Showered In Private

by admin on September 25, 2013

I recently attended the baby shower of a friend I’ll call Marcie. Her sister (who lives in a city about an hour away) hosted the shower but it was held at Marcie’s house. I know it’s usually considered tacky for a family member to host the shower–but whatever. (As a side note, Marcie and her boyfriend have a lot of friends and I’m certain someone would have hosted a shower for her if she hasn’t thrown her own.)

I searched high and low for baby items I thought Marcie and her boyfriend would like and would be useful to the baby too. The day of the shower when everyone arrived, gifts were piled into a corner, and people began eating and chatting with each other. About an hour into the shower I began wondering when she would open her gifts. Soon others and I began asking each other, “So, when is she going to open the gifts?” About an hour and 45 minutes into it I realized she WASN’T going to open them and left when others started to leave too. I was so disappointed!

I have 2 thoughts on this–first, when I give a gift to someone, it is theirs, and they should be able to open it whenever they please. However…in the context of a baby shower, it just smacked of “gimme gimme.” All the presents were stacked high into the corner at her house and it just seemed greedy. I had been so excited to see Marcie open the gifts I’d picked out and was incredibly disappointed she chose not to do so. Not only because I had spent a lot of time shopping for her, but because seeing what the mother-to-be receives is the highlight of a shower. It’s just so fun to see all the little clothes and things!

Later Marcie posted pictures of herself, boyfriend, and older daughter from a previous relationship opening the gifts on Facebook.

Was my disappointment an overreaction? Have you ever heard of the guest of honor at a shower NOT opening her gifts in front of the guests? Everything just felt very “stack your gift in the corner with the others and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out” to me. Would love your thoughts! 0923-13

Basically you and others were invited to a party celebrating the impending arrival of a baby and the entrance “fee” to this party was a gift.   Not opening gifts at a shower relieves the mother-to-be of having to express any face-to-face gratitude to specific individuals and further relieves her of the obligation to feign gratitude for items she would have preferred to have not received.   She opened her bounty of gifts in private where her disdain for the choices some gift givers made would not be seen.    The all important question now is whether she will write sincere thank you notes to all who gave generously to her.

Now you know the score on this particular “friend” so that you are prepared for the next event that has some implied expectation of gift giving.

{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Reno September 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I don’t understand. How is opening a stack of gifts in front of a captive audience less of a gimme pig then allowing the guests to mingle and socialize, opening them in private, and then sending out appropriate thank you notes.

Fine, feel hurt that you didn’t get to have the other guests validate your shower gifts. But I can’t imagine calling a friend a gimme pig just because you didn’t get that satisfaction.

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lakey September 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I think it is the combination of the shower being given by the sister at the mother to be’s home, together with their not opening the gifts at the shower, that makes the whole thing seem a bit off. But then I am one of those who enjoys seeing all the gifts opened. I’ve seen people being really creative with shower gifts; those are the ones that make the gift opening so special. The creative gifts have included photo albums with photos, large items containing a lot of smaller items according to a theme of cooking or baby care, sets of children’s books, handmade items, a cooler with picnic and barbecue supplies, a movie night combo with popcorn and snack supplies. I just feel that when people go to this much trouble many of them would like to see the reaction of the receiver when the gift is opened.

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Sara September 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

When I was pregnant with my eldest son, friends hosted a co-ed shower for me. When it was time to open gifts, people were invited to come into the family room if they were interested in watching, but others chose to continue socializing in the living room/kitchen/dining room. I thought this was a nice happy medium because no one was forced to watch present opening if they weren’t interested.

And I agree with the person who doesn’t like the silly games (especially the one where you have to look at melted candy bars in diapers and name the candy bar- yuk). I don’t like shower games either and neither did my hosts, so we didn’t have them at my shower.

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denise miller September 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I’m in the “would rather not watch people open gifts” camp. To the point where we do not open gifts at our kids’ parties. We actually, when asked, request people do not give gifts. I hate interrupting the fun of a party to sit around, try to get kids to sit around, and then watch open presents.

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AS September 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I am probably the minority here, but could it be that they didn’t even expect gifts?

