Manners & Etiquette

Gift Etiquette

Elegantwoman.org’s Gift Etiquette page – a complete guide to gift giving etiquette for proper gift giving.

Why Is Gift Etiquette Important

gift etiquette

There is an art to gift giving. Giving gifts is a type of communication.

It tells people what you think of the receiver. Your gift says how important he/she is and your perception of him/her. Or it could mean that you don’t think much of him/her at all!

A thoughtless gift simply shows….well, thoughtlessness.

I’m sure we can all identify with similar experiences. Beautiful, surprisingly thoughtful gifts make you feel special and incredibly loved.

Silly gifts, dull, gifts, offensive gifts, useless gifts make you feel a bit overlooked.

A strange gift…makes you wonder if it was a change-of-mind item. Or maybe it was a re-gift.

So what is proper gift giving and receiving?

Here are some general guidelines of Gift Etiquette:

Before You Buy A Gift


Before you buy a gift, consider the occasion. How terribly important is it? How formal is the event?

In general, the gift should reflect the occasion or the event.

The greater the importance, the more exquisite the gift should be. The more effort your host took, the bigger the gift.

How Well Do You Know Her?

If you know your beneficiary (gift receiver) well, you can make the gift as personal as possible.

If you know she likes Jazz music, you could present a beautifully wrapped collection of Jazz music on a CD.

Otherwise, you could ask your beneficiary’s close friends and family for hints and suggestions or give gifts that everybody would love. Such as a box of cupcakes, tickets to a movie etc.

Gift Presentation Etiquette

Presenting the Gift

gift etiquette

What a difference some brown paper, twine and ribbon makes!

In Gift etiquette, presenting the gift properly is as important as gift giving.

A beautiful container always increases the perceived value of the gift even though it only costs a couple of dollars more.

A jar, a wooden box, a basket, a tin, a cloth bag etc will all do very well.

The traditional box, wrapped with a bow and a gift tag always works.

gift etiquette
What a lovely, elegant gift wrapping idea!

Cultural Customs

Take note of cultural customs especially when giving a gift to someone (or client) from a different culture.

For instance, clocks are never accepted in Asian culture as it signifies that “the days of your life are numbered”.

In some other cultures, you should never give shoes to a bride because it that she will ‘walk’ or ‘run away’ from her groom.

Colors are important in some cultures. Generally black is frowned upon, and in others such as Korean culture, white signifies death.

When Buying A Gift

Note Your Budget

First, set aside a budget. This prevents us from wasting shopping time.

Now, What Was She Like?

Try to remember something about the person you are buying the present for.

Did they mention about something about themselves that you could use as gift ideas?

For example, you could get a beautiful set of measuring spoons for an aspiring cook, a photo album for the photography hobbyists.

Get A Card

Attaching a gift card to your gift is very appropriate and elegant.

It makes your gift more meaningful. You could even explain why you bought the gift,
I was walking past the shop window and this little bird glass painting made me think of you and the times we painted birds in art class“.

Most people don’t really say it, but the card sometimes make them happier than the gift.

gift etiquette On the Wall Tags

Not much to say? Get a beautiful gift tag!

Many gifts come and go, used up and have gone, but we always keep the cards that mean to us the most. See this example of the best mother’s day gift.

How To Give The Gift

It’s good to think about the when and how you are going to give your gift.

Over Lunch/Dinner

If you are just going to meet your beneficiary for lunch, bring your gift and give it to him/her personally.
He/she can rave about it for two minutes over lunch.

At A Party

If she is hosting a party and is too busy meeting with guests, give it her when you greet her, but ask where you can leave it (like a presents corner or something).

Farewell Gifts

If you are going to a farewell party just before she leaves to the airport, don’t bring a big bouquet of flowers
because she can’t take the flowers on the plane with her. Don’t get her a gift too big that is impossible to take with his/her already full luggage.

If it is A Bulky Gift

When you think about giving it to her, imagine what it would be like for her end to say, transport it home. This applies especially to sending wedding gifts!

Should you expect your gift to be opened in front of you?

Depending on culture, some people expect the gift receiver to open the gifts in front of the giver.

In general, it is nicer for the gift receiver to open in private and write a thank you note.

When You are Receiving the Gift

Gratitude First!

No matter what gift it is, remember to look happy and surprised.
Focus on the thought, time and effort (or any one of the three) that went into the gift.

Pause to show sincerity

Do not chuck it aside, once you’ve opened it. Hold the gift and look at your giver and express the most sincere thanks.

Write a Thank You Note!

Always write a thank you note, specially mentioning the gift. It can be in the form of an sms, text message, email, depending on formality and how expensive the gift is.

Manners always apply.

Gift opening etiquette

If you are asked to open your gifts in full view, check with each gift giver first. That might prevent some embarrassment.

Re-gifting Etiquette for both Givers and Receivers

If it is from your best friend, neighbor or a very close friend. I suggest not to regift. Keep it for 10 years at least before you do.

If it is from someone you’ll probably never see again, or see once a year, regift but do it very tastefully – go undetected!

If you don’t mind your receiver re-gifting, mention that in your note or include the gift-and-exchanges card from the boutique.

General Gift Etiquette Guideline for Re-gifting

Go undetected! Otherwise it’s plain rude.

Ensure it is appropriate to the occasion, and a very useful and thoughtful gift to the person receiving your hand-me-downs.

Only give your hand-me-down gift if you are a hundred percent sure that your beneficiary will absolutely love it.

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