The Art of the Hostess (or Host) Gift

Jan 17th

When going to someone’s house for a dinner, party, or other event that they are hosting, it is always a nice gesture (and I personally feel necessary) to bring a host/hostess gift as a token of appreciation to show your gratitude for them planning and hosting the event.  The gift need not be extravagant – it truly is the thought that counts here – and a gift in the $10-$20 range is appropriate, unless you feel like spending more because you can or want to impress.

The gift, of course, will depend upon whether your host is a male or female.  I find that women are typically easier to buy gifts for in general since we just like stuff, but there are some things that make good gifts for men, so let’s start there.

Host Gifts For Men

    • Coasters – men love beer (stereotypical, I know) and table rings are ugly, yet easily avoidable.  I particularly like these coasters here
      because they seem masculine and are a little absurd and fun, but if you want to really splurge and be spendy, I’d go for these
      Jonathan Adler ones (I’m obsessed with him)!
    • A nice bottle of craft beer (if they’re into beer – make sure to choose a style they like, i.e. don’t buy a stout for someone who only drinks pilsner) along with a fun bottle opener or a bottle of wine (if that’s more their speed – again choose a variety they like) with a quirky bottle stopper.  Try to choose something that you know they haven’t tried – it’s more exciting that way.  Put it in a nice bag to make it look festive – I tend to keep a few beverage bags around the house.  The 99 cent store is a particularly good place to stock up on these.
    • A potted plant – maybe a cactus because they can easily live inside or outside and don’t require a lot of care or water, which can be good for a guy.  Plus, cactus are masculine, and flowers, not  so much.

Host Gifts For Women

The following gifts, while slightly impersonal, can be given to almost any hostess regardless of whether they are Martha Stewart or the queen of ordering in, who hardly sets foot in her kitchen.  Make the gifts personal by choosing something that goes with the decor of their home or a scent you know they like.

    • A nice scented candle – I tend to stock up on these when I see them on sale at Anthropologie or T.J. Maxx and keep them around the house, so I always have one to grab and go when an impromptu event comes up.  I particularly like Voluspa candles.  Fancy candles are something that most don’t buy for themselves, but are always great to receive as gifts.
    • Dish Towels – everyone needs them and one can always use more of them for those times when a towel is used to clean up red wine, forever leaving a stain.  There are endless amounts of cute ones out there (like candles, Anthropologie and T.J. Maxx are both good sources for cute dish towels) and if a holiday is coming up, like Thanksgiving, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, etc., I look for ones that are holiday themed to bring over (I secretly love tacky things, themed dish towels being one of them).  These are another thing that you can stock up on when they’re on sale and stockpile around the house.
    • Fancy Hand Soap –  everyone needs soap and, like candles, most don’t spend money on fancy soap for themselves, so it’s always nice to receive it as a gift.  I tend to look for liquid handsoap in a pretty bottle that would work well in either the kitchen or bathroom – think olive oil, lemon or rosemary scented for the kitchen and verbena, grapefruit or lavender scented for the bathroom.  I find that T.J. Maxx is a good source for inexpensive fancy soap (do you get the feeling I shop there frequently?).

Gifts Not To Bring

Yes, there are some things that while nice, do not work as host/hostess gifts.  The number one offender is flowers.  It’s true that they are pretty, but when you are hosting an event, you don’t want to stop and drop everything to arrange them and put them in a vase.  If you feel that foliage is necessary, bring a potted plant, or flowers already in a vase.

Another offender is an appetizer, side dish, dessert, or other food item if it was not expressly requested by the host.  Showing up and saying “oh, I brought this apple pie for dessert” just doesn’t work because it could make your host feel that (a) their cooking is so terrible you felt compelled to save dessert with your pie, (b) that you are trying to show off your culinary prowess when it’s not your party, and/or (c) that apple pie you chose to so graciously bring might not go with the Moroccan feast they had planned.  So, save everyone and just don’t do it.