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Advice for Students

The Etiquette of Hostess Gifts

November 18, 2013  |     |   0 Comment

IMG_1545The holiday season is upon us, which means time for celebratory gatherings! Many of us will host or receive invitations to cocktail and dinner parties.  Such occasions provide a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends, family and colleagues in a more relaxed and fun environment.

A question that I am asked quite often by people who have been invited to a cocktail or dinner party is whether they should bring a hostess gift.  My answer is always, “yes.”  While you are never obligated as a guest to bring a hostess gift, it is a thoughtful gesture that demonstrates your appreciation for the invitation and the hospitality. In addition, it will leave a positive impression of you upon the host or hostess which will hopefully mean you will be invited back!

Hostess gifts do not have to be expensive or elaborate.  Appropriate hostess gifts include flowers, wine, candles, chocolates or french-milled hand soap. If you choose to bring flowers, presenting them in a vase is a good idea so the host or hostess does not have to take the time to arrange them during their cocktail or dinner party.  Most hosts and hostesses are busy buzzing around with numerous tasks and obligations during their party – the one less thing they have to think about and organize, the better.  They will definitely appreciate your foresight and consideration.

If you are truly on top of things as a guest and want to make an even bigger impression, send the flowers the day before the cocktail or dinner party with a note to thank the host or hostess in advance.

The picture that I have used in this blog is of a gift of flowers that were delivered to me a day in advance of a dinner party that I hosted. I was quite touched by the beautiful gift and also by my guest’s cleverness and thoughtfulness.  The flowers were proudly displayed on my dining room table, and because I had them ahead of time it was easy for me to work them into my table setting.

If you bring something other than flowers, don’t expect that your gift will be unveiled and used during the party as there is no obligation by the host or hostess to do so – especially if you have given a bottle of wine as a gift.  Most hosts and hostesses will have taken the time to choose the appropriate wine to serve during their cocktail party or with their meal at a dinner party.  It is a good idea to include a small card with your host gift so that when the host does unwrap it, he or she will know who it is from.

A hostess gift adds a special touch and will always demonstrate your gratitude for the invitation and hospitality.  To really stand out, it is a good idea to send a handwritten “thank you” note to the host or hostess within 24 hours of attending their party. Even if you brought a gift, this extra gesture will go a long way.


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