Several years ago I hosted a bridal shower for a friend at my house and one of the guests gave me a hostess gift. When she left, I opened the bag and found a pretty candle tucked inside. I also found an envelope. When I opened the envelope, I discovered that it was addressed to her. I had just received a re-gift. I kept the candle but I never said a word to her.
Many newly married couples ask if it is it proper to re-gift something that you don’t want or need that you are unable to return for a registry credit. Many years ago etiquette experts discouraged the practice, however, times have changed and so have our gift-giving habits.
During the times of recession, re-gifting becomes more popular and acceptable. Three in four Americans find re-gifting socially acceptable, according to a survey from American Express. Just last year in fact, consumers re-gifted an average of four presents during the holiday season.
So if you receive something for your wedding that you are unable to exchange or return, plan to re-gift the item but follow these rules:
1. The gift you are re-giving should make sense.
While regifting is a great way to save money and declutter, don’t regift something simply for the sake of regifting it. In other words, it’s doubtful your brother, who is allergic to all plants and lives in a sixth-story apartment, has any interest in gardening shears. Always think of who the gift will be going to. If you don’t like something, but you know a friend will love it then it’s a perfect scenario, but you should never re-gift anything just to get rid of it. If you cannot think of anyone who would want your gift and you don’t either, consider donating it to charity. Keep track of those donations and get a receipt because you can use them as a tax deduction come April. Just remember that a gift is supposed to be a reflection of how much you appreciate someone. Re-gifting is perfectly acceptable if you re-gift presents that suit the recipient and always stay mindful of the original gift givers feelings. Just don’t forget to take off the name tag!! Imagine your embarrassment when Susie opens up the gift bag that says: “To: Betty. From: Grandma.”
2. Don’t regift gifts from meaningful people.
Speaking of grandma, she can’t get around much anymore, and she took the time to buy you those gardening shears and a potted plant. She’s so sweet, and you love her so much. Imagine the smile on her face when she visits your house to see that potted plant on your front porch. I may sound sentimental, but we know it will warm her heart to see you caring for it and thinking of her as you do. That said, be smart about your regifting. Do not ever re-gift with immediate family members. When it comes to parents and siblings, skip it. If you are given something that you know your sister or your mom would love, just give it to them and tell them the situation. Don’t try and pass it off as an original gift because eventually they will find out and that just makes things awkward.
3. Never regift meaningful gifts.
This should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway. Your mom gave you a nice set of china that has been passed down through your family. You don’t host dinner parties and don’t plan on buying a china cabinet. That’s fine. But, for the love of your mother and your family history, don’t regift that family heirloom unless you want your great grandmother to rise from her grave and haunt dinnertime for the rest of your life. That said, if your sister or future sister in law DOES entertain often or host dinner parties, regifting a family heirloom to another beloved member of the family is ok. That said, don’t ever give a used gift unless it’s an heirloom or antique. Regifts should be new and never regift something you got for free or an item with someone else’s initials. That is just tacky!
4. Avoid regifting within your same circle of friends. This can only lead to really embarrassing situations. Erin gave Olivia a new French press last year. Olivia doesn’t drink fancy coffee, so she regifted the French press to Savannah this year. Later, Savannah invites Olivia and Erin over for brunch, and Erin notices the French press in the kitchen. “That’s just like the French press I gave you for your wedding, Olivia!” AWKWARD!! Our advice is to always remember who knows who and be very careful to never re-gift a present to anyone that has a mutual connection to the original gift giver. An example of proper re-gifting would be giving a gift from your mother-in-law to a co-worker. If you are going to regift, an easy way to keep track of who gave you what is to put a sticky note of the giver’s name on the gift.
5. Beware of the regift that keeps on regiving.
If you realize that you are getting into some crazy regifting inception sort of situation and you don’t know where that gift has been, so you should always assume the gift you want to regift has already been regifted. That means, you’re always only one regift away from giving it right back to the original giver. It is probably best to just donate it to charity and get that tax deductible receipt.
6. Give sooner rather than later.
Always remember that styles and trends change as do versions of technology rendering certain “it” gift items irrelevant. Only gifts that are brand new should be re-gifted. This means nothing opened, played with, worn, missing tags/pieces or that has sat in your closet for over a three months. Now, of course if you know you’ll never use that old bottle of cologne or itchy sweater, give the item to charity or recycle it in the wastebasket. Even if they are brand new, certain gifts should never be re-gifted:
• Handmade presents
• Personalized items (engraved or monogrammed)
7. Don’t regift everything at once.
If you are following these guidelines, regifting here and there is fine. But let’s not pretend we’re the Oprah Winfrey of regifting: “Rejected wedding and shower presents for everyone!” With that strategy, you’re bound to regift and end up hurting someone’s feelings. Plus, that’s not functional or practical. . . . it’s just plain cheap. Make sure some time has lapsed. Give a little breathing room between when you receive and re-purpose a gift to avoid having the original giver ask about it. Always consider the receiver’s tastes. A re-gift has to come with the right intention, meaning it must fit the receiver’s style and be something you would likely have purchased on your own to give to them as a gift. Maybe that vase that is not quite right for you is the perfect gift for your co-worker. If you think they will love it, then that is acceptable.
8. ALWAYS rewrap the regift.
Rewrap everything—the box, the gift paper, the packaging. You don’t know what lurks deep inside that box. To make a re-gift a thoughtful one, taking the time to re-wrap and include a hand written note or card will also give you the opportunity to check for tags or notes from the original gift giver. There could be a personal note to you or a second smaller gift that you totally missed. Be sure to be thorough.
9. Keep the original packaging.
A re-gifted present should be given in its original packaging. Always keep the seals intact when you take the time to re-wrap it. You really want to avoid that regift from appearing like a regift.
10. Be honest and admit it if you get caught.
Maybe you screwed up. Maybe you accidentally gave back the French press to Olivia, who gave it to you. Or maybe you forgot to take the nametag off the gift bag. If you find yourself in that situation, own up to it. If you get caught recycling a gift it will be embarrassing but don’t dwell on it. Just address it, explain why you thought the person would like it and change the subject. Just remember to always regift in different social circles. If you play it safe and avoid regifting to someone who might know the person who originally gave you the gift you can hopefully avoid any embarrassing mixups!