Most first-time moms-to-be cannot wait to grab that register gun at their favorite discount, department, or baby store and go to town. But before you're off to the races, there is some etiquette required—or at least suggested—for the gift giving and receiving process.
Where to Register
"A major factor you always need to remember when registering is to have a wide range of prices," says Colleen A. Rickenbacher, a business etiquette expert and author of Be on Your Best Business Behavior. "Don't just register for items you can't afford to buy. Stay more in the low to middle range with a few items that possibly people could go together to purchase (stroller, high chair, crib). If your family and friends are spread out over a few states, then make sure you register at least in one store that is nationwide. Make it easy for them to purchase your gift and get it to you in time for the shower." Most stores will even deliver for a small fee.
Registering at one or two stores is appropriate. "Even if all of your guests are local, I highly recommend that you register at a store or stores that are convenient for your guests," Rickenbacher says. "Don't have them traveling an hour or so just to get to a specific children's boutique [where] you are solely registered. Leave those gifts at that boutique for close family members."
Alison Minton, an event planner and hospitality consultant in New York City, agrees that it's a good idea to have a range of prices on the register, but feels one store is plenty. "No more than two stores for registry, but best to stick to one (this isn't a wedding)," she says.
Spreading the Word
Should you print the registry information on the invitation? Even the etiquette experts disagree on this point.
"Even though the etiquette books will tell you 'not to include a list of items for the mothers-to-be' on the invitation, I highly disagree," Rickenbacher says. "In today's world we do not have time to respond to people and tell them where the future mothers may be registered or what is on their list. I feel you can very professionally place on the bottom of the invitation that name or names of stores where they are registered. Most people will respond (RSVP) via e-mail or voice mail so it's just more convenient and efficient that this information is provided for them."
Oliver Mims, an etiquette and manners expert, says while baby gift registries are no longer taboo, he is still a believer in leaving them off of the invitation. "In the age of electronic mail it is possible to spread the word by having the host send out a message with a list of places you are registered," he says.
Consider it one of your first parental responsibilities to have your registry completed before the invitations are printed or created so that the registry information can go right on the invitation, says Emily Miles Terry, coauthor of Nesting: It's a Chick Thing and columnist for Disney's Family.com. "I believe this is out of courtesy to your hosts and to your guests who will be seeking this information," she says.
Minton feels while it's more proper to let people ask about the registry, nowadays it's acceptable to insert a card in the invitation that states the theme of the shower and where the honoree is registered.
Kate Zabriskie, an etiquette expert at Business Training Works, Inc., in Port Tobacco, Maryland, has very strong feelings on the subject. "Although many stores will give registry cards to include in the invitations, I still find that appalling," she says. "Normally when the guest RSVPs she will ask where the girl has registered if she plans on giving a gift from the registry. The gift is from the giver and therefore totally up to her."
Only Off the Registry?
This brings up another question: Should guests purchase only off of the registry? What if you found something you feel is perfect for the mom-to-be, but it's not on her list or it is at another store?
"If the future mother registers than honor the time she spent in going to the stores and selecting all these possible gifts and purchase the gifts from the registery," Rickenbacher says. "There are a few exceptions to buying outside her registery. Your gift could be a family heirloom that is passed down generation after generation or you are traveling and you find a one-of-a-kind gift that you know she will love and will fit her 'theme' for the baby's room."
Dawn Sepaugh, a mother of three from Kirkwood, Missouri, still treasures many of the gifts she received at her shower. Some were on her registry, some were not. "While I did register for my shower, I was not offended and did not even expect my guests to buy just from the list," she says. "Some of my favorite gifts were gifts friends and family bought that weren't on my list. Many were even handmade, like a crocheted blanket from my co-worker."
Keep It in Perspective
Registering for Baby is fun, but it's best to consider it a guideline and keep it in perspective. "Register and hope guests purchase gifts from the registry," Minton says. "But, it's important to remember that it is not up to your guests to underwrite your baby's clothes, furniture, toys, etc."
Zabriskie shares a story of the worst breakdown in etiquette related to gifts that she has ever seen, which was at a wedding: "The couple included a card that said, 'Our dream is to go to Barbados. For a gift we would like you to contribute to our trip at www.paypal.com.' How rude! It's your baby. If you want something specific for your baby, you can buy it."