We did this for my sister when she was expecting her first child. She was living in Germany (military) and we were all in Alaska so throwing her a shower with all of us there was just not an option (our father was nearing the end of his terminal illnes).
We had a wrapping party. It was strictly family and 2 close friends who are considered family, about 7 total. We brought our gifts unwrapped and showed each other what we got. My aunt took photos of everyone wrapping and we boxed everything together and shipped at once. My older sister put together a little album of the photos for her to open last.
We arranged for some of her friends to be at her place when the packages arrived with some refreshments and they brought there gifts at that time as well.
I feel given our circumstances, this was our only option to celebrate for her before my nephew was born.
I think that this is a nice, thoughtful way to handle it. In your case, all of your sister's family and friends were together and doing a great, thoughtful thing for her. The situation with my friend's invite as there is none of this kind of thoughtfulness or hospitality shown. It's basically, here's where she's registered, send a present by the due date. If all of the friends in the area got together to do pictures, etc., and came up with the idea together I think it would be great and perfectly acceptable.
Also, it sounds like you and your family initiated the event, not your sister. I think that's what makes this the most tacky. I've mailed a baby shower gift before but I also got a proper invite to a actual party. Not just a card saying "send gifts."
Here's my slightly related question that I have about baby showers thrown by the MTB (or FTB, I guess):
If a friend of mine is having a baby (1st
or otherwise), I'm going to send her (or him) a gift for the baby just to show that I care. The amount of the gift might vary based on my own finances, which number child (so a 1st
will get more than a 3rd
), and my closeness to the parent. If a couple has a shower they will get the gift then. If they don't have a shower, they will get the gift after the baby is born. Either way, I will buy a present. I assume that I am not alone in this.
So my question is why would one feel the need to host one's own shower? You'll probably get the same number of gifts anyway (just a little later) so why put off your friends and family?