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Host Gifts; What Is The Etiquette?

My parents held a party last night for 20+ people. I offered my cooking services for it, and as 'payment' I jokingly told them that I was to receive any and all gifts of wine that the guests would bring.

Perhaps it is because I live with my SO of European descent, and frequently attend parties with his European friends; if we are invited to someone's house for a gathering, a gift will be offered to the hosts for their hospitality.

My family is Canadian, as were all the guests at last night's party, and nobody brought a thing.

Contrary to my earlier comment, I frankly didn't expect anything, and was not offended at all when no offerings were made - the bringing of a gift was not something I observed growing up, however seeing it done at the SO's gatherings made me wonder why I hadn't thought to do it before - but it got me thinking about cultural differences in party etiquette.

What are everyone's thoughts on this?

..................I suppose I must digress; one woman -did- bring something: Two pieces of half-eaten cake and an open wine bottle from a wedding she had attended the day before.

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    1. re: Karl S

      Thank you, Karl. Glad I've got some time on my hands this evening to read over that one.. :)

    2. Yikes ... I always bring at least a bottle of wine. Attended a dinner party tonite ( just 2 couples) and brought a Volnay and a Chablis plus a unique little serving bowl ( handmade from funny little shoppe ) for hostess. I have never had anyone come to our home without a little something in hand and whatever is brought is appreciated ( I remember one gift of a package of funny cocktail napkins) Don't think on host part it should be expected but as attendee I would never think NOT to bring a thank you remembrance

      4 Replies
      1. re: capeanne

        "Don't think on host part it should be expected but as attendee I would never think NOT to bring a thank you remembrance"

        Exactly my thoughts. ...By the way, you're invited to my next party ;)

        1. re: NovoCuisine

          I have to agree. I was taught to always bring something (hell, I even bring something to my Mom's when we go home to visit). I don't know if it's expected or not, but I'm always shocked when someone doesn't bring something.

          1. re: gini

            I, too, "even bring something to my mom's", gini. It's just good manners to do so. It doesn't need to be extravagant. Heck, there's decent wines out there for less than $10! Just a token for the hospitality is always appreciated and remembered.

            1. re: diablo

              Count me in as another who was raised to take a little "sursie" whenever you are invited to a friend/family member's home. The dollar value isn't what's important, but the remembrance.

      2. when i go to a dinner or cocktail party I typically bring a hostess gift (close friends i call ahead to see if they need anything, really close friends i call just before leaving for their party to see if they REALLY need anything) otherwise I bring something small and non food or drink .. when i forget i send them a handwritten thank you note (sometime do this anyway, it's a lost art)& if it was a lavish or particularly lovely party i'll send a tiny gift. it seems bad form to bring food or wine to a party if you intend either to be consummed that evening .. when i give a party i spend a fair amount of time considering how things work with each other i am guessing i'm not alone.

        1. I wouldn't consider going to someone's house for a party and NOT bringing a gift... It would be rude not to bring something!

          1. I always bring something just to show my appreciation.

            That said, maybe it's a matter of how close the friends are, or the type of dinner party. If they know your parents well, there might be an unspoken rule thing. I've observed a few unspoken rules among my parents none of which made sense. One thing from that generation (born during the depression era) that I gathered was not wanting to show anyone up, which was just ae impolite then not bringing something.

            1. I recently had an interesting experience as hostess of a dinner party at my home. I had invited four couples--three were friends and one couple was a business associate of my SO. Everyone had brought a bottle of wine, some of which we drank that night, some of which we didn't. At the end of the party when people were leaving, the new couple took the unopened bottle they had brought with them!

              1 Reply
              1. Like most, I always bring a little something for the host. But I do not find that the people we socialize with do the same. That's OK, but let's talk about what NOT to do:

                Anything left-over of opened (cake, wine, dental floss, whatever...) is not appropriate to bring to any gathering. Not family, not close friends. It's just gross.

                I too have witnessed people taking back wine, so apparently there are real live human beings who don't realize this is rude. If you are so cheap that you are willing to contribute wine to the gathering only if it is consumed that evening, just show up empty handed.

                Insisting on contributing a dish to a party when the hostess has politely declined is rude. It's clear that some people genuinely feel an obligation to turn every gathering into pot luck, in fact it seems to have become more common than the courtesy of a hostess gift. If the hostess declines your dish there is a reason. She has planned her menu, or it's very carefully timed, or she has a small kitchen, or you're a really lousy cook, or you're a show-off who views cooking as a full contact sport and doesn't know when to take a back seat! Whatever the reason, don't push, don't bring a dish and show up with a thoughtful hostess gift.

                Oh and let's remember that even a killer hostess gift doesn't undo boorish behavior. Do not turn up to a party with additional guests without calling first. Even if you bring me something from Harry Winston, I will still be annoyed. Call from the driveway and tell me your bringing a troop of Ukranian acrobats and we're fine - you called and that's all that matters.

                Oh and I nearly forgote my favorite thing to NOT do w/r/t gifts for the host. Don't turn up with a gift for someone else at the party and nothing for the host. Actually don't turn up with a gift for someone else at the party without a gift for everyone. Yes, this has happened to me. Yup, more than once. Yes, of course this is an in-law problem, no one would socialize with people this rude by choice! But I have actually seen this occur at other parties as well, so I know that my outlaws are not the only people with this particular problem. If you missed Susan's birthday and know that she's coming to our dinner party do not bring her gift in and give it to her during the gathering. And if you just can't manage to find another time to give Susan her gift have the sense enough to bring a plant or a tacky dishtowel for the hostess.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Kater

                  I know this has been discussed before, but a long time ago, so... what if someone did bring a dish to a "closed" table. The host(ess) carefully planned the menu and the timing and the table... is it okay to take the dish, thank the gift giver and say "We will enjoy this so much for lunch/dinner tomorrow! I will appreciate not having to cook again tomorrow after all the work I put into this dinner party." ???

                  And I have one more "do not" to add:

                  Do not force yourself onto the host(ess)!

