Oh baby, this one's complicated.
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Baby showers are joy-filled parties where friends and family celebrate the new family addition. But before you get down to setting a date, planning a menu, and sending out invitations, one question needs to be answered: Who hosts the party?

The History of Baby Showers

The concept of a baby shower is a relatively modern American invention. In 1937, high society author and manners guru Emily Post included a fleeting description of "stork showers" in her book Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. (Baby showers were not mentioned in either the 1922 original publication of the book or in her 1927 enlarged edition, so historians date the baby shower to the 1930s era.) In the 1937 edition, Post wrote that, "…A stork shower is always given in the early afternoon and only intimate girl and women friends of the mother invited." She further elaborated that "presents given at a stork shower include everything for a new baby." By the post-World War II era, the baby shower was an established social tradition for all expectant mothers.

Who Hosts the Baby Shower?

Traditionally, close friends, cousins, aunts, sisters-in-law, and coworkers of the parents-to-be have been deemed the appropriate parties to host a baby shower. 

Things get a little hairier when it comes to whether or not it's proper for the immediate family of the parents-to-be to throw the party. Initially, Emily Post frowned on the immediate family of the parents-to-be hosting the party. She felt that because gifts are a primary reason for throwing showers, it appears rather self-serving for the grandparents-to-be to throw a party for their own child. 

Another etiquette expert, Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, agrees—a bit more aggressively, we might add—having stated over and over that, "…relatives are not supposed to be the host of showers." She even went so far as to say, "There should be token presents only—which is what a proper shower meant before the outrageous expectation that outfitting the nursery is not the responsibility of the parents, but of their friends." 

Of course, a lot has changed since the 1930s, and over the years, the Emily Post Institute has softened its views as to who should or should not host a baby shower. They feel that, along with close friends, cousins, and coworkers, it is now appropriate for anyone, grandparents-to-be included, to host a baby shower as long as there's a good reason. 

Some expectant parents live far from their hometowns, and their immediate families host a shower so that old neighborhood friends can attend. A military couple may suddenly get orders to transfer, so the parents or in-laws throw an impromptu baby shower before the move. For couples who are adopting, the grandparents-to-be may wish to host a shower, or a later sip-and-see, as a means of welcoming the baby to the family and ensuring that the adoptive parents have everything they need to bring their addition home. 

When it comes to baby shower etiquette, one thing hasn't changed over the past century: It's still unusual, and even considered tacky by some, for parents-to-be to host their own baby shower.

Ultimately, though, baby showers are about surrounding parents-to-be with love and support—and a few packs of diapers—ahead of their new arrival. And as long as that's the intention behind the celebration, in our view, there's no such thing as an unacceptable host. 

 

By Patricia S York and Betsy Cribb