Holiday Special: The No No Gifts



Now that we’re all experts in gift giving etiquette, I thought it would be fun to go over a few of the universal off-limit gifts. These items are typically uncouth to give to particular people for the holidays… Below is a quick reference guide to help you properly shop for all those included on your list.

Unless you’re romantically involved with someone, do not give them perfume or cologne (unless it’s a close family member or a good friend). Aside from having major romantic implications, it could also suggest that you think they smell bad…

Again, intimates are also reserved for those who are romantically tied. Fun pajamas are great, but frilly lingerie, not so much.

While alcohol is usually an excellent gift, mind the recipient. If you know them well and know they drink alcohol, by all means, give them the bubbly! If not, be careful. Last year I decided to do group gifts by giving everyone a bottle of champagne. However, I had to be careful since I knew a few people were sober. In this situation, Lizzie Post, co-author of the 18th Edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, suggests a two-step approach. Firstly, “Is their sobriety public?” If so, you are in the clear to give them an alternative gift such as chocolates. Secondly, if the person is on the quieter side about their sobriety, give everyone the same gift at the party. Or if you are going to be giving gifts in private, ask them ahead of time if they’d prefer to have something else. Post suggests, “Sometimes the best way to go about it is quiet honesty… It’s okay to reach out to someone if you’re coming from a place of love and respect.” This way you can make them feel comfortable and avoid accidently outing their sobriety to others. Also, be cautious of giving alcohol to pregnant women. If you do decide to give a pregnant woman an alcoholic gift, include a note saying it is for them to enjoy after the baby arrives.

Speaking of taboos, what’s the most inappropriate gift you ever received?

XO Lauren

You might also like…
Ladylike Laws: Holiday Gift Giving
Holiday Special: Deck the Halls
Holiday Special: My Revolve Gift Boutique
Style Guide: Holiday Parties

Photo: Terry Richardson
Categories: Celebrate, Etiquette, Holiday Specials, Lauren Conrad
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  • Melissa Panici

    Great tips Lauren! I can’t say that I ever received an inappropriate gift honestly.

  • Tiffani Stuart

    The most inappropriate gift I’ve been given, wasn’t actually for Christmas, but for my birthday. It was a “”Birthday Card”” from my aunt, basically telling me off & throwing herself a pity party for me forgetting to acknowledge her birthday 3wks earlier… We’re not close, we speak maybe once a year. I felt bad about forgetting her birthday, which I had actually remembered a few days prior, but it had slipped my mind. 2011 was a crappy year for me, so this was NOT what I needed. People don’t usually expect to get chewed out in their birthday cards, especially by people they aren’t close to at all, lol.

  • Shellz

    Intimates…!! I was baffled and they werent even my

  • Lauren Hoffman

    Don’t think I’ve ever received one! (lucky me) but great tips!


    And speaking of intimates/being naked, check out my review on UD’s NAKED2!

  • Lauren McEwen

    Oh boy.. well my inappropriate gift was given to me by my Grandma. She didn’t realize it was inappropriate, though. It was one of those winter hunter hat’s that are fleece lined. The inappropraite part was the logo and the signature on the back… little pink bunnies everywhere with a cursive, “”Playboy Bunny”” on the back. Haha! Kind of endearing that she didn’t know what that meant.

  • Mellie

    A few years ago, one of my friends gave another friend a makeup bag with deodorant, razors, a toothbrush and shampoo in it. We were all like, “”what are you trying to say?””

  • Kellie Norton

    One time my friend decided to buy me a membership to a gym, great idea but we weren’t even that good of friends and it made me think she thought I was fat :) haha oh well, it’s the thought that counts!

  • Sarah K

    My mother-in-law gave me the same brand of perfume she wears… Needless to say, for my sanity (and my husband’s), I’ve never worn it.

