Unless you’ve got a permanent scowl, green fur, and live in a cave far above Whoville with your dog Max, you’ve likely got a few parties, get-togethers, and overnight stays scheduled over the next couple of months. If this is the case, etiquette dictates it’s proper to show your appreciation by bringing a gift for the individuals who have graciously invited you into their homes. Here are some guidelines on guest gift-giving in keeping with the etiquette of the Emily Post Institute, and updated for today’s trends.
- Know your host
These gifts don’t have to break the bank, but you should consider your host’s style, taste, and personality. You wouldn’t want to bring a monogrammed barbecue tool set for a vegetarian, or a bottle of wine for someone who doesn’t drink. Additionally, you wouldn’t want to bring another dish, like an appetizer or dessert, without checking with the hostess first, as it may not jibe with the evening’s menu.
- Don’t be a mean-o about the vino
When you think of host gifts, you think of one thing: a bottle of wine. Though not always the most original idea, there’s nothing wrong with bringing a bottle as a gift, provided you keep in mind you’re giving it as a gift. Unless the host specifically mentioned the event is BYOB, it would be in poor taste to insist your guests open the bottle at the event or to take the bottle home at the end of the evening if it hasn’t been opened.
- A bunch of love to the hostess
Second only to wine, flowers are often go-to gifts. However, if this is your go-to, you might consider bringing the bouquet in a vase or even just a Mason jar. Your hostess will likely have a lot on her plate when you arrive, so saving her from having to put the flowers in water will be greatly appreciated. If you’re visiting a close friend or family member, you can probably forgo the vase and offer to put the flowers in water yourself, upon your arrival.
- Thinking outside the box
The longer you have to plan your gift before the event, the better. This way you have time to plan something instead of picking up wine or flowers on the way over. Consider a potted plant in an elegant pot; specialty food items like olive oils, fancy nuts, or jams; items for the home (especially the kitchen) like hand-painted dish towels, monogrammed mugs, or a personalized cheese board.
- Don’t break the bank
Giving something overtly expensive, like a piece of jewelry or anything that costs an exorbitant amount of money, is almost always a bad idea. This puts the recipient in a really awkward position, and may make her feel like she owes you. Stick with something personal but inexpensive, and save the expensive jewelry for your wife or mother.
- ‘The Label Maker’
This was the title of a 1995 episode of Seinfeld, wherein Jerry was given a “regifted” item — a label maker — thereby thrusting the term into popular vernacular. Today, regifting is a common practice, but it’s also generally frowned upon. If you’re going to do it, be mindful of who gave it to you in the first place, and be transparent and upfront with the recipient. Make sure the item’s condition isn’t used, that it comes in its original packaging, and it’s something you know the recipient will enjoy.
Hostess gift ideas from the South Sound staff
“I like to make Mason jar cookie mixes. I usually have all the ingredients on hand so I can throw a gift together with little fuss. I’ll attach a whisk or spatula and a cookie cutter to the jar and top with a bow.”
— Joanna Kresge, Assistant Editor
Bring an activity
“We had guests that brought Balderdash over. We played it, and they left it as a gift.”
— Bob Cody, Account Executive
Find out their preferences
“I’ve gotten candles before, which I thought was super nice. It was especially nice because the scent (lavender) was one the giver knew that I liked.”
— Alex Schloer, Senior Designer
Shop throughout the year
“Whenever I travel, I buy extra food goodies (like spices, tea, and honey) to give as last-minute hostess gifts. That way, I always have a stash of cool stuff.”
— Kirsten Erwin, Art Director
Make a better bow
Illustrations by Anna Locke