                  My ex had a friend who was just boorish in so many ways (should have known then LOL), he seemed to rub most people the wrong way. However, he was one of my ex's oldest friends and lived about two blocks from our apartment(what luck!) so I tolerated him and was even nice. BUT, everytime this guy came over and I was serving, whether it was a super bowl party or a dinner party, he felt the need to "help". His help basically said I know better than you (and everyone else about food) so I will force my assistance on you. He would even take dishes off the coffee table or buffet table after I put them out for eating to "doctor them up" as my mother would put it. Mind you, even my home made guacamole and salsa which won raves from everyone else, maybe he would just add an extra squeeze of lime and a turn of pepper (which I don't always put in - the pepper) for show off purposes, if I was busy and unable to catch him first. Not to sound like I am the best cook in the world - just good at my specialties - but friends still request these apps along with some others and they did not need anything, they were finished and served (even if they did need anything). I was raised by an incredible home cook and learned early on how to cook mains as well as appie type foods that people enjoy - boy do I miss my mommy! No one EVER altered one of her dishes...the wouldn't dare disrespect like that.

                  Anyway, I finally got fed up and stopped this but at that point, he deserved it.

                  BTW: I always bring a host(ess) gift, either wine or flowers (depending on who it is) or a small thank you gift I know they would like...

                  1. re: Michele4466

                    get rid of this a'hole from your invitee list .
                    You are so correct-a-mundo to bring somethig, wine,flowers etc- you know because you have that touch of class missing from this invitee,

                2. I am Canadian and was raised to ALWAYS bring something for the host. As a child, this translated into some pretty wacky gifts for friends' parents, but I did try, and the tradition and politeness continues. I do sometimes show up with food, but it might be cookies for the kids, or something for later - not something to be served that night.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: thenurse

                    Thanks for the response. I suppose culture might be a small factor, or none at all in some cases. Outside influences definitely play a part; I'm Canadian and my exposure to my SO's group of friends has taught me that a gift really is a good idea.

                    I'm not so sure I agree that it is rude to bring a gift (as discussed below). Unless it interferes with the party or the host's time, which would kind of defeat the purpose of a gift; I think it is always a welcome thing for the host and a nice but not necessary thing to do on the part of the guest.

                  2. We ALWAYS take at least a bottle of wine. If we are fairly close friends with the people who are throwing the party, I'll call before I leave the house and ask if they need anyting picked up. Many a time we've picked up ice and/or something the hostess forgot and is grateful she doesn't have to run out for something. We did have a "funny" situation at Christmas. We were invited to a party and everyone (pretty much) brought a bottle or something with. One man (he wasn't drunk either) decided he didn't like the wine being served at the bar and loudly began asking where they'd put "his" bottle of wine. They dug it out from under the tree and opened it. Needless to say, his wife was mortified.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Linda VH

                      Is it bad that I laughed out loud at that? That's awful!

                      1. re: Linda VH

                        Well Linda I think you've pretty much captured my opinion of this. I get together with friends quite a bit. I'll always bring something and I always call on the way over as well.

                        My host(ess) gift opinions are these:
                        Food can be brought to a party providing it is either cleared first or something home made and special, not for that night. I also had an instance where I had some people over one night an went to a close friends the next. We had pot luck and someone brought and incredible appetizer. There was some leftovers and I took them along the next night. Only to share what was marvelled over the previous night.
                        Wine is always great. As I understand it, proper etiquette is that you do not serve the bottle of wine you're presented by a guest. It is for you. Not for everyone. It can also be misinterpreted as you not being happy with the wine selection and pawning it off on others.
                        Flowers are generally a no. Even if you're willing to deal with them. Most people don't have vases handy and will have to dig one out. It's a pain you don't want to deal with. Bring a potted plant or something. Especially if it's spring and it can go in the garden.
                        Finally, the gift is not a competition. Keep it small and simple.

                        DT

                        1. re: Davwud

                          THE "STANDARD" THAT WE FOLLOW ALONG THOSE LINES IS TO SAY TO THE HOST THAT THE BOTTLE IS FOR THEM, IF A COUPLE, TO ENJOY IF IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE SHARED WITH THE GUESTS, OR TO SAY TO THEM THAT THIS BOTTLE IS TO BE SHARED WITH THE GUESTS IF THEY WOULD LIKE TO DO THAT. IF WE ARE GIVING A VERY NICE BOTTLE TO THE HOST, WE OF COURSE WANT THEM TO KNOW THAT WE DO NOT EXPECT THEM TO SHARE IT AT THE GATHERING FOR US TO SEE THAT THEY ARE SERVING IT. THE HOST ALWAYS SEEMS TO GET THE HINT.

                      2. I hate the stupid hostess gift tradition. Not because I mind giving gifts. I hate receiving them. I want people to come over and enjoy MY hospitality, not feel like they have to bring or do anything. And no matter how much I tell people not to, there are still always one or two recalcitrants who insist, then the others who don't bring gifts or who obeyed my entreaties feel bad...it's a mess.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Snackish

                          I can see your point of view, but it sounds as if your refusals are actually making the situation worse. As you mention, some take you at your word and others just can't set aside such a basic rule of ettiquette. The result is an awkward situation for all. It would probably be better to just make no mention of gifts.

                          Remembet, to discuss them at all is a breach of ettiquette because it presumes that a gift would be given! : ) Don't even get me started about bridal registries!!

                          1. re: Kater

                            It is when people ask "What should I bring?" that I tell them not to. I do not preemptively presume.

                            1. re: Snackish

                              Ostensibly they're offering to contribute to the party, not asking for a wish list for hostess gifts!

                              1. re: Kater

                                There has been talk of people bringing food or wine to the party, and this may overlap with the category of "hostess gifts." This is what I was referring to.

                                I do not want people to feel they need to bring anything if I am throwing the party. Period.

                                1. re: Snackish

                                  What if they WANT to bring something? I don't mean this offensivley, but what about thinking about your guests (as I'm sure you do with the rest of your meal) and realizing they may ENJOY bringing something and that is part of the experience for them?

                                  You can't control what other people do or don't feel, even if you're throwing the party. It is quite possible for people not to feel obligated at all, but a real real desire to share their favorite bottle of wine or brighten the place with beautiful flowers.

                                  I'm simply saying you might consider putting aside your obvious discomfort and maybe not assume you know their motivations?

                                  I love giving gifts because I love making people happy. One assumes that gifts are going to be graciously accepted. So perhaps consider accepting them, graciously.

                                  1. re: krissywats

                                    Yes, I do, on the surface. But I am still uncomfortable with the whole thing.

                                    1. re: krissywats

                                      People who bring food or wine they are offering to be served at the hosted event must be prepared to have the gift put aside for later use. If it's truly a gift, the giver cannot have an expectation about use of the gift. The problem is many givers in this situation do. And that is the etiquette problem.