  • Stephanie McDonnell

    I once received a “”pager”” of pepper spray. Yes. Pepper spray. Pepper spray disguised as a beeper/pager. The thought was nice. I was a young, single (then) female and the giver (a male!) thought it would do me good to have some protection while on my own. It was one of those gifts that makes you scratch your head while sputtering, “”Um … wow … thank you … that’s so thoughtful …””

    Custom Bridal

  • erin

    lauren or associates, could you remove and block those solicitors?

    anyway, i haven’t received any inappropriate gifts. wheww!! i certainly have gotten some gifts i didn’t like. :)

  • Charlotte Hill

    I was once received 2 new bra sets from an Aunt….that was pretty weird as they looked like something a boyfriend should have bought me

  • Tiffani Stuart

    My grandmother sent me a promo of “”How to Look Good Naked”” w/Carson Kressley DVD one year, lol. I am still scratching my head as to why she thought that’d make a great gift, lol. Thanks Grandma. It was a good laugh, though, if nothing else.

  • Tiffani Stuart

    PS- I also agree w/Erin about the solicitors… I don’t mind self-adverstisements for blogs at the end of a comment that goes w/the topic, but not these full comments that have nothing to do w/the site, blog, etc. I don’t know if I speak for everyone, but it doesn’t make me feel like my info is safe.

  • DancesWithHooves

    I received ponytail elastics in elementary school when my hair wasn’t even long enough to secure back with bobby pins had I wanted to… LOL

  • LuLu

    I was fifteen and my family and I were at a family friend’s house. Their children were younger so we gave them toys and such. Well then it was time for our friends to give my brothers and I gifts. My brothers (11 and 13) were given ‘Toys ‘R Us’ giftcards and I was given a coloring book that… wait for it… had already been used. Needless to say, I had to put on my best poker face, say thanks, and save this as a funny holiday story!

    Happy Holidays! :)

  • Dani

    A girl told me last night that her Grandma gave her this super gaudy black sweater with sequins all over it. She went to return it and got a penny back! Apperently the store thought it was ugly too!

  • Heather Nicole

    I have a connective tissue disease, so I’ve had several surgeries. I got the diagnosis a few years ago, right before Christmas. My mom’s mother — who had a pretty strong dislike for me — used the opportunity to shop for me … from catalogs aimed at senior citizens, since (her words, not mine) “”I basically was one now anyway.”” I was 23 at the time. I got a full collection of stirrup pants, hiddeous loafters, sweaters with giant creepy birds on them and — my personal favorite — a bright, royal blue, crushed velour leisure suit. I wore it out for Halloween one year and went as one of the Golden Girls.




  • Lauren Farrell

    I once recieved a big pair of floral knickers for christmas as a joke! It came in a big box and everything so I thought it was gonna be something amazing!………………………but no! lol! :)

  • Kimmy S

    so funny! but these are som really good tips for holiday shopping– thank you thank you!

    the most inappropriate gift i ever got was a child-aged makeup set… weird!

  • Anood Lari

    My sister once got a McDonald’s happy meal toy as a gift that was put into a used watch box!!

  • Els Jeuris

    Men’s cologne!!!

  • ilovemakeup5

    When I was somewhere between the ages of 10 through 12 years old, my uncle’s wife gave me a strange movie to watch as a Christmas gift. The movie was a little known indie movie about an Eastern European gigolo grandfather who has to watch his grandson. What a TERRIBLE gift for a pre-teen! Her reasoning for the gift … She said the movie would “”culture”” me. Unfortunately, I could go on and on about the terrible presents she picks out.

  • Dkhan

    When I was 17, a family friend had no idea what to get me…..they were usually good at giving the best presents too. So when it came time to open presents…I unwrapped a box of cereal….needless to say I was very disappointed. :(

  • Bunhead

    My brother got a shoe box of condoms on his 16th birthday which made everyone uncomfortible since it was a family party. lol

  • Erin Allard

    I am not sure if this is “”inappropriate”” or just general poor gift giving etiquette, but I received a small gift bag of totally crumbled up cookies! They were from a nice bakery, but they were so crumbled I ended up just tossing them in the trash. I felt bad tossing them, but what a mess for the recipient. If you are giving cookies or any other fragile confections, please use a box or tin and some tissue paper. If you spend the time and money to put that gift together, at least take the time to pack it properly. FRAGILE HANDLE (cookies) WITH CARE! :o)

  • Aja Doe

    I would also like to add workout gear on this list. Unless they are into a specific sport and the gift complements that, don’t buy them workout gear. It implies that the recipient is out of shape.

