Gift Giving Etiquette

Is there such a thing as gift giving etiquette? Of course! There are quite a few DOs and DON’Ts of gift giving. Remember, though, that each situation will be a little different from the next, just as individuals differ from each other. We’ve done a little research to provide a basic gift giving guide. These aren’t set in stone, but they should give you a good idea about how to approach gift giving in most situations.


Dinner or Party Invitation?

When someone invites you over for a “get together”, you’ll want to bring a small gift to show your appreciation for the invitation. This could include a candle, flowers, or a bottle of wine.

“Please, No Gifts”

If you’ve been invited to a birthday party, graduation party, anniversary celebration, wedding, or any gift giving occasion and the invitation specifically reads: “No Gifts, Please”, then it is appropriate to respect that request. If you feel that you must bring “something”, try a card or some other very small sentiment.

Is money an appropriate gift?

It is appropriate to give money in a few (sparse) situations, like when a teen-ager asks for it. But try to avoid giving money. It’s more thoughtful to give a gift certificate or gift card, but only if you take the time to consider the the appropriate store or restaurant. Pick something that will be enjoyable and/or useful for the gift recipient.

Other Gift Giving Hints

– Don’t give loud toys to children

– Don’t give things that YOU want

– Always try to wrap a gift. If you don’t have the time or talent to make it look nice, spend a dollar on a gift bag and some tissue paper.

– Include a card with your gift, and actually write a personal note in it

– Don’t re-gift a present that you have been given unless a) it is still in it’s original packaging, b) it’s appropriate for the next recipient, and c) the re-gifting will NOT be discovered (by the original giver or the new recipient)

– Always get a gift for a wedding, even if you can’t attend (unless “no gifts” were requested)

– Always bring a gift to a shower, but don’t feel obligated to do so if you aren’t able to attend

Business Gift Giving

Business gifts are appropriate in the following situations:

– Close of a business deal (beware of international etiquette)

– Group gifts for a retirement, serious illness, or other momentous occasion

– Holidays (like a Secret Santa or grab bag)

In a business situation, don’t give gifts that are:

– Personal in nature (perfume, red roses, etc.)

– Only from you (give outside of the office in this situation)

– In violation of company policy (check your company guidelines)

– Not considerate of a person’s culture, diet, environment, etc.


When you receive a gift, no matter what you think of it, say “Thank you”. Accept any gift politely and remember that it’s a GIFT that was not necessary.

Thank You Notes

“Thank You” notes are highly regarded in the gift giving etiquette world. They are particularly common after a bridal shower, baby shower, or wedding. However, if you opened your gift in front of the giver when it was given, then a “Thank You” note isn’t absolutely necessary, although it is still appropriate. “Thank You” notes don’t have to be completely formal, either. The importance is in the sentiment.