It Is Never Okay To Ignore The Baby Shower Registry


So, you are a loving friend or family member who has been invited to celebrate the upcoming arrival of a new baby. Lucky you! This very important ritual is called a baby shower. Most guests are happy to be invited to attend. Most guests keep their heads down and go with the flow by sticking with the registry.

Some clueless vigilante guests do quite the opposite. These guests may have been waiting their entire life to “stick it to the man” and “do what they want” by purchasing a totally random baby item that no one has ever heard of or ordering a very strange baby shrine off Etsy.

If you think you can slip under the radar by buying whatever you damn well please for an upcoming baby shower, you are dead wrong. Someone will notice, as described on this forum thread:

When my SIL had my neice the same thing happened…no important registery items were bought (sheets, nail clipper set, bottles, etc)…just millions of baby clothes. My neice had a closet full that never got touched. I feel some guests are selfish. I hate when people ignore the registery to get items they think are good ideas or items that catch their eye. If you want to get a baby gift of something cute fine. But showers aren’t cheap to put on and you’re invited to help out with the cost of having a child. If the parents still have to go out and buy their entire registery because you think a newborn sized easter dress is a good idea what did you contribute?

There is much debate surrounding the do’s and don’ts of baby shower etiquette. Many guests rightfully argue that they are being kind enough to take time out of their busy schedule and attend a shower, so can’t they buy whatever they want to “bless” the expecting parents?

As you can see from the thread above, most new parents disagree. I’m willing to bet that the majority of parents appreciate anything and everything they are gifted at a baby shower—not looking a gift horse in the mouth and all of that. But really, what are you supposed to do with a bunch of useless, albeit cute, trinkets that do absolutely nothing to prepare you for a baby?

When in doubt, stick with the registry. As a baby shower guest, it may ruffle your feathers when someone tells you what to do and downright refuses your beautifully handmade baby afghan. Even though the thought counts, trust me on this one—when you go rogue and go off the registry, you’re creating more work for the expectant mom in the long run.

(Image: Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock)

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  • AugustW

    My “registry” involved me being a poor single mother and being happy, gracious and willing to take anything anyone was willing to offer me. And I smiled and said thank you and wrote thank you notes after. Not hard!

  • shorty_RN

    It wasn’t the responsibility of any of my guests to help fund my foray into parenthood. Did some of them get me weird shit that I never used? Yep, but I was damn grateful to get anything at all.

  • Marie

    I’m coming to the point where I’m beginning to think that a registry shouldn’t even exist. A few years ago, when I was younger and less experienced and just simply wrapped up in myself, I made my wedding registry. Nothing expensive, just a number of practical items which I was excited by the possibility of getting a few specific brand names or colors. I got maybe two items from that list, yet while I was disappointed, I realized something. I had a family who love me and who showered me with gifts they could afford and they put thought into. So I didn’t get the waffle iron I wanted, so what? I could buy it myself if I really wanted it that bad.

    I think I’m most disgusted with baby shower registries. The expectation that everyone else should provide the necessities for *your* child. It’s outrageous. I’m of the camp that a guest should be able to do as they please in regards to a gift. It’s a GIFT, after all. The parents are RESPONSIBLE for the necessities such as car seats, strollers, bottles, pacifiers, the swing their baby will scream in, the diapers, the wipes, the crib. Yes, I said the PARENTS are responsible, not grandma, not grandpa, not Aunt Ethel. The parents of the baby and only the parents.

    The other thing that really peeves me about registry is the specific nature of it. The notion that someone hasn’t simply made a list saying “I need pacifiers, diapers, wipes, bottles, burp cloths, bibs, a car seat, etc. It’s a list of specific items at a specific store naming specific brands and specific colors. That’s where it really goes too far. That expectation that not only does the recipient expect to get what they need (because that’s the argument, right? It’s so expensive to be a new parent so that’s supposedly why we have baby showers, so some argue) but they also specifically demand only the items that they have already gone shopping for and decided on those specific items and only those items and are insulted and offended if a gift is a similar item (that’ll do the same job) but not specifically what was on the registry. I’m of a generous bunch that will purchase something from the registry, it may not be the exact brand or color specified but it’s a useful item that was available in the store at the time I went. Hate the color? Return it, gift receipt is in the bag.

