A complete guide to gift wrapping, receiving and returning unwanted Christmas presents

A complete guide to gifting, receiving and returning unwanted Christmas presents
Christmas gifts: everything you need to know Credit: Tom McGuinness/The Telegraph

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In hindsight, not the greatest things to get a new born baby. A dummy, a bottle of powdered milk and a baby grow would maybe have been more suitable. What a shame the Three Wise Men didn't have at hand our complete guide to buying, gifting and receiving Christmas presents.

We've spoken to an array of Christmas experts, from etiquette coaches to gift wrapping pros三级成人视频 and even the elves at Selfridges, to discover everything you need to know about the tricky season of present giving. A wise man would heed the following advice...

How to wrap presents

  • Don't forget to measure the paper before wrapping. You want a 1 cm overlap on each edge.
  • Do use ribbons to cover up any mishaps. 
  • Use double-sided tape to make your gift wrapping look more professional.
  • Don't follow the contours of presents with weird shapes. Use the pouch wrapping technique or tablecloth wrapping paper instead.

It's ten minutes to midnight on Christmas Eve, and beads of glistening sweat are beating down your furrowed forehead as you struggle with an unruly piece of Cellotape. Wrapping the presents should have been the easiest part about Christmas, but now your well thought out gifts resemble a gaudy papier-mâché representation of the Elephant Man.

三级成人视频"I can’t tell you how many men tell me they just scrunch it up in aluminium foil," chuckles Kirsten Westlake, founder of luxury gift wrapping service  

W三级成人视频estlake believes that the biggest mistake people make is using too much paper. "Cut down the paper to the absolute minimum you need," she says. "And the way we do that is by wrapping it around the present - and really you should only have about a centimetre overlap."

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Measure the wrapping paper out carefully before you start wrapping, taking into account this overlap. However, if you get your measurements wrong, don't have a Christmas Eve fret. "We find ribbon covers a multitude of sins," Westlake reveals. "Also don't be scared to use contrasting paper. Try working it into the design and have a contrasting stripe over where the hole should be. As long you have a colour scheme and it vaguely matches or contrasts it will look deliberate."

Follow in the footsteps of Blue Peter and invest in some double-sided tape when wrapping your gifts. It's stronger than your average Cellotape, and it's invisible so that annoying shine from the tape doesn't highlight your lumbered attempts at covering up your wrapping sins. It can be fiddly, warns Westlake, so best to only use it if you're at intermediary level with your gift wrapping skills.

And what about wrapping that unwieldy tennis racket or mountain bike? Simple: invest in a tablecloth!

Not the one you'll use to eat your turkey off, but a large, spongey table-cover that you can buy in supermarkets. "They’re the size of a table and one of those will go round the kid's bike," says Westlake. "Put that on the floor with the bike in the middle and then just lift up all the sides and tie it up with a massive ribbon as if it was a Father Christmas bag."

三级成人视频Westlake also recommends a technique called pouching, which is basically just making a little pouch for your oddly shaped presents to sit in. "Get one big bit of paper," she reveals, "fold it in half, seal down the sides and it makes an envelope pouch that you can stick anything in from a tennis racket to a cuddly toy. Then you just seal the fourth edge - so you can’t see what it is when it’s under the tree. It’s also quicker and neater than trying to mould paper into the shape of a tennis racket. You don’t even have to cut the paper."

Source: Wrapsody

What time do you give and receive on Christmas day?

Tip: Don't worry about when you open your presents. 三级成人视频But make sure that kids and the elderly open their ones first.

Right, you've survived the department store crush and the late night present wrapping saga. Now it's time to kick-back and enjoy unwrapping those presents. Only it's not that simple, is it? Faux pas at Christmas are rife, and it is more than likely that during this process of gifting and receiving there will be some tiff that threatens to blow up in your face. 

三级成人视频Unfortunately, majority rules on Christmas day, so if the kids want to open their presents at eight in the morning then it looks like you'll be crawling half asleep into the living room with an espresso and a glass of bucks fizz firmly planted in both hands.

Regarding who opens their presents first, a nice way of playing it is by age, according to , etiquette expert and author of . "Children should be given a certain priority to control their excitement," she advises. "On the other end of the scale, the elderly can feel quite side-lined at Christmas. They might feel a bit stuck in the armchair, and not in the thick of it. So you have to make sure they are being given presents as well so that they also feel involved."

How to deal with kids during the present opening session

  • Teach your children from a young age to be pleased with ALL their presents. No Christmas tantrums please.
  • Christmas presents are as much about the giving as the receiving. Have the children gift a present for every one they receive.

