If she lives in or near your town, then it's even worse. It like the "oh, let's just skip all the wasteful wrapping and boring gift opening" that people use to try to justify drop-off "nonshowers" or asking guests to pay for shipping or give only cash or whatever, telling themselves that it's for the guests' benefit or convenience. Fine, if you don't want the gift-opening part, then don't have a shower, just have some other kind of party. But then you don't mention anything about gifts. The only reason you can say anything at all about gifts (including calling the event a "shower," which implies gifts) for a shower is that opening gifts is supposedly the central activity that makes it a shower, not a tea or whatever, and you couldn't do it if guests didn't know they were supposed to bring "openable" gifts to the party. But not for any other kind of a party.
I've actually been to an unwrapped gift shower. It was a co-ed shower hosted by a guy who, for some reason, had an irrational hatred of the gift opening portion of showers. I never got why because that's the fun part about showers, but it actually turned out to be a good shower, though. Instead of a gift opening portion there was a display table were the guests could layout their unwrapped gift, and 'aww' over the baby stuff. He went all out otherwise: planned games and even got crafty and made a diaper cake by himself as his gift to the expecting couple. All of the guests left saying that they were pleasantly surprised, and it turned out to be a really good shower.
So it is possible to buck the rules without being a rude entitled host...but, I do agree with you, my example is the exception rather than how these things usually go.
I was invited to a no-gift-wrap shower (showers in my ILs' family are HUGE, and present opening is fun, but it can take for-ev-er!). I thought I'd miss it, but it turned out to be pretty fun, actually. The gifts were piled at the front, and then she just held them up.
I have given gifts that I couldn't bring, for one reason or another (in one case, I ordered them too late and it wouldn't arrive, so I had it shipped to them). I figured out all on my own that I could give some sort of stand-in, like a photo, or maybe an accessory (cake mix to go with the stand mixer--that sort of thing; or a set of picnic-basket flatware as the stand-in for the stainless flatware).