Give a Gift to the Hostess!
What do people love to do this time of year? Socialize, of course! Whether you’re eager to spend the holidays with those you care about most or are just looking to inject some fun and activity into dreary winter days, hosting and attending parties is always fun. Chances are you’ll be attending more get-togethers than you’re hosting, so what’s the etiquette around hosting? Some of it’s obvious: RSVP in a timely fashion, pay attention to the dress code, and find out what you need to bring (if anything). But what about bringing a gift for your host or hostess?
Those raised by old-school parents wouldn’t dream of showing up empty-handed to a party. But just as there’s proper etiquette to follow when accepting or declining an invitation, so there’s good etiquette around choosing and giving hostess gifts. The point of most rules of etiquette is to avoid offending anyone, so let’s review a few rules of etiquette surrounding the giving of hostess gifts.
Firstly: what exactly is a hostess gift?
A hostess gift is just what it sounds like – a gift you bring with you to present to the host or hostess of an event as way to say, “thank you for having me;” (i.e. “thank you for your generosity in inviting me into your home and showing me your hospitality”).
A hostess gift is unlike other gifts in that it should be thoughtful while remaining small. You’re not trying to repay the host or hostess for their generosity in having you over (to imply such would be insulting). Nor is a hostess gift the same as a birthday or holiday gift.
Hostess gifts tend to be less personal than regular gifts, and often include items for the hostess’s home (e.g. a set of linen napkins, special utensils, or hand towels), items the hostess can set out right away for all the guests to enjoy (like bottles of wine, scented candle, a bouquet of flowers, or edible fruit arrangements), or something the hostess can enjoy later alone or with her family (like a box of chocolates or a box of oranges or other fresh fruit).
How should a hostess gift be given?
Ideally, you should prevent your gift to the hostess as soon as she welcomes you into her home (i.e. “Here, this is for you – thanks so much for having us; we’re happy to be here!”).
If there’s a big crowd and your host doesn’t greet you at the door, it’s fine to leave your gift on a side table with other such unwrapped gift boxes. As long as there’s a “To and From” tag on it (that you’ve filled out, mind you!) you don’t even need to say anything to your hosts – they’ll find it later.
When presenting your host or hostess with a gift, you should aim to be somewhat discreet (after all, some of your fellow guests may not have thought to bring a gift and you don’t want to add awkwardness to a fun and relaxed atmosphere).
What not to expect when you’ve given your hosts a gift.
Unless it’s clear what your gift is (like a basket of fruit or a bottle of wine), don’t expect the hosts to unwrap it. Even if they can tell what it is, you shouldn’t be hurt if they don’t remark on it overmuch – most likely they’ll thank you for the token and assure you that they’ll open it later. This is not a snub – the host and hostess will be busy keeping the party running smoothly and seeing to the comfort of all their guests (including you); you shouldn’t expect them to stop and admire your gift. To do so would (again) also be awkward in front of other guests who may not have brought a gift.
Hostess gifts are one of those rare gifts where a reciprocal thank-you note is not expected, so you shouldn’t expect one of those, either. That’s because the hostess gift itself is a thank-you gift – you’re saying thank you; you shouldn’t expect the recipient (who is already showing you their hospitality) to thank you in return beyond a verbal thank you at the time the gift is given (and/or maybe a follow-up text later).
Do put a little thought into your gift.
As stated above, hostess gifts shouldn’t be too ostentatious – you’re thanking the hostess for her hospitality, not trying to pay her back.
That doesn’t mean you should grab the first thing you see at the store, however – gourmet food gifts are wonderful, but keep in mind your hostess may have allergies, and while some people love scented candles, others find them overpowering.
Remember, just because a gift is small, doesn’t mean it can’t be meaningful! Think about your recipient – his or her likes and dislikes – while choosing a hostess gift, and you can be sure of future invitations from them.
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