                          2. As many of the above posters have illustrated (and as the respected etiquette books point out) bringing a hostess gift is NOT good manners. This "tradition" gives rise to all sorts of bad feelings and inconveniences. The hosts have, presumably, given a great deal of thought to the food, wine, and flowers. What are they supposed to do with yours? Break stride to arrange your flowers? Insult you by not serving your food/wine? Your responsibility as a guest is to have a good time (or at least act like you are) and reciprocate. This is the one unalterable obligation: If you are invited for dinner, you MUST return the invitation. If you're single and aren't set up to entertain, an invitation to a suitable restaurant is acceptable.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: pikawicca

                              Yes, the hostess gift thing has obscured the correct response to hospitality: gratitude (the Perfectly Proper Thank You Note) and hospitality (reciprocating reasonably according your means). Among close family or a circle of friends/intimates who routinely run through their circle of hospitality, the note is less of an issue.

                              But I would never dream of thinking that a guest I invited to host would be considered "empty handed" if they came without something to give me. That would be so rude for a host. The guest brings herself, ideally with a sociable attitude towards fellow guests and at least the form of gratitude towards the host.

                              Bringing gifts that cannot be immediately be put away for another time is, as Monty Pythoneers would say, Right Out.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                "Bringing gifts that cannot be immediately be put away for another time is, as Monty Pythoneers would say, Right Out."

                                This is right on! As I noted in my post above, the wine or flowers depends on the situation (I wrote "who it is"), family, friends, business situation? I do disagree with some posts that a gift is flat out wrong. A small token of appreciation is never wrong, genuinely appreciated but above all should not be expected to be served (wine) or fussed with at that time (flowers), it is for the host to enjoy later.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  I always thought that a hostess gift WAS something to be put out of site immediately and having nothing to do with the meal. Any hostess gift I've ever seen has never had anything to do with the meal (a small box of chocolates, lace from Germany, etc). Only when asked to contribute has anyone ever brought food/wine to a dinner party. Are you telling me people show up to dinner parties with unasked for plates of stuffed mushrooms? How strange.

                                  1. re: gini

                                    That, I have not seen unless it was a pot luck or family holiday dinner where we all chose a dish to prepare and it was pre-planned...

                                    I was taught to bring wine to good friends for a small dinner, host CAN open if they like but I always liked it when they saved it for a private moment to enjoy. I take the time to choose something I think they would enjoy.

                                    As for flowers, I know my aunt loves to get flowers, so along with the dessert that is always my responsibility, I also bring her flowers and she is never upset by having to arrange them. But, like I said, this is a special circumstance.

                                    In my post above, I inquuired as to the proper etiquette if someone shows up with a plate of food... Can you thank them profusely and tell them you will "soooo enjoy it tomorrow, not having to cook after all the work you put in today"(wink, wink)

                                    1. re: Michele4466

                                      I think that your course of action would meet with Miss Manners' approval!

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          I like that way of handling the situation. It's a very good indirect way of saying it's not welcome at the table that night. It puts the ball back in their corner without causing a scene.

                                          DT

                                  2. re: pikawicca

                                    I always like the delicious gift of chocolates or a bottle of champagne... I like to accompany the gift with a note that says "for you to enjoy later tonight or another time when you'd like to indulge". Then there is no room for uncomfort... I feel good that I brought something and the host can feel good or bad, but does not need to stop what he/she is doing to make any expression whatsoever at that time.

                                  3. If I am invited for dinner, I always bring something for the host(s). (Versus a potluck--where I bring a dish/dishes--then I just bring something from the garden).

                                    I find that people who do not bring "host/hostess gifts" rarely host, hence have NO IDEA how much time/energy/expense goes into it (like children going to 'mom's house' for dinner).

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Funwithfood

                                      You are so right! It's the friends who never return our hospitality who never think to bring a little something. It may be because, as you suggest, they don't appreciate the effort that goes into entertaining. But I also suspect that if you mother didn't teach you to bring a hostess gift she certainly didn't teach you to extend and invitation to people who have entertained you!

                                      1. re: Kater

                                        "It's the friends who never return our hospitality who never think to bring a little something."

                                        This brings up a question for me... When "friends" show no interest or intention of ever returning the hospitality, do you keep inviting them? What's your criteria for marking someone off your guest list?

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          I've stopped hosting. I cook for my family, and they love it! (...and I don't have to clean the house!)

                                          1. re: Funwithfood

                                            LOL! Sounds like a good plan to me! '-)

                                      2. re: Funwithfood

                                        I definitely hear you on that. People who don't do X never appreciate how much time and effort goes into it. It goes for anything in life.

                                        One way to solve this "problem" is to let your guests get a peak at your last minute frenzy. Not that I'm advocating such behavior, but I notice that my friends who tend to show up early are the ones who really get how much work I put into a dinner party. They thank me in different ways: calling before they leave the house to ask if I need anything, bringing wine or a side dish, and giving me lots and lots of compliments (which is always the best!)

                                        Asian kids are almost always taught that food is a good hostess gift. #1 no brainer gift is a box of expensive fruit (pears or peaches, or the Fuji apples the size of your head). #2 would be a box of pastries. Something the host could possibly serve that night, but usually given with the words "For you and your kids/family to enjoy." Showing up with nothing is called showing up with two bunches of bananas--the bananas being symbolized by your drooping empty fingers.

                                        1. re: Pei

                                          At least the American conventional etiquette is that the hosts should never expect a hostess gift, so that may explain cross-cultural expectations. But thank you notes and reciprocal hospitality are rightly expected.

                                      3. As an American I was taught to ALWAYS bring Something to the host or hostess...what can I say......"Blame Canada...."!
                                        or choose more gracious friends???

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                          I think you've been watching too much South Park!! I will say no more about this comment.

                                        2. If it's family or close friends I always call before going asking what I can bring, if they say nothing then nothing it is. Depending on how close I am with the hostess I sometimes like to bring her flowers or a small plant, just something to say thank you for inviting us over and yes, next time we invite them over to our house, and they do the same thing with us by calling ahead of time asking what to bring.
                                          Sometimes we are left with un-open beverages that a friend brings along, so before they leave I ask them if they want to take it back with them, reason I do this is because we have one friend who is over generous in what he brings, example, 3-4 drinks, cheese and crackers, and a dessert.

                                          1. I don't want to put anyone on the spot and feel they have to serve the wine I brought, etc., so I usually try to make a coffee cake, muffins or something similar for the host/hostess' breakfast the next day. Helps with the hangover too!

                                            1. This works, I think: It requires no effort on the part of the host, other than putting the item in the fridge. You make it clear that you aren't expecting it to be served. Also, this in no way obviates your responsibilty to reciprocate.

                                              1. as my ID suggests i'm korean, and my mother taught me that one must always bring a lil something, usually two bottles of some kind of popular juice (orange juice, grape juice, etc etc), when one visits another's home. i guess she picked juice as it's easy to pick up on the way, relatively cheap (she insisted however that one must buy the juice in glass bottles and not in paper cartons..), and non-controversial.
                                                i didnt realize that bringing something is a cultural thing. i think it's just etiquette in ANY culture.

                                                the only cultural difference is exactly what to bring. i think in the 'mainstream' american culture, wine is more usual. with the koreans, i see a lot of bottled juice, fancy fruits and sometimes even laundry detergent. hehe.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: koreankorean

                                                  "i didnt realize that bringing something is a cultural thing. i think it's just etiquette in ANY culture."

                                                  Well, it is cultural and not universal. In formal dinners in the US and many European countries, it would be unthinkable (imagine handing a bottle of wine to the butler upon entering the house has he takes your coat?). And since in the US etiquette is still ultimately defined downward from formal occasions (I won't go into why that is so, but it's the backbone of the logic of our etiquette system), one will encounter regions and social circles that define the expectations of somewhat less formal hospitality in a manner closer to formal than other regions and social circles. THe iron rule in the US is that a host cannot ever feel he has a right to a gift on the spot in return for the act of hosting, because then a transaction would supplant what would otherwise have been an act of graciousness. Rather, what the guest does is at least to express gratitude (the more formal the occasion, the more formal the level it is expressed at) and at another time offer hospitality in turn. It's the dining equivalent of a contradance.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    sorry, i should have been clearer. i meant that from my perspective, bringing a small gift to a non-fancy gathering (and i guess i may have incorrectly assumed from the first post that the gathering was more of a non-formal one, as in, one doesnt have to wear a cocktail dress to attend) was just a matter of etiquette and not a cultural etiquette. of course in the u.s. or in any other country, the host should not feel that s/he is entitled to a small gift and a small gift (and i mean small) does not negate the act of graciousness. it just shows that the guest appreciates the graciousness. thats why the 'smallness' of a gift is important also.

                                                    i was thinking more of informal dinner parties, family bbq's, friends get-togethers etc. in those cases, i think the universal etiquette is to express some appreciation, if not in the form of a small gift then at least in some sincerely expressed words of appreciation.

                                                    1. re: koreankorean

                                                      Yes, to express appreciation is universally required, I would imagine. A gift is one way to do that in certain circumstances and under certain conditions in the US, but even the gift does not eliminate the need for the thank-you note and reciprocal hospitality except in the most intimate circles of families and friends. If people think the gift replaces those things, then they may be mistaken under certain circumstances.

                                                2. To consider: I give frequent dinner parties in my small apt. I don't hire 'help' and usually do something elaborate by most
                                                  standards. I appreciate any gift of liquor/wine, chocolates. Even a book or some other token the guest believes appropriate.
                                                  BUT - I am totally inconvenienced by people arriving with flowers which I have to deal with on the spot - open, cut, arrange. ( An arrangement that arrives earlier in the day is fine.)

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: serious

                                                    I guess everyone is different. I actually love getting flowers.

                                                    1. re: uman

                                                      I love flowers so long as I don't have to do anything with them while I am in the throes of hosting and cooking (the plight of the single host-cook).

                                                  2. I completely agree about the flowers.

                                                    1. I always bring something and it is usually a good bottle of wine and I tell my sons to always bring something if invited to someone's home for dinner, whether it is a barbeque with 30 others or just for them.

                                                      1. I'd like to do away with the idea altogether.

                                                        As a guest, I feel that the best way to say 'thank you for inviting me' is to reciprocate - invite the host(s) to visit fairly soon.

                                                        As a host (and the next day a homeowner with too much clutter), I don't WANT the stuff people bring (don't need any more flowers or awful 'gift items', though maybe I could find something to do with some chocolates). And what I want most of all is for the people I invite to reciprocate.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: wayne keyser

                                                          I'm not fond of clutter either and can be very particular about what I like (read: I don't like many of the things people give me) but this is part of our social fabric. We each have little obligations that we don't necessarily like. You happen not to particularly want these tokens. Most likely, at least one of your guests didn't even feel like showing up, but she'd accepted the invite and knew it is only civil to turn up as expected. Quite possibly someone who gave you a tacky gift was arguing with his SO on the way out the door "I can't believe you expect me to sit through yet another one of Wayne's tedious dinner parties! If I have to hear one more word about where he found the fresh fiddleheads I'm going to jump out a window!"

                                                        2. It's not always either easy or appropriate to reciprocate with an invitation for another dinner. The thoughful gift is always appreciated - the guest has the responsibility to bring something chosen with consideration for the recipiet (not more clutter.)
                                                          Who can't use another bottle of wine, some good cd, and those chocolates that Wayne K or I would love.

                                                          1. Wow, interesting thread. I wouldn't have personally thought of a lot of these situations, but good to know.

                                                            For example, I also live in a smallish apartment, but I would LOVE to receive flowers because I'm loathe to buy them for myself except very occassionally (feels like "wasting").

                                                            Also, my boyfriend and I are the only ones of our friends who cook with any regularity, probably because they're all still young single professionals who haven't yet grown tired of restaurant food and bad home cooking. So people love coming over for a real meal, but they'll do one of the following:

                                                            -call before they leave to see if they can bring something
                                                            -bring something really nice, but not every single time they come over (a bottle of scotch, great wine)
                                                            -chip in a dessert or side
                                                            -bring soda or beer
                                                            -show up with nothing because they were too busy

                                                            Since it's always casual for us, it's never a big deal. And it's always close friends, not merely acquaintances, so it never matters if someone didn't have time to stop at a market. And they end up eating/drinking at least some of what they bring, so it just doesn't matter.

                                                            As for being forced to go to a party that your significant other wants to go to, again with people our age it's so easy to decline I don't think it's an issue. It's so easy to say they have a date or need to work late that we would never know if a friend is purposely avoiding us for awhile ("If Pei tells me one more time what the secret to roast chicken is, I'll shove this wing down her throat!")

                                                            Long story short: you just have to find out what works for your group.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Pei

                                                              I'm loving this thread. Very interesting to read the different perspective and look at this fron a different angle. I don't think that I've every brought flowers as a hostess gift, but I certainly had not through of it as an inconvenience and might have done if I'd not read all of this. Also the bit about the juice was really interesting.

