How to regift the right way

Two experts on the thoughtfulness needed to avoid the potential faux pas of this practice.

Two experts on the thoughtfulness needed to avoid the potential faux pas of this practice

an illustration of one hand giving a gift to another hand
(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Let's face it: at one point or another, we've all received a gift we didn't love — especially around the holidays. Enter: the thought of regifting. While repurposing a present is not always ideal, it's not uncommon either.

However, that can be a tricky business.

There is a right and wrong way to go about this practice, if you'd like to avoid coming off as ungrateful or deceitful. Below, etiquette experts Susy Fossati of Avignon Etiquette and Elaine Swann of the Swann School of Protocol share their tips on how to successfully regift this holiday season. 

Yes, regifting can be a good thing

In fact, there are several circumstances in which regifting may be ideal. 

Holiday shopping can end up seeming wasteful, so giving someone a present you previously received can bring an element of sustainability to the act, says Swann. 

Also, if you received a present that you know someone else would love, regifting it to them is perfectly acceptable. "It could be the perfect fit for someone else," she said. "For example, someone gives you a really cool wine bottle opener, but you don't drink wine at all. However, you have a friend that's a wine enthusiast ... they could certainly enjoy that wine bottle opener."

As a general rule, both experts said regifting is OK as long as you're keeping the recipient's interests top of mind. "Make sure that you're giving something that the person would enjoy and not just … [to get] it off of your hands," said Swann. "We give with the intent [of] bestowing something upon someone else that they would enjoy."

Here's when it's not OK

Thoughtful regifting should never start from a place of "gotta get it out of the house," said Fossati. "I think, again, you always want to give a gift because that brings joy to someone else," she said. "It's not about getting rid of the item in the moment and just gifting it for no rhyme or reason." 

As well, there are certain instances in which to steer clear from the practice altogether. 

"You should not regift items that were handmade … or made personally for you," said Swann. That's because customized offerings — think monogrammed items or a knitted sweater — have an extra layer of sentimentality. "Those items are very personal in nature and were specifically designed for you." If you don't want the item, Swann suggests donating it to charity or casually offering it to a friend. 

Also, the recipient should not feel like they're getting a hand-me-down. Case in point: if an item no longer has its original packaging — or has obviously been opened — Swann says regifting is not an option, adding that if a product has been used, even just once, regifting it is definitely a no-no.

To avoid the worst scenarios, Fossati advises not to regift an item when you don't remember who gave you the gift in the first place. "[If you] forget who gave you the gift … you run the risk of being uncovered," she said. "That's absolutely something you want to avoid." Using the example of a wine she might regift, the etiquette expert shared a tip she uses to avoid the issue. "A great trick is to put a little sticky note underneath the bottle so that we know who gave it ... and in what direction not to give it back."

Avoid these regifting mistakes 

The goal, when regifting, is always to be as considerate as possible. "We want to be mindful of how exactly we're doing it, [so it] never comes back to haunt us," said Fossati. 

A blunder you don't want to make? Regifting within the same social circle. "Let's say, for example, your coworker gave you something for your birthday earlier this year, and you don't well like it. Don't give it to another coworker," Swann warned. "This is where [you] can end up getting embarrassed … and getting caught." Instead, offer it to someone from another part of your life entirely, like a family member or a neighbour. Fossati agreed: "You always want to be super mindful that there are six degrees of separation between who the giver and receiver might be."

Presentation is key 

Both experts agreed that a regifted item should be presented just as thoughtfully as any other present. 

"A gift is still a gift, regardless of how you acquired it," said Swann, who advised rewrapping the gift — not passing it along in the original bags or wrapping.

Even if you didn't make the purchase yourself, you can still personalize the offering overall. To do so, Fossati suggests adding personal touches and complementary accessories to the present, like adding tea towels when regifting a plate to someone who's just moved. 

"We definitely need almost as much time with a regift as a regular gift, because we still want to make sure that — in and of itself — [it] is still absolutely perfect for the other person," she said. These efforts go a long way.

Above all, be genuine 

Regardless of how considerate you are, regifting can feel dishonest. That's why it's important to be as thoughtful as possible to all parties, says both Fossati and Swann. This can start right when you receive a gift you don't like.  

"We always want to remember that it's not about the gift itself, but the thought behind the gift — that's what counts," said Fossati. Even if you intend to regift something, you can still be appreciative of the giver's kind intentions. "Focus just on the sentiment of gratitude for the gesture." 

You can extend that ethos of appreciation to the recipient of your gift, too. At the end of the day, if you offer a considerate, personalized present that you know they'll love, there's no reason to feel bad about how you got it. Just take care with regifting, said Fossati, and "always go in with the [intention of] giving the best to other people, especially during this time of the year." 


Natalie Michie is a Toronto-based writer who covers the intersection of fashion and pop culture. Find her on Instagram @nataliemichie and on TikTok @natalie_michie.

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