Etiquette Of Gifts

Wedding presents should be chosen with due reference to the circumstances of the bride. For the daughter of wealthy parents, who weds a husband of large means–and to whom all desirable useful things are assured–articles of virtu, and bewildering creations in the way of costly “fancy articles,” are suitable wedding gifts. For a quiet little bride who is going to housekeeping on a moderate income, articles that are useful as well as beautiful are appropriate and acceptable. A handsome substantial chair, a cabinet for china, pretty china to put in it, some standard books, a set of fine table linen,–almost anything within the range of dainty house-furnishing shows the good taste of the giver.

Presents that owe their creation to the ingenuity and labor of one’s friends–as hand-painted screens or china, embroidered work, or, if one is artistic, a painting or etching–are peculiarly complimentary wedding gifts.

In general, the exchange of gifts is desirable only between friends who care enough for each other not only to give, but to be willing to accept–the latter being a severer test of friendship. Between two women, or between two men, these matters adjust themselves.

A man should not offer valuable gifts to any lady outside of his own family, unless she is very much his senior, and a friend of long standing. Similarly, a lady should not accept valuable gifts from a gentleman unless his relationship to her warrants it. Trifling tokens of friendship or gallantry–a book, a bouquet, or a basket of bon-bons–are not amiss; but a lady should not be under obligation to a man for presents that plainly represent a considerable money value.

When a gift is accepted, the recipient should not make too obvious haste to return the compliment, lest he or she seem unwilling to rest under obligation. It is polite to allow a generous friend some space of time in which to enjoy the “blessedness of giving.”

“Independence” is an excellent thing; but it becomes peculiarly rude when it takes the form of refusing all trifling favors. It is often the greatest wisdom as well as kindness, to allow some one to do us a favor. Enemies have been transformed into friends by this tactful process; for, as one always hates one whom he has injured, so, on the reverse, he cannot help feeling an increased glow of kindliness toward one whom he has benefited.

When some unsophisticated person innocently offers a gift that strict conventionality would forbid one to accept, it is sometimes better to suspend the rules and accept the token, than by refusal to hurt the feelings of one who has perhaps offended the letter, but not the spirit, of the law.

Gifts of flowers to the convalescent–tokens that the busy outside world has not forgotten him–are among the most graceful expressions of courteous interest. Any one–even a total stranger–may send these, if “the spirit moves,” and the circumstances are such that the act could bear no possible misinterpretation.

Further reading:
Etiquette by Agnes H. Morton

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