I don't think it's always appropriate to wrap presents. There are some gift-giving occasions where the gifts are better off being shared in a more discreet fashion. My example: baby showers.
Baby showers, while lovely gatherings, are essentially a way for new parents to acquire all the expensive things they'll need for baby's first stages of life. Many mothers-to-be feel like they need to make a big deal out of the gifts, because that, after all, is the primary reason for the occasion. But let's face it, opening gifts in front of a ton of people can be awkward. It's tough to give the same surprised, "OH, I LOVE it!!" over and over.
Additionally, for parents-to-be who are less well-off, the shower can feel too much like a charity. For new parents with financial stability, it might feel like taking advantage of guests.
My cousin and his wife had a baby in December, and for their shower, they asked everyone to wrap their gifts California Style, meaning in clear cellophane, as shown on the left (photo from Country Living). They had arranged all the clear-wrapped gifts on a table, and people were free to go look at them throughout the reception, but there was no big to-do with Megan sitting down in front of everyone and ripping paper left and right while everyone cooed over the 500th onesie of the day. Instead, there was a delicious lunch and a grateful speech, but that was it. It simply felt like a special gathering among close friends and family.
So the question remains: if the wrap is clear, then why wrap at all? I think having some sort of covering to contain the gift is a good reflection of the human need to formalize some occasions, and this is no exception.
I don't necessarily think this is a universal maxim, but after seeing it once, I do like the idea of California wrapping for baby showers better than the whole "gather around an watch" thing.
What do you guys think?