Whether hosting or gifting, a little thoughtfulness goes a long way
My house will never be featured in a blog. My holidays aren’t pristine like the pages of a magazine. And this is partially by design. I like to think I throw a great party (ie this pretty big one) but I don’t love an overly manicured experience. My interior design and hosting aesthetic both aim to be casual and comfortable but I definitely appreciate a few thoughtful, handmade, or bougie touches to make it pop.
This general ethos extends to gift-giving, too. In absence of “the perfect gift” — in terms of a single perfect product you buy for someone, which I believe to be rare — there’s space for a gift that makes someone feel special not because of what it is, but because of the thought you put into it for them specifically. If I don’t know enough about them (like my son’s teachers), I lean into crowd-pleasing products or products I personally love and can vouch for, but I show thoughtfulness by taking time to make a card, write a fun poem, or wrap it in a special way. For those that I know well, personalization is the name of the game. Lean into what they love. Then make it special in its presentation to let them know you care.
Pick a couple things to make special
Shoot for an 80/20 mix — 80% solid and 20% special. This goes for food when hosting — buy some components ready-made and make a couple homemade. Or try the “high brow / low brow” trend, a la potato chips and caviar. Or have a casual taco bar (affordable and easy to prepare) alongside custom cookies or fancy cupcakes for dessert. If you’re cooking everything yourself, always balance 80% easy to execute dishes with 1-2 unique or special dishes. And when cake is involved, in my humble opinion, homemade always feels special and tastes better!
As a bonus when hosting, find an opportunity for humor or quirkiness. For a casual joint birthday party at a restaurant, we added these little face stickers of the birthday people (3 Christmastime birthdays in our family!), bought cheesy sashes from Amazon, brought a cake, and put out a Polaroid instant camera. That’s it! But the small touches made the party feel fun and just a bit more special than just going out to eat.
If you’re gifting, you could go solid with the gift and special with the wrapping paper, or if you’re gifting an assorted gift bag, grab some crowd pleaser products (like chocolate, face masks, bath bombs, and candles) and pair with one special thing that is unique, personal, rare, expensive, handmade, or a personal favorite that creates an opportunity for you two to discuss and connect.
If you’re sending holiday cards to your friends and family, consider adding a typed letter reflecting on your year, or wishing your loved ones a great new year. Pick out nice holiday stamps from the post office. And if you have time, hand write your envelopes! It’s so nice getting hand written mail this time of year.
Nice wrapping paper always makes a gift feel more special
“But, I’m not creative.” You don’t have to be creative to take a couple extra steps to make your gifts look super nice! Here are a few tips:
- If you’re giving multiple items, wrap each one individually. Try to avoid gift bags - the reveal is too quick. Opening presents is fun!
- If the gifts stack well (like if you’re giving 2-3 books) you can tie them together with ribbon or twine.
- You can wrap each present simply and then top the stack with a unique wrapping paper, bow, or handmade card.
- Select thematic wrapping paper for all the gifts you’re giving. You could do everything in butcher paper or could pick 2-3 wrapping paper styles that compliment each other and alternate on each gift. I personally apply this to all gifts, so they all look nice together under the tree!
- You can also draw right on the paper if you use something like kraft/butcher paper. If you’ve got kids, you can get in the holiday spirit by coloring or painting on butcher paper ahead of Christmas, then use that paper to wrap.
- Adding glue+glitter (even just a pattern of dots or asterisks or pluses!) or Sharpie (a little doodle or just a nice to/from) is always a simple but special touch.
Handmade wins when you’re crunched for time or money
How long does it take to make a batch of cookies for someone? Or to hand write a card? These are super low budget/effort but super cherished gifts to receive. And you don’t need to be an artist. Whether you find an idea on Pinterest or finger paint a Christmas tree real quick, even a simple handmade card goes a long way.
Spruce up a gift card or the gift of an experience
Sometimes, picking a gift card is the best option — like when you’re tight on time, can’t find something you love, or aren’t sure what the person will like. These gifts can still be made to feel special if they’re chosen based on a life event someone is going through (like a Home Depot gift card for someone who just bought a house) and delivered thoughtfully!
Consider writing a poem or hand-written card to explain why you picked this for them. Or, if you gifted something like a yoga class, wrap it up into a nice day for the person with a giftcard to the coffee shop next door, and your suggestions for lunch or a park to visit nearby. You can even take it to the next level by creating a map or itinerary for a fun day you curated just for them.
Another option if you’re short on time or need a gift for someone you don’t know a lot about, is to hit your local premium grocery store. A premium food basket for a nice dinner at home can be made extra special with a fancy candle or a nice linen napkin set thrown in. Make it extra fancy by adding a homemade jar of pesto or jam, or buying the ingredients for your favorite meal and writing out the recipe for your loved one.
The holidays can certainly be stressful, especially these days with a constantly evolving pandemic going on around us. However, there is so much to gain by giving to others. Find joy in making others feel special this year.
Happy holidays to you!