    • guest

      This. While I would personally feel weird about creating a registry as it creates an expectation to bring a gift, and if I were inviting people over to celebrate a wedding or baby, I would do that for the company and celebration, not to receive gifts… I do understand the idea of a registry to establish what you need, should people want to bring gifts if they wish. I get it: some couples live together for years before getting married and might wish to specify what they actually need. Or if you are having a baby and have a large family or group of friends with kids, you may already have lots of hand me down X but could really use some Y. So I understand a general list, but this specific must-be-this-specific-one stuff is insensitive. “We are all set with a car seat, but don’t have a stroller yet” is different from “here is this model and this color of stroller that we must have.”

    • Melissa

      But it’s called a Baby Shower (not an Impending Baby Arrival Celebration) , so yes, there’s absolutely an expectation to bring a gift. Traditionally, the whole point of a “shower” is to shower a person with gifts to prepare for a new phase of life–marriage or family. That doesn’t mean it’s not obnoxious when a registry is full of super expensive items, but come on, “bring gifts if they wish” and just bless the expectant mom with your presence isn’t the point of a shower at all. Registries help friends and family get the expectant mom what she needs without tons of duplicate gifts and without her having to answer the “what do you need?” question a hundred times. It’s not selfish or presumptuous, it’s efficient.

    • guest

      True, and for the record, I would never dream of showing up to a shower (whether baby or wedding) without a gift. Not because of expectation, but because if I want to share in this person’s happiness, I want to bring them something. And I most likely would bring something from the registry unless the whole list was completely unaffordable, but even if it was a stretch, I would try to do it – I would rather spend a little more for something they will appreciate and use.

      I just think I myself would be uncomfortable making a nitpicky registry, or even one at all, because I don’t want to look like I am assuming gifts will be given. Even though that is the custom, and even though I would bring a gift were I the guest, I don’t like asking. If that makes sense. I don’t want someone to think their invitation is just for “bring me presents,” even though I don’t think that of others for the most part. I’m neurotic.

      I guess what I was trying to say is that if I knew that a mom-to-be needed, say, a changing table, and I bought her one, I’d be a little hurt if a fuss was made that it wasn’t this certain one. Now of course every gift receiver can do what they want with the gift, and if they don’t like my changing table they can return it, donate it, stuff it in the garbage… (and knowing my neurotic nature, it would come with a gift receipt), but acting insulted over a gift is rude. A registry or list of what you actually need can be helpful (because it is custom to bring gifts and it can help to let friends/family know what you are all set with and what you still need) but demanding specific details and being insulted when you get a gift that your friend tried to put thought and money into is rude.

    • Melissa

      I think wedding and baby showers/registries are two totally different things that can’t even be compared. No, you don’t probably *need* one single thing from your wedding registry, but there are lots of staples a new mom truly needs for a first baby, and friends and family helping out by gifting her these things is a nice tradition that gets reciprocated throughout circles of family and friends. These things aren’t being demanded (most of the time, by sane moms), they are being requested and will be sincerely appreciated. What’s so awful about that?

    • Mary

      Disagree: most of us have a finite amount of space in our homes, and simply do not have the storage space for a bunch of random stuff. I was grateful and appreciative for each gift I received, but after everyone got their thank you note the non-neccessities and duplicate items went straight to charity instead of collecting dust in my tiny home.

      Get a gift or don’t, but parents put a lot of thought into creating a list of things they need and have space for.

  • Iwill Findu

    If I thought someone was going to get that butt hurt by my going rouge on the registry I would likely be that person that came with the dreaded corn popper fisherprice driving parents nuts for over 30 yrs.

  • Courtney Lynn

    I don’t know, I got a diaper bag that wasn’t on my registry. I already had a specific diaper bag in mind, but actually, the one my friend got for me is the most used, most efficient gift I have gotten besides the carseat. It is so handy and it fits SO much. The one I bought that I had really wanted at first became an over-sized purse and the occasional “just running to the store” bag. Since we have 2 kids, that big diaper bag is getting it’s use! I think off-the-registry gifts can be some of the best ones! I wouldn’t be so quick to discount them.

  • Peace

    And THIS is why I never, ever go to baby showers. THIS is why I refuse each and every gift grab invitation. Because that’s all it is, a gift grab by entitlement-minded women who thinks everybody owes them stuff because they got pregnant.

