You attended the party but still haven’t sent a gift. How bad is that? Under the rules of traditional etiquette, all gifts should be sent before, or delivered at, the celebration, whether it’s a wedding, birthday, shower, or Bar Mitzvah. But before you start declining social invitations because you can’t get your gift act together, remember that the rules are just a loose guide.
“It’s never too late to send a gift,” says Letitia Baldrige, author of New Manners for New Times ($35, Scribner’s, amazon.com). If you’re only a little late, send an e-mail or telephone as soon as you realize the oversight. “Say, ‘I blew it and let your celebration pass by. A gift is on its way,’” says Leah Ingram, author of Gifts Anytime: How to Find the Perfect Present for Any Occasion ($17, ASJA Press, amazon.com). If you’re embarrassingly late, check in with the giftee first. “Even if it’s 10 years late, you can still send the gift―just make sure the recipient is living at the old address,” says Baldrige. In any case, employ a little self-deprecating humor. Says Ingram, “Making fun of your memory makes you seem humble and your feelings more genuine.”