Call me old fashioned, but, in my opinion, there’s almost never a wrong time for a hostess gift. That doesn’t mean I always have my act together enough to bring one (sorry, friends), but I do think they are an important social grace that’s been slowly fading away.
Thankfully, hostess gifts don’t have to be elaborate. The cliché is true: It’s the thought that counts. A bottle ofwine or fresh flowers are both great options, and easy to pick up on your way to the party. You can’t go wrong with either of them.
Now in spite of what I just said there are two times when you don’t need to bring a hostess gift, but they are definitely exceptions to the rule. The first is a formal dinner party. The host has enough to worry about on the night of the party. Instead, plan to send a thank you note the next day. Second, there’s no need to bring a gift if you’re bringing a dish to contribute to the meal. In that case, your salad, side dish, or dessert serves as your gift. But as a frequent hostess, I can say I will never turn down an extra bottle of wine.
As a general rule, hostess gifts should be given at the brunch, dinner, or cocktail party. The one exception to this is for overnight or weekend visits. I recently spent a lovely weekend with friends of mine who recently moved to Chicago. I hadn’t seen their new place, so I didn’t bring a hostess gift. But in the course of the weekend and the afternoon we spent shopping, I got plenty of ideas for a thank you gift to send them. Plus, it will be much more personal since I’ve spent time with them in their new home. So, for long weekends it’s perfectly acceptable to send a gift after the fact.
Here are five of my go-to hostess gifts. They are all inexpensive, and to keep a couple on hand so you won’t have to worry about showing up empty-handed.
1. CLOTH NAPKINS
It’s always a good idea to give a gift related to hosting or entertaining. I’m a fan of these simple seersucker napkins with bright edging from Dot & Army. You can also give cocktail napkins or a coaster set if you prefer.
To buy: Dot & Army, from $6.50
2. STATIONERY OR NOTEPADS
If you want to personalize this for your host, you’ll have to plan ahead. But you can also order slightly more generic notepads to fit most occasions. I’m always in need of a place to scribble notes and ideas.
To buy: Personalized Photo Notepad, $12.99
3. COCKTAIL BOOKS
Ideal for a cocktail parties, you can’t go wrong with a book to add to the bar cart. I recommend something classic and not too niche. You wouldn’t want to buy a book of margarita recipes only to learn your hostess is allergic to tequila!
Candles are another pretty standard gift, but one that most everyone will enjoy. Make sure you choose one that doesn’t have an over-powering scent, since everyone has very different opinions about what smells good.
To buy: Swedish Dream Sea Salt Candle, $24
Who doesn’t love chocolate? And fancy chocolate is even better. From Mast Brothers to Dandelion Chocolates, you really can’t go wrong with a gift set.