When Someone Gives You An Unexpected Gift – What To Say And Do? (The Proper Etiquette)

All of us have been surprised at one point or another by a gift that we did not expect. It is important to express gratitude and surprise as the recipient, but most people find themselves lost for words! 

Exchanging gifts is always meant to be a happy occasion, however, an amazing surprise gift can catch you off guard. What do you do?

If you receive a surprise gift, you need to be gracious and thankful, no matter how you feel in the moment. With that in mind, here are a few ideas and examples about what to say:

What do you say when someone gives you an unexpected gift? 

 The point of getting an unexpected gift is that it is (obviously) a surprise; however, for some of us, that can spell disaster.

At least when we are expecting gifts, we can better prepare for our reactions. In the moment, we can forget what to say and are simply left speechless.

Sadly, for the person giving gifts, this can make them feel unappreciated and undervalued.

It will also not give the best impression of you. So, how should you react in such a situation? 

Obviously, the first thing to say is “thanks”, but you can do a little more than that.

You will need to truly show your appreciation to the gift giver in order to avoid an awkward situation. 

You can start by being honest, let them know that you are surprised.

This confirms the success in their plan and will give you time to take in what is happening. You can say something along the lines of: 

  • I am so surprised
  • I can’t believe you’ve done this 
  • I wasn’t expecting this at all 
  • Wow, this is so kind of you 
  • You shouldn’t have 
  • What’s the occasion?

Once you have opened the gift, then you can genuinely start to thank them.

If the gift is unexpected then the chances are that you will not know how to handle what is inside.

What If You Don’t Like the Gift?

Or what if you already have the same thing or a similar gift? 

The main thing to remember is not to make the gift giver feel bad.

If it is not the best gift, then they will not have done that on purpose, and they will have most likely taken time and effort to prepare the surprise for you, not to mention money.

That is why it is important to show gratitude, even if you do not like it. You can say things along the lines of: 

  • This is such an amazing gift 
  • What a great gift
  • What a fun and creative idea 
  • I am so excited about this 
  • What a lovely gesture 
  • This is such a wonderful gift 
unexpected birthday surpise

How do you say thank you for an unexpected gift? 

 When someone gives you an unexpected gift, you can do more than just thank them in the moment to show your gratitude truly. 

The first thing that you can do is to send them a thank you note. It will not take you long to write and will be a token of your appreciation for them to keep.

In the note, it is essential to mention your heartfelt thanks and to sign with a personal message for the gift receiver. 

You could also express your appreciation for unexpected gifts by sending a return gift to the gift giver.

It does not have to be the same calibre of gift, and in most cases shouldn’t be!

Sending something as equally important back to the gift giver could take the unique intention behind their surprise gift away and give the impression that you are trying to pay them back with a return gift.

Instead, you could send a small gift as a thank you, for example:

  • A gift card
  • A thank you package (an edible arrangement, for example)
  • Their favourite wine or spirit

Or any other small token of your gratitude.

This will, in turn, be an unexpected surprise for them and will be a nice token of your appreciation while not trying to outdo their present. 

When someone gives you a gift that is too much? 

 Even on specific occasions like a birthday, Christmas, or a different holiday season where gifts are expected, expensive or extra gifts can catch us off guard and leave us with nothing to say. 

If you are receiving a gift that you deem to be too much, then it is essential to remember a few key things: 

  • First of all, do not reference the price of the gift. Whether you are with friends and family or just with the other person, it is always in poor taste to discuss the price of a gift. You can tell them that it is too much by saying that they shouldn’t have, or that it is too much, without referencing the price of the gift at all. 
  • Secondly, you should not make the gift giver feel bad about the gift that they bought you, even if you think that it is too much. Show them your gratitude and emphasise that they shouldn’t have done so much for you. It is important to tell them that you feel so blessed to have them in your life and that it is one of the best gifts and most thoughtful of them. 
  • Thirdly, if a present really is a lot, then you should absolutely express your gratitude by sending them at least a thank you note. You could also take them out for dinner and remind them how grateful you are over time by making simple gestures (such as sending them postcards from your holidays, writing them seasonal cards, calling or writing to them to let them know that you are thinking of them, etc.)

The main thing in the moment is to remember to accept the gift gracefully and not to waste it! 

unexpected expensive gift


The point of an unexpected gift is to make a friend, family member, or colleague feel good.

Someone will have gone to great lengths to surprise you, and you do not want to say the wrong thing. 

Whether it costs money, time or both, it is essential to know how to express your gratitude and to remain grateful and gracious from the moment your receive the gift onward.

Now, you have the phrases and tips for dealing with unexpected gifts properly to make you the best recipient ever! 

Read also about reasons to give someone a gift and reasons why personalized gifts are the best in our other articles.

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