Mind your manners with this gift-giving etiquette guide for the holidays

Stock photo

Buying gifts for family and friends can be difficult enough, but the time crunch of the holidays can make the effort even more strenuous. However, according to Red Stick Refinement owner April Palombo Setliff, taking into account some simple etiquette can ensure the holiday gift-giving season remains the most wonderful time of the year.

“When I shop, I buy something that I would want to receive myself,” says Setliff. “Every time I’ve given a gift with that in mind, the recipient always loves it, because I wasn’t anxious or worried that it wasn’t a good choice. I’ll always be excited to give it.”

On that note: Try not to diminish any gift you’re giving by apologizing for it being “too small” or inexpensive—or you might ruin the gesture in the process.

“It’s easy to second-guess yourself, but it’s really the thougtfulness that counts,” says Setliff. “People are grateful to receive gifts or know that you were thinking of them, especially if it’s an event or a gathering where you weren’t expected to give anything.”

Then there’s the debate over what to do when you hear the most dreaded sentence of all during the holidays: “Don’t buy me anything.”

“Honestly, I would still get a little something, because I feel like in our culture, that’s often seen as simply a polite thing to say, or an automatic response to someone saying they’ll get you a gift,” says Setliff, who also notes the awkward occasions in which someone who said they didn’t want to receive a gift ends up giving you a gift, but finds you empty-handed. “If you really don’t want anyone to give you gifts but they’re insisting, maybe ask that they donate to one of your favorite charities instead. And if someone has asked that you not bring gifts to a gathering but you feel uncertain about what to do, maybe bring a Mason jar filled with cut flowers. It’s nothing too expensive or long-lasting, and it’s just a nice gesture.”


For more tips on etiquette in the modern age, visit redstickrefinement.com. And read more about April and Red Stick Refinement in this story from the inRegister archives.