Wedding Etiquette Forum

Opening Gifts at a Bridal Shower

Hi all!  I've been lurking on this board for a few months, and I have a question I haven't quite seen answered.  (Sorry for the wall of text.  CN at the bottom if you prefer to skip to it!)

I'm my sister's MOH.  Our aunt is hosting a shower for her next month, and my sister is insistant that she does not want to open gifts at the party.  She was recently thrown a small shower at work, and was embarrassed when she did not know what one of the gifts was and one of her 5th grade students corrected her in front of all the guests.  She is very hesitant to repeat this.

She is also concerned because of the amount of gifts she will likely receive.  We expect about 65 guests, so the gift opening would take a large chunk of time and she will be uncomfortable being directly in the spotlight for so long as she is very shy.

Is there a way for her to avoid this tradition without being rude?  Is there anything my cousins (the other bridesmaids) and I can do to speed up the process or lessen her anxiety about the process?  This is the first wedding being bridesmaids for all of us, and we all want to make sure that my sister remembers her shower as a fun party celebrating her marriage rather than a stress-inducing incident.  However, we also do not want to be rude to the guests.  My mother and aunt are insistant that she open the gifts at the party, but if there is a way to lessen my sisters discomfort while avoiding rudeness, I would really appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks in advance!

CN: My sister is anxious about opening gifts at her bridal shower.  Is there an ettiquette-appropriate way to avoid this?

Re: Opening Gifts at a Bridal Shower

  • I was anxious too, & was asked if I wanted to eat first or open gifts first.  I think if you let people go ahead & eat, then all of their attention won't be on her all of the time. I think she needs to open the gifts because people want to see what she has received.  I just decided that it was part of the overall wedding deal, so I sucked it up and dealt with being the center of attention---however DH was there with me for all but one of the showers & he's very outgoing.  Having him there helped a lot.
  • The purpose of a shower is to "shower the bride with gifts." I think it would be odd to not have her open them. I agree with PP, have them eating while she opens so its less distracting. She could always decline the shower as well.
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  • She really needs to open them at the shower. Try to have the people she trust sit close to her so others won't see/hear her as much. Plus do pps suggestion as to doing it while eating (or other distraction) is good too.

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  • I don't know what is correct etiquette, but I will tell you what I've seen & did. I've seen showers where they open them all & large showers where they don't. Honestly, I was very appreciative because 2 hours of gift opening gets boring (I've live through that too). I had a small shower, so it didn't take much time to open our gifts. In our community, you don't announce who each gift giver is. That way no one can feel embarassed that perhaps they were only able to afford a smaller gift. Perhaps that could be a happy medium for her?
  • In addition to what everyone else said, maybe you and the other bridesmaids could sit next to her, and exclaim "Oh wow, what a neat wine corkscrew!" if she is stumped about what something is.    This might help aleviate her fears anyway.  


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  • Yeah I think opening the gifts is kind of necessary; would her FI be able to be there as support?  That way she's sure to avoid a repeat b/c if neither she or her FI knows what something is that's not so embarrassing.

    Other than that having her open while the guests are eating might make it less "all eyes on her".  Or you could make a game out of the gift opening so there's something else going on.  I was at a baby shower recently where the hostess had an egg timer she set to a random time (less than 5 min) and when the time went off whoever's gift was being opened got a little prize, then it repeated.
  • I once went to a shower where guests played "bridal bingo" along with the present opening.  Everyone had a card with gifts from the regsitry, like towels, silverware, etc. and they crossed them off as they were received.  It was fun because it got everyone talking and joking as the gifts were opened, which took some pressure off the bride.  Plus the guests kept loudly announcing the gifts as they were opened (hoping to win!) not waiting for the bride to identify them.
  • I would definitely do a smaller shower if the invites haven't gone out yet.  That should make her feel infinitely better (I know it would me).

    I also told my mom my fear of not knowing what things are so we made a code.  She sat next to me and if I said, "Wow, look at that!" she knew i had no clue what it was and she could say, "Oh, what a great gift!  I've always wanted a _______________."
    CaitFins
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_etiquette_opening-gifts-at-a-bridal-shower?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding BoardsForum:9Discussion:8f509498-0353-4fa0-a49a-9cb0ac54a49fPost:101f3886-e009-412b-a112-06303e6c1478">Re: Opening Gifts at a Bridal Shower</a>:
    [QUOTE]Honestly - we didn't open gifts at either of our two showers. I did open them at the shower my coworker's hosted for me, but it was much smaller. If it's a large party with a large amount of gifts and plenty of mingling with food and drinks, I personally think it's fine to skip opening them infront of people. I had so many people come up and thank me for not making them sit through it. One thing I did have to compromise with that though, is I did set up a small display in our living room. I thought it was the dumbest thing ever, but for instance when FI's grandmother wanted to see what we got, she just came over and looked over the table.
    Posted by rachers1017[/QUOTE]

    We didn't open gifts either, and people thanked us for this, as well!  Ours was a co-ed cocktail party shower, with a large guest list (about 65 people), and didn't lend itself to gift opening, but people had a great time.

    Maybe you can change the format to be more like mine or what PP describes - a party that encourages socializing instead of sitting and watching your sister open gifts.  I totally know where she is coming from, we received something that I'm still not sure what it is, and we received several duplicates, and it just gets awkward!

