Nothing like the holidays to give us reason to party the season the away. From office parties to our club’s annual Christmas party to friends’ open houses, our calendars fill up quickly for the month of December. The biggest question facing us is usually “What should I wear?”, yet in the back of our minds questions swirl about the time-honored tradition of taking a hostess gift — do I need to take something? when is it required? what is appropriate? what should I take?
While modern etiquette does not require the taking of a hostess gift when attending a party, old-school etiquette does. Considering the hostess has expended a great deal of energy to make the party happen, it is always a thoughtful gesture to go to the party with gift in hand. The exception is if you’re getting together with family or friends whom you often see, after all, you don’t expect them to bring a gift every time they come over. However, when it comes to a more formal gathering, an open house or a dinner at someone’s house that you are rarely go, I think it is preferable to err on the side of taking a hostess gift. After all, it is far better to be the only one who takes a gift, than the only one who does not.
Once you’ve deemed that a hostess gift is in order, the next question is what? A budget of $10.00 – $30.00 works nicely for most occasions. Traditionally, flowers, wine, and candy are given to the hostess. A quick note regarding these choices, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) Make sure your gift does not require more work on the part of your hostess. For example, a bouquet of flowers requires immediate attention — the flowers must be unwrapped, trimmed and put into a vase, that is, after the hostess takes time to find an appropriate vase. Therefore, if you decide to take flowers, a bouquet that is already arranged in a vase is a good option. 2) When taking food or wine as the hostess gift, make sure the hostess understands the gift is not to be used at the party — it is for her to open and enjoy afterwards.
Also, let the tone of the party set the parameters for gifting. An elaborate gift for a formal dinner party such as an elaborate floral arrangement would be out-of-place at an informal open house or a pool party.
Finally, do not feel restricted by the traditional hostess gifts, it is quite acceptable to give gifts of a different nature. If you know your host/hostess likes candles, give a nice scented one. If he or she collects cookbooks, take one that you especially enjoy. Homemade gifts, gourmet foods, and picture frames are also great options.
Hostess Gift Ideas