Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Can We Talk About Hostess Gifts?

Do you guys give them? Hostess gifts, I mean. Have you received them?

I always see all these gift guides and suggestions for hostess gifts. And I think, Yes, I should be giving hostess gifts of bath salts and fancy peppercorn mills and whatnot.

And then I think, But, to WHOM am I supposed to give these things? 

I mean, I have taken a bottle of wine to a dinner party. But should I be doing more???

I hosted a party last weekend (WHOA. I know. To tell you the truth, it's only the second party I've hosted at my house since Eliza died. The first being Zuzu's first birthday party. But actually it wasn't really a party party. It was a potluck. And I only invited people from work. So, minimal party prep (I vacuumed and made a casserole) and a lot of shop talk (work gossip totally counts as shop talk)).

Anyway, I hosted a party. And NO ONE brought me a hostess gift.

Hmm. Maybe because I made them bring their own food?

In all seriousness... I would NEVER expect a hostess gift at a potluck (in fact, I think it would be kinda weird). But I wonder if I've been lax in not giving hostess gifts before. Like, are you supposed to give them to family members? I would feel totally awkward if people I'd invited to my home for the weekend thought that I expected a gift.

(But I am making Crafty Cousin Amanda bring her new Silhouette machine because we be making some crafty t-shirts up in here on Thanksgiving weekend!)

(And, come to think of it, I thoroughly enjoyed the little gift basket that my brother's adorable girlfriend gave me after they stayed here this summer. It NEVER would have occurred to my brother to give a gift outside of birthday and Christmas, but his girlfriend put together a cute little basket with some DoTerra lotions and toothpaste and cough drops. And I loved it. So maybe I should be giving hostess gifts! And also visiting people.)

I visited my friend Monica a few weekends ago when we took the girls to a pumpkin patch. I realize now I was probably totally remiss in not taking her a hostess gift. But I can't imagine she was expecting one. Of course, the point of a gift is that it's really nice if it's unexpected, right?

Now I feel like a bad friend and an ungrateful houseguest. Should I post-date a gift and send it to my friend Monica? (But I wouldn't want her to think she had to get me a gift when she came to my house, you know? I mean, surely twenty years of friendship puts us beyond that?)

I mean, I were going somewhere on vacation and staying at someone else's house who wasn't my family, then I would get them a gift. I'm just not sure what... (Feel free to invite me, though. I'll come up with something.) Is there a number of days before a gift is required? Or the level of giftiness needs to increase if you're there more than, say, 48 hours?

These are serious questions.

I mean, I don't have to give my mom a hostess gift, right?  I'm already buying her Christmas gifts. And also I'm giving her the gift of my presence. Or at least my kids, whom she appears to enjoy hugely.

One time David and I went to a Christmas party at the superintendent of school's house. Should I have taken them a mortar and pestle set? Or some seasonal tea towels? I'd never met them before and it was a big party, and I don't think anyone else brought gifts.

And is that another danger--if you're the only person who brings a hostess gift to the party, then you make everybody else look bad?

Because I don't know the answer to these questions, I think I will take a bottle of wine everywhere I go. It can totally function as a gift OR we can just open it and have a couple of drinks. Win-win. Wine-win.

What do you guys think? Should I be expanding my repertoire of hostess gifts? Should I be expecting guests to come over and bring me small succulents in charming pots?

Maybe I'm just not running with classy enough crowds?


  1. I'm of the school that you should never show up empty-handed but to me a bottle of wine totally counts. I'm not crafty, nor overly organized and I kind of hate pinterest for how inferior it makes me feel. I have on a few occasions made some cookies/home-made baking or flowers but that's about it. I wouldn't worry too much about it - the holidays are stressful enough without having to worry about hostess gifts. You can't do it all.

    And on a side-note, it's totally weird how Thanksgiving and Christmas are so close together for you guys - don't you kind of feel like you JUST saw all these people just last month?

