A Modern Gift Etiquette Guide

The vacation is stressful enough without worrying about having someone offended you by sticking a gift card in your collection. We asked etiquette expert Myka Meier, who is also the author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy, to offer her best tips for the season and to warn her about the most popular gifts.

Were gifts always needed for the hostess? What if the invite says not to bring a present in particular?

You always should bring a gift to someone’s house when visiting. The host can say, “Please don’t get anything” but after you get there they will not deny your beautiful gesture. A gift for the hostess could be a little token, like a mug, festive cocktail towels, or even homemade food.

Will gift games, like Santa Secret or White Elephant, have any rules on etiquette?

In case you host a White Elephant or gifts exchange parties, it is necessary, in the invite, to let the guests know what kind of party it is to make their own contribution to the upcoming event.

I advise that when people RSVP, I submit more specific rules to show that presents are to be of one design, or if they are to be packaged or not, not cost more than a certain amount. Giving a bit of direction makes it possible for guests to have their base and do not become embarrassed when they get to the other party guests with a gift completely different.

Generally, one guest is “stuck” with the most unwanted donation at the end of an exchange between White Elephants. At the end of the day, one suggestion is for everybody to vote who they feel ended up with the “White Elephant.” Then the hostess would give this person a marvelous gift…. the surprise at the end is, after all, that they win, too.

You are responsible for games, lighting, food and beverages as a host. Because you ask guests to make a present for the party already, I advise not to ask guests. Many visitors may bring a gift to the host or hostess, which is excellent tag, and so you don’t want to bring anything else to them.

If your gift is amusing, make sure that it is not inappropriate for secret Santa gifts. Even the giver can often be traced back to “anonymous” gifts!

Gift Giving

What are you supposed to do when someone gives you a gift and in return you have nothing for them?

In this case, you should not point out that you have no gift for them, but that you should concentrate on showing thanks in the person who gives you. If you feel the need or desire for it, you can always send a gift later on.

If somebody gives costly or over – the-top presents, do you have to reciprocate?

The most important thing about a gift is to think about it. A photo, which is bundled in a frame and framed or even made, can be an excellent choice that may not cost much money, but shows a lot of thinking.

How long do you need to send a note of thanks?

Within a week of the day you got it, a thank you note for a gift should go out. But, if you forget, it’s always better late than never. In order to determine whether you should send a handwritten thank-you note or an email, I recommend that you suit the formality of the gift you got with the thank you sent. For example, if someone brings baked goods for the workplace, it is acceptable to send an email to thank you. However, if you are given a personalized gift, I would send you a handwritten thank you note to reciprocate the thought of that gift.

If during the holidays someone stays with you, who you may not usually give a gift to, will you give them one?

I would always believe that someone who lives with you during the holidays should receive a gift. Chances are they’ll have one for you, but during the festive season it’s also a thoughtful gesture.

Is giving cash ever okay? What about a handmade gift?

A gift card is a more tactful way to make a monetary gift, rather than cash. One of the best gifts that anyone can receive can be a handmade gift, as it can be both thoughtful and personal.

Is re-gifting ever appropriate?

If re-gifting is ever found, it could insult and upset the person who received it, so I would not suggest it. When you want to re-give a product because you have received a duplicate gift, for example, and you know someone who would enjoy it, make sure that it is in its original packaging and is not customized in any way.

What’s the right etiquette about the office gift-giving?

One nice gesture to bring in baked goods for large office settings, or something to enjoy for the entire office. Your office may choose to participate in a gift in the Secret Santa format, ensuring that everyone gets a gift for a holiday, and each person is responsible for one. If you choose to give gifts at the workplace to some people, not everyone, make sure it’s done privately so you don’t hurt the feelings of anyone. If you are given a gift, be sure to send a message of thanks.

What are some of the major etiquette errors that people make with gifts?

Do not deliver a gift in the wrong manner. You always want to ensure that a gift is perfectly packaged, put in a paper gift bag, or wrapped around it with a ribbon. It should also include a ticket or gift tag and, if appropriate, a gift receipt.

Another thing to note: if you aren’t sure about the size of someone, you shouldn’t offer a size-dependent gift.

What are some good ideas for people who are hard to buy?

If it’s not a humorous gift, random gifts end in the donation stack. Try to consider the gifts that all need. For those who have it all, there are a few nice presents, including a Nutella customized bowl, with their name on it (yep, it exists), a leather card holder, a custom luggage label, linen cocktail plates, coasters, with the city’s favorite map, a sleek mirror telephone charger, or a Swiss Army Knife monogrammed keychain.

Gift Giving Ideas