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Proper Host and Hostess Gift Etiquette

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Young girl at outdoor party giving gift to woman with partygoers watching and smiling
Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

It’s always a good idea to show your appreciation with a gift when invited to someone’s home. The problem is many people don’t know proper etiquette, so they feel uncomfortable having to make a decision. Remember that the size or price of the gift is insignificant. What you need to focus on instead is what that person will like.

If you know the host or hostess well, consider a gift that evokes a memory of time you spent with them. For example, if you both enjoy the same types of entertainment, the hostess will probably appreciate a DVD, CD, or tickets to an event. However, if you don’t know his or her personal taste, consider a bouquet of flowers or a gift basket with items most people enjoy.

Use discretion when selecting the gift. You want to avoid anything that could potentially offend the host or hostess. For instance, you wouldn’t want to give a tray of sausage and cheese to a vegan, no matter how much you enjoy that type of food. This gift is for the party giver, not you.

Remember that you don’t need to bust your budget to give something elaborate. Not only will doing this embarrass the hostess, it makes you appear desperate for acceptance. Stay within your budget, knowing that the recipient will appreciate anything you give.

Dinner Party

When you bring a gift to the host of a dinner party, don’t expect it to be served while you are there. Remember that this is a gift, not an accompaniment to the meal. If the hostess wants you to bring a dish to share, she will ask you during the invitation.

The host may choose to share your food or beverage gift during the party. If that happens, be gracious and wait until everyone else has a chance to try it before you partake. Allow the hostess to tell everyone where the gift came from rather than announce it to the group.

If you are invited to a dinner party at a restaurant, it generally isn’t necessary to bring a hostess gift. However, if the host is footing the bill for the entire party, a gift will be much appreciated. You don’t have to match the price of the gift to the bill, but consider bringing something you might bring to a home dinner party.

Appropriate gifts for a dinner party hostess include:

  • Bouquet of flowers in a vase
  • Boxed candies
  • Potted plant
  • Bottles of wine
  • Tin of cookies
  • Decorator candles
  • Guest soaps
  • Flavored vinegars
  • CD or DVD
  • Tickets for a movie or event
Holiday Party

Holiday parties are perfect occasions to bring hostess gifts. The time of year lends itself to celebration through giving. As with any other host or hostess gift, keep the recipient in mind when selecting the item. You wouldn't give your boss the same type of gift you'd give your best friend.

Ideas for holiday party host and hostess gifts:

  • Ornament or other holiday decoration
  • Gift basket with cookies, popcorn, coffees, teas, and hot cocoa mix
  • Holiday-themed tins of candy or baked goods
  • Bottle of wine or holiday-flavored liqueur
Overnight Stay

A gift for a host or hostess who is kind enough to accommodate you overnight should be a step up from a dinner party gift. After all, more preparations will have to be made, including extra laundry, cleaning, and additional meals. You may include items you will use while staying there, but add something extra that the host or hostess can enjoy later.

Host and hostess gifts for overnight stays may include:

  • Spa basket
  • His and her robes
  • Tickets to dinner and an event
  • Gourmet food basket
  • Wine basket with a variety of wines and a couple of wine glasses
  • An item the host or hostess specifically mentions wanting
  • Gift card to a specialty store that caters to the host’s taste
Housewarming Gift

If you are invited to a housewarming party or open house, you should bring something suitable for the new residence. Try to find out the color scheme beforehand. You may also consider purchasing something in a neutral shade or style that will go with any décor.

Gifts to consider for a housewarming:

  • Tree sapling that can be transplanted in the yard
  • Dishtowels
  • Bath towels
  • Picture frame or collection of frames
  • Glasses or stemware
  • Boxed tool set for a new homeowner
  • Basket filled with smaller items the host or hostess can use around the house
  • Maps, restaurant menus, and information about the new area accompanied by a personal gift
  • Basket of homemade treats
Meeting Future In-Laws

If you are visiting the home of your future in-laws, you can help alleviate a case of nervousness by arriving with a gift. Make sure you know their tastes to prevent the embarrassment of giving something inappropriate.

Appropriate gifts for future in-laws:

  • Flower arrangements in a vase
  • Plant in a decorative pot
  • Variety of potted herbs
  • Basket of wine and cheese
  • Coffee or tea basket
After the Dinner, Party, or Overnight Stay

As soon as possible after you return home, send a handwritten thank you note to the host or hostess. You will want to do this, even if you brought a gift. The note doesn’t have to be long. A simple show of gratitude is all that is necessary.

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