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Showing up empty-handed to dinner

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Okay, here's a Miss Manners-type question. Would you show up to a dinner empty-handed if you had asked the host/hostess what you could bring and s/he had said "just bring yourself?" Personally, I can't imagine showing up without a bottle of wine or flowers, unless perhaps, the host/ess is your best friend and it's a casual last minute "come on over for dinner" invite. What do people think?

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  1. I would not show up empty-handed. I actually keep a small stash of 'hostess gifts' on hand in case I can't get to the liquor store or flower shop. Examples of these gifts include small travel books that I buy on sale (e.g., Gardens of Portugal) or sometimes notecards purchased on a trip.

    Just the way I was brought up, and yes, many of my friends laugh at me for this compulsion. Not the friends getting the gifts, of course...

    1. I have always brought at least a bottle of wine or some flowers. When I was invited to my sister's in-laws for Thanksgiving, I brought a small orchid in a cute little pot. I never go to someone's house without something.

      On the other hand, my SO had no idea this was the polite thing to do until we started dating. We were headed to a friend's for dinner and I told him to stop at the store on the way. When I explained, he was dumbfounded and asked me if he'd been rude all those years. I said 'yes.' He's still with me years later and is the first to grab beer or wine when we head to a party/dinner.

      1. I'm frequently the hostess who has replied, "Oh, nothing, please! Just bring yourself," to that inquiry. And I really mean it when I say it, especially if it's one of those just-before-dinner calls saying, "We're on our way. Anything you need?" I've already planned what wine I'm going to serve so I really don't want wine. And, if I wanted flowers at my dinner, I'd probably already have those arranged, too. Having to stop what I'm doing when a guest arrives with a bunch of cut flowers can interrupt the kitchen flow: you've got to trim the stems, find and fill a vase, arrange the flowers and make a place for them where they can be seen. An arrangement in a low bowl or vase, already set up, would be preferable, I think, if you must.

        On the other hand, I have also put in a request for, say, a wonderful loaf of bread if I know that a stop at a particular bakery is convenient for my guest - but ahead of time, not at the last minute. Or, if I've discovered that I've run out of something that I need for some part of the meal and the market is on the way and it's a really good friend, then I'll ask them to stop and pick up some whatever-it-is.

        If you're going to ask, then I think you should trust your host/hostess to tell you the truth and go along with the answer. At most, if you absolutely can't stand showing up empty-handed, maybe bring some chocolates that he/she can opt to put out with after-dinner coffee or some interesting jarred gourmet item that can go into the pantry after the appropriate oohs-and-aahs. Or something entertaining-related, like pretty paper hostess towels for powder room.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Deenso

          I agree. Even though I usually like to pick up a bottle of wine, an app, or dessert on the way to someone's house, there are certain people (like my SO's mother) who truly find it unnecessary or even inconvenient to receive a hostess gift. In cases like that, where the hostess insists, I try to be respectful of their wishes. Instead, I always try to send a thank note after the event to show my appreciation.

          1. re: Deenso

            I understand what you mean re: having to cut/arrange flowers, but I believe any wine that is brought is a gift to the hostess, and shouldn't expect to be used before/during/after that particular dinner. Although I know that expectation of it not being used at *that* dinner party doesn't always jive with whoever's giving the wine. :-)

            1. re: Deenso

              I totally agree. I like to cook enough that everything is planned. When someone brings wine I feel obligated to serve it, and it may be inappropriate for the dinner I have prepared.

              I agree with someone's specialty that fits with the meal, but I will ask. Especially baked goods and desserts.

              I like the chocolate idea. Chocolate goes with any dessert or after dinner libation.

            2. I think it's always nice to bring a little something when invited over for a dinner. However, it's important to bring items that will not inconvenience the host or hostess, especially if they're preparing something elaborate. I think sometimes even a bouquet of flowers isn't the best because then the hostess has to go and find a vase, cut the stems, and arrange them right there. Bottles of wine are great, but don't expect it to necessarily be opened that night - if the food has been carefully planned, chances are the beverages have been too. I personally would find it odd to receive a book or notecards as a hostess gift for a dinner party. A thank-you note after the fact would be even better.

