Hostess Gifts (And When To Use Them)

Confession: I have a bag FULL of hostess gifts at all times, ready to go. Blame it on my Southern roots. It just feels wrong to show up to someone’s house empty handed. Some exceptions apply with very close friends and family, but even then I like to usually bring something small – a token of appreciation, if you will. After all, that is exactly what a hostess gift is. A visible thank you of the hostess’s time and efforts. However, this is also an area that has become grayed over time. What is an acceptable hostess gift? Is the corn dip you bring for an appetizer a hostess gift? When should the host and hostess use the gift?

To begin, anything to be used during the event being hosted is not  a hostess gift. The gift is something the host and/or hostess could use on their own. So, we’ve eliminated the possibility of the appetizer you brought being used as a hostess gift. That being said, is a hostess gift required? Not at all. Here is a list of the only times etiquette “recommends” a hostess gift is given (for the record, I do, too): an actual dinner party – not to be confused with a few friends getting together at the last minute, a shower at which you are the guest of honor (bridal, baby, etc.), an overnight stay, holiday party, going to someone’s home for the first time, meeting someone significant (future in-laws) for the first time. Aside from these occasions, it is never considered wrong  to give a gift. It just wouldn’t be considered bad manners to not do so.

To extend onto the last point and cover a common mistake: wine or any drink brought as a hostess gift is not to be consumed at the dinner party or event. The hosts will have already provided a drink they intend to serve with the meal. This wine is meant to be enjoyed by the hosts later.

Some common hostess gifts include: wine, cocktail napkins, cookies, a candle, flowers, specialty foods, possibly an ornament, if it is a holiday party.

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The next time someone bring you a bottle of wine as a hostess gift, feel free to tuck it away to save for another day!

What are your favorite gifts to give?

Hostess Gifts – To Give Or Not To Give

I’ve had a few messages asking about whether or not to give a hostess gift and, if so, what to give. The answer is my least favorite to hear: It depends. Ugh. I know. I’m too type-A for gray areas, but alas, that’s the answer. Allow me to explain! hostess gifts

For a dinner party, flowers are truly ideal. We’ve gotten to giving wine or chocolates, which is perfectly fine for friends, but there’s the dilemma of: do they drink? If so, is this a wine they will like? Do they feel obligated to serve it at this dinner? In my personal opinion, the last question is the biggest. They’ve prepared a meal to which you’ve been invited, and now the hostess feels obligated to serve the wine you brought, regardless of whether or not it “goes” with the meal. So, solution: gift wrap. Easy enough. If the wine (one you know they will like) is given wrapped, the hostess will not feel pressured into serving it that evening. While, theoretically, they shouldn’t feel pressured into serving it, in the back of their mind, they’ll wonder if you also know the proper etiquette. SO! Until Etiquette By Emily can reach everyone, assumptions will be made that not everyone understands social protocol.

If you are the guest of honor for said party, sending flowers ahead is preferred.

Some other options can be themed according to the party: cocktail napkins (cocktail party or housewarming party), gourmet foods, wrapped homemade goods (meant to be consumed at another time).

When should you bring a hostess gift? Preferably, if you are having dinner at someone’s home for the first time, it is quite appreciated. Additionally, if there’s a particular reason they are hosting, it is considered polite (Christmas party). If the dinner or cocktail party is small, but not all are close friends, it’s a good idea.

This is an area Emily Post really doesn’t go over much. I’ve called on other EE’s (etiquette experts). Please let me know your thoughts! Do you appreciate receiving a hostess gift?