Tuesday, March 23, 2010

c'mon, let's shower together


As I've already expressed (in this post), I hate being the center of attention. I don't get any pleasure from it. But, as a bride, a certain amount of time in the spotlight comes with the territory.

Obviously, I've accepted that... since we're not eloping. The wedding with be the day when -- in spite of my introverted ways -- I want to mingle, talk, and celebrate with our nearest and dearest. Although I refuse to subdue my tendency to be shy to make other people happy, this is something I want to do for me.

But when it comes to wedding peripherals (things that are often expected, but not necessary), I get to pick and choose. Things like the first dance, the garter toss, cake cutting etc. are usually part of a wedding, but not at all necessary. And for us, these things are meaningless and (more specifically for me) they only give us extra worries. So we're cutting them.

Another aspect of weddings that I see as a peripheral is the bridal shower. So I'm debating whether or not I want to have one if the offer is made. Honestly, I could case less about having a shower. But I'm 99.9% sure that it's important to my grandmother and future mother-in-law. And since I don't have any problem with attending one, I'll likely jump on board if they want to host one in my honor. I'm close with most of my aunts and female relatives and even with some of Mr. FP's, so I think it would be fun to have an all-girls afternoon before the wedding. Plus, since I only have to show up, it gives me no extra stress.

However, there is one major aspect of bridal showers that I have a problem with: opening presents in front of everyone. And before you leave a "well, what's the point of having a shower if you're not going to open gifts?" comment, hear me out.

Traditionally, yes, the bridal shower has literally been about "showering" the bride with gifts. And traditionally, the main (if not only source) of entertainment at a shower is when the guests watch the bride unwrap the gifts. Of course, brides.com and The Knot agree:

Q: I'm really shy. Do I have to open presents in front of everyone?

A: Sorry to say it, but yes. When guests take the time to buy you the perfect bridal shower gift, they expect to see you open them (and enjoy your reaction to them!).

Surprisingly (to me, at least), so do most of the people on WeddingBee, since 79% of people who replied to this poll think it's rude not to open gifts. Honestly, this shocked me. The WeddingBee, despite its downsides, usually features members who are quite open to non-traditional ideas. I've seen threads in support of everything from dry weddings to potluck weddings and everything in between, but for this, the members seem adamant.

So it appears the wedding community has once again ruled. Even though a bride like me doesn't want to include a certain traditional aspect of the wedding experience because it makes her incredibly uncomfortable, she's just going to have to suck it up. Just deal with it. Get over her self-centered, introverted ways and open the damn presents. Right?

Um, no. Actually, um, hell no.

If I don't want to open presents at the bridal shower, I ain't doin' it. For me, it's a legitimate concern. I don't want to be nervous, stressed or worried. And if I put myself under the spotlight, that's what will happen. Maybe that's wrong, maybe I'm crazy, maybe that makes me a bad bride. But I don't care; it's how I feel.

Let's just take a moment to respond to some of the comments that this poor girl received in the WeddingBee thread, shall we?

"yeah sorry - the whole point of a shower is to shower the bride with gifts, so you have to open them. if you dont then why have a shower? just have a tea or party or something of the like where there isnt a requirement for presents."

The gifts will still exist even if they're not opened during the party. There's nothing implicit in the title of "bridal shower" that says she has to open them. After all, it's not called a "shower-the-bride-then-watch-her-open-all-the-presents" party. I don't understand how it somehow makes it less of a "shower" if the presents remain unopened. If I don't include a first dance or cake cutting on June 26th, does that make it any less of a wedding? No, of course not. And a bridal shower is exactly the same thing. It's not suddenly going to be less of a party, less of a gathering of female friends and family, or less fun because people don't get to gawk at the presents.

"Sorry, but yes, it's rude to not open the gifts while there and yes, people will be offended. I put a lot of time and thought into the gifts I give,and the most pleasure I get is from seeing their expressions. For birthdays and holidays, how would you feel if the people you gave gifts to took them home and didn't open them?"

Honestly, I would feel fine. In fact, I couldn't care less. As a gift-giver, I just want to know that the gift was appreciated. I don't need to see the reaction. That's what Thank You cards are for.

Plus, if I was a guest at a party and I knew that the bride (at a shower) or child (at a birthday party) was incredibly shy and would be made to feel uncomfortable whilst opening my gift in front of everyone, I would feel incredibly guilty. I wouldn't want to be the reason they were made to feel self-conscious or uncomfortable.

"Open them. I was a guest at a shower where the gifts were not opened and I was (and still am) hurt/angry/disappointed/offended. Also, we brought multiple gifts but only put our name on one of them because we expected them to all be opened together at the shower. I guess they got split up when they were put in the car because we only got thanked for one gift in their thank you note."

Seriously? Someone out there is harboring anger over an unopened bridal shower gift? Even after being thanked? C'mon, people. It's just not that big of a deal.

Okay, ranting done. My annoyance has been released. I'm all better.

In spite of my clear opposition to how the mainstream wedding community feels about this subject, I do understand the other side. And I anticipate that a few of the readers are on the other side, which is cool. It is fun to see the reactions of someone you buy a gift for, I get that. But from the perspective of a shy person: 1) how surprising is it going to be considering she probably registered for the gift? and 2) why would I, as a bridal shower guest, want to cause the discomfort of someone I love?

