6 Things That Are Actually OK to Re-Gift, According to Etiquette Experts

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Is Re-Gifting Actually a Faux Pas? South_agency - Getty Images

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“Re-gifting” has long been considered a faux pas, whether it’s for a holiday or a birthday. Seen as a last-minute decision or an option for a White Elephant party, gifts that one has previously received and then given to someone else have been viewed as gauche, or even downright rude. Back in the day, Emily Post was certainly not a fan of re-gifting.

But times have changed. Nowadays, while some tried-and-true etiquette guidelines survive, some can be tweaked and challenged. Rigid rules have loosened, and in fact, under the right circumstances, re-gifting is a “smart and practical option,” as Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, says.

In fact, re-gifting is no longer seen as “cheap.” Etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts believes that choosing to be thrifty is a wise choice, especially in today’s economy.

Something to keep in mind though? Jodi RR Smith, etiquette expert, author, and president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, says that the appropriateness of re-gifting is all in how it’s done.

“When people think of re-gifting, they think of passing along something they did not like, such as a fruitcake, or something opened or semi-used,” she says. “But there are plenty of times when re-gifting is perfectly acceptable.”

close up of a woman wrapping gifts and tying a beautiful pastel ribbon bow
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To start, Grotts states that the “golden rule” of re-gifting is, “Always give a gift that you would want to receive, or don’t give at all.”

Smith outlines her guidelines for proper re-gifting, which include:

  • The item should be brand new and never used.

  • The original gifter and the new recipient should be in separate social circles.

  • The item should be something you would have gone to the store to purchase for the recipient.

  • The item should be completely rewrapped, taking care to remove any cards or notes from the original gifter.

And then there are the things you shouldn’t re-gift, which Smith says encompasses:

  • Anything you’ve opened, sniffed, tried, worn, or tasted.

  • Anything with stains, tears, dents, or the like.

Also, honesty is the best policy when it comes to re-gifting. As Gottsman points out, “I would prefer to re-gift honestly, letting the person know you have received something that you would like to share with them because you know it’s their favorite color or their favorite item, and you will not be able to use it, but would like to offer it to them as a gesture of kindness.”

Things That Are OK to Re-Gift

Books and Stationary

Paper products, whether they come in the form of notepaper or treasured tomes, are a good choice if you’re opting to re-gift. As Grotts says, “Who doesn’t love books or write thank you notes? Just make sure the monogram is theirs!”

Gourmet Chocolates

Smith says that if you’ve received a box of fancy gourmet chocolates and you are unable to eat them, the unopened box of chocolates, still sealed, may be regifted.

Wine and Liquor

Do you have some fresh, unopened bottles of wine or spirits around the house that you aren’t intending to drink? They can make for great re-gifts, whether it’s for a special occasion or as gifts for hosts at parties. “Libations will be welcomed during the holidays,” Grotts says.

New Clothing Items

Perhaps you have a clothing item that isn’t quite “you,” and you’d like to pass it along to someone who may actually adore it. As long as the item still has the tags attached and you’ve never worn it, it can make for the perfect present.

“If you received a cashmere sweater and just looking at it makes you itch, you may re-gift it,” Smith says.

Unopened Bottles of Perfume

“If you received a bottle of perfume and you have allergies, the unopened bottle of perfume in the manufacturer’s sealed box may be wrapped and re-gifted,” Smith says.

Gifts for Babies

Grotts says that if you have a friend or family member who’s expecting, a smart re-gift can be baby equipment that may otherwise be costly. If the item is clean and not overly worn, Grotts says that it’s fine to re-gift, but she encourages the giver to be upfront about the fact that it’s a re-gift.

Things That Are Not OK to Re-Gift

Cakes and Candy

While a luxe box of chocolate is OK to regift, Grotts notes that cakes and candy, even if they’re still packaged, can quickly go stale, if they haven’t already by the time you’re giving them away. Check the expiration date, and never re-gift expired items. Buy a new treat, like this gourmet coconut cake from Ina Garten, instead.

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Partially Used Gift Cards

“Gift cards are terrific when you see $20.00 versus $11.99,” Grotts says. “If you re-gifted a gift card only after buying yourself a latte, think again.”

Pro tip: Use that partially used Williams Sonoma gift card towards something thoughtful, like a beautiful cheese board or these crystal coupe glasses, for your loved one instead.

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Family Heirlooms

Family heirlooms are gifts that really can go either way. Gottsman says that heirloom items that were intended specifically for someone, such as heirloom jewelry, and have been passed down from a family member or even through generations shouldn’t be re-gifted, especially if you’re attempting to re-gift the item within your own family.

But then there might be a case when a family heirloom would be welcomed by the recipient and it doesn’t step on any toes—for this situation, a re-gift can be a heartfelt choice. These can run the gamut from diamond earrings to Nana’s beloved casserole dish, Smith says.

“For heirloom re-gifting items, be sure to share the heirloom status, any family lore, along with what it means to you to bestow this item to them for their stewardship,” Smith says.

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