By Diane Gottsman
Woman Accepting Gift at a Party
Credit: Photo By Duane Howell/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Southerners are generous by nature. Down here, we'll find just about any reason to present a neighbor with a treasure from our kitchen or a small token to celebrate our friendship. Our mamas taught us that thank-you notes are non-negotiable so don't be surprised if you see one of us sliding a card into the mailbox before we've even left the party. With this frequent exchanging of gifts comes a whole host of etiquette dilemmas that only a Southerner can solve. You shared your questions in our Facebook group, and we took them straight to Diane Gottsman, the founder of the Protocol School of Texas. Read her tactful solutions below and head to There's No Excuse for Bad Manners to post any remaining queries.

Diane Gottsman Headshot
Diane Gottsman, Founder of the Protocol School of Texas
| Credit: Photo Courtesy of Diane Gottsman

When you receive a graduation announcement, is it necessary to send a gift? What if it is a relative that you do not know well or have never met?
Your determination to send a gift, or not, is based on your relationship with the graduate and their family. If you are very close to the family of the graduate, you may feel compelled to send a token of support. If it's a distant relative that you have never met, let your instincts be your guide.
If you receive a graduation announcement with an invitation to a party, and you RSVP yes, you will want to bring a gift to the celebration. You may also consider sending a gift if you have a conflict and cannot attend the party, but have a special affinity for the graduate. Otherwise, you can send a congratulatory card and omit the gift.
Finally, when in doubt, a small denomination gift card to a big box store/supercenter in their area is always a lifesaver. The graduate can buy something for their dorm and you won't feel as if you have broken the bank over someone you do not know very well.

At a dinner party, when is the appropriate time to present the hostess with a gift?
This is a great question. The number one rule for giving a hostess gift is that the guest should always include a gift tag or card so the host will know who the gift was from at the end of the evening when she opens her gifts. Unless the guest specifically requests it, the host is generally busy greeting her guests, mixing and mingling and would not stop to open gifts. It also prevents awkward moments if someone did not bring a gift for the host.
With the exception of a bottle of wine or a vase of flowers (flowers should optimally be sent in advance), a hostess gift would generally be handed to the host, wrapped, or in a pretty gift bag, with a gift tag or card attached.

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A younger relative repeatedly receives gifts, without sending thank-you notes. Should I continue to mail gifts for birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations without any acknowledgment?
It seems as if this family member has already established a pattern when it comes to thank-you notes. Do what is in your heart. Send a check or gift along with a lovely card and a hand-written note from you asking this relative to please let you know when the gift has been received. Explain that you would love to know how the money or gift are being used.
While you cannot force someone to write a thank you note, you can certainly encourage them to keep in touch. Once again as I have stated earlier, how you decide to gift those who do not appropriately and respectfully acknowledge a gesture of kindness, tangible or otherwise, is completely up to you.