    • Kelly

      I think you may be right about that. I’ve been invited to so many showers where I don’t even know the expectant mom or maybe I met her once years ago. I don’t go to those and I’m always surprised to get invited. Why do they do that? They want my gift. That’s the only reason that makes any sense. It’s pathetic.

    • Jessica

      That’s sad for you if you don’t have any friends that you’re genuinely happy for and want to celebrate/give gifts to!

  • simoneutecht

    As someone who got one gift from my registry when my daughter was born many moons ago, now it find out what type of diapers they plan on using and get the biggest box I can afford. Or in the case of a service I gift them a couple of months. Everybody us happy.

  • Melissa

    I seriously am scratching my head at the commenters here who are insulted at the notion of being expected to bring a gift to a baby shower, much less a gift that is something the new mom actually needs–the horror! What happened to good ol’ fashioned generosity and kindness toward family and friends who are entering a new phase of life and will appreciate a helping hand in the form of some onesies and blankets? When did people get so stingy and so easily offended that the idea of a registry that dares to request specific items becomes offensive? And, no, you can’t compare ridiculous, extravagant wedding registries to baby shower registries–they are two completely different animals. I was incredibly grateful for each and every baby gift I received from family and friends, and the weird stuff from off the registry was just something for husband and I to chuckle about and stow away in a closet for some future white elephant party. And the attitude of “Don’t like it? Return it!” as an excuse for buying whatever the hell you feel like off the registry is incredibly callous toward a new mom who is either too huge and pregnant to be able to effing move off the couch, or already up to her elbows in newborn baby poop and spitup and the idea of leaving the house to return your careless duplicate gift makes her want to cry.

    • K.

      I don’t think the problem (with most people) is the existence of the registry–many people, myself included, find them easy and helpful. It’s not the “having” the registry that’s the issue, it’s the attitude of “how dare you not use my registry!” that’s deeply troubling–at least to me (and it appears many others on this thread). I mean, it’s one thing to vent about the dry-clean only clothes and the other weird things, but there’s venting and then there’s perpetuating the idea that purchasing off-registry is some kind of horrific offense–and THAT’S what’s seriously disturbing to me.

      It’s that attitude–that the registry is somehow required gifting–that makes many people fatigued by them in general.

      I think you and I would be in agreement though: Parents should be able to put together a registry and offer it for guidance to shower guests; Guests should also be able to purchase a gift of their own choosing that’s not on the registry. Likewise, Guest should not be offended by the mere existence of the registry; Parents should not be offended by guests who choose to ignore the registry’s existence.

      Seems simple enough.

    • Mines Chick

      Honestly, in my opinion, the abundance of “Oh, it’s so cute/soft; I couldn’t resist to buy it just because (and ignore all the things I know you really need and want)” baby clothes and blankets IS just as bad as showing up with dry clean only clothes or “other weird things”. It’s just STUFF to store and money put toward a silly purchase instead of a gift to use or treasure and money well-spent. In that sense, it is just extravagance, and there really shouldn’t be much extravagance surrounding a baby. It’s stuff purchased because it made the purchaser happy, not because it would make the recipient happy, and that’s just selfish. Of course, you open up this stuff, and you’re going to be thankful that your friends/family thought to give you anything, but for ever $10 blanket, there’s a $10 bill for bottles or diapers or sheets… all the things you really need. (And let’s be honest: who actually goes and returns all the things they don’t need for fear that Aunt May will someday ask for a picture of little Joey in that adorable bunny costume she bought him?) It wasn’t their responsibility to get you everything you need for your kid, but in my experience (aside from the “handmade with love by grandma”, etc. items) there’s a lot more THOUGHT put into those not pretty, not soft, utterly mundane but must-have registry purchases, because they were purchased FOR the recipient, not for the giver.

