Gift Giving: The Dos and Don’ts of Hostess Gifts

hostess gift flowers

We are talking about gift giving this week and one of the gifts we all give and receive at some point is the hostess gift. Presumably, your host has put a lot of thought and effort into ensuring that you enjoy yourself and your hostess gift should reflect that. There is a reason you were invited – you are special to your host and they think you will add to the occasion – or they lost a bet – either way, you need to bring a gift.


Five Don’ts

1. Don’t Show Up to Someone’s Home Empty Handed

This includes all social occasions (including play dates for the kids, coffee, etc.), especially if it is your first time at this person’s home. There are a couple exceptions to this rule – it is one of your closest friends and you pop by all the time or it is a very casual get together and your host specifically told you not to bring anything and you have already been to their home before.

2. Don’t Take it Back

Okay, this one seems obvious, but let me tell you a little story… In college I decided to host a small dinner party and one of my guests brought a bottle of wine (we thought we were so grown up).  At the end of the evening, there remained about a glass worth in the bottle and he insisted I re-cork it so he could take it back home with him.

Seriously, whatever you bring is now theirs.  If you baked a cake and there are leftovers – they stay with your host.  Yes, you may bring the platter back, but not the cake. Better yet, buy a platter that your host would like and give as part of your hostess gift.

3. Don’t Bring “Al Fresco” Flowers

Never bring your hostess flowers that are not already in a vase filled with water.  Your host should not have to stop what she is doing to find a vase, fill it with water, trim the flowers, arrange them, and set them out.  While flowers are always a lovely gesture, breaking your host’s momentum is not.  Either arrange them in a vase before your arrival or bring a beautifully potted plant instead.

4. Don’t Regift that Cheap Wine

You know the one… that bottle of wine that your cousin Freddy brought the last time you hosted a family dinner.  The one that even Frugal Freddy didn’t want so he passed it on to you. Stop the insanity and break the cycle now!  In fact, I would encourage you to not bring any wine as a hostess gift as it is so much more satisfying to give something original, personal, or unexpected. Exceptions include a very special bottle of wine that your sommelier friend has been longing for.

5. Don’t Forget the Note (but Don’t Expect One Back)

Don’t forget to include a thoughtful note with your gift.  Your host may receive several gifts and may not remember the next day who brought what.  Use the opportunity to pen a thoughtful missive about your relationship with your host and express your gratitude for being included in her fete.

The one exception to the thank you note rule (you know, the one about always writing one) is the hostess gift.  Don’t expect one.  Hostess gifts do not need to be acknowledged with a thank you note, just a verbal expression of gratitude at the time it is delivered.

Five Dos

1. Do Get Personal

Keep your host in mind when selecting a gift. Does she love to garden?  Does she love to read? Does she collect something? Instead of giving a generic gift, give one the is tailored to your host.

2.  Do Think of Home

You can never go wrong with a thoughtfully curated gift for the home that matches your host’s design style.  Ideas include objects to display in the kitchen, the bathroom, or a practical item that is reimagined in a fresh, new way.

3.  Do Get Silly

If your host has a great sense of humor (if not, perhaps you should be going to someone else’s parties), or appreciates yours, then it is totally appropriate to gift her something on the silly side.   Do you share an inside joke together?  Did you see something recently that you made you laugh?

4.  Do Embrace the Theme

If there is a theme for the event you are going to then feel free to incorporate that into your gift.  If going the theme route, try and find something that your host can use, or at least appreciate, even after the themed party has ended.

5.  Do Return the Favor

Presumably your host will be pampering you during the party.  Think about returning the favor.  What can you do to pamper her with your gift?  Some ways would be a kit for breakfast and coffee the next morning or a nice bubble bath mix and scented candle.

An additional note on gift giving:  Make sure to present your gift in an attractive way. Whether you use a gift bag, wrapping paper, or something unexpected – make sure the thought you put into the outside matches the thought you put into the inside.


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Through Mrs. Barnstable’s School for the Domestic Arts -  its blog, guides, and other resources - I will help you create a home you love to be in, show you how to host a party with panache and ease, and guide you through how to manage it all without feeling overwhelmed.

2 thoughts on “Gift Giving: The Dos and Don’ts of Hostess Gifts

  1. Thank you Mrs. B! I had seen this post several days ago and now had time to find it again and read it. The Hostest Gift has always been a mystery to me! I have a party this coming weekend that I know the hostest has been busy preparing and I can’t wait to find the perfect thing for her. Thank you so much!


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