Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Suggestions for Thoughtful Gift-Giving

DEAR NATALIE: I am attending my nephew's wedding Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. The wedding is Saturday night, and then on Sunday the parents of the bride are having everyone to their house for a barbecue. I would like to take the parents of the bride a gift, but what can you give them? I'm bored with the usual choices of flowers or dessert. I want to get them something different. I have already given bottles of wine from a local winery with personalized labels with the date of the wedding and such at their engagement party, so I do not want to do that again. Any suggestions would be appreciated. -- SOMEONE WHO IS ALWAYS BUYING GIFTS

DEAR SOMEONE WHO IS ALWAYS BUYING GIFTS: Because you already bought them bottles of wine (and what a sweet gesture that was), you could continue on that theme by buying them a set of agate stone coasters or a chic decanter. Or, since it is a barbecue, you could bring gourmet sauces and marmalades in a picnic basket with loaves of bread and cheeses, or some other barbecue-themed gift. Whatever you decide, personalizing it to their tastes is always a plus, and it is always nice to show up with something unique that the hosts will love but may not have bought for themselves. I applaud your thoughtfulness!

Networking Tip of the Week: You can tell a lot by how people shake your hand, and let that knowledge guide you in your conversation. A weak handshake may mean shyness or anxiety. So, take the lead and ask friendly questions to put them at ease. An overly firm grip may mean they are more aggressive and trying to impress you. So, let them do the talking and you do the listening. And if you are shaking someone's hand, try to be firm but not bone-crushing. Exude confidence but also make sure you aren't dominating the conversation, either.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)