A Guide to Thoughtful Hostess Gifts

Thoughtful Hostess Gifts
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It’s always good etiquette to bring a little something with you when you’re invited into someone’s home. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult to find a gift that’s both unique and appropriate – especially if you don’t know the person well. Here are a few ideas to consider to help you find perfect, thoughtful hostess gifts.


The two most common hostess gift is flowers, still among the best choice. Flowers should be fresh and pretty. If at all possible, purchase them from a florist rather than the supermarket. You will have more options to choose from, you can usually select specific types and colors of flowers if you want to coordinate with your host’s color scheme, and a variety of accessories such as vases or ornaments can be added to the bouquet. An alternative to cut flowers is a live plant. Either green or flowering plants can be beautiful decorations, and the thought will last much longer – possibly many years longer – than the week or so that cut flowers will survive.

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Food gifts

One of my favorite things to take when visiting is something that’s both attractive and edible. Most people appreciate boxes of specialty chocolates (especially on Valentine’s Day). Small gift baskets of cheese, salami, crackers, or similar appetizer-type items can also be trendy. Suppose you have access to a gourmet shop. In that case, you can even buy specialty jars of imported stuffed olives, marinated mushrooms, or other items that people may only sometimes purchase for themselves.

One thing to remember when giving a food gift – it is still a gift. Please don’t expect your host to open the item on the spot and serve it. They may choose to share, but it is their discretion whether they do. Also, remember that not every food is appropriate as a gift in every situation. Be aware of possible allergies or other food prohibitions – you wouldn’t want to give salami and crackers to a Jewish friend, for instance.


Many people love gadgets. These kitchen appliances are often specialty items we don’t really need but can be fun to have around. Taking a bag of lemons and a citrus reamer might be a fun gift at a cocktail party. Taking a cute and decorative egg timer and a tool for piercing the end of an egg before cooking would be a good gift when invited to brunch. If the gadget idea appeals to you, but you aren’t sure what to choose, stand in the gadget department at the kitchen store. Something unusual is bound to catch your eye. The point is to be creative, try to play to the occasion, and keep the recipient’s personality in mind.

Home gifts

For occasions when you’re invited for a home visit that will last longer than a single meal, something other than a food-oriented gift may be more appropriate. For instance, a picture frame can be an excellent gift, though I recommend against giving it with a picture of yourself already in it unless it’s a very close friend or family member. Decorative or scented candles can make a lovely addition to anyone’s home. Another option would be something for the bathroom – specialty soaps or bath salts, or even decorated hand towels might be appreciated.

Make it personal

As with any gift, the more intimate the relationship, the more personal a hostess gift can be. If you’re invited for dinner at the house of a friend’s parents when you’re traveling for business, it might be best to go with something like a candle. But if you’re staying a week with the college roommate you’ve been best friends with for 20 years, you can and should be much more personal. Bring something that will have a special meaning that you can relate to. Don’t just bring a supermarket bouquet – make sure you’ve gotten something that clearly shows you put some thought into it.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive, but you also don’t want them to seem cheap. It would be better to bring a box of just a couple of hand-dipped chocolates than to bring a similarly-priced box of mass-market candy purchased at the drugstore on the corner. Don’t let your hostess gift be an afterthought. But also, don’t feel overwhelmed if unsure of what to bring. When someone has invited you into their home, the best thing you can give them in return is genuine appreciation, polite behavior, good company, and an offer to help with the dishes before you leave.

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