                                                              Your post reminds me how nice it is to socialize with a core group where the dynamics just have a way of working themselves out and you like everyone well enough to endure their quirks! We've tended to plan broader parties including more acquaintances in recent years, it seems to have something to do with the very nice people (but not chosen friends) that you meet when you're raising children. In many ways it's great, but you don't know what to expect from people and don't even know them well enough to know if their pros outweigh their cons! : )

                                                              When we were younger, my husband and I hosted almost every get together and we were fine with that. I was always more than happy to do it but years later a peripheral member of the group told me that she never volunteered to host because she was intimidated by my cooking (which wasn't actually that great, but I suppose for our ages it was impressive) and I felt really badly.

                                                              I suppose there are lots of reasons, space, experience, inclination, resources, that a person would not be inclined to return a social invitation so I really do think that a little gift is a good way to let your host know you're happy to have been invited.

                                                            2. At a recent "big" dinner party I hosted, most people brought wine... and then proceeded to drink it.

                                                              I wouldn't EXPECT a hostess gift, but it is certainly something I note when offered graciously.

                                                              That said, at the party in question, the dishwasher was broken, so I considered the many loads of dishes washed by my guests when I wasn't looking (fondue, no less) to be thanks enough.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: Sam Ottawa

                                                                Dish washing and trash disposal is the best gift anyone can give a host.

                                                                I wonder if anyone has ever thought of sending Merry Maids the next day as a thank you present for a large party.

                                                                1. re: Pei

                                                                  Wow, Merry Maids, now that is the best idea yet! I host dinners for my big family, many of whom have--let's say--different dining etiquette/cleaning habits than I do. After they all leave, I spend 1-2 hours washing and cleaning up. They always offer to wash dishes for me, but they always miss spots on the pots/plates. So I always decline, saying they are the guests and shouldn't do that, and then just do it myself. But to have a professional service do it all for me, now that would be fabulous.

                                                                  1. re: slacker

                                                                    Some friends and I actually did give a mutual friend of ours a gift certificate for Merry Maids to use after his annual holiday party which always had a large guest list. He received a note a few days ahead telling him relax and enjoy his own party, the professional crew would be there at such-and-such time the day after the party. He was delighted!

                                                                    1. re: buzzardbreath

                                                                      I'd want them there a day BEFORE the party!

                                                              2. In my circle of friends, the "gifts" we give and receive are not so much gifts to be put away for later, but contributions to the party. So wine is the most popular. But sometimes cookies or something along those lines works too. But I don't see it as a gift to the host, I see it as a contribution to the party. I always bring wine or dessert, but I don't bring a proper gift unless it's a holiday.

                                                                1. I even go so far as to suggest what people SHOULD bring if they feel inclined to bring something. I say something like this is what I am serving...if you feel compelled to bring something you should bring x, y and z because it will complement what I am making. I do this because I hate it when people bring things that take away from the meal that spent time preparing. For example, if I spent the time to make a dessert, I don't want my guests to bring desserts. I want them to eat mine. If I am making red meat, I see no reason not to suggest that people bring red instead of white wine, if they plan on bringing wine. I don't consider it rude, just practical.

                                                                  That being said, I do appreciate it when people bring something even if it is something small. it is the gesture that counts. In fact, I've stopped inviting people because they repeatedly come empty handed--I hosted 5 events and each time this guy just strolls in with nothing. No apologizes, no excuses while everyone else comes with flowers, wine, something. I've stopped having him to my house all together.

                                                                  1. I am all for bringing a token of appreciation. However, it always mistifies me when people feel perfectly comfortable bringing open items to my home. I feel extremely uncomfortable serving them and often give the person the item to bring home. If you are going to bring something to someones home please make sure it is for them not your leftovers.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: unicorn633

                                                                      I thought bringing 'used' food/drink would be unheard of until I saw it with my own eyes.

                                                                      I didn't really know what to do with the cake, and at one point after dinner I was moving it (it was taking up a large amount of valuable counter real estate :p) and the lady who brought it made a beeline for me and begged me to serve it.

                                                                      I had spent a -lot- of time on this dinner and its presentation, and I got stuck putting out half eaten wedding cake..

                                                                    2. At the least I always bring a bottle of good wine, although I have been known to send a bouquet of flowers with the thank-you note the next day. One time I took a little carton of those little identity wires that you wrap around wine glass stems -- these were of a travel nature, including Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc. -- and they were very appreciated. Also, the hostess broke them out of the carton and we used them for the party so everyone knew which wine glass was whose. For me, it was a treat seeing them being used.

                                                                      1. Whenever I receive a dinner invite, I always ask what I can bring. If the answer is "just bring yourself" I bring a bottle of wine, port or the like - chocolates or tea if they don't drink. It makes ME happy to bring something. If I am running late and come empty handed, I feel bad. If I am an overnight guest I'll bring something for everyone in the family.

                                                                        Right or wrong, some people don't have the same compulsion.

                                                                        Because most of my guests DO, I like to make it easy for them. Like mielimato said (above) if I know my menu when I do the inviting I come up with something that will be easy or even fun for the person who is asking. Examples: an ice cream to go with dessert, a cheese for the cheese plate, a bottle of wine to go with xxx... that half-eaten cheesecake you bought at Costco last week! :)

                                                                        1. I've hosted parties were the fact that some brought something and others didn't became an issue. Now I hold byob parties. Everyone knows to bring something, what to bring (i.e. not food), and roughly how much (a reasonable amount to drink in a given period). If it doesn't get opened because soemthing else is drunk, I have never had anyone actually take their stuff back!

                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                            BYOB is another thing I wanted to talk about on the board.

                                                                            My European BF gets really angry at the thought of BYOB parties. He'll raise his voice at the prospect of it and ask, "Why bother having a damned party?!" He also points out it seems to be a North American thing to ask people to bring their own booze.

                                                                            My parents held a lot of BYOB parties, and it seemed reasonable; everyone got exactly what they wanted to drink.

                                                                            Another thing I always think about - and perhaps it is because of my day job in the legal field - is responsibility when it comes to the consumption of alcohol at parties. If people bring their own alcohol, then the host can't be held responsible for how much someone drank if something unfortunate happened on the guest's way home.

                                                                            So much fine print in hosting a party.. ;)

                                                                            1. re: NovoCuisine

                                                                              The problem that I, at least, have with potluck/BYOB (at least if it is done with regularity) is that in my mind it takes away from the sense of gracious entertaining. When I entertain, I provide you with food/drink I hope you will like, to the best of my abilities, and in exchange you do the same. I don’t care if we make a 5-course dinner and in return you invite us over for pizza and Coke because you don’t cook – the point is that you return the invitation and do your best. I think someone's hospitality is more important than getting exactly what I want to drink at that moment, and I would feel a bit offended if someone brought a drink to my house only so they could be sure of getting exactly what they wanted.

                                                                              We have one friend who ONLY hosts potluck events. It torments me because I don’t think she is trying to be anything less than gracious. But when, every time we are invited we are asked what we will bring, then sent a reminder of our required contribution, I stop feeling like a guest. Instead I am now doing small-scale entertaining of my own, at a time and location that is not of my choosing.

                                                                              I don’t mind this sort of thing for the occasional, informal get-together (we meet up with another couple on the weekend and provide the wine while they roast the chicken) but when it happens all of the time it starts to affect me

                                                                              1. re: meg944

                                                                                When it comes to 'enteraining' some people are just plain strange. When coordinating a group get together, I suppose it's reasonable to ask people to bring a dish to share but when you've invited guests to your home it's really rather amazing. And even more amazing in a day and age when people feel obligated to volunteer to bring something if you'll only give them a moment to ask!

                                                                                My mother knows a woman who issues invitations to a party and includes a cooking assignment and recipe. She, apparently, was raised by wolves.

                                                                                And I've got a sister in law who insists that the neighbors gather on a potluck basis including the stipulation that the hostess does not cook because she will have cleaned her house for the event. She also requires that the 'adult' food and the 'childrens' food be placed on separate tables and will not permit children to eat the 'adult' food that their parents have contributed. Though I've tried gentle suggestions she continues to believe that these are terrific ideas and is puzzled that the neighbors have become unavailable for these events.

                                                                                It is as unthinkable to issue and invitation that asks the guests to bring their own drink as it is to issue and invitation that asks them to bring their own food. Maybe it just hasn't occured to these 'hosts' yet to ask guests to bring a picnic basket along - I mean, why shouldn't they bring their own food, drink, plates, glasses, utensils and napkins! That would make the whole thing much easier on the overburdened hosts! : )

                                                                                1. re: Kater

                                                                                  Thank you for saying you hate potlucks! Where I live, people think I'm selfish, unfriendly, and rude when I say this out loud, because around here (Montana) the potluck is the party style of choice. I am so sick of it! Sometimes I refuse to go, but the trouble is, often these are good friends who I either don't see often otherwise or don't want to hurt their feelings by not coming to their party. To my mind, it's outrageous to ask people to bring their own food and their own drinks, and, tho I think you meant this as a joke, I did in fact get invited to a party where the hosts asked the guests to bring their own plates and utensils--I kid you not! There are so many reasons to hate these things, but this is the first thread I've seen with people hating them for the same reason I do--others have complained that they're afraid the food/dishes might not be clean (All I can say to those people is avoid restaurants, cause they can be nastier than any messy home kitchen.)
                                                                                  I don't, however, have a problem with guests bringing wine and beer, especially at a large party or bbq--after all, that just requires stopping by the store, not baking a pie or something, then trying to get back the dish afterward, clean or dirty--but I draw the line at hosting a potluck as a party-a party is supposed to be hosts entertaining (read FEEDING) guests. I think I'm the only one in this entire state who believes this. And people being trained as they are here, show up at my hosted parties with food I don't want. Someone mentioned getting a pineapple and thought it was nice, but I got a pineapple once that was most unwelcome--according to the social rules around here, it meant I had to drop what I was doing (greeting guests) to cut up the pineapple to serve at the party because the guest said she didn't know how to do it and would I mind? Maybe I should have refused but like I said, people around here already think I'm selfish, unfriendly, and rude. I've had to adapt to these different social expectations. I'm happy to bring a bottle of wine or some beer, but I wish they wouldn't make me bring food. All I can do to counter this trend is to show them how it's done at my parties. Don't bring a thing. If they want to bring some wine or beer, that's fine, as are flowers (I do have vases). But I encourage nothing. If I forgot to buy bread or ice or something, I might call a good friend to pick it up for me on her way over, but that would be a favor asked of a friend, not a requirement for entry.
                                                                                  If you don't have the time or money to throw an actual party, then meet your friends at an affordable restaurant and ask if anyone minds going dutch. Either that or invite them over for dessert & coffee.
                                                                                  DEATH TO THE POTLUCK! Who's with me?

                                                                                  1. re: gmaven

                                                                                    I'm with you! You said what needed to be said! I, too, detest the potluck: a travesty of hospitality when the would-be host or hostess "invites" me to dinner and then tells me to bring enough dessert for, oh, 24 or so persons (and then commandeers my brownies before she has ever tasted them and serves them with Cool Whip on top -- but that's another thread). I'm going to start saying no to potluck "invitations." DEATH TO THE POTLUCK!

                                                                                    1. re: browniebaker

                                                                                      Yeah, I hate potluck too. I'm a really good cook. I have had my friends over and given them great meals. Now, if I'm invited to a potluck by one of them, I am expected to bring home-cooked good food. That just isn't always possible on a short-notice (due to work, school, or life). Potluck just presumes that I have time that week/day to prepare food fit for company and that can hold for a couple of hours.

                                                                                      Plus, my other pet peeve about potlucks is the number of people who aren't expected to cook and then bring something bought (which usually means desert). You end up with 5 desert, 5 salads/apps. and 1 main-course for 11 people and guess who made the main!

                                                                                      Oh, one more pet peeve is people who think that 2-3 days is plenty of time to offer an invitation!

                                                                                      1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                        I suggest you bring a bag of chips and carton of onion dip next time. That should get the message across.

                                                                                    2. re: gmaven

                                                                                      Well it's not as bad as that back East, we may have to come out there on a rescue mission. The 'bring your own utensil' thing is just more than I can process...

                                                                                      Death to the potluck!

                                                                                      You know, what's really funny is that people don't realize that if they would simply take turns actually hosting an event they would get the pleasure of graciously entertaining their friends and at the end of the year, they'll have put the same total amounts of time and money into entertaining.

                                                                                      - You know, actually that's not true and the cynical part of me thinks this is a big a factor in potluck promotion as a genuine belief that bringing a dish is a good idea. Some people love the potluck because they are never responsible for much and they are comfortable showing up time and time again with a cheap or substandard dish. For those people, even hosting one full event a year would require that they put in more time, effort and cold hard cash than usual because the potluck plan enables scrimping!

