GIFT ETIQUETTE GUIDE
A NOTE FROM HOUSE OF FLORALIE OWNER, KK HARRIS
So often I am asked about the etiquette behind gift giving. As social customs change and evolve, so do the rules. Generally speaking, gifting is about reciprocity and repaying an act of kindness. However, early in life I learned that there are two types of people: givers and takers. Givers spend a disproportionate amount of time, energy, and resources investing in others. For givers, gift giving is an extension of his or her values system. It’s just who they are and what they do. For many people (including me), giving gifts is a primary love language. For anyone who would prefer to better understand my approach to giving, we have published this comprehensive guide. It’s based on tradition (I have conducted a lot of research over the years) but it has been updated to reflect changes in taste and culture. We very much hope that it will serve as a resource for you as you determine how you would like to proceed with your gifts.
As is always the case, a gift giver should never spend more than he or she feels comfortable for his or her own personal circumstances. There is absolutely nothing wrong with purchasing gifts that are on sale, or making gifts by hand, so long as they are well made and reflect positively on you. We are of the strong opinion that it is always the thought that counts more so than anything else. Our motto at House of Floralie is “go with your heart and you can’t go wrong.”
I’m always asked what our best-selling items are in the store. If volume is any indicator of what people like, food and candles are popular go-tos. Today, people like anything that smells or tastes good. In the absence of a registry, my advice is to always opt for the consumable over the tchotchke (unless, of course, the recipient collects a certain type of tchotchke and you can give him or her one that he or she has yet to acquire).
I also believe strongly in the value of an enclosure card, particularly for hostess gifts. The investment that I made upfront in personalized enclosure cards has saved me a tremendous amount of stress and money in the long run.
Finally, color coordinate even the smallest of details. Boxes, tissue, ribbon, and shred should all effortlessly coordinate with the gift given. Having a background in brand management and equity building has taught me the importance of presentation and packaging. At the store, we try to make this as easy as possible for you.
All the best,
There are generally four occasions for which you would give a hostess gift: as a party guest, when you cannot attend, as an honored guest, and as an overnight houseguest.
As party guest
The benefit of giving a hostess gift is that the recipient gets to know you a little better. Therefore, a good rule of thumb for hostess gifts is to have a go-to item you absolutely adore and wish to introduce to others. This could be a favorite candle, tea, olive oil, or confection. The item should be perceived as a “little luxury,” and not a pantry item easily purchased at a grocery store.
Please note: While most individuals default to wine, we believe wine has become an ironic symbol of convenience and thoughtlessness. Unless you know your host’s favorite bottle of wine, have acquired a special release from a local vineyard, or take your host a bottle from a region where you have both traveled together, we generally advise that individuals should give something more thoughtful.
When you cannot attend a party
One of the most thoughtful ladies I know lives out of town and goes out of her way to send flowers on the day of my events to which she cannot attend. It will forever be engrained in my mind that she is an incredibly gracious individual. (Yes, I’m talking about you Mrs. Elizabeth Daniel.) If you really wish to impress a hostess when you cannot attend a party, this is the way to do it.
As an honored guest
For an individual who is the bride at her own bridal shower, or the mother-to-be at her own baby shower, there are likely to be a number of hostesses. I recommend that honored guests spend between $20 and $30 per person for hostesses and give items that encourage a little pampering. Items such as face masks, handcrafted soaps, nail polishes, and the Bling Brush make nice functional pick-me-ups that are fun for experimenting.
As a houseguest
Overnight stays require an elevated level of gratitude. First and foremost, a houseguest should always ask the week prior to arriving if there is anything that he or she may bring. Friends of ours who live on St. John in the USVIs, and with whom we have stayed when we previously visited, love organic peanut butter (which is also impossible to find on the island). We know that this will always be in the gift box of goodies with us when we arrive. In addition to any hard-to-find hostess favorites, we recommend giving goodies that reflect the local maker scene in your hometown. This allows your hosts to experience things that otherwise they wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy. A good rule of thumb for spending purposes is somewhere in the range of $75-150, more if the stay is expected to be rather elongated.
There are two ways to deliver a houseguest hostess gift.
- Send a thank you gift in advance of your arrival. Particularly if you are traveling internationally by air, this will help to reduce the stress (and space) required to travel with a gift. Sending gifts in advance also helps to enhance the anticipation of the arrival.
- Present the hostess gift within the first hour of your arrival. This will reinforce the feeling of warmth between friends. Presenting gifts later than this runs the risk of a hostess feeling neglected.
Please note: We believe that paying for dinners and/or drinks, while generous, cannot replace the goodwill that comes with the delivery of a houseguest hostess gift.
More often than not, I find most couples have not had time to develop their registry by the time of their first engagement party. An eternally tasteful gift for this occasion is a lovely gold, silver, or mirrored picture frame. Alternatively, a tasteful home accessory such as a recently released cookbook (if the couple likes to cook) or a decoupage tray will help the couple to build their lives together.
If a couple has had time to develop their registry, it is best to opt for an item for the registry.
My advice is to try and stay on-registry as much as possible. A bride and groom are likely to have spent hours laboring over what it is they would like to add to their registry. If you’re running behind and searching for a gift the morning of the event (believe me, I’ve been there), you have one of two options:
If the couple does not have a gift registry, try your best to select an heirloom quality present that reflects their tastes. I always recommend Mosser glass candlesticks and coordinating Creative Candle Co. tapers, as they’ll run you roughly $70 and are as timeless as can be. If you have more time on your hands prior to the shower, my favorite bridal shower gift to give in the absence of a registry is a dozen monogrammed dinner napkins. Especially for the couple who likes to entertain, one can never have too many dinner napkins (my husband may beg to differ).
Bridesmaids and Groomsmen who commit to being a part of the wedding festivities often spend a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money on travel and party planning. There are countless ways to tell your friends how grateful you are for their effort and resources. First and foremost, we always recommend that a bride factor the cost of wedding day hair and makeup for the bridal party into her wedding budget. When I was married, I also carried the cost of the bridesmaid dresses. These were my gifts to the girls. If, for financial reasons, shouldering these costs is not possible, we recommend the following:
An heirloom quality treasure – For men, this could be something as small as an engraved key ring. For women, this could be a set of crystal Champagne coupes that you’ve found at a thrift store. No matter how small, make it meaningful.
Welcoming wedding guests as they become a part of the experience of a lifetime for a couple is a time-honored tradition in the South. These gifts create an opportunity to share more deeply who the couple is, to continue unveiling a theme or design direction for the wedding (only proceeded by the invitation suite), and to introduce a guest to the feelings and emotions surrounding the event. Other than a receiving line, or the supper itself, wedding welcomes are the big opportunity to express how gracious a couple is.
There are typically three ways to approach wedding welcomes:
- Every guest in attendance during the weekend receives a ‘favor.’ Favors are typically given as guests depart the wedding reception.
- Every guest in attendance during the weekend receives a welcome (whether in a bag, box, or basket). Gifts are organized and arranged for both couples and singles and given during a welcome reception, at the conclusion of the Rehearsal Dinner, or delivered directly to hotels.
- Only out-of-town guests who have traveled for the occasion are presented with a very gracious and warm welcome as they arrive. Gifts are delivered ahead of time to hotels and/or other overnight accommodations. Gifts of this nature tend to be extremely gracious.
There are endless possibilities for wedding welcomes, which makes them so fun. A bride and groom are only limited by their creativity. The most desirable items to include in wedding welcomes are completely contingent upon the bride and groom; however, we find the following to be a great guide for how to construct a wedding welcome: