Etiquette may not be at the forefront of most parents’ minds when a baby is on its way but there are British cultural traditions about announcing births, and it is always helpful to remind yourself (well before the birth) of traditional customs. Inevitably, personal style will always play a major role when it comes to the choices of any given family, and there is no right or wrong way of announcing the arrival of a baby. Social media now plays an important role, and some couples will opt to go down this contemporary, rather than the traditional, route.
Traditionally, it is the father’s responsibility to spread the good news, but a grandparent or other relation often shares the duty. Immediate family and close friends should be informed as soon as possible by phone; it is sensible to prepare a list in advance of those nearest and dearest that require a phone call.
Other family and friends can then be contacted and it is customary to use other media – for example, text message or email – to spread the word. It is essential that the most important people have learnt of the news in person before it is announced on social media sites.
Cards, sometimes complete with a coloured ribbon (or a photograph), may be sent out at a slightly later stage. There are myriad designs available, so you can choose a design, or use your own photograph, and order personalised cards online. Conventionally, this card would contain the following information: parents’ names, baby’s full name, date and time of birth, place of birth, weight (if desired). Often, this may double up as a thank-you card if a present has been received.
If there are complications, the announcement may be delayed until the health or wellbeing of the mother and baby are known.
Birth announcements in the paper are traditionally very simple and succinct. Announcements are usually confined to the broadsheets – effectively The Times and Daily Telegraph, though fewer people now do both – or, if appropriate, a local newspaper.
A traditional announcement would read:
Mayhew – On 20th December to Richard and Emily (née Berkeley), a daughter, Olivia Anne.
Unmarried couples will use both parents’ first name(s) and surname. For example:
Maddox – On 20th December to Richard Maddox and Ilsa Curzon, a daughter, Alice Louise.
Single parents may use only one parent’s name. For example:
Jameson – On 20th August to Rebecca a son, Gabriel Paul.
If it is not a first child the sibling may be named (for example, ‘a sister for Joanna’) and occasionally the hospital (certain fashionable private London hospitals include the announcements in their package and always name themselves). Thanks to the medical team are less traditional but may be included and may reflect particular circumstances.
It used to be rare to announce the adoption of a child but is now much less so. Some parents choose to send out cards and the traditional wording would read:
Mr and Mrs Berkeley wish to announce the arrival of Thomas Edward into their lives.
A less formal and more contemporary version might be:
Edward and Charlotte Berkeley are thrilled to announce the homecoming of their son Thomas Edward.
There are no conventions that govern announcing a birth on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on, and the style and wording of the announcement will be very much dictated by the people involved. However, there are some issues that should be taken into consideration:
• It is a good idea to plan ahead when it comes to announcing the birth on social media. If they are inveterate users of social media, both parents need to agree a coordinated approach – a mother would be understandably annoyed to find that her partner has posted a blow-by-blow account of her labour on social media before she has even had a chance to announce the birth. Decide which platform/s you will using, work out the wording and decide what you want to do about photos.
• If you’re a friend of the new parents, you must not steal their thunder by announcing the birth to the world on social media. It’s quite common for parents to wait before making a public announcement, as they want to be sure that everything has gone well.
• If your friends have posted images of their new baby, you will of course want to like or comment. But you must not re-share the photograph on your own page – the new parents may be understandably annoyed to hear that pictures of their child are being displayed to total strangers.
• You can always take it offline – a heartfelt text to the new parents might well be a more direct and intimate way of expressing your excitement.
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