If planning this wedding has taught me anything, it is that I am a blundering idiot when it comes to etiquette. In general, I think that I am a polite person and a good hostess. I can talk a blue streak to anyone, and I feel comfortable hosting a party. HOWEVER. I feel decidedly awkward when it comes to being the center of attention. I would hate for anyone to feel that I am demanding or greedy or narcissistic. I think all human beings can be a little demanding/greedy/narcissistic; I’d just prefer to be on the lower end of the scale for these attributes.
Unfortunately, I feel like I have to face these things when it comes to wedding-associated events. Generally speaking, while planning a wedding one cannot avoid asking for things, placing direct or indirect expectations on people to give gifts, and the spotlight certainly cannot be avoided. What one does and how one does it is being closely scrutinized, right? Or is this all in my paranoid head?
I did a decent job keeping the gift giving on the down low. When my Martha Stewart to-do list told me that it was time to register, we registered…but didn’t really tell anyone. When we sent out save the date cards, we put our wedding website on it which has registry info…but again, we didn’t draw attention to it.
Then about a month ago plans were put in place to throw a bridal shower in my honor. All the important ladies in my life are pitching in to throw a nice little afternoon get together with my closest friends and family. Food is being prepared, games are being planned, and invitations with registry info are being sent out. Everyone is being really lovely about everything.
Inside, I am cringing a little.
I blanche a little every time someone asks me a question about our registry, and while I’m looking forward to socializing and eating food (my MOH is a seriously awesome chef), I am totally dreading the unavoidable moment when I have to sit down in front of everyone and open gifts. I find this rather ironic since I love going to parties and watching people open gifts! It’s pleasant, it’s fun, it’s nice to see what things people get. But when it comes to my turn, I get butterflies.
Why is this? Is it because I’ll be opening gifts and feigning surprise over something that I’ve picked out myself? Is it because I’ll probably open gifts that weren’t on our registry that maybe I won’t care for? Is it because I’ll probably open cards with money in them? How do you graciously open gifts in these situations when everyone is looking forward to your reaction? How does someone who detests being fake put on the fake face and muster up a genuine smile no matter what? Help!
I voiced these concerns to my mom who reminded me of a birthday party I had had when I was a little girl where I opened a gift that happened to be a Barbie doll that I already had. She told me that she sweated for a second worried about what I’d say but that I smiled at the little girl who had given me the gift and gave her a big fat thank you before moving on to the next gift. Oh. Okay, I can do that. My mom’s anecdote gave me a little hope that certainly I may have retained this gift opening ability from my childhood.
After researching some shower etiquette and gift opening tips, I felt a little better. Here are some things you should NOT do:
1) Refuse to open gifts. Not nice. Will cause drama. Now you’re REALLY the center of attention.
2) Hide. They will eventually find you. They know where you live.
3) Drink heavily before entering the shower…unless everyone else is. J
Here are some crib notes of ten things we SHOULD do at a shower. (I will read these three times before entering the bridal shower):
1) Remember that while this party is thrown in your honor, it’s not actually all about you. While YOU may not want to open gifts, your guests probably are looking forward to this part.
2) If you registered, you will most likely receive presents off of your registry. You don’t have to act surprised. Rather, you can tell everyone how you’ve been looking forward to this and how you plan on using it.
3) Even if you’ve registered, you will probably have guests who would prefer to buy you something else…maybe something personalized or maybe some artwork even. You can definitely act surprised for these as, well, it’s a surprise! Compliment the item, and ask the gift-giver a question about it – This is amazing/gorgeous/useful! Where did you find this? Did you notice that we had forgotten to register for XXX?
4) You might receive cards with money, checks, or gift cards in them. Tell them that you registered at the XXX store because you LOVE shopping there, so you can’t wait to use the gift card down the road, maybe for XXX.
5) You may receive a duplicate gift. This happens sometimes if someone doesn’t tell the cashier or the cashier incorrectly enters the info into your registry. Look up and laugh because it’s not a tragedy and say something to the effect that so and so have equally great taste evidenced by picking out the same gifts.
6) You will quite possibly receive a gift or two that you just plain don’t want or don’t like. (At their wedding shower, my parents received planters fashioned as outhouses with their names engraved on them as gifts…from my grandmother.) Follow the same protocol as when you receive anything that you didn’t expect. After the shower you can decide what you want to do with the item (use it, return it, re-gift it, etc.), but for now, it’s the thought that counts.
7) With any gift, you should say aloud who gave it, and you will want to read the card before opening the gift. That’s just niceness, and we are not three. Card first. Gift second.
8) With any gift, you definitely need to look up and make eye-contact with the gift giver so that you can give them a genuine thank you and a smile. Whether you love the item or not, whether you feel awkward or not, this person spent time and/or money to come to the shower, and that makes them as much of an honored guest as you are.
9) Have someone on the side writing down who gave what because right after that shower is over, you should get going on those thank you cards. Each gift warrants a thank you card, and this is an etiquette rule that just doesn’t go out of style. A note sent in the mail is preferable. Etiquette says that the thank-yous should be sent out no later than two weeks after the shower. My advice is to do this right away while everything is still fresh in your mind and before you roll up the nice list that your friend made of who gave what to use to kill a spider in the corner or something.
10) Consider giving a small favor to your shower guests as a token of thank you. I personally will be doing this as I will feel better if I’ve given something back to my guests.
So this is what I’m ultimately telling you (and myself) today: Come on! Give the guests what they want! They are not vultures waiting to humiliate or torture you; these are your family and friends! Relax, open the gifts, and if nothing else, be thankful that you don’t have to open the wedding gifts at the wedding! J