How to Find the Perfect Gift

You know the feeling. As you place a meticulously wrapped gift on a table filled with other presents, you can't help but second-guess your choice. "Will they really like it? Did I spend enough on it? I wonder what's inside that one..." The reason we give gifts--whether for weddings, birthdays, retirements, or holidays--is beside the point. The best gifts are those that let the recipient know you had no one else in mind when you chose it. By following a few simple guidelines, you can avoid any second-guessing yourself the next time you shop for a special occasion. Who are you shopping for? Consider the recipients' ages, the hobbies they enjoy and their profession when thinking about gifts. If you're buying a gift for a close friend or relative you have the advantage of knowing his or her interests and hobbies. Depending on the occasion, this may be the perfect opportunity to recognize a significant personal accomplishment he or she has recently achieved. If you are shopping for someone outside your circle of close family and friends anything too personal should be avoided. Clothing and jewelry, for example, are items for which most people have very particular tastes. In cases like this, a safe bet is to "shop by occasion" for items that have been established as appropriate for specific events. What is the occasion? Shopping by occasion can help you locate a great gift in a short amount of time. As an example, let's say you are invited to join in the celebration of a coworker's 15th wedding anniversary. You are friendly with this person at work and have met his or her spouse a few times in a social setting. Some quick research on the Web might lead you to a short list of today's most popular anniversary gifts, including: * Clocks * Picture frames * Crystal items * Ice buckets * Serving trays * Toasting flutes Any of these items would make great gifts by themselves. However, there is one additional step that can transform a great gift into a one-of-a-kind gesture. Is personalization needed? When your search leads you to items like those listed above, the opportunity for personalization is always available. Crystal and glass can be etched, metals can be engraved--these days even wood can be directly engraved with precision detail. You've decided on a stunning set of crystal toasting flutes for your coworker's celebration, and have opted to personalize the gift. This leads to another important topic. The Name Game If you're not sure what verbiage to use when personalizing a gift such as toasting flutes, you're not alone. Here are the basics: Initials: This can mean a first name initial, a last name initial, or first and last name initials of equal size. Stay away from using punctuation (periods) and suffixes (Jr., Sr., III, IV, MD, PhD, etc.). Monograms: Traditional monograms are created with the last name initial centered and larger than the other characters around it. The "other characters" are either the first and middle initials of an individual or the first initials of a husband and wife. For an individual named Theodore James Newton IV, a traditional monogram would read as TNJ. If Theodore James Newton IV is married to a woman named Dori-Anne, their monogram would read as DNJ. Most often, the woman's first name appears first (although there is no rule keeping the man's name from appearing first). Other traditional layouts include a diamond monogram, a panel monogram, and the circle monogram, all of which are artistic in nature. Messages: The golden rule when writing an engraved message: when in doubt, keep it simple. For example, "Happy 15th Anniversary" may seem unimaginative but it stands the test of time. Another engraving taboo is "signing" the message as if it were a letter (i.e., "Love, Mom & Dad"). Save that sentiment for the gift card that will accompany the item being personalized. For birthdays and anniversaries, be sure to use the year the gift is being presented and not the year the event took place. The End Result Taking all this into consideration, the crystal toasting flutes for your coworker might read something like this: Happy 15th Anniversary Anthony and Kim 3/11/06 The end result will be a gift that couldn't possibly be for anyone else and won't leave you second-guessing your selection. After giving such a good gift you should be prepared for invitations to more events hosted by the happy couple!