I had felt very awkward opening gifts at my wedding shower (especially given that not all had brought gifts), and we had just 7 people. If it is a big shower, opening all the gifts would be… as someone said, boring!

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padua September 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm

i, too, detest opening gifts in front of others. when i had a baby shower, my mother in law, in a very dramatic show, presented me with box after box after box of gifts. she had my husband’s cousins marching in with them, making a big to-do about it. opening them was tedious for the other guests and her gifts were very passive-aggressive, giving me things she knew i didn’t want and had asked her not to get me (e.g., items she found on sale because they were chipped or worn) and i had to smile and thank her in front of our guests because i was stuck in a compromising position. maybe i now have gift-opening trauma, but i certainly can’t fault someone else for feeling the same way i do.

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Kimstu September 25, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Apparently Miss Manners has now gone on record ruling AGAINST opening of presents at kids’ birthday parties:

http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/miss-manners-advice/miss-manners-opening-gifts-at-kid-birthdays

The reasoning seems to be that the gift-opening ritual puts too severe a strain on the still-developing manners of the young guests and host, so it’s better for the birthday kid to open gifts in private and thank the givers individually.

I don’t know if Miss Manners has ruled on similar etiquette changes in gift-centric parties for adults, such as baby showers. I personally think a shower ought to include gift-opening since the gifts are the whole point of the shower, but I wouldn’t call a shower hostess actually rude for opting not to do so.

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Saucygirl September 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I agree that opening gifts at a shower is fun, but I don’t feel there was a “door in the ass” vibe, based on info given. Op said there was food, and she was there for a couple hours. Maybe since the sister was from out of town she wanted to have lots of time to chat and visit, versus sitting quietly while gifts were opened.

For birthday parties, I totally disagree about gifts being opened. Parties are normally two hours long. Opening gifts could take 30 minutes or more to open. What kid/guest wants to sit for up to half the party to look at toys that they can’t play with? Because opening the actual toy leads to chaos and mess, not to mention hurt feelings when birthday kid wants to open one persons toy but not another’s. also, with lots of parties being held outside the home, sometimes it isn’t even possible to open them.

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Shoegal September 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I’m not getting that it was entirely rude or tacky not to open those gifts if there was a whole bunch of thinking behind it. Perhaps Marcie and her sister thought that it would be in better taste not to open gifts as the main event thinking that it sent the message that we didn’t invite you here solely to gather up “baby supplies” or as an entrance fee to this “party.” They wanted the guests to eat, drink and be merry but still wanted to show they appreciated everything with the Facebook post.

I do have to admit though I would have also been wondering why the guest of honor didn’t open anything. The whole purpose of a shower is to shower “gifts” and that is usually what happens at those parties. But I also agree with the post that it is a little uncomfortable to be the person opening. At my own bridal shower – it didn’t look as if anyone was even paying any attention to me opening up the gifts. They all chatted and ate and laughed and I would have to shout out my gratitude. I couldn’t wait until it ended. I am also not one that enjoys being the center of attention.

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Ashley 2 September 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Lets not be judgmental to Marcie on this, she may have had some reasons for not opening the gifts at the party that we’re not immediately understanding. As long as she thanks her guests properly for them through a nice note or in person then what’s the harm? Also, what’s tacky aboout family members hosting baby showers? That to me is the most mystifying thing about this post.

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Marozia September 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Sadly, in this day and age, anything goes!!
I hope they enjoyed their gifts.

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Abby September 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

@ Reno- I agree completely with your post. Well said.

The OP seems to have an ax to grind with Marcie from the word go. From the inference that Marcie actually threw her own baby shower and just added the sister’s name as the host for appearance sake, to the interpretation that stacking presents is somehow greedier than not stacking presents, to the conclusion that inviting someone to your house, feeding them, and encouraging them to socialize with other guests for two hours is somehow akin to saying give me a present and then get out- not feeling a lot of love for Marcie from the OP.

