for a person who is not actually her friend.

If the mother-to-be is new to the ward or has few friends, I suggest the host invite her own social circle to the shower. She can thus introduce the new sister to her friends in a small, personal setting and invite her to be part of their group.

Still, when making a guest list, I generally favor being more inclusive than less. No one likes to feel left out. So, if there is a social circle of ten ladies, and the mother-to-be is close to eight of them but not to the other two, all ten can be invited in the interest of inclusion.

However, you would not invite the entire ward, workplace or neighborhood. The impulse to include everyone is kindly meant, but such invitations can easily go awry. Instead of seeming inclusive, they can just as easily appear impersonal, or even grasping.

Although the entire ward is almost certainly happy for the mother-to-be and wishes her well, it is unlikely that each of them is her actual social friend and wishes to buy her a gift and spend a Saturday afternoon celebrating her.

If there are particular sisters in your ward you would like to include and befriend, inviting them to a shower for a person they do not know is not the best way to proceed. Instead, plan a gathering of people you think they would enjoy, and get to know them in a setting focused on their comfort.

If you worry that uninvited ward members will hear about the party and feel left out, you simply have to trust that your guests have the good sense not to mention the invitation or the event in the hearing or presence of anyone who is not invited — including in online posts or pictures. This is elementary good manners.

You should also remember that some people make a hobby of feeling left out, no matter how often they are included, and there is nothing you can do to change them.

Further, it is perilous to start a tradition of baby showers to which the whole ward is invited, even if the showers are not sponsored or hosted by the Relief Society organization. There is absolutely no way to have an equally adorable and well-attended shower for every expectant mother in a ward.

People will quickly become hurt and offended if showers become a public display of popularity instead of a private celebration among close friends. And ward members will quickly tire of being asked to purchase a gift every time a baby is on the way.

Rule Three: A baby shower is to help a first-time mother acquire the accoutrements of motherhood. Subsequent babies are celebrated in other ways, such as luncheons or small parties of a person’s closest friends. Gifts may be brought, but are not expected at such events.

Friends, of course, will deliver gifts to the baby after it arrives whether it is a family’s first or eleventh child. But such gifts are not the subject of a shower as they are for a first baby.

In your case, as the prospective grandmother, it would not be correct for you to host or plan a baby shower for your daughter. Instead, your responsibility is three-fold.

First, make sure your daughter knows these rules so her expectations will be in line with correct shower procedure. She will especially need to know Rule 2 to make an appropriate guest list when her friends offer to throw her a baby shower.

Second, make sure your daughter knows to compose and send a prompt thank you note to anyone who hosts a shower for her or gives her a gift.

Third, make sure your daughter knows how to respond graciously when her mother-in-law announces that she is giving your daughter a shower and has already invited the entire ward. Your daughter will not attempt to communicate any of these rules to her mother-in-law. Instead, she will beam and say, “Thank you! That sounds wonderful.”

Copyright © 2024 by Cyndie Swindlehurst Printed from