Sometimes we give birthday gifts because we know the recipients will love and appreciate them. They dropped the right hints, we considered their tastes and interests and picked just the right object to wrap in that beautiful paper. Sometimes we give gifts out of obligation, picking something from a registry that are predestined to be used, if not loved, or send flowers because, well, flowers make people happy. This guide will help you develop your fluency for all possible gift-giving occasions: weddings, anniversaries, new life stages – graduation, moves, births – Mother’s and Father’s Day, cultural and religious holidays, formal occasions, no occasion – and how to approach them! Consider this our present to you, a stress-free gift guide with plenty of special treats for all of the special women on your list — mother, sister, BFF or just that girl you keep seeing in the mirror.
Often we try to force our expressions of love to fit occasion-specific moulds rather than the recipients themselves.
Many events have established practices of gift-giving, including birthdays and weddings, and some religious or cultural holidays. While giving gifts around these dates can feel more rote, it is still important to try to convey your affection for the recipient. Read more in our special report, ‘Gift Giving Tips From the Experts.’
WHY DO WE DO THIS? (BEYOND THE OBVIOUS)
Giving gifts can be a way of showing you care about someone, or reflecting the care someone has shown you. There’s never a particularly inappropriate time to do it. Often times, though, we try to force our expressions of love to fit occasion-specific moulds rather than the recipients themselves. (Think about how many graduates have received a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” which is a great book, but still).
For adults, start with a phone call, a card, an email or a text message. Most people, even if they “hate birthdays,” want to feel validated in their personhood, and this is the day they became a person. Then consider your relationship. Is this someone with whom you are very close, someone whose tastes and wants are known to you? Is this a person with whom you’re trying to increase your intimacy? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you probably want to get them something.
The gift need not match the exact magnitude (size, price, etc.) of anything they’ve given you in the past.
The point is to reciprocate their love and generosity, and to open the door for future shows of affection. (For kids, unless otherwise specified, a small gift basically is required at the party.) Read more ’15 Gifts To Make Your Hostess Smile.’
There’s a reason we picture incandescent living rooms filled with beautifully wrapped gifts when we think of the holiday season: People give a lot (sometimes more than they can afford) at the end of each year. The Commonwealth Bank research projected that Australians spent $11 billion on gifts alone in December last year, and Americans spent between $717 billion and $721 billion in November and December, ahead of Christmas. Often at times, these gifts are reserved for family members, but they can span all kinds of relationships. If you’re not sure whether you’re on those terms with someone, start a conversation about it. There’s nothing wrong with asking, “Are we exchanging gifts this year?” and it could save you a lot of stress later. Read more ‘The 100 Best Christmas Gifts of All Time.’
Every year that a couple chooses to remain together is worth marking, whether that’s with a night out, a gesture for continued companionship or some combination of the two. If you’re stuck on what to get, there’s nothing wrong with taking the traditional tack. Years 1 through 60 of marriage have material themes that can guide your search.
Some of these days create conditions for creative giving. Even those who opt out of these days are capable of appreciating an expression of love. So whether that’s a phone call on Mother’s or Father’s Day or a big bunch of blowsy roses on Valentine’s Day, it’s worth it. Read more ‘Sealed With A Kiss: The Ultimate Valentine’s Day Gift Guide.’
NEW LIFE STAGES
Graduations, moves, births, deaths: Many of these can be marked with cards, but if you can think of something that reflects or supports the transition the recipient is going through, share it. Even better is when it’s something they might fail to consider as they are dealing with the stress of change: think about a doormat for a new homeowner or a basket of readymade food for a grieving friend. Read more ‘In Pursuit of The Perfect Gift? It’s A lot Closer Than You Think’.