                                                                                  2. re: meg944

                                                                                    Well said. You made exactly the points so many people don't get, with equally good points by Kater and Phoebek, and Atahualpa and browniebaker. We need to start a antipotluck revolution (nonviolent of course). ;-)

                                                                                  3. re: NovoCuisine

                                                                                    "Another thing I always think about - and perhaps it is because of my day job in the legal field - is responsibility when it comes to the consumption of alcohol at parties. If people bring their own alcohol, then the host can't be held responsible for how much someone drank if something unfortunate happened on the guest's way home."

                                                                                    Um. No. Don't know about all states, but in California and Texas, the liability lies with the last place someone was drinking: private home, bar, wherever. Just because a guest gets drunk on booze he has brought doesn't do a thing to reduce your liaility if your house is the last place he imbibed. The law holds you responsible for allowing someone under the influence to leave your home and get behind the wheel. Doesn't care where the booze came from.

                                                                                2. I so agree with meg - to me the whole idea of being the host is to furnish guests with the best of whatever you can cook/buy or otherwise gather together. I hate potlucks--unless they're reflective of what I always thought the original meaning of the term is: if you happen to find yourself at someone else's home, they may invite you to stay for dinner and "take potluck," ie, share whatever they may be serving. That, to me, is true hospitality, and I'd indeed be honored.

                                                                                  To answer the original question, I never go to someone's home without bringing something, and usually it is a bottle of wine, but there are so many other options. I once had a few much younger friends over for dinner and one of the young women presented me with a lovely pineapple - to me, the gesture was absolutely perfect.

                                                                                  1. Wine, flowers, high end chocolates. Or a combination. It depends on the host/hostess. What gets my goat is people who come round for dinner and bring cheap (bad) wine, I'd rather receive an small box of good chocolates than a regular sized bottle of bad wine. I'd rather receive nothing, truth be told. And last but not least - do not give me knick-knacks (unless you know me really well), there is only so much cupboard space in the house and that's full of kitchen gear.

                                                                                    One of the best things I received was a very pretty return invite for dinner, no pressure of 'gifts' and I felt no need to find something to take when I went there. I only turn up empty handed if it's spur of the moment and then there's usually a follow up thank you opportunity.

                                                                                    1. Put me in the camp of finding flowers as a hostess gift as more trouble than it's worth. Unfortunately, most of our friends have dreadful taste in choosing wine, but several of them will bring liquor which is always welcomed.

                                                                                      My favorite hostess gift was when a friend brought me 2 jars of bread and butter pickles she had recently made herself along with some homemade peach preserves.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                        that's so funny...i recently brought someone a jar of homemade dill pickle chips and canned peach halves in my famous honey syrup and you would have thought i brought a bottle of Dom.

                                                                                        the next time i saw the hostess was at a christening and i was nearly trampled with praise at the church on how good those darn pickles were.

                                                                                        i love gift giving and matching a nice hostess gift to the person who it's going to. ..... people notice when you put thought into gifts and when they are personal....even kids...they love when "aunt" jennie comes to visit!!!

                                                                                      2. The pickles sound great but I want to offer one quick thought about the wine. I dig deep and resist the temptation to judge the wine (or chocolate for that matter) that well meaning guests bring as a token. Remember that some people do not know good wine and/or do not know what good wine tends to cost. Now it would be nice if everyone took the time to learn about good inexpensive wines, but the simple fact is that 'hounds approach these things differently than other people.

                                                                                        I mention it simply because people can be very intimidated when they're invited by a knowledgable cook/wine collector and they do their best. I would guess that you accept their plonk cordially but it is always possible that our microexpressions belie our true feelings.

                                                                                        At any rate, this pops to mind only because, as I think I mentioned earlier in the thread, I learned a few years ago that several people in our circle felt too intimidated to host a party or dinner because of the events we'd hosted. I found this sad, particularly because I remember concluding that their failure to return the invite was an indication that they didn't enjoy our company.

                                                                                        Friends come first, even if they drink Arbor Mist and eat Russel Stover! : )

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Kater

                                                                                          Well said. And I don't mind a gift of plonk at all. Plonk often makes nice beef stew or poached pears. If it's mid-priced plonk, it makes a good host gift at some later date when your hosts are known plonk-drinkers.

                                                                                          1. re: Kater

                                                                                            I would use the plonk to cook with. I'm not subscriber to the "If it's not fit to drink...." theory. At least, if the wine is only a subtle feature. If it's the focus, then yes, you need to have a good one.

                                                                                            DT

                                                                                            1. re: Kater

                                                                                              "I learned a few years ago that several people in our circle felt too intimidated to host a party or dinner because of the events we'd hosted." Oh, I've had that happen! What do you do though? Through a less-good dinner-party?

                                                                                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                I've had one guest at someone else's potluck taste my dish, express amazement that it was made from scratch, and declare she was so intimidated that "I'll never have you over to *my* house!" As if that were a nice compliment to pay someone! (She brought rubbery sushi from a grocery store.)

                                                                                                1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                  I really felt badly about it because I wasn't sure if anything I'd said or done led them to this conclusion or if it was something that came fully from their own feelings. I love to cook and I love to get compliments but I would hope that I don't do or say anything that actually turns entertaining into a competition! I don't think that I do.

                                                                                                  But I didnt' find out about this until years later when it was shared during a weekend away. We no longer live in the same area, so though I said I would have been delighted to attend any party they'd hosted, an invitation doesn't make sense at this point.

                                                                                              2. I was invited to a dinner by some friends that I don't hang with that often. I brought a bottle of wine and was hoping to have some with dinner. I could have dealt with it being just a gift and not to be shared by all except for the fact that they put my bottle away and served some 1.5 Liter crap that had been opened for several days. That's what happens when you dine with non-chowhounds. I was very disappointed.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: uman

                                                                                                  That's when the most important duties of the guest are called upon: to be social and to be grateful and never let on to your disappointment. A guest may never ever assume that something he or she brings to a hosted event will be served at that event unless the host has previously indicated so.

                                                                                                2. When I invite others to my home to dine I never expect anything back other then their company. I am cooking and serving my food as a gift, not a loan. If one of my guest happens to bring along a not so wonderful bottle of wine, I thank them and open it later. Pour it in a crystal decanter, add a sprig of rosemary and some thyme from the garden, along with some mother of vinegar that hangs out in the bottom of the cider vinegar, and in a few weeks I have some home made wine vinegar that is really worth serving.

