Can You Have a Baby Shower for Your Second—or Third, or Fourth—Child?
Marking the impending birth of your first child with your friends and family is an expected rite of passage, but the etiquette for hosting another fête for future babies can get a little murky. "Traditionally, baby showers were for first-time parents who were getting started and needed everything from diapers to draperies for their newborn," says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, the founder of The Protocol School of Texas. "Second, third, and fourth babies make the decision more difficult, because many people have an abundance of things and need very little. However, much like birthdays and other special events, it's a great reason to celebrate." If you do choose to honor your little one's little siblings—regardless of when they arrive—follow a few simple etiquette guidelines when planning your party.
Stick to some hard-and-fast etiquette rules.
Some etiquette standards hold fast whether it's your first shower or your fifth. "A baby shower should not be hosted by the parents or immediate family, such as mom or mom-in-law," says Gottsman. "Friends and siblings can join in to host a shower, and certainly anyone can financially contribute." Etiquette also allows the host to include any requests from the parents-to-be, whether it's a bar full of creative mocktails for the pregnant mother, a ban on Baby Bingo, or a private gift opening session. "The guest of honor does not have to open all of the gifts in front of the guests," she adds. "You can opt to open them later and just enjoy the party."
Consider a different type of celebration.
While good etiquette doesn't prevent you from having a second, third, or fourth shower, you may opt to tweak some of your plans if you've recently had your first baby—especially the gift-giving obligation. "For a celebration for a second or third or fourth baby, you might want to include only close family, call it a celebration rather than a shower, and make it clear you are inviting them to celebrate," notes Gottsman. Include a note with the invitation that requests no gifts, and if anyone ignores it, put the gifts out of sight immediately to prevent awkward moments with the other attendees. Instead of a ladies' brunch or girls-only soirée, design a low-key, family-friendly celebration for before—or after—the baby arrives: Have the kids decorate bibs or onesies for their new sibling or cousin, give aunts and uncles a chance to write messages for the baby to read on his 18th birthday, set up a photo background to create a book of photos for the little one to look back on. "I recommend you curtail the guest list and, if you're on your third or fourth child, I really hesitate to encourage another shower," she continues. "A luncheon to honor mom or a barbecue once the baby is born feels different than a shower."
Adjust your expectations.
In some cases, a later shower makes sense: For a couple with three boys who find themselves about to welcome a baby girl; for a pair welcoming their first child together, even if one (or both) parents have children from a previous relationship; or for a family celebrating a surprise pregnancy a decade after they gave away all their baby gear. But even then, acquaintances who sent blankets and bibs the first time around may opt not to attend. "After you are on your own raising children for years, big ticket items are indulgences and things you should be able to afford," explains Gottsman. "Unless a group of people want to happily gather together to get you something special, that fancy stroller is up to you!"
If you'd like to celebrate your new niece or godchild by hosting a shower, but you're worried about the reaction from the invitees, ask around, she says—starting with the baby's parents. "The bottom line is to know your audience. For those who are opposed to showers after the first baby, calling it a sip and see or a sprinkle is not going to sugarcoat it. There will be others who will have no problem with showers for second and third babies," Gottsman says. "Feel free to ask questions among friends and see if it's something that people would be interested in doing—both as a host or as the guest of honor."