A Man’s Guide to Hostess Gifts Slideshow
September 2, 2011
1. The Rules of Appropriate Gifting
A hostess gift doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be thoughtful. Consider the types of activities your hosts enjoy, and gift accordingly. As a general rule, your budget should be around $15 to $30, depending upon the formality of the occasion.
2. Gifting Flowers
An important rule to remember is that you should never bring anything that makes more work for your hosts. The best example is that of flowers: If you bring a cellophane-wrapped bouquet, your host must stop what they are doing, find a vase, trim the ends from the flowers and greenery, arrange the bouquet, and find a place for it. If you’re giving flowers, be sure to bring a bouquet that is already arranged in a vase.
3. Never Bring Food
Likewise, never bring food to add to the menu unless your host has specifically requested you do so. If you’d like to bring food or drink as your gift, make sure your hosts understand that the gift is for their enjoyment, and you don’t expect them to share it with their guests.
4. Gift Thoughtfully
Although wine and flowers are traditional hostess gifts and will always be appreciated, why not challenge yourself and come up with something a little more creative? Here are some suggestions:
• Gourmet coffee. Always opt for whole bean coffee (if they’re the type who will enjoy coffee as a gift, they’re likely to have their own grinder). Skip the fancy flavors and select a medium brew from a recognized brand, not the mystery bag you find on the shelf at your local market.
• Fine Chocolate. For it to be a hit, the chocolate must be unusual and special. Visit an upscale department store or chocolatier for a small box of exquisite truffles.
• Posh spices. Perfect for the host who enjoys cooking. Visit an upscale market or boutique for a selection of interesting peppercorns, cinnamon, or other often-used spices or a nice set of sea salts. You might also consider a small assortment of spices for ethnic food, such as turmeric, saffron, or coriander.
5. More Gift Ideas
Or opt for something more unexpected like:
• Scented candles. Yes, these are overdone, but there’s a reason for that — most everyone enjoys them. Opt for something well-crafted, not a Glade candle from the supermarket. Try this one that smells like a barbershop or this tuberose one.
• Fresh produce. If you have a garden, bring a small box of your bounty, packaged so that it can go straight into the refrigerator. Even if your hosts are carnivores, they’ll delight in your interesting gift. Skip this option if you don’t garden, or settle for something simpler, like a large basket of succulent farmstand strawberries.
6. Avoid Personal Gifts
Avoid overly personal gifts, such as perfume, bath products, or articles of clothing. Although etiquette guides disagree, skip the houseplant unless your host has a renowned green thumb; otherwise, you put them at risk of worrying if they’ll kill it.
7. Avoid Gifting a “Signature” Item
Although it may seem terribly clever, resist the urge to develop a “signature” gift, such as a particular bottle of wine you bring each time you visit. You might think your hosts delight in receiving your special brand of manliness, but in reality, they’re probably chuckling about the fact that you’ve brought the same bottle of poor-quality Chardonnay to their last three dinner parties.
8. Let the Gift Match the Occasion
Your gift should reflect the occasion. An elaborate flower arrangement isn’t appropriate for a pool party, just as a six-pack just won’t do for a formal dinner. Consider the tone and nature of the party, and gift accordingly.
9. When to Bring a Gift
Occasions that demand hostess gifts include dinner parties, pool parties, weekend visits, extended stays… basically anytime you’re foisting your presence on someone in their home.
Although Peggy Post, descendent of etiquette doyenne Emily Post, says that it isn’t necessary to bring a gift to a cocktail party or open house, what could it hurt? Who doesn’t want another bottle of premium vodka for their bar? Who would be offended by a simple flower arrangement? It’s far better to err on the side of graciousness and bring a little something, regardless of the occasion.
10. Gifting Booze
All this talk of flowers and scented candles aside, most men prefer to bring liquor to events they attend. Yes, as we’ve mentioned, it’s not very unique, but it’s well-received, it’s easier, and it’s something many men feel more comfortable buying and giving. Appropriate to nearly every occasion — except if you’re visiting a “dry” house — alcohol can be a thoughtful hostess gift if you think a little before you purchase it.
11. When to Bring Wine
Take wine, for example. If your hosts are oenologists, don’t insult them with a bottle of two-buck Chuck. Visit a real liquor store and purchase something in the $20 range, like a nice Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. Or you could exercise a little creativity and select an interesting Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Zinfandel (red only, please), Muscat, or Shiraz from a more unusual wine region, like Alexander Valley or Chile.
If you are helpless around wine, ask the proprietor for help.
12. When to Bring Liquor
Fine liquor makes for another excellent hostess gift. Unless you know your host has specific tastes in spirits, stick to the basics, like brandy, fine gin, flavored vodka, or top-shelf tequila. Jägermeister, Goldschläger, and flavored schnapps are never acceptable.
13. When to Bring Beer
You might think that beer isn’t an appropriate hostess gift, but you would be wrong — provided you give it at the right occasion.
As previously mentioned, a formal dinner is not the right event for beer, unless, of course, your host is a microbrewery aficionado. In that case, opt for something unique and interesting, like something you’d order from a beer club. For more casual occasions, pick up a six-pack of good beer, like a stout or an IPA.
14. Gift in Style
Although it isn’t necessary to stick a bow on your sixer or your wine in a fancy bag, you should take care to present your gift with style. Non-alcohol-related gifts should be wrapped or otherwise artfully presented, with the price tags removed and the store bag left in the car.
When you arrive, don’t thrust the package at your host the moment they open the door. Say hello, walk inside, and only then present the gift. Make certain they knows that they are under no obligation to share; the gift is purely for their amusement and enjoyment.