Sunday, December 13, 2009

Host and Hostess Gifts

Tis the season for entertaining, celebrating, and traveling to the homes of our dear family and friends. Being newly married I feel like I’ve definitely crossed over into the “grown up” world and that includes doing things that our parents normally did for us. One of those items that sprung to mind, this time of year especially, is being responsible for giving our own host/hostess gifts.

Young adults married or not, usually are not hosting the big family/friend parties and dinners, so it is important we show our appreciation by following proper guest etiquette. Attending a dinner/holiday party means we are not spending the time and money on the food, drinks, and d├ęcor. Having holiday guests is a lot of work and requires a great deal of preparation, something we’re probably not ready for, right? Someday all those wedding gifts, including that shrimp-serving tray that’s still in the box, will come in handy for hosting, but let’s face it, that day isn’t today. Peggy Post has a lot to share with us regarding host/hostess gifts but since it is the holiday season we’ll focus on examples that will help us get through the next couple of weeks!

Giving a host/hostess gift is a token of your appreciation and their thoughtfulness of having you over to their home. When selecting the gift it is important to consider the nature of the occasion and the relationship you have with the host/hostess. If it is a co-worker you want to keep the gift less personal and if it is a close family/friend the more personal the better (we’ll get into examples below!). Remember too, if the host/hostess has children bring them a small gift/treat as well. Yes, you were little once and got random gifts from adult strangers too!

Rules for Gifts

Give your gift as soon as you arrive. If you send after be sure to do it right away. Another option for houseguests is to find the perfect gift during your visit. The most common host/hostess gifts these days are flowers and wine. Both are fine, but remember if you choose flowers do have them in a vase already. It will take time away from their guests if they have to deal with the flowers you brought. Also, remember that if you bring wine they aren’t obligated to open it with you that night and if you don’t know them that well, maybe the don’t like wine, or certain kinds…again it is about the personal touch.

Generally you do not want to bring a food item unless you’ve worked it out with the host/hostess prior to the event. If you do bring a food item let them know right away they do no need to serve this, it is for their personal enjoyment another time. Other ideas include small ornament/decoration for their home, a local treat from where you’re from and they may have in their hometown, candles, something that you’ve hand made/created, picture frame with a photo of you and the host etc. etc.

What I did

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we were traveling to several households in one day and I knew I wanted to bring a token of our appreciation for each host and hostess. We were mostly going to be with my husband’s side of the family and I wanted to share with them a token of my family’s traditions, so I baked a family classicCranberry Bread. Not only is this personal, but affordable! Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant by any means. We are all watching our wallets this holiday season.

We baked a loaf for all our family members, wrapped them in good-old-fashion aluminum foil, got some colored string and notes and we were done! I told each hostess that this was for her and it is up to her when she wanted to serve it. I gave the hostess that actually served us dinner a bottle of wine too because I know she just adores a good bottle of red and she was giving us our Thanksgiving meal. Each hostess saved their loaf for another time and were excited to receive it.

For Christmas we will be houseguests at my aunt and uncles house. With very close family it isn’t as customary to bring a gift, but to help plan ahead with the host and/or hostess on what food/drink you can bring/sponsor. I extended an offer to help my aunt with sugar cookies several weeks before our arrival. It is up to them to accept, decline, or offer another suggestion. Others may offer to supply the wine for dinner, bake a dessert, or simply be there to help clean up all the dishes. What is customary is sending a thank you note after your stay. Now, this is for close family only, otherwise an appropriate gift is recommended. We’ll get into houseguest etiquette another time!

Here are some photos of our Thanksgiving and cookie making for a local charity. Good luck picking out your next host/hostess gift and feel free to send questions or comments. I’d love to hear what you give as a gift.

One last thought from Peggy Post…

Hosts and Hostesses are not obligated to write you a thank you note for the gift!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Does Etiquette Matter?

What is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word etiquette?

For those of us in the “X” and “Y” Generation some of the images and memories may not be so positive. Some of us can picture parents and grandparents nagging about closing our mouth when chewing, choosing the right fork to eat with, and/or writing thank you notes. Young children often perceive etiquette as annoying and tedious practices that are instilled by their elders. Children are instructed on what is proper but aren't taught why these practices are so important. Once kids are out of their parents house often times all those rules of etiquette are dropped and long forgotten because no one is there to nag.