                                                                                                  1. interesting situation at casa jfood.

                                                                                                    As you know neither jfoods drink but always serve wine at dinner parties. Many friends show up with wine. Should jfood take this as an insult? Absolutely not. What he normally does is ask which the guests prefer, the jfood's or the brought. What ever is left over will find its way into a sauce over the next few weeks.

                                                                                                    1. What an interesting and thought-provoking topic. I am learning a lot!

                                                                                                      I usually like to contribute something when I am a guest. I'd like to think that my gifts are appreciated, but now I see that in some circumstances, it might be seen as "show-off", cheap, inappropriate (eg. flowers thathave to be put in a vase), rude to other guests (who did not bring a gift). I think I'll still choose to bring gifts though. And I will not be insulted if it is not served that night, and I'll let the host decide what they want to do with it. I do not want the gift to make the host feel bad or insulted, that is not the purpose of the gift.

                                                                                                      I don't expect my guests to bring gifts, but I appreciate all gifts, even the ones that I hate, like half eaten cake left over from the day before or really bad wine. Because I choose to bring a gift when I am a host, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the person who brings me a gift, and assume they mean well and care about me. Because that is what I feel when I bring a gift to someone else.

                                                                                                      I don't want my guests to feel they owe me a gift. I invited them because I wanted the pleasure of their company, not because I wanted to cash in on gifts. I don't really know what to do about guests who feel uncomfortable when they come empty-handed, while others bring gifts. If they feel really bad, maybe the next time the come over, they'll bring something. Or maybe they have reasons, like they are on a tight budget, or they are intimidated and worried about bringing a bad gift. Whatever their reason, I will do my best to make them forget about their worries and try to make the evening as wonderful and carefree as I can. I invited them because I like them, and I'll try to focus on that.

                                                                                                      I now wonder if I should be sending thank-you notes after nice parties. This has never been part of my culture, never taught to me. But it seems like a very nice gesture. I am embarrassed that there are some people out there who feel I didn't enjoy the party because I didn't know enough to send a thank-you card. But how was I to know that this is accepted behavior? And I would never expect to get thank-you cards from my guests. If I get them, then wonderful, what a nice thing to do. But maybe, thank-you cards are not part of their culture either, so if I don't get one, I won't be insulted.

                                                                                                      I also have beefs with potluck parties, for all the reasons stated. But if that is what people want to do, and if I want to be with those people, well then I will suck it up and be as graceful as I can. If I really hate the event, and my friendship with those people isn't enough to get me through, well, how strong can that friendship be?

                                                                                                      I realize that there are always politics involved. I realize we can't be perfect. I also love good food and wine, but sometimes, you have to choose your priorities. Life is too short to worry constantly about what he or she said or did, what they perceived, how they felt about this gesture or that. When I invite someone over, it is because I want to enjoy their company. What I will try to take out of this whole conversation is to try to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their actions. If they continue to upset me with their behavior, then I have a choice. I can accept it, or I can choose to never invite them over again. But good food and wine is really better when shared. Like I said, life is too short.....

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: moh

                                                                                                        You can write a thank you letter - there is absolutely no reason to think you have to obtain a card (in fact, for thank yous and especially condolences, writing a letter ranks well above getting a card). The letter need not be long - 3 sentences is sufficient; the sentiments need not be original in any way.

                                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                          Great point!! I stock-pile post-cards whenever I'm somewhere interesting/intriguing with breathtaking pictures. They require just a few words of thanks and the rest is all about the beautiful photo. So out of the ordinary to receive something in the mail!!! Love it -- thanks.

                                                                                                          1. re: Per_se

                                                                                                            Thank you for this idea! I too have many postcards with lovely pictures that I bought in my travels. I've wanted to use them for thank you notes but feared they might be thought tacky (not "real" stationery). So glad to know it is alright to use the cards.

                                                                                                      2. I don't ever think one is "expected" to bring the host a gift. However, my Mom brought me up to "never go emptyhanded" to someone's house, and to always bring the host or hostess something. It doesn't have to be expensive....I usually either take homemade cookies or jelly or something like that...just a thought to show them that you appreciate being invited. Just my 2cents.

                                                                                                        1. I remember seeing my mom pick up little "hostess" gifts that she wrapped and saved for those special occasions.. She never would think to show up empty handed to a friends home. Some of the gifts were traditional-guest soaps,intricate guest towels, candles,etc. If she knew the host well the gift could be personalized like a favorite brand of scotch,wine,chocolate, kitchen gadget she may know would be appreciated. But more often than not it was a wrapped gift with a note thanking the host/hostess for the invitation. I now do the same concentrating on gifts which need no attention until after the party is over. If asked to bring something for the party - I still take the gift and think of the requested item as a contribution to the party and the gift as a token of my appreciation.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: foodseek

                                                                                                            I am of Sicilian descent, and I was brought up to ALWAYS bring a gift for the hostess. I have been stewing all day because, once again, for the 336th time, my mother-in-law showed up at a dinner at my home and brought absolutely nothing. What makes it worse is that she NEVER reciprocates - she "hates" to cook. I haven't been invited to a meal at her home for over 15 years. Why does this bother me so much?

                                                                                                            1. re: Tricia11

                                                                                                              Do you have any idea how few women marry a man who has a mother they can also love? I've had two mothers-in-law. Both were "extremely flawed," if you get my drift. If you have a little mischief in you, it might be fun to trick your husband into dropping in on her at dinner time just to see what happens. Hey, if she orders pizza, at least you'll be eating in HER house...! '-)

                                                                                                          2. I had to laugh because chocolates, wine, and flowers would not be good things to bring someone with allergies and other health/lifestyle choices.

                                                                                                            I've gone into getting high quality reading material and I do not read it first!!!

                                                                                                            You usually know a little bit about the person you're visiting for dinner so it's a good exercise to find something of interest. For example: a guy we visited was quiet and liked reading about the past. So I found a History magazine and he loved it. Imported newspapers are good also.

                                                                                                            1. Luckily I have very straight forward friends.When I am invited I ask "what shall I bring" they usually tell me to bring a small dessert item....a bottle of spirits...an appetizer if they say to bring nothing I usually bring a bouquet of pretty flowers.....a bag of exotic coffee beans.....a small box of chocolate truffles to show my appreciation for being invited. I was raised that way to never....no matter how casual the meal...do not show up without a gift for the hosts.