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Garry September 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I am really not seeing enough background to justify such harsh judgement. I hope that not the trend of not opening gifts at the event catches up. It seriously is not fun to watch and it is not innately more polite or gracious. In most cultures it is considered very rude to open gifts in front of guest. People change the definition of showers to suit them. If it is to shower with gifts, well she was showered, if it is to prepare a new mother for motherhood, then the second shower is the rudeness here, or if it was to get together, chat and celebrate , then gifts should not be required and not opening them at the event just send out the message that gifts are not the main event. Which sounds far from rude imo.

Moreover etiquette dictates that we receive both a diamond necklace and garbage bags with graciousness, than what really is the point in wanting to see the joy of the face of the receiver, they are likely to be on autopilot anyway.

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RC September 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Team Marcie all the way! OP seems harsh.

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Alie September 25, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I personally find all the gift opening and cooing a little dull, so I wouldn’t mind in the slightest if someone didn’t do that at a shower I was invited to. I also remember how, at her baby shower (thrown by her friends), my SIL never really got a chance to eat what with the gift opening being really time consuming, which, given that she was 8 months pregnant, seemed a little nutes. I’d honestly prefer to attend a shower where the mom-to-be had a good time and the focus wasn’t exclusively on gifts.

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Alie September 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Another thought – maybe she was afraid the gifts would get separated from the cards? It’s good to have someone writing down who gave what and addresses, but it is a little awkward. If the guest of honor didn’t have anyone to do that for her, she may not have wanted to do that.

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Angela September 25, 2013 at 7:29 pm

When I was pregnant, friends of ours from work threw a shower for us. We were the first couple in a long time to have a baby and the shower ended up being huge. I was really happy and grateful but I did wonder how people managed to watch me open gifts for over an hour without dying of boredom.

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badkitty September 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Sorry to disagree with admin, but I hate opening gifts in front of people. You know why? Because it’s tacky. Opening gifts in front of a big crowd is an incredibly tacky, tasteless thing to do. What someone chooses to gift to me – for whatever the reason or occasion – is between me and that person. Why should I feel pressured to display exactly what each person spent, where they shopped, and how creative they are in front of other people?

OP, your friend did everyone a favor. If you really want to see her immediate reaction to your gift, ask to be there with her when she opens it. Admin, how were gifts any sort of focus or price of admission if they were never mentioned and discreetly placed aside?

If gifts were not required – and there’s no mention here that anything so tacky as that happened – then why should people who didn’t bring a gift have to sit through that awful display? There’s no mention of a registry, which means that there could have been duplicate gifts and that’s awkward for the gifters.

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whatever September 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm

In my mother’s culture, it is considered extremely impolite to open gifts in front of the giver- it implies that you’re a greedy, impulsive person who can’t even wait until the person leaves to open their gift. Of course, no one has “showers” in her culture. Still, I avoided having a wedding shower and if I have a baby, a baby shower, since some people are going to think I’m rude if I open gifts and apparently, some people are going to think I’m rude if I don’t!

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Angel September 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Not opening gifts at a shower just doesn’t make any sense. Being that the entire purpose of a shower is to “shower” the recipient with gifts–people want to see those gifts. If I wasn’t interested in seeing the recipient open the gifts, I would have just declined the shower invite and sent something later.

I understand not opening gifts at a birthday party–it interrupts the flow of the party and I think wastes time. Also a birthday doesn’t automatically imply gifts. But a shower certainly does!

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LizaJane September 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I’m not against showers, I just don’t particularly enjoy attending them. Especially when people cheat at the games. ( ;
Still, showers are gift-centric by nature so opening the presents during seems appropriate.
I don’t see how the OP got from the sister hosting the shower at Marcie’s house to Marcie hosting her own shower.

