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 décor. 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!


  1. Try to catch Dr. Phil from's an entire episode about holiday etiquette, with Peggy Post as the guest. :)

  2. Its amazing how simple a hostess gift can truly be! A great gift that I've received are tea towels for my kitchen. Not sure about everyone else, but I could always use a nice set. Not only are they affordable, but thoughtful because the gift-giver actually thinks about the decor of your house and/or kitchen.