Be Prepared

It’s an inevitable part of the holiday drama: You forget to buy something for your sister-in-law; a relative drops by for an impromptu visit; a friend shows up unexpectedly with a gift. Here are some suggestions for you.

It’s an inevitable part of the holiday drama: You forget to buy something for your sister-in-law; a relative drops by for an impromptu visit; a friend shows up unexpectedly with a gift.

Getting caught empty-handed—or making a last-minute dash to buy a present—can make for holiday memories you’d rather forget. That’s why it pays to be prepared for gift-giving snafus.

You could keep on hand extra boxes of chocolate, bottles of wine, or gift cards for such situations, but how to give meaning to a gift when there’s hardly time to think? The best way is to develop a signature gift, says Ken Ballinger, store director for Tiffany & Co. at the Shops at Riverside in Hackensack. “This way, the same gift can be given to different people, but it will always convey your style and gratitude,” he says. “A sterling silver pen is great if you love writing. An attractive bottle stopper from a wine aficionado is another good example.”

Gift bags stuffed with tissue paper are the quickest way to make an attractive presentation, says Melanie Nerenberg, director of marketing for New York City–based Kate’s Paperie. But it’s also a good idea to keep an emergency wrapping kit stocked with rolls of neutral wrapping paper and varying widths of fabric ribbon. Fabric ribbon “says quality,” Nerenberg explains, and makes it look like you put some thought into the wrapping.

In those awkward times when you feel you must give an emergency gift, try to do so without making the “emergency” apparent to the other person, says Corby O’Connor, an Essex Fells–based etiquette and protocol expert. In fact, an unanticipated gift doesn’t necessarily have to be reciprocated at all, O’Connor says. “All the giver wants is a great big thank-you."

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