The secret is to pick a theme and stick to it, experts say.
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The best holiday gifts are thoughtful, and no present requires quite so much care as a handcrafted gift basket. Every element, from the vessel down to the products inside, is selected with a specific person and their interests in mind. Although it seems like a straightforward project, there's a lot that goes into creating a beautiful, meaningful package. "To start, come up with a gift concept that you know your recipients will actually use and enjoy," says Jamie Kutchman Wynne, the founder and CEO of Marigold & Grey. "If they see that there was a lot of thought that went into the curation of the gift, you've still achieved your goal of making them feel seen and appreciated." Beyond selecting individual items, assembling the basket with care and precision is also important. You'll need to source a size- and theme-appropriate holder, create a cushion, and make sure the products stay put.

There are a lot of moving parts—which is why we tapped the experts for help. Ahead, discover all the help you'll need when making holiday gift baskets for your loved ones this year. 

holiday gift basket with pinecone
Credit: Lissa Ryan Photography

Invest in the vessel.

It's built right into the name—the basket you choose matters. Your vessel is the first thing your loved one sees when they open their present, which means it sets the tone for the entire gift. Instead of using a simple box or container, choose something that is a gift all on its own, explains Carey Lowe, the owner of The Idea Emporium. "Consider a decorative box, oversized kitchen bowl, or planter pot to hold your goodies. Not only does this lean into a theme for the items inside, but it is a vessel worthy of being kept, displayed, and used by the recipient," she says. 

Hold the items in place. 

To keep the items in place and nicely displayed, Lowe recommends investing in some cushioning material, like crinkle shed or wood excelsior. To make the most of the fill material, she says to crumple up paper first and place it in the bottom of the container, then add the decorative fill on top; matching the color of the basket fill to the color of the box will add a nice, visually appealing touch. Beyond a cushion, you'll also need to keep the items positioned exactly where you want them. Using a small removable glue dot will ensure the products don't shuffle around during transportation. "These glue dots remove cleanly from your items with a gentle stretch, leaving your gift pristine while the presentation arrives exactly as you intended," Lowe says. To test your set-up, give the box a gentle shake—if any of the items move around, you may need to add more glue or filling. 

Include some decorative touches. 

If you want to take your gift basket to the next level, consider adding a few personal touches. Around the holidays, Wynne suggests placing sprigs of pine, dried florals, and pinecones inside. She also says to consider adding interest outside of the box, as well, by affixing mini ornaments or beautiful metallic cookie cutters to its ribbon. "These extra elements are always a huge hit. It presents a small gift item on the outside—and then they still have the rest of the box to open," she explains. 

Pay attention to ratio. 

Believe it or not, the number of items inside your box isn't the most important part of a gift basket. Instead, pay greater attention to how well the products fit inside the vessel you have selected. If you have a small box, reduce the number of items. Working with a large box? You can add more presents to fill in negative space. "Even if the items are luxe and desirable, if the size of the box is too big for the contents, the gift will fall flat," Wynne explains. "So, match the size of the items to the box size and you can't go wrong."

Stick to a theme. 

To make your gift basket feel cohesive, it's best to curate items around a specific concept or theme so gifts feel elevated and intentional. Once you come up with your concept, says Wynne, all the items should make sense within that specific idea—or they shouldn't make it into the basket. Need help brainstorming a theme? Consider filling your vessel with keepsake items that will enhance the recipient's life, instead of traditional items like food and alcohol, which are becoming less popular, Wynne notes. She cites luxe items for the home, stylish office supplies, self-care products, and cookie baking kits as examples—and don't forget to include a handwritten note (preferable printed on an on-theme piece of stationery!) inside, for a personal touch.

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