Hostess Gifts Are a Bit Weird, No?

A tea cup is actually a fantastic hostess gift, now that I think about it. [Via Wikimedia Commons]

A tea cup is actually a fantastic hostess gift, now that I think about it. [Via Wikimedia Commons]

We’ve talked about hostess gifts plenty, but I was thinking about them the other day and I realized that they are sort of a strange custom. Something like wine, that could theoretically be used during the party (though you should never expect it!), makes sense, but when you get into some of the other ideas that end up on lists of “great hostess gifts” things start to get a little strange.

Like, “thank you so much for inviting me to dinner- here is a set of hand painted playing cards!” Or “a single teacup and saucer!” Or “a wine stopper from Italy!” All very nice things, but they seem so unrelated to the event at hand and so small and knicknacky that they really can’t be of much actual use to the recipient.

I’m not saying that we should abolish hostess gifts, because obviously they do serve a small purpose in showing your appreciation for something someone is doing for you. But, I do think that when you want to get a token gift in the under $10 range, it’s best to stick to consumables- chocolates, jams, flowers, pastries, wine that can actually seem luxurious at that price point rather than a small bit of junk that will end up in the donation box in six months.

Hostess Gifts

We have talked a lot about always bringing a hostess gift when you are attending an Event at someone’s home (a casual party isn’t quite the same thing, just bring something to contribute). And everyone always says wine or flowers and those are lovely sure. But also boring and obvious. Be the fun, cool guest who brings something different. And these are all relatively affordable unlike some magazines I could probably name that think that people are spending $50 on a hostess gift.

A cute cookie cutter


An air plant in a fun planter


Homemade Jam

Homemade Jam


A teensy bottle of truffle oil- it’s only around $10 and lasts FOREVER and feels incredibly fancy


Bubble Bath/a bath bomb (Lush has amazing bath bombs for about $7)


Nice tea or a bag of coffee beans


Cocktail syrups or artisinal bitters


Cocktail napkins


Fancy salt


A cool pool float (obviously best for people who have a pool, but…)


Art Magnets


Playing cards


A great book or at least a classic with a great cover


Pastries for the host’s breakfast the next day (Jaya inadvertently did this for me once and it was the best!)

The best hostess gift I ever got was an Ouija board. It wasn’t INTENDED as a hostess gift, I don’t think, but someone left it at my apartment after a party and said I could keep it, so there we are. Have you ever gotten or given a hostess gift? What was the best one?

How to be a Good Guest

By Frederick Daniel Hardy (scan of painting) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you are a likeable person, sometimes you will be invited over to someone’s house for a meal, a party, or even for an overnight or multiple day visit. Here are some tips to ensure you will be invited back:

  • Always RSVP and honor your RSVP, aka don’t be a flake. Technically, etiquette says that you must accept all invitations as long as you don’t have a conflict. Personally I think having a date with your Netflix counts as a conflict. Also if you do have to cancel, try to make another plan.
  • Show up on time(ish). For a big, general party, this obviously isn’t as important. But for something like a dinner at someone’s house, you need to be pretty close to the time stated. THOUGH! You shouldn’t be there EXACTLY on time. Try aiming for 10-15 minutes late so you the hosts get an extra few minutes to finish setting up. For extremely close friends, you can be earlyish, but be prepared to help out.
  • Bring something! A hostess gift is a small present you bring to give the person throwing the party. Bottles of wine, boxes of chocolates, a jar of jam are all good ideas. Flowers aren’t recommended as much because the host/ess has to deal with them right then and there, but I think they are still nice. Hostess gifts are for the hostess, so don’t expect that they will pop open the wine then and there, they may have specific wines planned to complement a meal, though they often will. Obviously this type of advice is more for a dinner party, but even for a general house party, you should probably bring something, though in that case, I would expect for it to be eaten/drunk at the party.
  • Be good company! Part of your duty of being a guest is making a party a success. That means being pleasant to all the other guests (this is where the reciting times tables to dinner partners you can’t stand comes from in Jaya’s post about turning the tables– you want to give the impression you are having a good time) and doing your best to mingle.
  • If you really want to impress your hosts, send a quick thank you email/text/note(super fancy!) the next day to tell them how much fun you had.
  • If you are visiting for a couple of days, clean up after yourself, offer to help out with chores, perhaps cook or treat your hosts to a meal, and definitely send a thank you note! Also try to remember that fish and guests start to get old after 3 days, so try not to intrude on your friend’s hospitality too much. [INDIAN FISH STAYS GOOD IN THE FRIDGE FOR AT LEAST A WEEK, HOW DARE YOU-Jaya]
  • There is actually a DEBATE in the etiquette world about what to do with your sheets when you leave, making the bed vs stripping it. Just ask your host what they prefer!
  • If you are staying for a long time, try to do some things on your own. My mom once had a friend visit her in New York City and the guest spent the week on the couch watching TV. When she could have, you know, seen New York.