  • Kristen Haddick

    haha, i love this post. so true about the cologne. my grandmother’s gifts are constant entertainment. one year she gave me a men’s tuxedo shirt with a cat hand painted on it. PRICELESS.

    xx kristen“”>mikie and kristen

  • Cassie H

    every lady needs to be aware of good etiquette. thank you for sharing :)

  • Cherie LaFlamme
  • Jacqui Haspell

    On Sunday, my mom’s boyfriend gave me a card with 2 cupons in it. Not gift cards. CUPONS. Soo offended

  • Maribel C

    Worst gift recevied…ONE pack of popcorn, extra butter! I don’t even like popcorn. Especially not with extra butter! My work did a white elephant one year and that’s what I got stuck with…RUDE!

  • Tawsha Simon

    When I was five years old I received candles and a candle holder from an aunt on my dad’s side. When I got home my family was like, “”Why on earth would she give a FIVE year old candles?””

  • Jacqueline W

    I have gotten perfumes from my parent’s and my best friend and my sister before.

  • Nathalia

    I can only agree with the perfume part, unless you know exactly what kind of perfume they use, and that they actually want some. My ex-boyfriend only knew the company of some childhood favourite, so he ordered two of their perfumes from overseas and they both reeked. I could not tell him and wore the one that was the least bad when he was there. As soon as we broke up though, I sold them on ebay.

    Or another time, my family knew I liked this new perfume, and they gave me everything with it, showergels, handlotion, bodylotion, deodorant… it was so much, I didn’t even like the perfume any longer.

  • Mindee Krymer

    My senior year of high school, my best friend’s boyfriend gave me a red lacy bra for Christmas. Granted, my whole group of friends had a running joke about my obsession for cute bras and underwear, but still – totally inappropriate gift for the situation.

  • Hark

    Christmas is coming, and I believe many of my friends are busy shopping, price shop, but also a friend to tell you about, oh, not the same style of sportswear, sports shoes, more clothing and morebright spot waiting for everyone Oh

  • Lifeofchanel

    My Boyfriend’s sister gave me lacy underwear for Christmas last year… I went beat red when I opened it in front of the whole family.

  • Laura Smith

    Last year I received 2 gifts from this guy- a bracelet he had gotten on his Thanksgiving cruise and some pajama pants. It was a sweet gesture, but it freaked me out because we had only just met and he gave these to me ON OUR SECOND DATE. It weirded me out and we didn’t see much of each other after that.

    • Kat

      What the hell? He was clearly trying to impress you? Judgmental much? Pfffft

  • Holly

    My in-laws gave me jingle panties (with frills and bells on the butt) from Victoria’s Secret last year. They thought it was totally appropriate since my husband had mentioned to them that I like shopping there. Needless to say, when I opened the package they were in, I was very embarrassed. I would have been perfectly happy with a gift card for there instead.

  • Lyndsey T.

    I once received two different Bibles from the same person, an in-law. My in-laws know (and knew at the time) that I did not share their religious views, but that I would respect their faith. Not only did it make things incredibly awkward, I felt unwelcome and as if I wasn’t good enough for them.

  • Anon

    My mom is a pretty terrible gift-giver, and has given people moldy purses from Good Will, fuzzy sequined shawls, etc. But the one that takes the cake was when she gave my troubled cousin a book on recovering from sex and drug addiction, and my poor cousin opened it in front of her new in-laws on christmas. Needless to say, she was absolutely mortified, and it probably explains why my mom isn’t invited to the family christmas gathering anymore.



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