I went to a bridal shower for the first time in awhile yesterday. The young bride was lovely and gracious, and the hostess, her mother-in-law to be, had arranged for a very nice event, very simple and elegant. But when it came time for the bride to open the gifts, I was surprised that half of the guests did not even budge from their outdoor seats to join the bride and watch. What a change from the last bridal shower I went to, probably eight years ago. Then it was a mandatory part of the event— everyone sitting around while the bride opened packages big and small, the guests oohing and ahhing and the bride thanking the guest.
What's changed in the intervening years? For one, the internet registry. Many of the guests told me they'd seen everything she put on the registry just by looking on the internet, so what was the point in watching her open the gifts? I guess they felt the surprise factor was gone. I struggled with that one. I, too, felt that the wedding registry (which was exhaustive) mandated that I choose something so it could be checked off the list. In a way that made it easier for me, but in a way that did take some of the fun out of it. But not to watch her open the gifts seemed hard-hearted.
Some of these same women suggested that they now love the custom of "naked" showers. No, you don't show up in your all-together, but you are instructed to wrap your gift in clear cellophane and put it on a viewing table. Then the bride doesn't even have to "bother" to open the gift, she can just look at it and come and say thank you to the guest during the course of the shower.
That seems even less interesting than having the bride open the gifts, or more correctly, having her attendants open the gifts and hand them to her to make it go more quickly. If everyone is in such a hurry to rush through the gift-giving ritual, what's the point of having a shower with gifts? If we all feel that this custom has become too mercenary and impersonal, why go at all?
I suspect we all want to be included and invited and the price is the gift. We want to celebrate the bride and groom but we don't want the pressure of picking out something special only to find out the bride has returned it for something she "really" wants. Have we forgotten how to receive gifts, in the spirit in which they were given? Have we forgotten how to give gifts from the heart?
If the registry is truly just a checklist, then that also says something about the bride. But I saw the genuine joy in her eyes when she opened a couple of creative, off-the-list gifts. Perhaps she, too, had been wishing that someone would rebel against the pre-ordained and pre-determined, and allow her the opportunity to genuinely appreciate the care that someone took to find a special item the bride may never have thought of. Or maybe she's just a really gracious girl and a good actress.