  • Kate

    Maybe I’m biased because my family doesn’t believe in baby showers (bad luck and just kind of rude…) but this is all kind of ridiculous. Why are there so many rules and bitchy posts surrounding something that’s supposed to be happy and celebratory? But I think my sister did the right thing when she had her shower.
    First, they did it when the baby was a week old and she felt up to having people in the house. Then she also already had the important hit or miss items. It was also just people she would actually enjoy having over and enjoy having all over her baby. No strangers just for the cash flow. Mostly just family and long time friends. On top of that, our family kind of has an unspoken rule on baby gifts. Something useful (a pack of diapers, wipes, gift cards, free baby sitting, etc) and maybe something cute (blankies, onsies, and toys). We also come from a long line of not money. And the already mums know the deal. Cute is useless. AND always a gift receipt. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the frilly blanket or if you have two or whatever. If you want to return it for something you can better use, that’s up to you. As long as we get to provide for the new baby in some way shape or form, that’s all that matters.
    AND if some one doesn’t show up with a gift, who the hell cares? It’s about the baby and welcoming her in to the world. If you’re that embarrassed, just write up some coupons for the parents. Free babysitting, coming over and making dinner, playing maid for a day, just something to ease that stress of a new baby. It’s free and probably better than a stupid easter dress.

  • JessBakesCakes

    My best friend is having a baby, and I’ve known her since I was seven. I bought her some items off her registry, and bought some of my favorite books from when I was a kid. I wrote a personalized note inside the cover of each one to her baby about how I love to read and I hoped he would, too. Of course, books weren’t on the registry, but I think of it like this: everyone will be buying this baby toys and clothes. Auntie wants to do something special in addition to the things that are needed. I hope my best friend takes it as a kind and thoughtful gesture (as it’s meant to be) instead of an annoyance or a faux pas.

  • Marie

    Wow, just wow. I have made beautiful handmade baby afghans for each of my nephews and all of my younger cousins. At each shower they were squealed over, photographed, and later I was sent photos of babies wrapped in them. They take months to make, not to mention the years I spent learning the skills to make them. If someone refused one in the middle of the shower (how rude can you be!?) I would gladly take it back, because another lucky mom and baby would treasure it.

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  • hm7380

    One more reason I don’t buy gifts for anyone (or GO to baby showers). If you can afford to HAVE a baby, you should be able to provide what it needs for it’s *ENTIRE* life. What’s up with the entitlement mentality that people need to finance your kid?

  • Lisee

    Skip the shower and just put up a Kickstarter page.

  • Dramatic Anti-Climax

    Although I agree that presents shouldn’t be dictated, and that registries are more suggestions than anything else, I always wonder what the people who complain about etiquette actually get for new parents. Personally, I love registries, because I don’t like trying to read others’ minds and want to get something that they really want or need. There are duties for both the receiver, and the giver: the receiver, of course, should be grateful for anything, because nothing is deserved; however, the giver should be aware that their gift is within the taste and needs of the receiver, or else there seems to be a superiority complex, “I know you really wanted/needed A, but I know better than you, so I got you B”. So if a shower is really an expression of good will, then why wouldn’t a guest bring something that is either off the registry, or at least something that they know the parents want?

  • Sarahstired

    The first baby shower I attended I was in college and had no clue there was a registry so I brought a cuddly teddy bear. Everyone ohhed and ahhed and then afterwards someone said something about me going “off list.” I honestly had no clue and it wasn’t on the invitation. I was fairly embarrassed for my rookie mistake. After that I stuck to the list…until I had children of my own. Now I buy people practical things like size 1&2 diapers b/c that newborn won’t stay a newborn for long and I think you should have registered for them. If I am spending my money, I get to choose. I chose to be practical. You can buy all the unnecessary crap on your own. You will thank you for the diapers and wipes after the baby arrives and doesn’t want to play with the toys you got him..

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  • Payton Blake

    “But showers aren’t cheap to put on and you’re invited to help out with the cost of having a child.”

    Well, perhaps they shouldn’t have had a child to begin with then.

  • gammachris

    Gifts always have been, and continue to be a voluntary thing. NOBODY is obligated to give ANYBODY a gift. If anybody gives me a gift, I simply say thank you, whether I wanted the gift or not. A registry can be helpful for those who want to get a gift and need ideas, but again, buying from the registry is NOT obligatory. My only exception to giving gifts: nobody should give anybody something alive that’s going to require love and care afterwards.

