Ditching the tradition of opening gifts at baby showers is becoming more and more common these days. And I’m a huge supporter of that.
Let me start by saying that if you chose to open gifts at your baby shower, I am not at all implying that you did something wrong. If sticking to that tradition makes you feel celebrated as a mama, then go for it!
But for me, the idea of everyone watching me while I open gift after gift sounds like actual torture. And as I started to talk to other people about it, I realized many of them felt the same way.
Our societal norms have shifted drastically. Back when my grandma and my mom were having babies, women had more expectations placed on them.
Throwing a baby shower meant every detail had to be just right. From the decorations, to the activities, to the gifts. There was a traditional way of doing things and that’s just what people stuck to. These days, we have the freedom to do things based on what we enjoy, rather than what is considered “proper” for such occasions (thank God!).
So when my sister Brooke started planning my baby shower, I was quick to request that we ditch the gift opening tradition. Here’s a little insight into why I gave it the boot (and why maybe you should too!).
Ditching the Gift Opening Tradition at Baby Showers
BABY SHOWERS ARE FOR CELEBRATING
In my opinion, family and friends throw you a baby shower so they can celebrate the new life that you’re creating. When you get pregnant, everyone wants to see the belly and hear all the details about your changing life. Unfortunately, life gets really busy (and puke-y, and ache-y, and weird) when you’re pregnant. So most baby mamas don’t have time to sit and catch up with all their loved ones before baby comes.
That being said, I knew I wanted to spend quality time with each person who came to celebrate with me. Family drove in from out of state. Friends took time out of their busy schedules. I hated the idea of inviting all these people to come, and forcing them to sit in silence for an hour or two while I opened gifts.
My baby shower was small and intimate (which I loved), and I still didn’t get to spend as much time with each person as I would have liked! But the fact that I was able to sit down with each individual and catch up for a minute or two was priceless. That alone made ditching the gift opening tradition well worth it.
IT’S HELLA AWKWARD
Ask me to lead a group or give a speech, and I’m all for it. But stick me in front of a group of people and have me open gifts, and I’m going to be crawling out of my skin.
Whether its over an awesome gift or a delicious chicken sandwich, I’ll let you know when I’m genuinely happy. But I am not the type of person who has big outward reactions to things. I don’t scream, cry, or jump up and down when I receive an amazing gift. Instead, I’m the type of person who will tell you in words that I am blown away and incredibly thankful.
That being said, it takes a lot of work for me to have an equal reaction for each gift. I was so full of gratitude for everyone’s generosity at my baby shower. There’s no way we could’ve done this baby thing without the help and love of others. But I knew that wouldn’t come across as clearly if I had stuck to the gift opening tradition. Instead, I preferred to thank people individually and take the chance to remind them that I love them. I’ll get more into that later.
GUESTS HATE IT TOO
Before I made the decision not to open gifts at my baby shower, I talked to some friends about it. The verdict: its pretty awkward for guests too.
Guests are forced to find a place to sit, face the mama-to-be, and observe quietly as she opens a bajillion gifts. That alone sounds like the opposite of a party to me. And its even worse if you’re that guest who hardly knows anyone!
Tack on to that the fact that you’re bound to get repeat gifts. What do you do then? There’s no way to pretend to be just as excited both times. And your guests know that you’ll be returning one of those items. No big deal to some people, but super awkward for others.
The result is that everyone gets kinda bored, and your party starts to feel like an obligation. And that’s the last thing I wanted for my baby shower. Why keep up with a tradition that nobody seems to enjoy?
DADDY MISSES OUT
From the moment we even found out we were pregnant, I knew that I didn’t want Anthony to come to the baby shower.
To be honest, that choice was mostly selfish. I knew that sitting still and chatting with all the ladies about baby things was not his idea of fun. And if he was acting bored and tortured, that would’ve really bummed me out.
So instead, I threw a Gender Reveal Party so that all the men in our life could come and celebrate with us beforehand. (You can read all about that here!). That way, when the baby shower rolled around, we could each have a day to celebrate in our own ways. I got dressed up and stuffed my face with friends, and he got to enjoy a beautiful day on the golf course. Happiness for both of us.
Despite that, I did want him to be a part of the gift opening. We literally got everything we needed for baby, and he needed to feel that love just like I did! So after the baby shower, we loaded the gifts in the car and took them home. Anthony and I got to go through each one slowly, and together.
