A century ago, the rules of gift-giving were carved in stone.Today, not so much. Have you ever taken your chances and shown up to an event without a gift, only to find that everyone else brought one?

Should you “play it safe” and shop for a gift, only to find no one else brought one?

When should you send a gift for an event to which you have been invited but can’t attend? Knowing what occasions call for a gift and which do not can spare you the uncertainty (and potential embarrassment) of making the wrong call..

Here are some basic rules to help you with your gift-giving etiquette:

1. You receive an invitation to the wedding of a close friend’s son. You have known the groom since he was a baby, but you will not be able to attend the wedding due to a prior commitment. In this case, you should submit your regrets and send a wedding gift to the couple’s home.

2. You have been invited to join friends for the birthday party of an 8-year-old girl who you do not know. You have no children yourself, but you’re friends with some of the parents of children who are also invited to the party. Although you are not obligated to bring a birthday gift in this situation, it would be a nice gesture to bring something small and appropriate for the birthday girl.

3. You have been invited to an engagement party for a close friend. Do you bring a gift? Actually, engagement gifts are not expected at an engagement party, although many people are either unaware of this fact or choose to ignore it. If you want to be safe, a bottle of wine or Champaign for the happy couple is always a safe choice. Since you’ll be expected to buy a wedding gift too, you shouldn’t spend too much on the engagement gift unless you really want to.

4. Your boss is hosting a dinner party at her home and you’re invited. You definitely want to bring a gift. Not only is it your boss, but it’s proper etiquette to bring a gift to a dinner party for your host/hostess. If it’s holiday time, a beautiful ornament or festive platter are good choices.

5. You have been invited to a graduation ceremony or graduation party that you won’t be attending. Whether you send a graduation gift depends on your relationship with the graduate or the family. Naturally, if it’s your niece, nephew or grandchild you are expected to send a gift. If the graduate’s parents are close family friends, you are probably expected to send a gift. If the graduate or the graduate’s family are just acquaintances, or if you just receive a graduation announcement, you do not need to send a gift. However, If you are going to the graduation party you do need to bring a gift.

6. You’re invited to a friend or neighbor’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. Although these are not traditional gift-giving holidays and gifts are not expected, do take something fitting for the event to give the host/hostess to show your appreciation for being invited.

7. Whenever you’re invited to a housewarming party, a gift is definitely expected. In fact, even if there is no party, it’s proper etiquette to bring a housewarming gift on your first visit to a friend or relative’s new home. If you are invited to accompany someone to the housewarming party of someone you have never met, no gift is necessary.

Finally, any time you feel unsure about whether or not a gift is expected or appropriate, err on the side of giving. No one ever gets angry for receiving a gift, expected or not.

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