The popularization of gender reveal parties seems to have originated in 2010, when Josh and Anna Duggar (of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting) cut a cake on the Today show to reveal pink icing. In reality, the earliest known gender reveal comes from a 2008 YouTube video when a couple simply opened an envelope and revealed to their closest family members the big news of “Boy or Girl.”
Because this trend is still relatively new, people are not quite sure how to approach these kinds of parties in terms of etiquette. Gender reveal parties are a relatively new concept, so the etiquette is still being worked out through trial and error.
In fact, even Miss Manners has not known how to deal with this subject. In 2014, she answered a question about the appropriateness of gender reveal parties by suggesting that they were “absurd theatrics” and “farcical.” Ignoring Miss Manners’ advice to forego them all together, many women are still looking for guidance on how to properly host their gender reveal parties.
With over 58% of women saying they find out the gender of their baby before birth, it’s no wonder they’re itching to share the big news. Yet older guests may have never heard of the Pinterest-y gender reveal party, so it’s important that guests understand what is going on.
Here are our etiquette tips for hosts and guests alike. Most of the following tips are based on traditional etiquette that have been modernized to help both the hosts and their guests know what to expect.
Are Guests Required to Bring Gifts to a Gender Reveal?
This is the number one etiquette question, and the answer is NO. A gender reveal party is not the same thing as a baby shower. If the gender reveal is hosted at a baby shower, you would bring a typical shower gift. However, if the gender reveal is separate from the baby shower, you are not required to bring a gift.
Some guests do still hold to the hostess gift any time they are invited to a party. In this case, you can bring some food, a bottle of wine (to be enjoyed after baby arrives), or a candle or small household item costing around $10 or less. If you choose to bring anything, it’s better to focus on the heavily pregnant mama-to-be at this point rather than buying baby clothes and accessories—those can wait for the shower.
However, as a hostess, you should not expect any gifts at a gender reveal party. That means you shouldn’t list registry information if you send a formal invite. If someone is kind enough to give you a gift, be sure to send them a thank you note after the party.
Who Should Host a Gender Reveal?
Traditional etiquette says that you should never host your own party or shower if it will be a gift-receiving event. Since we’ve established that gender reveal parties are not gift-giving events, it’s acceptable to host your own party just as you would for a backyard BBQ gathering.
Some couples choose to pass the baton to a friend or family member so they can be surprised by the gender reveal, too. In this case, you can still host the party yourself but have your trusted helper order the secret icing in the cake or fill the balloons with the appropriate colored confetti.
When Should the Gender Reveal Party Take Place?
There is no hard-and-fast etiquette rule here, but you really have two sensible options. Your baby shower will usually occur in the third trimester and you don’t want to have the two parties close together. If you find out the gender at 20 weeks or so, you may want to wait and throw a “joint” baby shower/gender reveal party. Otherwise your guests may feel inundated with baby parties.
If you find out the gender quite early through a blood test, you can throw the gender reveal party as early as three months gestation.
Can the Parents Be Surprised, Too?
Yes! If—and only if—you are truly, perfectly content with either gender. The same must apply for your partner. Many a gender reveal has been ruined with the awkwardness of one or both of the parents being subtly (or not so subtly) disappointed with the outcome.
Who is Invited to a Gender Reveal Party?
Most gender reveal parties should be intimate. Typically, you stick with the closest family and friends. Try not to extend toward more distant friends, acquaintances, co-workers, etc. The truth is many people in your life will be rather indifferent toward the sex of your baby, but they may feel obligated to come only to end up not enjoying themselves. It’s also a bit tacky to invite this entire list of people to both the gender reveal and the shower, which can be seen as a double-grab.
What Food Should the Host Provide?
Given that most gender reveals are casual parties, hosts have a range of options. A grill-out with hotdogs and burgers or catered meal seem to be the most popular choices. If you have a very short, informal reveal with immediate family, you can do punch or tea with snacks after dinner hours.
Most hosts also offer a range of pink and blue themed desserts like cupcakes and cookies.
Make sure to double-check your RSVPs to make sure you have enough food. Sometimes you’ll invite one friend who ends up bringing her boyfriend and so on, so you can end up with quite a few more than you initially expected. Always ask for a total headcount with each RSVP.
Should I Serve Alcohol?
A gender reveal can offer beer or wine, either provided or BYO. However, guests and hosts should not expect to have hard alcohol served. It’s also perfectly acceptable to not offer alcohol.
How Do I Send Invites for a Gender Reveal Party?
Keep it simple. Your guests already have a baby shower to worry about, too. If you go with too formal of an invitation, your guests may get confused and think it is the baby shower, or they may think it requires gifts. They might also expect a much more formal party than you’re actually planning based on a paper invite.
You can also choose to send informal invites through text, e-mail or social media as if you were planning a cookout. If you choose to go with a paper invite, make sure the guests understand the purpose and formality of your event. You may even want to send a dual invite with your baby shower date listed so they understand these are two separate events.
Should I Have Games?
While you want to make sure your guests are having fun, you don’t necessarily need games to keep them entertained. Baby showers are still the queen of cheesy games, so don’t feel pressured to come up with something elaborate.
In fact, most guests will prefer to simply enjoy each other’s company and nibble on good food. At most, we recommend having a simple bet placed by each guest on whether they guess the baby is a boy or girl.
Some parties have gone a little too extreme by asking guests to attend wearing a shirt or dress in pink or blue based on their guess: don’t do this. Not only is it considered rude by traditional etiquette to dictate clothing (outside of formality recommendations), but most your guests will be annoyed at having to find (or even buy) something to wear lest they not “fit in” at the party.
Social Media Problems
Everyone loves sharing their fun times on social media, but some moms-to-be are not yet ready to go that big. They may have a special photo planned to announce the gender on their own Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
As a guest, you should never reveal the gender on your social media unless you have the permission of the mom-to-be. If you take any exceptional photos, send them to her or the father-to-be so they can have it for their personal albums.
Keep in mind that these are our recommendations based on experience with hundreds of gender reveal parties. The primary goal with any etiquette decision is to make sure your guests are comfortable. Even though this party feels like it’s all about you, your partner and your soon-to-be-born baby, it’s important that your guests enjoy themselves. They can best do this by understanding what to expect at your party, so don’t be afraid to spell it out.
As a guest, you can also avoid an awkward faux pas by simply asking questions about what’s expected of you.