Clearly tacky?

I was going to dig into my archives today today to finally feature some of those previously answered reader questions that are waiting for their 15 minutes, but I received a query yesterday afternoon that was too intriguing to put off. The question was simply this:

Have you heard of cellophane parties? Apparently, this is a “new tradition” in bridal showers where guests are asked to wrap their shower gifts in cellophane. Gifts are then displayed on a table for other guests to see, but the bride never unwraps them all, presumably “saving” everyone from a tedious, lengthy gift-unwrapping session. Are these as tacky as they sound?

Color me out of the loop, for I have never, ever heard of a cellophane party. The term itself conjures up images of wild fĂȘtes of yesteryear best forgotten, but brings to mind nothing even remotely resembling an event that typically includes grandmas and great aunts. For the person who posed the query, I did a Google image query with SafeSearch off and still found naught but cellophane and boobies of the usual mammarical variety.

As for cellophane showers, I could not, in all my searches, find a single mention of this supposed new tradition. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of watching people open gifts because it seems so third grade, but that’s pretty much what a shower is all about. Like you said, without the unwrapping, the oohs and ahhs, and the making of the silly hat, it starts to seem like a gift grab. “Here’s a bacon-wrapped scallop and a glass of champagne, now hand over the loot!”

After all, the entire purpose of those tedious unwrapping sessions is to give the bride-to-be a chance to publicly express her gratitude for each and every one of the presents given to her, NOT to give old nosy biddies a chance to scrutinize each gift. Making said gifts visible does not absolve a bride-to-be from the responsibility of giving earnest thanks, and that takes time whether or not one is peeling paper off a package!

I recall my own bridal shower, at which three generations of women who might not otherwise have much in common bonded while watching me open prezzies while my mother stuck bows to the huge sombrero she forced me to wear. In return for their presence and their presents, I made sure to gush over each and over carefully wrapped box, from the one containing a lovely down comforter to one that held a meat thermometer…and I’m a vegetarian.

If a bride-to-be truly wants to spare people the tedium of watching her unwrap gifts, she should either request that her ‘maids ask that guests bring only themselves and their desire to have fun or learn how to keep a crowd enraptured by being as entertaining, gracious, and grateful as possible. In case you hadn’t guessed already, the idea that guests should wrap their gifts up like a package of chicken thighs is indeed as tacky as you imagined.

18 Responses to “Clearly tacky?”

  1. Stephanie says:

    Also, it’s not enough that someone is coming to your shower and giving you a gift, but you’re making demands on how they wrap it?

  2. Jennifer says:

    I was just at one of these showers for a person at work. They called it a “display shower” and I was told that it was “greener” to do it this way. Saving paper and all. I think that people just didn’t want to be bothered by the ritual and wanted to eat the finger sandwiches in peace, instead of the bride unwrapping presents. I thought it was completely tacky.

  3. Colleen says:

    At a shower I attended last year the bridesmaids had a game that I really liked. As the bride was unwrapping the gifts they set a kitchen timer for a random amount- say 2 mins or so, and when it went off whoever gave the gift the bride was unwrapping got a prize! They weren’t expensive, candles and such I think, but it added an element of fun as everyone waited for the timer to go off the next time.

  4. Michelle says:

    I HATE showers and always said that “When I get married, I’m going to host a virtual one. You mail me the present & I’ll send you back a Thank You card, a photo of me with the gift, a travel bottle of mimosa and a coupon for a sandwich from Panera. That way I get the gifts and you won’t have to sit through hours of Bridal Bingo and opening presents just for some booze & food!”

    Of course, now that I’m engaged I’ve decided not to put my money where my mouth is. While I do think I’m getting thrown some sort of party, I don’t think it’s going to be a shower in the traditional sense (it might be a cocktail party of some sort) & I refuse to open gifts there.

  5. Twistie says:

    Wow…that’s…something I’d never heard of and tacky as can be. And now I’m going to go scream with the full horror of the suggestion.

    After all, the entire point of the shower is that people give the guest of honor gifts and watch her open them. If the guests are bored by the idea of watching someone open gifts, they are absolutely free to refuse the invitation and send nothing but good wishes. If the bride doesn’t wish to bother opening the gifts, she is free to explain to her MOH that she’d really prefer not to have a shower. A shower is not a requirement at all. But if it is thrown, the point of it is the opening of the gifts and attendant gushing over said gifts.

    But really, of all the bizarre ‘traditions’ I’ve seen crop up since I started going to weddings – and I started going to weddings before the unity candle ceremony was invented! – this is one of the most bizarre and unpleasant.

    Let people wrap their gifts how they please. My guess is that this ‘tradition’ is being invented and promoted for the sole purpose of selling more cellophane gift wrap…or that one bride has a weird sense of entitlement and is making the most freakish demands she can imagine on those around her.

  6. Pencils says:

    Stephanie–I’ve heard of and seen showers mentioned where the hostess requests a certain type of wrapping, but usually it’s a color like pink so that the gifts match the color scheme of the shower. Which I guess is pretty, but is really going over the top. I seem to remember a “pink” shower in MS Weddings with a pile of pink gifts. It looks good in a magazine, but shopping for a nice present is hard enough without having to find the perfect rose-pink wrapping paper also.

