How to Build the Perfect Gift Basket

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Receiving a gift basket is one of those things that brings a level of joy disproportionate to its size. Like an Easter basket, Christmas stocking, or—throwing it back to childhood birthday parties—a goody bag, there's an unparalleled excitement about a vessel carrying a bunch of delightful small surprises and sweet treats you didn't solicit. All the better when they've been intentionally selected with your interests in mind.

The holiday season is prime time for gift basket giving. Whether you want to thank a family or friend for overnight hospitality, show up to Thanksgiving dinner with a hostess gift in tow, or simply want to let a loved one know you're thinking of them, a home-made gift basket is such a thoughtful gesture. Here are my tips and essentials for the perfect one. 

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Ingredients: My gift basket guidelines are to choose one of the following elements, personalized for the person you're giving it to: 

(1) A salty element (gourmet popcorn, chips, etc.) 
(2) Champagne or wine 
(3) Coffee or tea 
(4) Something local to the city you live in (I typically give Sqirl's famous jam)
(5) Some sort of paper good (a cheeky notepad, for example) 
(6) A candle 
(7) A cute set of matches 
(8) Pretty chocolate
(9) A novelty trinket (cool bottle openers are always my choice) 
(10) Some kind of natural element (fresh flowers if it's going somewhere local, or a succulent) 
(11) Specialty marshmallows (because they look pretty and are something most people don't buy for themselves) 
(12) Something festive (a confetti pop does the trick) 
(13) Something simultaneously salty and sweet (chocolate-and-sprinkle covered pretzels are my go-to) 

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Think outside the box (almost literally): A gift basket doesn't have to come in an actual basket. My issue with most pre-made options on the market is the vessels they come in feel unoriginal and cheesy. A neon lucite box makes a cool, unique container that the recipient will want to keep. 

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Building blocks: When starting to build out the 'basket', I follow two rules of thumb. Layer the softer, packaged goods at the back (there should be enough to fill out the width of the container, so it's snug), and then begin to stagger the items in the next row based on height. I like to pair something tall (in this case the pretzels), directly next to something shorter (the jam) so there's some visual interest to the arrangement, and it doesn't look like a carefully-curated spice rack where similar heights are all aligned. 

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Center Stage: Whatever the natural element may be, it should take center stage, so leave room in the front middle for the flowers, in this case, to steal the show. 

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Pretty Packaging: Lastly, the item with the most beautiful packaging should always be visible in the front row, to make the whole basket look as pretty as possible upon first view. With something as colorful and eye-catching as these Compartés chocolate bars, you wouldn't want them to be hidden in the back of the basket, blocked from plain sight by something less pretty. 

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