Old-school manners and etiquette seem like a thing of the past these days, so it can be tricky to know what to do in certain situations. Hostess gifts used to be very common, but it can be awkward figuring out what to give and when to give. Here are some simple, affordable ideas that even the most hip hostess will appreciate:
Know when to give a gift
Not every gathering requires a hostess gift. Formal dinner parties that are large and where you’re unfamiliar with the host would be a time when you don’t need to bring a gift. If you aren’t sure, ask someone you know who is going, and find out what they’re doing. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re really close friends and hang out all the time, you don’t need to bring a gift if it’s a casual thing. If you’re staying with someone for a few days, definitely bring a gift. You should also bring gifts for celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries, and for housewarming parties.
Get something the hostess can actually use or consume
I’m not a fan of random clutter, so I always tend to pick something I know the hostess can use. Think stuff like cute soaps or a unique candle. While wine glass ornaments can be pretty, they just take up space, and don’t really serve a purpose. When in doubt, food is always good, because it’s eaten and then it’s gone. Nice chocolates are great for people you don’t know really well. Remember though, when you give food, the hostess might feel obligated to serve it at the party right then, so say something like, “This is for after one of those hard days at work!” or another subtle hint that you don’t expect them to serve it.
Decide price based on significance of event
If you’re going over a new friend’s house for a movie night, choose something on the cheap side, like a good-quality ice cream. If you’re all young, this might count as both your “I’ll bring dessert!” contribution and hostess gift, because money times are tough, but if you want to be sure the hostess knows this is just for her and not to share, let her know. If you’re going to a first-house housewarming party, you probably want to spring for something a bit pricier, like a set of glasses or another gift that represents this new chapter in her life.
Give gifts based on personality
Assuming you know the hostess pretty well, give gifts you know fit with their personality. If they love to cook, get a fancy salt or seasoning blend. If you know they love coffee, pick a delicious bag of roasted beans. Unless you’re really close with the hostess, don’t try to be funny with your gift, i.e. giving them a kitchen clock while saying, “Because you’re always running late!” It might be confusing, super awkward, or even accidentally insulting.
Don’t limit gifts to “hostesses” alone; give to a host, too
We’ve been using the female-gendered “hostess,” but if you’re going over a guy’s house where there is no hostess, he counts as a “host,” and should get a gift. Guys tend to be a bit easier when it comes to gifts, so it’s hard to go wrong with offerings like food and alcohol.