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20-40-60 Etiquette: She did not like our gifts!

My future daughter-in-law donated the gifts we had given her to Goodwill. How should I approach gift-giving to her this year?
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman Modified: October 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm •  Published: October 19, 2012

Maybe she and her family exchange gifts in a different way or with different intentions.

You can always put less thought and money into gifts you. However, by asking her directly, you might prevent unresolved hurt feelings from simmering through the years until they boil over into something worse. You'll be closer to understanding her expectations as she becomes part of the family.

HELEN'S ANSWER: How embarrassing for you and for your future daughter-in-law. There are several ways to look at this problem. You could ignore the fact that you found the discarded gifts and continue to give her gifts since she will be a family member, or ask her what sort of gifts that she likes since this family likes to give gifts for special occasions.

In a polite way, you might tell both the woman and your son that you found the gifts that you all had given to her in the Goodwill box and were very sorry that they were not what she had wanted, but that you still wanted to give her something she might enjoy — even a gift card.

Personally, when I give gifts, there are no strings attached, so if they go to Goodwill, so be it.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker who has taught etiquette classes at Oklahoma Christian University: It is obvious from this question that gift-giving isn't always a simple thing. And the old adage “it is better to give than to receive” isn't the truth in this situation; giving can be painful and challenging. This is a time that I would suggest you do the right thing anyway. It is the right thing to give your future daughter-in-law a gift. You are in the wrong if you stop doing the proper thing because your feelings are hurt. We cannot make everyone happy all the time, and you are still learning what your future daughter-in-law likes as far as gifts go. The attitude problem may be hers in that she isn't a good gift receiver. Many people do not appreciate what has been given to them.

The healthiest thing to do in this situation is to tell her you found the gifts in the donation pile, in a gentle and kind way. Tell her you are sorry she didn't like what you gave her as presents but would like to know some specific things she would appreciate. You need her to spell it out for you. If she doesn't tell you what to give her, gift cards and money are always great gifts. We cannot please everyone all the time.

Callie Gordon is 20-something; Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s; and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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