  2. If it's family and we are invading their house for a bit to visit I like to cook them a meal or at least spring for a meal, or even just dessert one night something to say thanks for opening your home. Any regular party that is not housewarming or bon voyage, birthday, shower etc I don't see a reason to bring a gift. I would say if while at the party and it was super enjoyable or the hostess just went out of her way to welcome you send a gift later. Maybe a basket you make up or a small house decoration you think they may like after seeing their decor. Hope that helps:)

  3. Come visit Savannah and bring me Zuzu and Coco as a hostess gift.

  4. Ummm, I invited you to dinner at my house and you didn't bring me a hostess gift and I completely judged you for it.

    In all seriousness - if I'm invited to a dinner party (like the lovely one I attended Sunday night), I always inquire if I can bring something. Many times our friends will respond with something - a drink, a dessert, a side dish. If so, I bring my best version of the request and leave it at that. If they say to just bring my charming self, I always bring something. Wine is always nice, and never awkward. But I sometimes bring something else, like some really great chocolate, or a nice jam, or something else I've picked up somewhere around town. I don't stress about it too much, and I don't spend a ton of money - no more than I would spend on a bottle of wine. A simple dinner between two friends probably doesn't warrant it as much as someone going to the trouble and expense of cooking and feeding 15 people.

    I seriously doubt your mother or Monica expect a hostess gift, so I wouldn't sweat it!

    PS I was completely kidding about when you came to dinner. Also, I think you brought beer, so see! Win win! Beer win!

  5. Well I can be of no assistance to you! I get some random gifts and the kids get some random gifts and frankly it makes me crazy. I am always the late gifter because I never knew I was supposed to do gifts outside of Christmas and birthday, or why these gifts happen and what they mean. And now people give these enormous gifts for showing up at a birthday party and I wonder if the gift I just gave this kid cost less than what I am taking home. It hurts my head. I look forward to other people commenting, because clearly my post is worthless! ~M

  6. I have found myself running in some fancy crowds here... I have learned a few things. Wine is always fine and good. You can never fail with wine in the evening. For things like brunches or other daytime events, some people will bring gifts and they are usually perishable/usable type things. Like fancy pastries or a nice bouquet or an orchid or something. Specialty items from favourite bakeries and stuff seem to be the go-to. And not everyone brings gifts every time. There is kind of an unspoken cycle where people take turns getting the gift. And sometimes there is no gift and nobody really seems to mind. The too-elaborate and unnecessary gifts gets gossiped about way before any absence of gift would, in fact. I think the lack of a gift implies some turn-taking action, maybe? Like the evenings with a bottle of wine -- wine or not the implication is that you, as the guest, will have your host over at some point in the future. If you bring some other gift as well then you are off the hook. Also, if the person hosting is like an employer or something I think a gift an be awkward. When we go to Jason's boss's house for dinners we only ever take wine even though we don't really plan on having him to our house anytime soon. I think taking an elaborate gift in that case would be in poor taste. But maybe I am wrong! This is all very complicated stuff!

  7. This is a really good question. A bottle of wine is my standby. I'm curious what you find out!

  8. We don't go out that much (erk)... but when we do go to a party or someone's house for dinner, a bottle of wine is our standby as well. If we're spending a weekend visiting friends (which we occasionally do), we'll take wine, or a bottle of Baileys, or take them out for dinner or brunch while we're there. We generally don't bring stuff if we're going to BIL's or FIL's, unless it's Thanksgiving or something, but we do sometimes stop off & pick up doughnuts or Italian bakery pastries to have with coffee. :)

  9. I take a gift when I am going to someone's house for the first time. Then, I work by reciprocation. Like, if they get me a gift, I return the favor. If they are not gift giving people, I don't like to pressure them by getting gifts (learnt this from my sister, who does not believe in gift giving. She thinks it is too formal and could reduce the frequency of meeting with friends as you would be so caught up with getting the right gift!).

  10. I always think bringing a bottle of wine is standard (or a favorite craft beer) and offering to bring something more if they'd like (a side, dessert, etc.). Beyond that, I'm not one to show up with a gift basket, soaps, etc. if it is just for an evening or a meal. If I go somewhere to stay for a weekend, I always send something after the visit (like flowers or a gift certificate to a local restaurant). It may be unnecessary, but it is always appreciated.

    When people bring me things (beyond wine) and we are just hosting a cocktail party or dinner party, it makes me feel awkward. But that is probably just me!