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  • Jessie

    I agree with you. I don’t view putting registry info on a SHOWER invite as asking for or requiring gifts, not at all. It’s simply letting people know that, IF they would LIKE to bring a (by no means obligatory, let’s make that very clear) gift to said event, there is a place or places that would be good to look around in. I know the custom is that invitees are supposed to ask the hosts of the event, but let’s face it: That doesn’t always happen. For my wedding and bridal shower, none of my friends knew my family well enough to just call them up and ask that sort of information, so I kind of HAD to put registry info into the shower invites for the ladies so that they could spread it to the guests of the male variety and those who did not make it to the shower.
    Mind you, this was merely the SHOWER. I still would never dream of putting registry info on an actual WEDDING invitation, but bridal and even baby showers? Let’s stop pretending that we don’t know what they are: They’re gift events. It’s common knowledge that most people see the word “shower” on an invite and think “Oh, I should bring a gift of some kind.” I really think we hold the reins of ettiquette a BIT too tightly on what are generally informal events on the scale of brithday parties. There is still NEVER any excuse to DEMAND gifts or straight up ask for money of ANY kind (yes, this applies to gift cards, too), but I think putting the registry info on the invite to an informal party is relatively harmless.

  • gammachris

    Nope, nope, nope. A shower is to celebrate the upcoming baby. It’s NOT to supply the parents-to-be with all of their baby needs. I, myself like the registry, as it makes gift-buying easy. I’m also a practical person, and like knowing that I have purchased something that the parents will find useful. However, making sure that the parents have everything they desire is not the guests’ job. If you parents out there are having this much trouble affording stuff for your baby, then perhaps you should have put off having that baby for awhile.

  • Mines Chick

    I’m so glad that someone is putting this out there. (Not that it’ll change anything because the people who don’t buy from the registry KNOW it’s there and just don’t care). We had this happen with our wedding, and as we look forward to our baby shower, I’m sure it’ll happen again.

    Before people go off on me, I’m not dissing a thoughtful homemade gift or an item that I missed on my registry that, as an experienced parent you really think would be helpful, and I’m not talking about a grandma who has something extra special in mind. I’m talking about the people who pick up a bunch of random clothes or blankets from the store just because it’s easy and/or they didn’t bother to even look at a registry. Newsflash for the “vigilantes” out there: I would rather you not bring a gift than spend money on some random thing you picked up off the shelf because YOU thought it was cute that I will have to use space in my home to store. Parents don’t need 500 newborn outfits or 50 blankets – it gets overwhelming fast, and we’re already dealing with reorganizing the clutter a new baby brings.

    “Oh, but I put thought and heart into my gift!” they say, or “The registry is just a list of suggestions,” they argue. THINK about it. If someone tells you “Hey this is something I would really like to have” why would you ignore that? I put a lot of time and thought and research into every item on my registry so that no one else had to… it’s not full of huge luxury items or stuff we really don’t need. I’m sure that’s not the exact case with every registry out there, but I’ve been to my fair share of showers, and it’s bag after bag of baby clothes… I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pack of bottles or a changing pad opened.

    No, a shower is not meant to equip new parents with everything they will need for the next couple years, whether they can afford their child or not, but COME ON! Who doesn’t want to give a gift that is going to be USED? If you’re going to spend $10 on something, buy a pack of the bottles mom’s picked out, not another t-shirt for the drawer. Sure, the t-shirt is cute, but which one do you think she’ll REALLY appreciate? If you give her the thing she’ll use, the value of your gift is essentially doubled because 1) it’s a $10 item she’ll use and 2) it’s a $10 item she also doesn’t have to buy herself. You buy the t-shirt, and she still has to buy the bottles. You gave her a bill along with your gift. It’s not your responsibility, but it sure would be nice to get some help if you’re spending the money anyway… it’s just thoughtful, for lack of a better word.

    When I go to a bridal shower, or a wedding, or a baby shower, my number one step is to figure out the most useful and most mundane item they’ve asked for that I can afford. Odds are, it’s something that they could really use and won’t get. It’s not the prettiest thing on there, but they’ll use it. (I’ve brought garden hoses to weddings before.)

    Bite the bullet and THINK about what you can do for your friends and family. You don’t have to do anything, but if you’re going to do something, don’t you want to make the greatest impact? Buy the thermometer… or the next-size up nipples… or the curtain rod… the parents will thank you, even if the other guests don’t gush over how adorable it is. As a gift giver, you DO get to choose what you give – of course – but I don’t see why anyone would knowingly and willingly CHOOSE to give something that isn’t necessarily wanted or needed when the recipient has made it very clear the things he or she could really use.

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