There are some situations where it’s not always clear whether a gift is necessary. Depending on the event or occasion a gift might be appropriate or it might not be expected or required. Gift giving etiquette may be interpreted differently by everybody. As such, we’ve written this gift guide on when to give a gift to clear up some of those times.

Why Buy A Gift

Why Buy A Gift Graphic

In most cases you’re buying a gift to celebrate an occasion, or to show your appreciation. You might have heard some good news and thought, “that deserves to be celebrated”. So you send the person, or persons’ something nice to commemorate it.

Gift giving is not an obligation (and it shouldn’t be), but depending on the circumstances it can simply be polite. If you’re not able to buy a gift, there are other ways of showing appreciation.  For instance, a heart felt written card.

Expectations For Different Occasions

Expectations For Different Occasions Graphic

When you’re expected to give a gift:

Your relationship with the person will be one factor to consider when buying a gift. If you’re close with them, then it’s usually expected for you to buy a gift. But again, it’s not an obligation, it’s usually out of politeness or familiarity.

Chances are, if you’re close with them then they’ll know that not getting a gift isn’t personal. However, you would still need to do something to offer a token of appreciation. Simply so that you’re not being rude and still being part of the celebration. Again, a simple card with a nice message, or poem could be really nice.

Another factor is the occasion.  Not all occasions will require a gift, but some of them will. Below we’ve listed some of these occasions in the next section below. 

When you’re not expected to give a gift:

There are often times when it’s really not necessary to give a gift. It might be that the occasion simply doesn’t require a token of appreciation, thanks or celebration. That would include occasions funerals or times of sympathy, and illnesses.  Quite simply, gifts in these situations might make matters awkward, rather than help. 

Things to consider when buying a gift:

As an acquaintance, it can be a little bit unclear when to give a gift. In most cases, giving a gift is a really nice gesture. The value and subject of a gift can sometimes be what crosses the line.

If the value of the gift is much higher than is appropriate for the occasion and relationship, it might come across as odd. For example, if you’ve only just made friends, you’re not expected to give them something for £50. A fairly cheap bottle of wine will do, and will make them feel less awkward.

In buying a gift that is too much, it can make the receiver feel obligated to buy you something just as expensive. And that’s not always going to be possible. It’s more respectful to buy something nice and fitting for the occasion. Rather than something over the top. It might seem like a good idea, but it can often be misconstrued.

Occasions To Give A Gift

Occasions To Give A Gift Graphic

Below we’ll outline some big occasions so that you know when to give a gift, and when not to give a gift.


Birthdays: It’s polite to give a gift if you’re close with the person. If you’re not able to give a gift for financial or other reasons, a card is still appreciated. As an acquaintance, a simple card will do. Again, a gift is appreciated, but don’t go overboard.
Christmas: The same as Birthdays. A card is great if you’re not able to buy a gift. This will show that you’ve acknowledged the occasion and want to show your goodwill.
Weddings: Weddings will usually have a gift registry so you have some guidance. If you’ve been invited to a Wedding and you’re attending, then you should bring a gift. Not attending the Wedding and your an acquaintance? Send your apologies for non-attendance, but a gift is not required.
Housewarming: You’ve been invited to someone’s housewarming, in this case it’s nice to bring something along. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, flower or wine works just as well.

Not Expected: 

Engagements: This occasion is best reserved for family and close friends. It doesn’t need to be a gift, but a congratulations card will go a long way.
Dinner Parties: If this is just a simple dinner party, a gift is not necessary. But perhaps a bottle of wine for the hosts will be a nice thank you for arranging it.
Graduation: Similar to engagements, this occasion is best reserved for close friends and family. A gift is not mandatory here. But a simple thanks is nice.
Get Well Soon: This does not require a gift, but a card is meaningful and appropriate.
Funerals: A gift here is not appropriate or necessary. Condolences and cards are much more thoughtful.

Gift Etiquette

There are some unspoken rules when you give a gift to someone. Below we will outline what to consider when you’re giving a gift, and when you’re given a gift.

Should You Be Matching The Price Of A Gift Given To You?

Should You Be Matching The Price Of A Gift Given To You?  Graphic

In short, no, it’s not necessary to match the price of a gift that was given to you. Ultimately, it’s their choice if they want to buy you something expensive. It does not need to be reciprocated, especially if you’re not able to afford it.

We don’t need to put ourselves under financial pressure to please someone. And it shouldn’t be expected. The thought that is attached to a gift is much more meaningful. So if you were planning on getting gifts for each other, it’s much better to find meaning in it. Much more so than monetary value.

In most cases you won’t know the amount the other person is spending on you. Because of this it makes it impossible to price match anyway. 

Should You Buy For Everyone In The Group?

Should You Buy For Everyone In The Group? Graphic

You may find yourself in a situation where you feel obligated to buy for groups. This could be a group of friends if you’re in a social circle, or maybe a group of friends at work, or a couple you know. So should you buy for everyone in the group?

Answer: You should only give a gift if you want to give a gift. It really shouldn’t be an obligation.

Group scenarios are especially difficult because if you end up buying for each person, well, that’s pricey. It adds up, especially around the holidays. And if you start that trend, it might become tradition and therefore expected.

What Can You Do When You Can't Afford A Gift For Everyone

What Can You Do When You Can't Afford A Gift For Everyone Graphic

“The first thing to think about here is how much time you’ve got to manage expectations. If it’s December and you’re planning for Christmas, the best thing you can do is try and manage expectations early. Simply outlining that you can’t afford to buy every single person a present this year is a perfectly acceptable thing to say as most people will absolutely understand the situation. Instead you can dilute the amount of money spent buy buying 1 present per couple rather than 1 present for each person, and so on. You can even bake homemade edibles instead of buying gifts. You can view our guide to homemade gifts here.

If you have more time to prepare, you can set expectations way in advance. For example, outlining that in order to save money, you’re only sending cards this year for birthdays rather than cards and gifts. Alternatively, you can try and create a situation where you spend less money, for example, turning Christmas into Secret Santa where you only have to buy 1 gift, rather than 1 gift per person. You can view our Top 15 Secret Santa Gift Ideas for under £10 here if you need inspiration.

What To Say When You Give A Gift

What To Say When You Give A Gift Graphic

Usually, depending on the relationship, you’ll know what the right thing is to say when you give a gift to someone. But anxiety can often make us over-analyze the situation. So there are some simple phrases we can say when you give a gift listed below:

  • Hey, this made me think of you, I hope you like it.
  • Remember when we saw that [insert item] well, check this out.
  • It’s not much, but I hope you like.

Essentially, you’re trying to not get their hopes us too much. But you still think you’ll enjoy the gift itself. Be prepared that they will open it in front of you, unless you specify otherwise.

This has been a guide on when to give a gift. We hope it’s been informative. If you’re on the lookout for more handy tips, checkout the related articles below.

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