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Bethany September 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Hi! I’m the one who submitted this to E.H. Imagine my surprise to find my submission on the site today.
I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and comments. A little more background–Marcie WAS registered at several stores and everyone attending brought gifts. And Marcie is not shy, she LOVES being the center of attention. Marcie and her boyfriend are a couple that are well-loved, they have lots of friends, and there were probably 30 or so ladies at the shower. There was really no organized agenda at the shower–people showed up, mingled for around 2 hours, then people started leaving. It was all just a little strange. People seemed to be waiting for the grand opening of gifts and when it didnt happen people started leaving.
I still stand by my original reaction–I was disappointed that she didnt open the gifts, and it felt rude to me. Maybe I’m just old fashioned or a stick in the mud, but that’s how it felt at the time. My reaction was the same as the Admin’s.
To her credit Marcie did send me a thank you note that said “thanks for the gifts and for coming to the shower” (without mentioning what I have her specifically). But I appreciated the note.

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jaelh September 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Just a general comment about gifts and manners – there is enormous cultural variation. In many Asian cultures, it is the absolute height of rudeness to open gifts in front of people. Surely you’re not so greedy that you can’t wait to see what someone has given you!

We don’t know Marcie’s cultural background – might this have something to do with it?

(that said – count me amongst those people who can’t stand the gift opening.. I love to see someone enjoy a well chosen gift, but the group openings? ugh!)

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Library Dragon September 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I too would be glad to see the gift opening for any adult parties go away. I came from a family that opened gifts publicly at wedding receptions. Many decades ago friends and I were invited to German friends’ 50th anniversary party. We were shocked that they didn’t open gifts, but we were kindly told that it wasn’t done. Being gracious hosts they took our present and we went somewhere quiet and the couple opened it and thank us profusely. It made a big impression on me and from that time I’ve thought waiting to open presents later was more sensible and made the celebration less about the gifts.

I’d default to giving the mother-to-be and everyone else the assumption that they wanted it to be about sharing the expansion of the family with friends.

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NostalgicGal September 25, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I’d say just wait and see if thankyous are forthcoming.

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Lisa September 25, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I don’t see how not opening gifts is rude and it’s an interesting assumption that admin knows the motives.

Maybe the MTB preferred to spend time socializing with the guests.

I recall being very nervous about the time we spent opening gifts at our shower. The balance between spending time appreciating each gift and the fact that people only enjoy seeing THEIR gift opened. My point is … It’s very judgy to guess at their motives such as wanting to scoff at certain gifts.

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jen d. September 26, 2013 at 4:23 am

I dread the present opening at baby showers. It takes forever! Also, it can be embarrassing when there’s a double gift. I’d much prefer for them to be opened later. A thank you card is just fine for me…

I agree completely with the other posters who feel like OP has an ax to grind with Marcie. There are just way too many catty details (“daughter from another relationship” – really? That was necessary to the story?) for this to just be about the gifts.

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Elizabeth September 26, 2013 at 8:07 am

I would have been SO relieved to escape the bordom of ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ for an hour.

I think LW was expecting the ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ for her choices, and didn’t get the public approval. I am hoping you will recieve a written note which is all that can be expected.

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Raven September 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

Gift-opening can feel very awkward. I was fortunate enough to have 3 (!) bridal showers thrown for me this summer, and while I really, really appreciated everyone’s thoughtfulness, I hated everyone sitting quietly, watching me struggle with ribbons and tape, then ooooh and ahhhing. It felt very weird. I don’t know that I would have “preferred” to not open the gifts until later, but I can certainly see why someone might make that choice.

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Jen September 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

I think many people brought up great points that maybe Marcie felt it was rude to open gifts in front of people, perhaps felt awkward opening gifts that way, didn’t want people who gave less expensive gifts to feel awkward, etc., but that doesn’t quite gel with the fact that she posted pics to Facebook of her opening the gifts which, to me, seems like the rudest part of the whole story.

It flaunts the party in the face of everyone who wasn’t invited and anyone who might have been embarrassed that there present wasn’t as expensive or thoughtful as other people’s presents have more than the momentary embarrassment at the party, they have ongoing embarrassment because it’s been documented online for posterity. And if she didn’t post pics of every single present being opened, that leaves people to wonder if their present wasn’t up to snuff.

I feel that making an album on Facebook showing yourself opening presents is the equivalent of posting a large sign in your yard with a list of presents you received or taking out a full page ad in the local newspaper.

