How to Avoid Awkward Gift Giving Moments

The social norm of gift-giving can be plain awkward for some. We know brides who have purposely (and politely) refused to open shower gifts in front of guests for that very reason. With Christmas now in full force, there may be some awkward present moments in the next 24-hours. Here’s how to handle those gift-giving moments with grace.

When they got you something, but…
It is always an awkward moment when someone hands you a gift and you, red-faced, realize that you don’t have anything for the other person. If you met at a restaurant or place other than your home, you can blame your empty handedness on being a scatterbrain and subsequently forgetting the gift at your front door. Just make sure you have it in hand next time you see the person. In general, however, this problem (and the subsequent white lie) can be avoided by having a small collection of thoughtful but generic presents packaged and ready to go at home or even in your car. This can include products you’ve collected from charity event gift bags (as it is for us) or even bottles of wine and boxes of chocolate that are easy to re-gift. Of course, you could always be honest, express your appreciation but say that you’re embarrassed you didn’t have the time (not the intention) to get them something.

When you got them something, but…
In the reverse situation, the other person is going to feel awkward (especially if they don’t have a stash of emergency gifts like you do), so don’t make them feel worse. Say something like “I didn’t think we were exchanging gifts but I got you something anyway because it reminded me of you,” or “it’s no big deal, to be honest, there was a sale on that wine and I know you love it.” Don’t make them feel like their gift was an after thought, but that it was really no big production. Change the subject quickly to anything other than the gift; you don’t want any awkwardness to linger and ruin the mood or the holiday dinner. Likely, they will greet you with a gift the next time your paths cross.

You hate it
Historically, countless festive occasions have ended in hurt feelings over presents gone wrong. If you open something and absolutely hate it, don’t let the giver know right away. Again, that way the rest of Christmas Day and dinner isn’t ruined. Take the time to examine the gift, make a comment (“ohhh, I saw these online the other day”) and sincerely thank them. Never forget the genuine smile and thank you. A few days later, you can approach him or her and say that you’ve given it some thought and the item doesn’t work with other items in your closet, you have something similar already, etc. Or, don’t tell them anything, grab your gift receipt and go on your merry way to buy something you want.

The inappropriate gift
This happens from time to time. It is probably easier to be the giver of an inappropriate gift than the receiver. The inappropriate gift is even more awkward when all eyes are on you. With that said, don’t expect that those around you will automatically see the inappropriateness in the gift the way that you do. Your aunt may not know, for example, that you’re a vegetarian when she sees the cookbook on how to grill meat that you’ve just opened. If you actually find the gift offensive (as opposed to the product of an innocent but absent-minded decision), it is probably wise to tell the giver…just not at that moment. Again, don’t let it ruin the festivities by lamenting about it. Eat, drink and be merry instead. 

In general…
In terms of presents, remember that you will never be disappointed if you don’t have any expectations, especially with your SO. Remember that the whole reason people give gifts is to show appreciation or express affection for the recipient. As cliché as it is, it is the thought that counts. Even so, always include a gift receipt.

Happy Holidays!