The Ultimate Gift Giving Etiquette Guide

We’re sharing gift giving etiquette tips and suggestions on how to be a better gifter, so you can find something they’ll love.

Most of us have attended at least one celebration this year. Whether it was a birthday, wedding or baby shower, chances are that a gift was a huge part of making the guest of honor feel special.

But getting the perfect gift is not always easy. You may not know the person well, or may feel like the recipient already has everything they’d ever want. If you’re struggling to figure out exactly what to get them, you’ve come to the right place!


9 Gift Giving Etiquette Questions Answered

There are a lot of questions when it comes to gifting. We’ve answered some of the most common questions, so you can rest assured that you won’t commit a gifting faux pas. We also surveyed 1000 people to find out what they focus on when picking out gifts.

If someone gives me an gift, does that mean I have to give one back?
A gift should never be given with the intent of getting one back, and you shouldn’t feel like reciprocation has to be matched dollar for dollar. Though it’s not required to get someone a gift if they get you one, you should at least show them appreciation through a heartfelt thank you note.

I forgot my friend’s birthday, should I still get a gift?
A gift is always well received! You should still give a gift, if it’s a close friend or relative. Make sure to attach a note apologizing for the delay. If you missed their birthday celebration, treat them to a meal. It’s the perfect time to present the gift.

What attributes should I look for in a gift?
Based on our survey, we found that the majority of respondents (41%) look for gifts that are personalized. Practical gifts also topped the list with 19% valuing practicality, 16% valuing affordability and 10% valuing style. Ease of purchase and experiential gifts were voted least important.

What attributes should I look for in a gift?

Do we have to bring a gift for the host every time we are invited to a party?
If it’s a holiday party and a close friend, yes — especially if they have planned a meal. The gift can be a small token of appreciation like wine or sweets. For non-holiday, casual events, a gift is not necessary but a sweet gesture.

I gave a gift and the person did not react how I expected. Should I say something?
It’s best not to say anything. Everyone reacts differently when they are put on the spot. If you are not sure someone will like the gift you picked out, it’s a good idea to include a gift receipt.

If I didn’t attend a bridal shower or wedding, do I still have to send a gift?
You are not required to send a gift, but if you are a close friend of the bride or groom, you may want to send a gift even if you can’t attend. Most registries should have gifts in varying price points. If you don’t feel close enough to the couple to send a gift, sending congratulations will still be appreciated.

The Ultimate Gift-Giving Etiquette Guide

Is it tacky to ask for a wishlist?
No. If you’re buying a gift for a younger family member that you may not be as in touch with or with someone that is difficult to shop for, a wishlist will help point you in the right direction and ensure that you give a gift they’ll enjoy.

The kids in my extended family are getting older, and I’d like to stop getting each of them gifts. What’s the best way to bring it up?
As kids get older, they’ll understand that it’s difficult for adults to buy everyone in the family gifts, especially if you have a big family! Instead of cutting them off from gifts completely, you can find a solution that solves this problem for everyone like a family gift exchange. Other alternatives include buying smaller gifts or gifting treats like homemade cookies.

How long should I spend picking out a gift?
This will be different for everyone. There is no set time limit, however you want to make sure the process isn’t rushed. According to our survey, the majority of people (26%) spend a week choosing a gift.

How long should I spend picking out a gift?

How To Choose A Gift

Now that all your etiquette questions are answered, it’s time to choose a gift! If you don’t know where to start, these tips are sure to give you a few unique ideas.

  1. Pay attention to any upcoming activities. Perhaps they’ve mentioned a trip, a romantic getaway or just a fun day with their kids. You can plan ahead and get them something they need for their activity, whether that’s a backpack, a gift certificate to a restaurant in the area or a bottle of wine to take on their adventure. If you gift to this person often, it may be helpful to add to a list of your phone whenever they hint at wanting something.
  2. It’s not just about the gift, but the presentation. In order to make someone’s day extra sweet, think about a fun way to present their gift to them. Perhaps you take them to their favorite dinner spot, lead them through a scavenger hunt or surprise them with snail mail. Little details can go a long way.
  3. Observe the details. Does your co-worker only wear certain colors? Do they constantly talk about their favorite show? Start paying attention to these things. For example, a coworker might like a desk calendar with their favorite TV character, a personalized mug with their favorite quote or even a scarf in a color they wear often.
  4. Give them an experience. Does the person already have everything you can think of? Are they new to the area or extremely daring? There’s nothing better than fueling their adventure bug with a sky dive, kayaking class or beer-tasting tour. It will certainly be unique and unforgettable. We found that people in the West and Midwest enjoyed experiential gifts the most.

How To Choose A Gift

  1. Get creative! If your guest of honor is passionate about a particular cause or is a lover of nature, donate to their favorite charity in their name or give them a yearly pass to the zoo or a national park. You can also get creative by creating a theme with your gifts–giving multiple small gifts that play off each other and add to the fun!
  2. Take your time. The worst thing you can do is rush through the store and pick out whatever you find. If you already have something in mind, that definitely helps. If you don’t, you will end up purchasing something you and the receiver will not be thrilled with. Plan the day, make a list of gift options, and take note of anything you have given them in the past so that you don’t end up getting the same type of gift.

How To Choose A Gift

  1. Do something unexpected. If someone usually expects the same gift from you (candle, sweater or movie tickets), do something completely wild and unexpected. For instance, include a fun day of wine tasting with a gift of personalized wine glasses to remember the day.
  2. Expensive isn’t always best. Just because something looks expensive or fancy, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be useful for the person. A stay-at-home parent might appreciate a classy bottle of champagne, but what they would really benefit from is a well-deserved massage.

Remember, buying a gift shouldn’t feel like a hassle. It should be fun and exciting, especially when the recipient opens it. It’s always great to see their smiling face. If nothing else, remember that a gift matters most when it’s from the heart, especially when it comes as a surprise. Thinking of you gifts can brighten someone’s day any time of the year.


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