    BTW, a cellophane party, if it exists, is tacky. The point of a shower is to “shower” the guest of honor with gifts and the guests should be allowed the pleasure of seeing their gift unwrapped and acknowledged.

  7. Kira says:

    My MIL asked my husband and I if we planned on displaying our gifts at the rehearsal dinner, which I guess was a tradition to show off your new silver and china rather than the duvet cover and mixing bowls that were on our registry. This sort of reminds me of that.

  8. Twistie says:

    Kira, displaying the wedding gifts was indeed a long-standing tradition. I’ve seen engravings that appeared in magazines of the time showing the carefully displayed haul Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were given when they tied the knot. It is, however, a tradition that went out in most places about the same time as the horse and buggy stopped being the primary mode of transportation. It hung on in small pockets here and there for a couple more decades, but I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone doing it in at least forty years. And when it was done, they weren’t wrapped to prevent freezer burn.

  9. Or you could just skip physical gifts and ask for cash, as someone I know and who shall remain nameless has done. My fiance forwarded the registry to me (they are asking for cash for their honeymoon and this site facilitates that) and asked, “Is this tacky?”

    I answered, “Yes.”

  10. La BellaDonna says:

    My counter-proposal, should any bride-to-be or hostess-to-be have this utterly ridiculous suggestion offered, is that the GIFTS be wrapped in the traditional opaque manner, but the GUESTS be wrapped in cellophane.

    That should shush ’em.

    Although, in fact, the featured dress is significantly prettier than many wedding dresses have seemed of late.

  11. Twistie says:

    LaBellaDonna, I love, love, LOVE the way you think.

  12. daisyj says:

    Frankly, anybody who gets a gift from me that isn’t wrapped in laboratory bench paper and electrical tape should consider that they’ve come out ahead.

  13. I’ll admit to having wrapped gifts in newspaper, muslin, and other bits of stuff I could find lying about the house. I did try to at least make it look like it was done on purpose!

  14. Pencils says:

    Twistie–I remember a great scene in The Philadelphia Story where James Stewart is making fun of the huge pile of Katherine Hepburn’s wedding gifts, spread out on display.

  15. Emily says:

    I have seen a gift display. Mind you, this was the early 1980’s and it was in Maryland, but still and all, there it was in the bride’s parents’ dining room for all to see.

  16. La BellaDonna says:

    The gift display doesn’t bother me; it is a centuries-old tradition amongst many different peoples, and I’m a nosy creature intrigued by what people like to give other people. I buy books on material culture; I like going to museums; I acknowledge that I like looking at “stuff”, and I’m perfectly happy to “ooh” and “aaa” and celebrate with someone. I don’t think there’s something inherently wrong in a display of wedding gifts. In the 19th century, newspapers would actually do stories on the wedding gifts of the Rich and Powerful (and sometimes Famous) that were on display, and sometimes there were times published when the public could go and admire the dozens of lace-topped stockings with which somebody was starting her married life.

    I DO object to said objects being set out wrapped in cellophane.*

    *Unless, of course, one is displaying a grand trousseau of chicken parts.

  17. caripito says:

    I received my first invitation to such a “Cellophane shower” and asked the hostess to explain. She said her sister did not want a traditional shower, and didn’t want to spend time opening all her gifts. Since I had read all the above by this time I commented that it was somewhat controversial and let it go at that. In-laws you know – don’t make unnecessary waves – but it is a bit of a turn off. And practically speaking, most items are not obvious until the box is opened, are they? If you haven’t guessed I am an elderly great aunt in law, and I still believe in not wearing white or black to weddings as my Nana taught me!

  18. whachamacallit says:

    I think we need to be more open-minded about new traditions. Just as the previously mentioned gift display has gone out of style, maybe the boring two hours of gift opening is going that route, too. I’ve been to showers where the guests have been so bored that their own conversations got loud and rauccus, overshadowing the bride who was trying to be gracious for her gifts. Remember that the truly original intent of the shower was to provide the bride with goods she needed to pay her lover’s family’s dowry when her father didn’t approve of the marriage. THAT has since changed, so why can’t some of our original ideas of the shower?

    My best friend has requested a cellophane shower. We will be asking guests to wrap in a clear wrap, *if possible*, so their gift may be displayed for all to see, in leui of a gift opening ceremony so that the bride may spend more time with her loved ones. We will also include a tent card with the invitation so that the guest may write a nice note and their name to the bride, which we (the bridal party) will display in front of each gift on a long table. My best friend will, of course, still make time to see each gift and read the cards and personally thank each person. This way, though, other guests can eat and mingle while she’s chatting with and thanking, say, Great Aunt Rose about her new pots and pans. It also lets the “thank you” be more sincere, with a personal conversation, rather than a rushed public “ooh thank you so much” and onto the next one. It’s also a better system for someone who isn’t comfortable being center stage with all eyes on them.