三级成人视频I think the main idea around etiquette with presents is whatever you’re given, you should always seem absolutely thrilled and delighted with – and that’s a good skill to teach your children as well. The kindness around gift giving is to make both people feel good about it.

They should also be encouraged to have the pleasure of giving gifts to others as well. It’s not all about receiving presents.

Read our guide on the best Christmas gifts for kids, babies and teenagers.

How to write a thank-you letter

  • ALWAYS write a thank-you note. This is basic Christmas etiquette, ladies and gentlemen.
  • Between siblings, a thank-you text is just about acceptable. But not between generations.
  • Encourage your children to write the notes. They can scribble their name if they are quite young.

"Any present you receive you should write a thank-you letter for," says Bryant. This applies much the same way as acting the part whenever you are receiving a present. If the person that has gifted you is not in the room then you have to show your appreciation and how thrilled you were when you opened the present.

三级成人视频"Children should be encouraged to write them, as soon as they can after Christmas Day," advises Bryant. "You can write thank-you letters on behalf of your children as well if they’re too small to do it themselves. Sometimes they can scribble their name. I think a thank-you letter should always be personalised – it should never be generic."

B三级成人视频etween close family that you see on a regular basis it might not be necessary to send a thank-you note – after all, they've already seen your over-egged pantomime act on the day. Between young people and siblings a text may even do. But when you get gifting across generations or with a person who you know is a stickler for the rules, then pen must be put to paper.

"Traditionally it would have been on letter-headed paper," says Bryant, "and you would always have had to use fountain pen. But I think nowadays anyone would be delighted to receive something handwritten through the post."

Thank-you letter template

Dear Auntie...

Thank-you for my lovely pair of socks. Red really is my favourite colour and my feet are going to be very warm in them through these winter months. I hope you've had a wonderful Christmas and we should absolutely get together for a drink and a catch-up in the new year.

With Love,

How to return Christmas presents (and the etiquette thereof)

  • Before returning, make sure you're confident the giver won't find out.
  • Among close family you can have an open, honest conversation about returning a gift. As long as you have a practical reason - it's a duplicate or it doesn't fit.
  • Don't underestimate the power of a gift receipt. It works especially well with fussy teenagers.

So after someone has spent all that time deliberating over the perfect present to get you, and all the fake theatrics, you can't help seething underneath. "I wanted a Polaroid camera not a LOL doll," you think – but do you say as much?

三级成人视频"Only with great caution," warns Bryant. "When someone has given you a present they have taken the time and effort to go out and buy something for you, so if it’s not quite what you fancy, it can be quite hurtful just to say that. You need a practical reason."

For example, a suitable reason might be that you already have the gift or it doesn't fit you. Bryant says that there can possibly be a discussion between close family members if the gift was an especially expensive one, but the reason needs to genuine and stated with care. There is no such let-up between friends and lesser relatives though.

三级成人视频Gift receipts can be a good way of getting out of this sticky situation for both sides. "I think a gift receipt can be quite useful," agrees Bryant, "especially for teenagers where you might not be quite sure whether they have it or if it’s the right one. At that age in can be quite upsetting if you don’t get the right thing. For adults I think we can be grown-up enough that if we don’t receive the perfect present you can lump it."

However, if there is no gift receipt to speak of, it might mean you having to enter the post-Christmas web of lies and receipt (with good reason – that jumper is hideous三级成人视频). The only solution you have now is to re-gift. "You have to make sure that in no possible way the giver will find out that you’ve taken it back," says Bryant "If they’ve given you a lovely painting and they come round to your house and they say where is the lovely painting you can’t really say I swapped it for a saucepan at John Lewis. Re-gifting within a close group of friends is dodgy. You need to be very confident that the giver won’t find out.

"No matter what, you should always seem terribly thrilled with what you’ve been given. That person has chosen that gift for you so they will be thrilled with their choice."

How much should I usually spend

“The key is to set yourself a budget before deciding what presents to buy,” advises . “First think what you can afford. Then always look at how to get the best price for each item.”

According to voucher company, RetailMeNot, UK households usually splurge an average of £473.83 on presents. As a rule of thumb, Christmas present buying is about equality. Spend the same on each child within a family, and between spouses. Between friends and relatives outside of close family, spend the amount that was gifted to you the Christmas previous.

What wrapping paper to buy

  • Personalise your presents. Is your gift receiver a fan of The Telegraph? Wrap their present in our paper.

  • Buy wrapping paper at 300 grams per square meter.

  • Avoid glitter. It goes everywhere.

Westlake's two favourite wrapping paper designers are Katie Leamon and Nancy&Betty. Leamon's forte is marbleized patterns that will make your presents look like they belong in a 5 star hotel bathroom, while Nancy&Betty specialise in twee caricatures, from mini lobsters to cute ladybirds.