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Kate September 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Count me in as another person who would happily skip the ‘gift opening’ portion of a shower. Maybe the OP’s friend thought it would be boring for the guests to sit there watching as she opened a pile of presents (it can be very boring!). Maybe she wanted to avoid embarrassing some guests who could only afford some socks and a onesie, given the elaborate and expensive gifts that many guests bring to showers. I know I felt like crap at my first ever baby shower because I could only afford a small item and some guests spent a few hundred dollars. Maybe OP’s friend just didn’t want to be the centre of attention.
Either way, I think there are a few valid explanations that do not point to ‘Marcie’ being a selfish gimme pig.

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A Becky Lee September 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Like other said, Marcie may be from an Asian culture where it is the absolute height of rudeness to open one’s own gifts. It’s sending the message that you cannot wait for someone to be gone before opening their gift and is considered very childish (as in, only a child would have that sort of rude, impulsive behaviour and would definitely be disciplined by their parents if they exhibited that sort of behaviour.) We do not like to show emotions very much, us Chinese people.

Besides, Marcie may have a lot of guests because she is very loved and maybe she wanted to spend more time with them chatting and mingling rather than moving to contrived games.

When I was in University, a friend of mine was pregnant and I was invited to her baby shower. Being a foreigner, I had no idea what a baby shower was for, but was told that it was “a time to celebrate a baby being born.” So, I went to the party and, as was tradition, brought along some food as a gift (red cookies). I did not know that baby showers were for the gifting the parents with presents for the baby and while I had planned to give my friend something for the birth, I had not finished it. (Where I’m from, it’s customary to give gifts when the baby turns 1 month old.) When I got there, I saw all the baby presents and although I made cookies, it was quite evident that I had not purchased or brought a present for my friend.

Rather than subject me to humiliation for my faux pas, my friend graciously decided not to have a gift opening. Instead, she added more mingling time between shower games. I made a lot of friends that evening. Later, she sent everyone a very thoughtful thank you note about the presents. Of course, each one was personalised and she mentioned the gifts, but it was still something really sweet that she did for me.

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Rosie September 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm

@Bethany, with regards to the non-specific thank you note: The best one I got was where they were handing out generic thank you notes to everyone as they left party, before the gifts had even been opened, so they had no idea what to thank you for. But it was a non-American baby shower and they were trying so hard to stick to the American traditions that I thought it was a nice gesture anyway–points for trying and for making me laugh a bit.

One last thought on gift giving: generally the ehell advice seems to be that you can’t give a gift with strings attached, in expectation of getting something in return, and I think the same goes for the expectation of getting to watch the person open the gift and ohh and ahh over it. Now, not sending a thank you card is just rude, but I don’t think it’s fair to insist on seeing them open the gift and express their immediate gratitude.

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ImpossibleGirl September 28, 2013 at 7:27 am

I hate parties/showers where the guest of honor opens gifts – I think they’re so tacky. As a guest, I don’t want to sit there having to ooh and ahh at other people’s gifts. And what if my gift is much smaller than others? Or personal? How embarrassing! It’s also a boring time suck at a party.

The guest of honor should be able to open his/her gifts in private on her own time.

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Snowy September 30, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Is the mother-to-be an introvert? I’m one, and I find it difficult to open gifts in front of others, and the more people, the harder it is. I could manage a few gifts in front of close friends, but opening up a whole stack of gifts in front of an audience would take a tremendous amount of emotional energy, and might leave me unable to enjoy it. My gratitude would be sincere, my appreciation absolutely genuine, but I’d probably be shaking well before the end. Heck, just being the center of attention would be enough to drain me dry.

Could it be that that’s the situation the bride finds herself in, too?

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Daphne October 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Isn’t the whole point of a shower to give and receive gifts? That really is the focus of it. So people expect to see the bride or mom to be open her gifts. For most people I think seeing what everyone else gave is half the fun. I don’t think it’s wrong not to open all the gifts right then and there; but it’s also not wrong to expect it. Just know if you have an event called a “shower” and no gifts are opened you will have some disappointed guests.
I don’t enjoy opening/acknowledging gifts publicly or otherwise, so I have chosen to never have a shower. But that’s just me.

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