Emily Postmodern: Is it Cool To Bring Booze To A Baby Shower?

A few months ago, while traveling, I received a Saturday afternoon text from a friend.

“Random question, but it is appropriate to bring a bottle of wine to a baby shower?” she asked.

“I think so,” I replied, “but just don’t forget to also bring something for the alcohol-abstaining guest of honor.”

The invitation said, “Let’s toast on the roof!” and I assured her that bringing wine was completely appropriate, but including a non-boozy but festive beverage as well would reveal her to all as the thoughtful lady I already know her to be. She mentioned that they had already sent gifts off the registry and planned to bring flowers — a thoughtful lady, indeed.

But, how to handle a baby shower with grace and thought? They can be daunting, especially if they involve multiple generations and diverse friend groups. IN the past ten years, I’ve been to baby showers at Grandma’s house and at the neighborhood bar. Each of these very different locations call for different behavior. For those of us who aren’t in the baby phase of life, or aren’t sure about babies yet or just didn’t grow up surrounded by the little buggers, showers are unfamiliar territory.

We’ve briefly touched on the booze question, but let’s dig a little deeper. If you don’t know the parents-to-be particularly well, it’s always better to err on the side of non-alcoholic festive beverages. IN the situation mentioned above, the invitation specifically mentioned toasting, so it’s fair to assume a bottle of wine is an appropriate BYOB. However, even in the case of an invite that mentions toasting, waltzing into the soiree with a bottle of Patron and lime slices for body shots might be interpreted as a little insensitive, even if you bring the guest of honor some sparkling cider.

On the other hand, if you’re invited to a more old school, ladies-only-guess-the-candy-in-the-diaper function at someone’s great aunt’s house in the suburbs, you might be walking into an affair where even the most tasteful bottle of Chardonnay seems inappropriate. Sometimes invitations take a little reading between the lines. If you can’t figure out the tone of the gathering, don’t be afraid to contact the host and ask if there’s anything you can bring to contribute. No one ever thinks poorly of someone who asks if they can contribute.

Any life event that has a gift registry can both relieve and increase anxiety. It’s nice to have some suggestions about what to give, but sometimes picking something off a list removes the personal touch you might be going for. Not to mention the situation we’ve all found ourselves in at least once: by the tie you go to buy something from the registry, everything in your price range is already purchased. So, is it okay to buy something off the registry? The answer is of course, but with a caveat — don’t go showing up with a diaper pail and sixth months’ worth of formula that hasn’t been requested. If you’re going to go off registry for a baby shower, feel free to buy a teeny-tiny baby outfit or super-squishy stuffed animal, instead.

What if everything left on the registry is just an assortment of small items that don’t feel like a whole gift? It feels funny to compile a gift bag with a smattering of pacifiers, burp cloths, and itty-bitty baby socks. An assorted collection of baby ephemera will feel a little less random if you pair it with a book or another small item that has meaning for you. Don’t be afraid to think ahead, either. Your pregnant friend might find themselves with enough onesies for every newborn in the maternity ward in September, but wake up one crisp November morning to discover that they don’t have a single cold weather garment for their three-month old. And, as much fun as it is to pick out those hilariously miniature pairs of Air Jordans or Converse Small Stars, gifting the parents-to-be something for themselves is also a great gesture. I can’t imagine a single occasion when a FreshDirect gift card wasn’t welcome — baby on the way or not. A seven pound tyrant is about to descend upon their household. Arming them with provisions won’t hurt.

The conundrum of a baby shower gift is finding the balance between utility and meaning. Don’t let that hinder you, though. Remember, sometimes the bulk package of baby bottle replacement parts and bibs can be just as considerate as that monogrammed sterling silver baby rattle. It all depends on how you present it.

Julianna Rose Dow is a thank-you note enthusiast working in higher-ed communications and marketing in NYC. She likes puns, telling people what to wear and baking with bourbon. Got a burning etiquette question? Drop her a line here.