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Q: When does she open gifts?
A: She can open them either before or after the food is served but probably not during. Think about the time of your shower -- will guests be ravenous when they get there? If it is potluck, will the food cool down too much while you wait?
Q: What's the best way to record who gave her gifts?
A:Make a copy of your guest list. Next to each guest's name, have a line on which you can have someone else, preferably not you, write down who gave what. Another way is to collect the cards attached to the gifts and write the object given on the back of each. Or you could simply have a sheet of paper and a pen for the guest who sits right next to the bride to list who gave what. Know this: Your bride will not remember and neither will you, so don't rely on her.
Q: How should I let guests know that they need to bring gifts?
A: Most people know when they attend a shower that a gift is expected -- it's American female lore. So you don't need to write anything specific unless it's a themed shower, in which case you need to be as specific as your theme requires. (Like: Just Lingerie, Kitchenware, Books, Things That Are Orange, you know!) It is expected and highly appropriate to tell shower guests about the location of the bridal registry.
This is where the bride has hopefully listed everything she wants from a specific store. That way, Brenda, who is flying in for the shower from Tulsa and who hasn't seen the bride since they were 14, will have an idea of what sorts of things her friend is into now. You should list the location and contact information for the bridal registry. Even if the guests don't buy something off the registry, it will give them an idea of her sense of taste if they take the time to investigate. And if they don't, well, that's what returns are for.
Q: What kinds of gifts are appropriate?
A:The gifts that are most traditional for a wedding shower are things for the new couple's home. At themed or coed parties, the gifts are appropriate for the subject.
Q: What if my bride doesn't have a bridal registry?
A: If your bride doesn't have a registry, it could be because she's embarrassed to appear to be asking for stuff. It could be it hasn't occurred to her. It could be she didn't have time. It could be she doesn't want to. In truth, just explain to your bride that she will save three things by getting herself down to a store and setting up a bridal registry: First, she will save the guests at her wedding or shower from embarrassment, because they won't have to fuss and worry about getting something she will like. Lots of people have no clue how to buy a gift for someone, or how to figure out what someone else will like. Remember the worst gift someone ever gave you?
Second, she will save herself time. Yes, time. Otherwise, she's going to be doing a lot of standing in return lines after the wedding, trying to get rid of the 16 blenders she got, or the sheets with the ghastly design sized for a queen bed when she and her groom bought a king size.
Third, she will save herself a lot of lies and embarrassment. Guests to the wedding are likely to become guests in the new couple's home in the future. And whether they admit it or not, they'll likely look around for their gift. Won't she feel silly trying to explain where she put that lovely candleholder made from glazed-on crushed potato chips, or the cuckoo clock with the little man who comes out and plays "God Save the Queen" on his harmonica.
In other words, if she has no registry, drive her to a store well in advance of her party and don't let her leave until she's registered.