Shower with care

This is a guest post by blogger Abby Reph.

The season of showering our friends with gifts and finger food is upon us. With it come a kaleidoscope of etiquette questions; after all, showers are one of those rare social occasions where few guests know anyone else at the event; awkwardness is nearly a guarantee. Here, a guide to navigating that minefield like a pro.

For the Hostess

Initiating the Event
If you decide to throw a baby or bridal shower, the first thing to consider is the invitation. Paper invitations sent by mail are most appropriate, because the formality of the invitation sets the tone for the event – it also honors the effort guests are going to put forth to attend (shopping for a gift, dressing well, etc). Save the Evite (or Facebook invite) for those casual, non-gift-giving events.

Guest List
If you are the bride and more than one shower is given in your honor, be sure to have separate guest lists. It is not appropriate for anyone other than your immediate family or bridal party to be invited to more than one shower.

The Big Day
As the hostess of the shower, you carry two equally important responsibilities: ensure the guest of honor is treated well, and respect your guests’ time. We have all attended a shower where the gift opening takes two hours (not to mention the games and lunch). Here’s a radical idea: if you think opening gifts will be time consuming – skip it! With the bride’s or mom-to-be’s consent, tell the ladies that the honoree would rather spend time eating, drinking and mingling with her guests than spend 90 minutes forcing said guests to look at kitchen equipment. Your guests will be grateful (and less likely to scoot out early!).

Find out ahead of time if your guest of honor enjoys games. While some are eager for anything, others may be mortified that you selected a game involving the measuring of her pre-birth girth or guessing the contents of a diaper. Usually it’s best to avoid games that serve no purpose other than to fill time. Try to find an activity that will ultimately mean something to the bride or mom-to-be (have guests write her an encouraging note, take a cute picture together, or have an advice-giving session so she can soak up words of wisdom).

For the Guests

When you receive an invitation to a shower, double-check the RSVP request. Many are regrets only, which saves you from having to respond if you’re attending. If it does not specify regrets-only, be sure to send an email or call the hostess at least a week before the event.

Since you may not know many people at the shower, show up on time, but not early. The hostess is likely running around with final preparations, and since you’ve never met her it will be difficult for her to entertain you while she’s setting out champagne flutes. Also, don’t hog the bride’s time; she’s there to chat with all of her guests. Instead, grab a drink and introduce yourself to her nearest and dearest.

Often we assume it is required to send a gift to every shower to which we are invited, much the same way we are expected to send a gift for every wedding invitation received. This is not the case with showers. If you are unable to attend a shower (or simply find that you’ve been invited to one-too-many and it’s breaking the bank), simply send your regrets to the hostess. To go above and beyond, send a quick note to the shower honoree to express your congratulations and regrets that you can’t make it. If you are especially close to the bride or mom-to-be, sending a gift is more than welcome, of course!

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’d rather go to the DMV than to a shower, but I also recognize that they exist to help friends usher in new stages of their lives. With that in mind, I encourage you to enjoy the celebration. If you can do so with graciousness and joy, all the better! If you can do so with champagne, you’ve just changed a shower into a mid-summer party.


Abby Reph posts her thoughts on etiquette, current events and the delightful absurdities of life at She lives with her husband in Kirkland, Washington.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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