You just received the invitation in the mail and you’ve RSVP’d. Suddenly, you feel a slight twinge of apprehension. “What should I get the hostess?!” While choosing an appropriate hostess gift can seem frustrating and may appear somewhat time consuming, if you follow a few etiquette rules and take the time to ask yourself a few questions, the decision won’t be quite so hard. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions to help ease the decision making process.
One of the first questions you probably want to ask yourself is how well you know the hostess. This can help determine what type of gift you give. If you know the hostess well, you will have more freedom to choose a gift. If you do not know the hostess well (or at all!), you will want to choose a more generic gift that anyone could use.
While there are no hard and fast rules about gift giving, there is etiquette that should be followed. First of all, and most importantly, when choosing a hostess gift, be sure that the gift will not require extra work for the hostess. You should especially not give a gift that you expect the hostess to use at the party. The purpose of a hostess gift is for the hostess to enjoy the gift on her own time. For instance, flowers are a common gift but they can actually cause more work for the hostess. She may feel obligated to find a vase and arrange the flowers while trying to entertain guests. Also, she may have already purchased flowers that fit with the theme of the party, and your choice could clash. Keep in mind that the classiest gifts are those that do not need to be opened right away. It is considered poor etiquette to give the hostess her gift as soon as you walk in the door. If possible, discreetly hide the gift and give it to the hostess as you are leaving. Remember to attach a small card so that the host/hostess knows who it is from.
Here are a few gift suggestions that can be appropriate. Again, these gifts are dependent on how well you know the hostess. If there is a doubt about the gift, choose a different gift.
A personalized tree ornament can be a thoughtful gift for holiday events. These are relatively inexpensive, but show that you put some thought into the gift.
If you are going to a dinner party, wine is usually appreciated. If you know that the host or hostess has a favorite wine, try and bring that variety. There are a lot of great wines out on the market that won’t break your bank. However, a note of caution concerning alcohol. Many people abstain from alcohol because of health or religious reasons. If you have some doubt about the household hosting the party, it’s wise and thoughtful to choose another gift. As an alternative, you may want to take a sparkling cider or other festive beverage.
Scented candles can be a great hostess gift. They can be used in any room of the house and smell wonderful. Because candles come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, you are sure to find something for every taste. However, unless you know that the hostess loves a particular smell, don’t give heavily fragranced items. Many people are particular about fragrances due to allergies or simply do not like heavy scents.
Gourmet coffee, cookies, brownies, or cakes can be a great gift idea because it is something that can be shared and enjoyed by the whole party. Alternatively, you could bring some homemade bread, local honey, or produce from your own garden for the hostess to enjoy after the party.
We’ve already mentioned that it’s probably not a great idea to bring cut flowers to a gathering, but what about giving a potted plant? Flowers are the classic hostess gift because they have the ability to brighten up any room. A potted plant can be enjoyed long after the party is over and you won’t be breaking the cardinal rule of creating additional work for the hostess, especially during the party. You may choose something suitable for outdoor planting, and you’ll be contributing to the beauty of your hostess’ home, instead of contributing to the clutter. Bamboo plants have become popular gifts in the past few years because they are said to bring the homeowner good fortune.
If you know that hostess collects a certain type of style or figurine, you may choose a gift to complement her collection. If you’re not sure, don't give the hostess a figurine. She may feel obligated to display it, even if it does not match the decor or style of her home.
You could choose a restaurant gift certificate to your hostess' favorite restaurant. If you don't know her well choose one of your favorites. What a perfect way for her to relax after all the work that she's put into her party.
Another simple (and clutter free) possibility is to make a charitable donation in the hostess' name. You can then, give her a card that explains your gift. One word of caution: make sure the charity you choose is a charity you feel the hostess would feel comfortable supporting. For example, shy away from political or controversial causes unless you and the hostess share the same beliefs.
A useful and on-going gift could be a bottle (or even a bar) of beautifully packaged soap for the kitchen or bathroom. It's the perfect use-it-up gift to pamper a friend and probably something they wouldn’t purchase for themselves. Every time they use it they’ll think of you.
Help the hostess have some “me time” after the party. Attach a coupon for a movie rental to a box of popcorn, and you'll be giving the gift of relaxation without creating additional clutter for the person’s home.
If you’re on a budget, offer to stay, and help with clean up. Extra hands are always appreciated when it comes time to clean--and this is one gift that doesn't cost a dime.