Well, let’s try and figure out why etiquette is in our lives and for goodness gracious why grandmothers made us use our indoor voice, say please and thank you, and write thank you notes after every gift!

Since I’m not the expert we’re going to look to the great Post family for some insight AND so you don’t think I’m just making this stuff up.

Peggy Post reminds us that etiquette is about three main principals:

  • Respect: Interest in others as they are
  • Consideration: Thinking before acting (we could all brush up on this one!)
  • Honesty: Acting sincerely, being truthful, and tactful

These three principles, in conjunction with manners, make up etiquette and is the formula to which we learn how to interact with one another. When was the last time you felt disrespected? Bet is wasn’t that long ago. When is the last time you considered the feelings of someone before your own? Did you ever think being dishonest with someone wasn’t proper etiquette? Looking at etiquette from a “big picture” perspective shows us that it truly all starts with these three principles.

So, wait…how are manners different from etiquette? I’d thought you’d never ask! Manners, as Peggy says, “Smooth the way for building better relationships.” Manners + the Three Principals make up etiquette. Manners are kind of like rules for one’s culture on how you should act in a social setting. When someone has good manners, i.e. says please and thank you, you feel a sense of real appreciation from the other person. When someone has bad manners it generally raises a red flag in your mind.

I have found one of the biggest challenges with manners is being sincere about them. When is the last time you came across someone “thanking you” for something that just sounded totally artificial? Remember your tone of voice and facial expression speaks louder than words.

Difference between the Three Principals and Manners

Three Principals

  • Timeless
  • No cross-cultural boundaries


  • Time sensitive
  • Vary between cultures (we’ll talk about this too!)

Make sense? I think so.

So that was a lot to swallow but it is so important to remember that when you practice proper etiquette you are being a respectful, considerate, and honest person in society. These aren’t your grandmother’s rules, these are rules built and supported by society so we can all get along a little bit better. While of course some may be out of date, and we’ll discuss that here, it is important to practice, teach, and share the proper etiquette and manners in our every day lives.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How this Blog was Born

I became a certified professional bridal consultant in August and ever since I've wanted to start a blog. I wanted my blog to have some substance, something that could be valuable to my readers. I tossed around the idea of writing wedding tips, but once I started doing a little research I found that there is enough of that already out there, and frankly a bit boring for some of the gents in the world. I didn't want to just start a blog to simply start a blog, I wanted to ponder it and really brainstorm what would be most beneficial.

As a proud member of The Association of Bridal Consultants I was honored to win the Illinois Chapter Scholarship to attend their Annual Meeting. The meeting was held November 8-10 in Indianapolis. One of the keynote speakers was Peggy Post, great grand-daughter in-law of the infamous Emily Post, the queen of etiquette. Being a proud supporter of proper etiquette since I was a little girl I was so excited to hear her speak and meet her in person. A little back story, in sixth grade I did a "How To" project on how to set a table for a formal dinner party and used Emily Post as my point of reference...hey I wonder if Mr. Paolini (my 6th grade teacher) still has that on VHS! Sorry, I digress.

In the midst of Peggy's presentation and after buying her Wedding Etiquette book (I am a wedding planner after all!) and hearing her awful stories of bad etiquette (and seeing her gasp from a fellow-members story, so funny) the light bulb went on! "I must write a blog about etiquette that people my age can read and relate to."

So here it is - my etiquette blog. I'm hoping many people can benefit from, and share with others, what is talked about on this blog. Etiquette after all is respect and we all want to be respected. Remember that sign in your high school gym: Respect: Give it. Get it.? Well it is so true. Things have changed since Emily Post wrote her book in the 1920s, there is no doubting that, but some things still live on and here is where I will share what is still "a la mode," as the French say, and what isn't!

Post your questions and I'll be happy to address them OR just check in every now and again to see what the latest is. I don't claim to be an expert, but with my research, networking with some of the best event planners in the nation, and of course the Post family, we'll become the most respected generation yet!

Happy reading my soon-to-be and current etiquette junkies.
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