The conventional wisdom of gifts for weddings is that the gift should match the cost of a place setting, which is more or less the price of a smart dinner (think around $100 – $150 a head and double, or multiply if you’re attending with a guest or family members). In cases where you are especially close with the guest of honour, your gift might exceed that dollar amount. It also might not be so easily quantified. If your budget is tight, you can also offer to trade in expertise for big occasions; if you’re a photographer, for example, your gift to the soon-to-be-wed couple might be a pro-bono photo package. Read more ‘The Seven Gifts on Every Couple’s Wedding List’ and ’21 Gifts To Shower Any Bride-to-Be In Your Life’.
Random acts of kindness can be the most thrilling: leaving something thoughtful on a colleague’s desk, sending a book to a long-distance friend, showing up with flowers for no reason except that they were beautiful and you wanted to share that beauty with someone else. The return on these gestures is just about always greater than the effort put into them.
Above all remember this, the thought usually doesn’t count.
In a clever series of experiments by University of Chicago it turned out the thoughtful givers naturally expected their effort to be appreciated, but it usually didn’t matter. Even though the recipients knew which gifts had been picked randomly and which had been chosen carefully, it turned out they liked a thoughtless gift just as much as a thoughtful one.
As long as the gift was satisfying, they usually didn’t consider how much thought had gone into it, especially if it came from someone they didn’t know well. Otherwise, the best reason to try hard is for your own pleasure in choosing the gift — which can be quite real, as several studies have shown. When people spend time thinking about a gift for someone else, they feel closer to the person, and that makes them happier even if it does nothing for the recipient. Read more ‘5 Cheaph(ish) Things That Make Great Last Minute Gifts.’
HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE
If you want to give a gift that someone will appreciate, then you should focus on getting a good gift and ignore whether it is a thoughtful gift or not.
A GIFT TO IMPRESS
So if you want to give a gift that impresses, black is the colour most associated with luxury – it seems to be the colour that we perceive to be the heaviest and most expensive.
Such luxury cues are learned, rather than innate, so they can change over time. Traditionally luxury goods used to have opaque packaging. It has to do with the current desire for authenticity.
We say, skip the gift card. They’re often too restrictive and don’t allow for enough flexibility. Read more ‘What Your House Gift Says About You.’
LAYER IT ON
Unnecessary wrapping can be an ecological concern but, when it comes to luxury goods like wine in a presentation case, it does make an impression.
Tissue layers are really good because the crinkle adds an extra sense to the experience.
Consider a squirt of fragrance in the box or wrapping, and, if you want to cover all sensory bases, work out some way for classical music to be playing when the gift is opened because we associate it with quality.
Engaging several senses at once is beneficial. The brain combines the inputs from each sense, both to determine what something is, but also to determine a hedonic or reward value. But you can go too far. said. Consider this our present to you, our lovely readers: scroll our gallery for a stress-free gift guide with plenty of special treats for all of the special women on your list — mother, sister, BFF or just that girl you keep seeing in the mirror.
Gift wrapping elevates the gift experience and doesn’t have to be complicated. Selecting a gift that your recipient will love is the hard part, so congratulations: You’re over the hump. Now it’s time to consider how you can elevate the gift through presentation.
No one wants to be given a gift in a plastic bag with a receipt crinkled up at the bottom are presented under wraps.
DO I NEED TO WRITE A NOTE?
You should. It can be as short as a sentence or long as a full-blown letter. But it will lend emotional heft to your gesture.
WHEN DO YOU DELIVER THE GIFT?
If you can give a gift in person, it’s just about always worth doing so, if only to watch the recipient’s joy radiate. But if your dad’s birthday is next Tuesday, and you live an ocean away, you’re better off express mailing his gift. Some formal occasions have gift registries, in which case you’re better off ordering an item and having it delivered. That way, the happy couple won’t have to drive a U-haul worth of boxes home after their nuptials.
AND ALWAYS REMEMBER THIS ABOUT GIFT-GIVING:
- Giving anything is an act of kindness. Don’t stress over the specifics.
- Gift-giving is a love language, but it’s not everyone’s.
- Sometimes the best gift has no monetary value but is, instead, the free gift of presence.