Gift Giving Etiquette Tips

What are some general gift giving etiquette tips?
For centuries, man and woman have been searching for the perfect gift that can be bought for any special occasion and be received with honest gratitude. If only etiquette could offer one specific gift giving rule rather than just general tips. But alas, the retail world would crumble and shopping would cease as we know it. Instead there are some standard general gift giving etiquette tips that will help you choose the perfect gift.

When invited to a special occasion, such as a birthday, shower or wedding, it is somewhat easier to choose a gift if you are good friends with the guest(s) of honor. If not, and they are not registered, a gift card or certificate to a local establishment enclosed in a card is always a good choice.

When accepting an invitation to a dinner party, gift giving etiquette gets a little trickier. Not only in the choosing of the gift, but the question of whether you should bring one at all. The book, "Emily Post on Entertaining", published in 1987 by Harper & Row, states, "If it is the custom in your area to take a gift to a small dinner party, by all means do so. For a large or formal party, however, it is better to not take a gift at all, especially if you do not know the hosts well. It may not be customary among their friends, and you will only embarrass those that have not brought a gift." If you feel you must buy a gift, bring it with you and leave it in the car. Watch to see what others do and if they come bearing presents, turn to your spouse and say, "Honey, did you bring our-'insert item here'- in?" Just make sure to discuss this with your spouse first so there is no embarrassment. Most men laugh it off as "woman silliness" and agree to it with little argument. Or you can send it to the host and/or hostess as a "thank you" the day after the party along with a card expressing what a good time you had.

When choosing the proper hostess gift, Cathleen Hanson, who is one of the owners and founders of the International School of Protocol, which teaches proper etiquette to children, adults, educators, and businesses, offers this suggestion: "When going to a dinner party, it is absolutely appropriate to bring a gift. However, make sure it is a gift that the hostess does not have to deal with right then."

You may be tempted to bring flowers and what woman doesn't love to get a bouquet? But as Cathleen puts it, "Flowers are nice, but flowers are really not the best gift. The host or hostess has to drop what they are doing to deal with flowers. He or she has to find a vase. The whole place is already setup." So, save the bouquets for a thank you gift to send after the party when the hostess has more time to truly enjoy them. Or if you insist on bringing flowers to the party, have them arranged in a vase already so she can just sit them on the counter and forget about them until morning.

Cathleen also offers these ideas: "You could give a special candy or a bottle of wine that is for later. Just find something that is easy for the host to deal with." Gifts of food, if that is your specialty, should only be something like a basket of jams, jellies, bread, and fruit with a card that says "You're entertaining us tonight, tomorrow's breakfast is on me." Never bring a dish to a dinner party without the prior express consent of the host and/or hostess. Gift giving etiquette dictates that you make certain they do not feel obligated to use your present during the dinner party. You can be certain that they have already planned the meal and all the extras that go with it. Your gift, no matter how beautiful or scrumptious it might be, should not disrupt that.