    Good luck!
  • I think doing a sort of game to limit the amount of time she spends opening gifts would be a good compromise.  The whole point of a shower is the 'shower the bride with gifts' and that's kind of pointless if you don't open any of them.  I think the egg-timer thing is a good idea, maybe set it for 30 minutes, and whoever's present she's opening at that time gets a gift, and then you can go right into other types of games and announce that the remainder of the present opening will take place at the end of the shower, for anyone that wishes to stay to see the rest of them, but it makes sure everyone doesn't have to sit through 2 hours of just opening gifts.
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  • I think opening gifts at a bridal shower is one of Dante's 7 circles of hell.  It always seems hard on the bride (you have to like everything even if you hate some of it), is totally boring for most of the people there and is a weird tradition where you basically assess the loot you've been given in front of people.  Isn't it interesting that there are lots of traditions where people give gift (birthday parties, etc.) where you aren't expected to open the gifts in front of everyone?
    I haven't had my shower yet but I'm seriously praying that they don't make me do that.  When I was throwing my BFF her shower, we didn't open the gifts and seriously no one cared.  We had more fun having margaritas and food and laughing and enjoying each others' company that the gifts were secondary to "showering the bride with love."
    Finally, I don't tend to buy into the "you're the bride, everything should be everything you want exactly as you want it," but this is one time where I think that applies.  She's the bride.  The shower is there to love her not to put her on the spot with something that makes her uncomfortable.
  • If you're having a big shower, skip opening the gifts.  Maybe make a short announcement that since everyone was so kind, there are just too many gifts to open in the time you have for the space you're in or some such thing.  I agree that opening them is part of the fun, but if it's that many people, it would really be way too long.  Afterwards, you should all stay with her to open gifts and help her write out the thank you cards so she doesn't have that gargantuan task all to herself.
  • kimberlykhkimberlykh member
    500 Comments
    edited March 2012
    This probably goes against all sorts of etiquette, but what if she checks her registry the morning of her shower or the night before?  I did that (without looking who got it so there was still the element of surprise) to kind-of remind me what the gifts were and what to expect.  I THINK it helped.  Also, tell her it is normal and most are kind-of nervous about it. 
  • I agree with PPs' suggestions to find a game or some kind of timer.
    At the shower my MIL threw, they played "present bingo". Everyone had a blank bingo board and got to fill in their squares with presents they thought I was going to get. Then as I opened them, they marked off their cards til someone said bingo. Everyone got REALLY into the game and they were watching their cards and comparing with everyone else, chatting about it, etc. It helped move the presents along too because everyone wanted to move on quickly to see if the next presents would win it for them.
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    CaitFins
  • I would be put off if the bride didn't open the gifts.  Not that it's my favorite part of the party, but I spend a lot of time and put a lot of thought into the gifts.  I get really into my packaging and wrapping and I'd be sad if I didn't get to see the bride's reaction.

    Also, even if she doesn't open the gifts at the party, she should absolutely be the only one to write the TY notes.  Please don't go with PPs advice of having the BMs help with those.  Her fiance could help, but that's it.
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_etiquette_opening-gifts-at-a-bridal-shower?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding BoardsForum:9Discussion:8f509498-0353-4fa0-a49a-9cb0ac54a49fPost:4671f9ed-4a8b-4c20-b313-f90c9b04ab92">Re: Opening Gifts at a Bridal Shower</a>:
    [QUOTE]It's rude not to open the gifts. Period. The boring chore of opening that huge pile of presents one after the other is one of those dreadful burdens that a bride must endure as a consequence of accepting a shower. The guest took the time ouf their life to go shopping, select a gift, pay the money that they earned working at their job for it, wrap it,  and take time out of their life to attend the shower (which may involve a day off work for some, perhaps without pay, + travel expenses). Opening the gifts is the very least the lazy bride can do.
    Posted by RetreadBride[/QUOTE]

    It was certainly not out of laziness that I chose not to open gifts.  Considering about half my guests didn't even bring their gifts to the shower, but sent them before or after the event, I don't think they were chomping at the bit to watch me open towels - they sent a pretty clear message to me!  

    If it such an ordeal to buy a gift and attend an event for someone you care about, you can decline the invitation - it is not a sub poena, as people around here are so fond of pointing out.  Watching the bride open your gift and shriek over how psyched she is to get a set of sheets is not a reward for coming to a party being hosted on someone else's dime.

    Etiquette, as we all like to say, is about making your guests feel comfortable.  The behavior of my guests at my shower (sending their gifts ahead of/following the shower, thanking me for not putting them through gift opening), affirms my judgement that my circle is not interested in watching me open pots and pans for an hour. They preferred to spend their time socializing with one another/catching up with people. 
  • Thank you all for your suggestions!

    It's too late to cut the guest list, and as it is we've already trimmed it down from about 100 guests originally!  It sounds excessive, but our family is huge, and my sister is very close to her FI's large extended family as well as they all live in the same area.  

    I'll suggest doing some kind of game and see if she'd like that.  We're also having our food set out buffet-style throughout most of the party, so people will be able to wander around eating and mingling if they get bored.  We can also set out dessert during the gift opening to distract people.  

    I  really like the idea of using the timer and cutting it off after about half an hour with a prize for that gift giver, then finishing the rest at the end of the party for those that want to stay and watch.  I think that is a great suggestions.

    Thanks again, you've all been very kind and helpful with this and given me some great advice!
  • The last shower I went to, the bride enlisted her twin nieces (age 6) to help open gifts.  Little kids get pretty pumped up about present in general and it was great b/c the shower had about 75 people present.  If the bride had opened everything alone we would have been there forever, but between the bride and 2 little girls opening stuff the whole process took about an hour.  There was also present bingo going on and we guests got really into it, so like everyone else said we wanted present opening to go fast because we were excited about filling our bingo cards out, so having 3 people opening stuff worked out great.
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