bride and guest at bridal shower

Photo: Michelle Able Photography

A bridal shower tradition that’s either loved or loathed is the guest of honor opening gifts in front of all of the guests. If you’re in the latter camp or more of the shy and reserved type, you might be dreading this aspect of your bridal shower. You might feel a bit on display, and want to make sure that you genuinely thank each and every one of your guests who took time out of their schedules to celebrate you—even if their gifts might not be your favorites. Follow these simple tips to avoid stage fright during your gift-opening moment in the spotlight.

Familiarize Yourself with the Guest List
You’re probably not planning your own bridal shower, but you should still make sure you’re aware of who’s on the guest list. And while it’s most likely that you know everyone on the list, you should have a mental picture of anyone who you don’t know well. It’s important to look directly at a person when you thank him or her—so be sure you know who everyone is! And if you’re so inclined, some registries allow you to see in advance who purchased which gift—so you can be even more prepared to say thank you at your shower.

Greet Everyone in Advance
When you arrive at your shower, greet as many guests as possible—not just your closest family members and friends. Say hello, give hugs, thank them for coming, and make small talk as best you can—good topics include your excitement about the wedding, the weather, your outfit, etc. Mixing and mingling will help loosen you up before the gift-opening begins.

Eat Something
Ask a family member or friend to make sure you have a bite to eat before you start opening presents. You don’t want to be “hangry” or cranky before the proceedings begin—thinking about how hungry you are and eyeing that tray of tea sandwiches does not a gracious bride make! And a few sips of a mimosa are fine, but don’t overdo the alcohol—especially before opening your gifts.

Take Some Alone Time
Before the gift-opening begins, give yourself a minute or two of alone time. Use the restroom, freshen up, and take a few restorative deep breaths. It may be difficult to get away from your guests for even a minute during your shower, but you'll be glad you gave yourself the time to compose yourself.

Relax and Smile
When you sit down to start opening gifts, give a big smile and thank all of your guests for coming. Something as simple as “Hi everyone. Thank you so much for coming—I’m so glad you’re all here. And thank you to (name of hosts) for hosting!” will make everyone feel comfortable and appreciated, even before the gifts are opened.

Assign a Point Person
Make sure a family member or friend is writing down each gift and the name of the giver so that you’ll be organized when you write thank-you notes later. You can also have a wedding party member work on creating the traditional ribbon bouquet. Choose your most animated and outspoken friends for these roles, as they can help prompt you if you’re stumped on what to say about a particular gift and be the most vocal about their praise of each and every gift you receive.

Say Thank You—and a Bit More
Open the card first so you’re aware of who each gift is from. Once you open the gift, immediately look at the gift-giver and say “thank you (name of person)!” Act surprised and delighted even if you knew what the gift was in advance. Then, say something specific relating to the gift. For example, if it’s a toaster—“This is so great! You know how (future spouse) loves toast in the morning!” Or for a set of flatware: “This will look amazing on our table this Thanksgiving!” Try to be as specific as possible for each gift that you receive. And be sure to hold the gift up so that all of your guests can see it and “ooh and ahh” appropriately.

Be Polite About Gifts You Hate
If you receive a really strange gift that you’re not a fan of, put on your best happy face and say something like: “Thank you Aunt Sally! You always think of the most creative and unique gifts.” No snickering, snarky expressions, eye-rolling, or furtive glances at your bridesmaids. Remember that the gift-giver likely had the best of intentions and takes a lot of pride in her choice of gift, so be mindful of their feelings.

Take Embarrassment in Stride
Like it or not, lingerie or other wedding-night-related gifts are popular at bridal showers. Even if you feel your face turning beet red at the sight of the skimpy attire, react as graciously as you have for every other gift. You can simply giggle and say, “Thank you Sandra, what a lovely gift.” Or, if you’re up for it, you can ask the gift-giver, with a smile: “Did (fiancé(e)’s name) tell you to buy this for me?”

Thank the Hosts
Once the gifts are all open, make a point to once again thank your guests for coming—making a particular point to the thank the hosts. Ideally, you should purchase small hostess gifts and write handwritten notes for each host. These can either be given on the day of the shower, or shortly thereafter.

Follow Up with Thank-You Notes
Be sure to send handwritten thank-you notes to all of your guests within two to three weeks of your shower. (Stumped on what to write? Check out our fill-in-the-blank thank-you note templates.) Make sure you’ve ordered your stationery in advance so you won’t be scrambling to find stationery after the event. And remember—even if you are planning on changing your name, any correspondence sent before your wedding should reflect your maiden name. You may choose stationery that only features your first name, which can be used both before and after the wedding.

Be Prepared for a Surprise
If you haven’t been told about plans for your shower yet, you may be in for a surprise. This will make things a bit difficult when it comes to advance preparation, but of course, the same rules apply when it comes to appropriately and publicly thanking your guests.