I could not have been happier with our choice. By opening gifts at home, I got to take my time and truly appreciate each item. Anthony loved seeing all the cute little things and we were humbled by everyone’s selfless giving. If I had rushed through the process at the shower, Anthony would’ve missed out on experiencing that joy with me. My advice is to take your time and soak it up. It’s worth it!
THE MONEY FACTOR
This was by far my biggest reason for ditching the gift opening tradition.
We’ve all been in a situation where you want to attend an event, but you just don’t have the money. Sometimes you don’t have the money to eat dinner at that fancy restaurant for your girlfriend’s birthday. Other times you just don’t have the money to spend on a lavish baby shower gift.
And I couldn’t stand the fact that someone might feel like they couldn’t come to celebrate with me because they didn’t have a gift. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a rare occurrence. Baby stuff is expensive, and I definitely did not expect for every guest to buy me a gift. But when we go through each gift one by one during the party, it becomes really uncomfortable to be that person who didn’t bring one. And if all you can afford is something small, its even more awkward to have your friend parade that gift around in front of everyone.
I’ve been there. I think everyone has been there. It shouldn’t be important in our society, and it certainly isn’t important to me. The people in my life who love me best and fill my life with joy aren’t the ones who buy me the biggest, most expensive gifts. They’re the people who are there for me no matter what. Money should never stand in the way of celebrating the creation of a new life.
So What Should You Do Instead?
You’re thinking about ditching this old tradition, but you don’t want to offend the guests who may not understand.
Been there, done that.
First of all, just know that some people will be upset. I certainly had guests who didn’t understand my decision at all. But in reality, your baby shower is about you. And every last detail should be exactly what you want. That’s not selfish; that’s literally the purpose of the party! To celebrate you and your growing baby.
In the case that you aren’t nearly as stubborn as I am, you may want to soften the blow for those offended people. Here’s how you can make your guests feel special, even if you don’t open gifts:
I love this idea! Its something I found on pinterest (of course), and I wish I would’ve found it before my baby shower.
Have the hostess of your shower include a little blurb or cute rhyming poem on the invitations, asking guests to bring their gifts unwrapped. Guests can tie things together with ribbon or twine, or place everything on display in a basket. Or they can use one of those clear wrapping bags, tied up with a bow. That way, all your gifts are on display for guests to see, and nobody will be disappointed that they didn’t get to see all the sweet baby toys & clothes. Its also creates another activity for guests and gives them something to talk about!
OFFER TO OPEN GIFTS ONE-ON-ONE
You obviously can’t do this for all your guests; that would be mayhem. But if you have someone in your life who really wants to watch you open their gift, then set up a time to do that with them!
In my experience, its going to be your mom, grandmother, or siblings who want to do this with you. They usually know you best, and spend time finding special things for you. So if you think they might be upset that you aren’t opening gifts at the shower, contact them beforehand and offer to do it one-on-one!
I even had a few friends who bought or made me something really special, so they snuck me away for a peek at it before other guests arrived. I loved that, and it was sweet to share a few moments cherishing that gift in front of them.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS SEND THANK YOU NOTES
I know, I know. This whole post is about ditching old traditions. And in this time of technology, what’s more old-school than a hand-written note?
I’m telling you, ladies, this is important.
There’s a unique energy that is associated with handwriting. It is so specifically and beautifully you. When special people in my life have passed away, I cherish old cards and photos that have their handwriting on them. I don’t care if its expert calligraphy or chicken scratch. What I care about is being able to feel that person’s spirit in their writing.
So whether or not you decide to keep up the gift opening tradition at your baby shower, you should be writing a thank you note to every single person who bought you a gift. No exceptions. Don’t chose not to write one to your mother or your sister. They need to know just as much as anyone else that you love and appreciate them.
Write down what people gift you throughout your pregnancy, whether its at your shower or in the mail. Then promptly and thoughtfully sit down and thank each person for being a part of your journey. Thank them for the gift(s) specifically, and remind them why they are a blessing in your life.
I can’t think of a better way to show your guests that you appreciate them. They can look back at your words and be filled with love and joy. In a time when traditions are changing and technology is taking over – don’t forget what this entire journey is about: love.