Selfridges use their own personalised wrapping paper, which is covered in Victorian styled etchings. Westlake mentions that the trend last Christmas was for metallics, especially copper and rose gold. "This year it has gone more traditional though - so red and gold are the colours for this year."

Katie Leamon wrapping paper Credit: katieleamon.com

 £5.50 from Katie Leamon.

三级成人视频When browsing the designs in the shop, bear in mind the thickness of the paper. Anything too thin will tear easily, whereas some quality paper can be as thick as wallpaper and therefore difficult to mould. A good rule of thumb is to look for a paper that is 300 GSM (Grams per Square Meter).

Robin-themed Christmas wrapping paper from John Lewis Credit: johnlewis.com

三级成人视频Christmas gifting is all about making others feel special, so you need to feed that into how you decorate. Personalise your gift wrapping depending on the receiver. "Wrap using maps for a travel junkie, recipes for a foodie or old sheet music for a jazz lover," recommends Westlake. "I recently wrapped for a lady whose daughter was back-packing round France and she wanted little gifts for her to open on the way. So she asked me to wrap it in a map of the city she was meant to open the particular present in."

U三级成人视频se old Christmas decorations and baubles and tie them around the bow with silver jewelry wire.

"For children, each one of our presents will have a little toy or jingly bell tied on. It’s just another way of saying you thought about somebody."

Pimp your pressies with a pair of jingly bells Credit: Wrapsody


When is the best time to buy presents

"Early," states Cynthia Gregoire, personal shopper for Elfridges, the department store Selfridges's year-round helping hand for gifting inspiration. "The closer we get to Christmas Eve, you wouldn't imagine the amount of walk-ups that come in and put the pressure on to find a present."

Gregoire recommends mornings as the best time to do your shopping. "The store is more at your disposal in the morning, and it just makes for a nicer shopping experience where you can see the items more clearly."

Here's an insider's tip: if you're shopping in a department store with a central escalator between the floors, start at the top. This floor is usually the least busy so you can get into the swing of browsing around without being pushed and pulled like you're in a rush-hour tube station. It also means that you can more clearly see what is on the shop floor below you when you descend down the escalators – as opposed to mindlessly finding yourself stuck in the lingerie department a la Father Ted.

How to choose the right present

  • Vintage is on trend. And offers a way for you to connect with your fussy teenagers.
  • If in doubt, technology always interests kids
  • Think of a present that you loved and buy it for someone else 

The key to the perfect Christmas gift is to show the receiver that you have given their present your time and thought. Sometimes ordering online can seem last minute and a bit of an afterthought.

Department stores will have Christmas events to go with the shopping experience, so as long as you pick a sensible time (remember early December and in the morning) they should be an enjoyable experience for the family.

For the same reason that shopping online can seem like a cop-out, gift cards are a no-no. "Gift cards are very quick and easy and convenient," admits Gregoire. "But there is something about a personal gift where you know that person took some time and thought. No one is going to say no, but you don't remember the Christmasses where you just got a gift card."

三级成人视频If you want to go full throttle for the personalised treatment, think about monogramming a dress shirt or a pair of socks. Otherwise think of exclusive, one-off items – Gregoire suggests the that only comes out once a year.

Think about the likes and dislikes of the person you're buying a gift for. Are they a wine enthusiast or keen on their gadgetry? 

三级成人视频A weighty hardback book or a musky fragrance works well for men. Gregoire mentions that the sophisticated gents out there with an eye for design might appreciate something from , who specialise in unique lifestyle gifts.

三级成人视频One of the big sellers for Selfridges at Christmas are . "People love them," exclaims Gregoire. "They're really popular because the scents aren't too floral. They're a bit more masculine and spicy. And when they burn out the holders are so pretty that people use them as planters."

三级成人视频Kids can be a lot tougher to cater for – especially grumpy teens feeling a little self-conscious with all this embarrassing family time. Technology always works and Gregoire puts out the idea of making a connection between something that you might have received at Christmas when you were younger. "For example, if they're into photography, maybe go really special with an old-school camera to show them something that's not from their generation."

For younger children, the big toy to look our for this Christmas are LOL dolls – three-inch tall figurines that come covered in seven layers of paper and wrapping. Children must delve through this extensive packaging to discover the surprise, small doll within.

Remember stocking fillers as well. They're a good way of bulking up your kid's present haul without breaking the bank. Danish retailers Flying Tiger have 90 stores over the UK, and are great for filling your basket with cheap quirky little gifts from novelty sketchpads to novelty slippers.


This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.

See our Christmas 2019 page for more festive inspiration and gift guides.