I also understand that the more traditional folks at any potential bridal showers that are hosted for me will probably think it's strange that the gifts aren't opened. But that's okay. It may sound selfish, but since it is a big deal to me, I'm doing what I want regardless of what other people think or feel. If it was important to others and I genuinely didn't care, it would be a different story. I'm not against compromise. But I'm not going to compromise my strong feelings just because someone might be mildly weirded out. Let me say it again: I'm not going to compromise my strong feelings to avoid offending someone. More of us need to say that to ourselves every day. This has been our policy -- mine and Mr. FP's -- throughout the wedding-planning experience, and it remains strong in this case. Plus, what are the chances that someone will be so "offended" or have enough gall that they feel the need to complain to me? In my Irish family? Chances are slim. We don't talk about anything.

Let's keep in mind people, brides aren't entertainment props and our wedding is not a show. It's just not worth it to make the brides out there feel pressured to comply to the standards of the wedding industry. Whether it be the bridal shower, the garter toss, cake cutting, or anything in between; what the industry says doesn't matter, it's all about how you/we feel. Just because we've always done it one way, doesn't mean we have to keep doing it that way.

p.s. Plus, I found this article from Miss Manners. And she said I was right. Ha! Take that wedding industry!


Dana said...

Ha! I'm the one who posted that question on the 'Bee last month. And guess what - if I have a shower, I'm still not going to open my presents in front of everyone! So there!

But seriously, I'm probably going to ask my girls to throw me a display shower, which means that none of the gifts are wrapped and I can thank my guests as they arrive. Then we'll just get down to the eating, drinking and hanging out, which sounds way more fun for everybody involved. Watching someone open presents is BORING.

Ellie said...

Oooh - I like the idea of a "display" shower or even a potluck shower in which guests bring a recipe and the food in a dish or on a serving platter, and the bride/groom keeps the dish and the recipe.
Because, and I say this honestly, I'm pretty much with everybody else on this one. Yes, Miss Manners has a point - but her problem is with how we throw parties, not the tradition of opening gifts. Can you imagine a Christmas morning in which the kids opened their gifts from Santa in their rooms? It would be sad.
I love love love giving gifts, and I love seeing the looks on people's faces when they realize what I got them. But I also put a significant amount of thought into gifts, compared to people who buy gifts off a registry - and I hate showers where people buy stuff off the registry. I've already seen your registry, I don't need to just see the items held up and passed around, so I do see your point there.
Chances are though, from what you've said about your FMIL, you will be expected to open the gifts, so why not pre-emtively come up with a way to make it less painful? Maybe a book shower, where guests get you a book and then when you pass those around, it's at least more interesting, plus they will be a surprise. Maybe you could hand out "thank you note madlibs" to guests to have them fill out while you open gifts and then have them read them at the end and select a winner...

But if you really don't want to open the gifts, call it something other than a shower, because then nobody will get all "that's the point of a shower".

Vee said...

I am so with you. I actually had posted the same question to the Bee a few days before, but I'm a thread killer and very few people answered my question (those that did all said I had to open them). Frankly, I HATE that part of showers where I have to watch the bride/momma-to-be open gifts. It's not my idea of a good time, especially if there is food to be eaten and wine to be drunk. I just don't understand what the big deal is???

Erica said...

Honestly, the thought of not opening gifts at a bridal shower had never even occurred to me until I read this post. If I went to a bridal shower and they didn't open gifts I think my reaction would be "hmm...that's different" and then be happy that I can mix and mingle and nibble on yummy finger foods some more instead of having to sit around and watch the bride open a gigantic pile of gifts. Not to mention the inevitably awkward lingerie gifts. Eww.

As for people being offended...that's just stupid. I cannot even fathom how someone could get offended that you opened their gift in private.

Lisa said...

the whole shower thing itself makes me uncomfortable....i'm trying to rally the troops for pizza, wine and craft making instead. also, stick to your guns! don't open them if you don't want to!

landlocked bride said...

This is part of the reason why we are doing a couples' shower, so we are both forced to open any gifts. But, I don't think there are rules. Wedding gifts are not opened in front of people (only some follow this tradition, but the tradition used to be to have the gifts shipped to the bride's parents' house prior to the wedding).

Margaret said...

It makes me kind of nervous to watch someone open a gift I've given them, particularly if I don't know them well, or if I got them something they asked for (i.e off their registry/wish list), because I feel like *they're* going feeling pressured to act surprised/delighted. It's even worse if there's a roomful of other people watching.

So I for one would actually be relieved to have the opening done without me.

Kaitlyn said...

Wow, I would be thrilled to attend a shower where the bride didn't open the gifts, like Erica said above. It's more of a chance to eat and mingle, rather than sit in a circle with no interaction with anyone else. Plus, with the gift opening, some showers can last hours!

Don't get me wrong, I fully anticipate opening all the gifts at my shower, I just can't imagine being upset if I went to one where that didn't happen!

Mrs T said...

I totally feel you on this one. I am one of those people who has no poker face. If I hate your gift - you're going to know - regardless of what I say. Christmas day at the inlaws is always stressful - they buy me the weirdest crap!

Cupcake Wedding said...

It's boring to watch people open gifts. You are doing most of them a favor. However, you have to realize some people aren't going to like it. Just shrug that off. We can't please everyone, so we might we well please ourselves.

Jen said...

Agreed. Its boring to watch people open gifts. and its awkward to open gifts when everyone is watching. I want to have a shower around a fun activity where my mixed group of ladies can bond and have fun and get to know each other instead of just watching me. We also don't have much of a registry, so I'm going to say that gifts are not expected and will be opened privately if given.
I will enjoy this more and think the guests will too!

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