Gifting etiquette guide


My recent gifting faux pas (read about it here) got me thinking. With the increasing informality in our lives, had I inadvertently forgotten my manners? There was a time when there was a clear demarcation between right and wrong. That fine line seems to be blurring…fast.  Times are changing; no better time than now to revisit old rules and write new ones. Here’s my little guide on gifting etiquette.

Gifting etiquette: what’s okay and what’s not?

Cash gifts: The eternal question, “is it okay to gift cash?” My answer is yes. In fact, for some occasions, cash is the perfect gift. Take weddings for instance. The couple is starting a new life together in a new home. And homes need to be furnished and decorated. While you can’t possibly know everything the couple need, you can help them get what they want.  In India, where I come from, weddings tend to be huge affairs with the guest list including not just the immediate family and close friends but also relatives, relatives of relatives, all neighbours and colleagues from work! This makes cash  a widely accepted gift as it is difficult to find the right gift for people you don’t know well.

Regifting: So, you have received an item you cannot use or don’t quite like.  It’s lying in your cupboard unused and hogging up space. You’re faced with the dilemma — “can I gift this to someone else?” This one is tricky. I would say ‘yes and no’. No, if it is handmade or handcrafted by the giver.  Spare a thought to the effort, resources and thought that have gone into making something just for you.

So, when is it okay to regift and why? Let’s tackle the ‘why’ first. I personally don’t like waste, so I would rather regift something than discard it. As to the when, I can think of two situations.  One, if it’s a duplicate of something you already have. You can’t possible use two of the same. This happens often with wedding and baby shower gifts. Two, if you know someone who would be thrilled to receive that particular item. A word of caution: Never, never regift something you have used and you definitely don’t  want the  original giver to find out.

Did you know the United States of America has a national regifting day?

Gift cards: I’ve been told by a few people that gift cards are impersonal gifts. They seem to convey that the giver has not taken any effort to look for a good gift and has chosen the easy way out. But, I’m unwilling to ignore gift cards as an option because I believe they have several advantages. They are easy to purchase and carry and, they give the receiver the choice to buy something they like.  I also think there is a way to remedy the impersonal aspect by buying a gift card for a store that sells things the recipient likes. For instance a book lover would definitely appreciate a gift card from a book store.  When my husband and I got married, our friends pooled in cash to buy a gift card from a tasteful and expensive home decor store called the Bombay Store.  You can personalise it further by adding a handwritten message about why you chose that particular store.

Price tags: This one is a no-brainer but I’m going to spell it out anyways. Never include the price tag. It’s okay to retain the product/brand tag, but cut out the part that mentions the price. I’ve had price tags attached to gifts on a couple of occasions and I wondered, “did the giver forget to take the price tag off or did they want me to know just how expensive the gift was?” How did I feel? Well, I tried hard to keep away the thought “tacky”!

Test your gifting etiquette

Use this list as a guide if you find yourself in a gifting dilemma.  The best way to ensure you do the right thing is to find out all you can about the recipient. No two people are the same and will have different likes and dislikes.

Here’s something more to help you. Check how you fare on gifting etiquette by taking this fun test (even if it is at odds with some of the things I’ve mentioned above!).

What do you think? I would love to hear your personal take on gifting etiquette.


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