              I think most people do feel the need to bring something, so the smart hostess should plan for this by having an answer ready to the inevitable question - 'What should I bring?'

              9 Replies
              1. re: keslacye

                When I bring flowers, they are already vased or if I know the person well enough, I'll take care of them when we arrive.

                1. re: mojoeater

                  I used to bring a bouquet of flowers. And then, years ago, on Chowhound I read someone's post about the host/ess having to stop, find a vase, etc... And I realized that it was probably pretty annoying to them. And now that I've started entertaining a lot more in the last few years, I really realized that the flower thing was annoying when someone brought them to me!

                  I would never go empty handed, though. Now that I have small kids and we often go to other people's houses with kids, often I will just bring something small for the kids. My friends usually do the same.

                  1. re: valerie

                    Funny about the flowers. At one of our seders last week, two separate guests brought flowers. They were really beautiful and very much appreciated BUT you're right, I had to stop everything, find a vase, cut them down, throw away the loose leaves and display them in the dining room. I wouldn't dream of complaining about getting flowers but having them already vased - or doing it yourself when you arrive with them would be the very best of both worlds. I will remember to do that next time I bring them somewhere. (Mental note to self: buy a few plain glass vases at second hand shop and have them on hand for just such an occasion.)

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      I got some at the 99 cent store!

                      1. re: mojoeater

                        Darn... I can give the her some for free just because we have so many vases... probably from our guests! :-)

                      2. re: Nyleve

                        Certainly I wouldn't complain because it's a nice gesture, BUT, the other thing about flowers is that when I entertain for a holiday dinner, I get flowers for the center of the table. I like to arrange them they way I like to arrange them! I have a variety of nice vases or sometimes I use little julep cups down the center of the long table (when did I become Martha Stewart?!)

                        Plus right now we live in an apartment so just have one living room/dining room. There really isn't a helluva lot of places to put another vase filled with flowers so they end up getting stuck in the kitchen, where nobody really goes anyway (if I can help it!).

                        1. re: valerie

                          I would assume your guests know your space limitations and would bring something else then.

                          1. re: valerie

                            also, re: flowers

                            if i'm going to put flowers on the dining table, they will need to be cut and arranged so that their height is low enough so as not to prevent the guests sitting on opposite sides of the table from seeing and conversing with each other.

                            without coming beforehand, most guests can't scope out what kind of flower arrangement could work for this. also, if you've set the table with a color scheme in mind, most guests (unless they're prescient) can't coordinate the flower colors.

                            although i'm not the most artistic table-setter, some of my friends are, and they will come over beforehand to help me get the table all arranged. the other guests are not really helping me by bringing over additional flowers or other table decorations.

                  2. For me, it depends on your relationship w/the host/hostess and the type of gathering.

                    I have simple dinners @ home for friends/family who live in the vicinity (<1 mi) a couple times a month (a gathering of 6-10 people). For these dinners, it's so casual, a hostess gift really isn't necessary (unless they want to supplement the meal w/dessert or drinks).

                    Otherwise, hostess gifts are always welcome (though not expected). And in return, I reciprocate in kind.

                    1. Yes, I do. Typically a bottle or wine, liquor or champagne. I also call when on the way to make sure the hostesss doesn't need ice or another last minute item.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        I concur with Janet from Richmond............always a 'spirit' of some kind and always a phone call to offer to pick up something like ice etc.
                        Would someone tell my brother-in-law?

                      2. I seem to be like most people and offer to bring something both at invitation and again on the day of the event. As I'm at an age where meals at friends houses rarely approach formal, I'll usually bring something to drink that I think everyone will enjoy, or if I know it's going to be provided, something that the host specifically will enjoy.

                        Conveniently, with most of my friends, bringing a bag of ice is almost always a huge help.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MeAndroo

                          Ice is often the perfect hostess gift.....and cheap....LOL. Can't have too much ice for a party.

                        2. Unfortunately, most of the dinner invites I get from relatives are, "Please come for dinner, this is what you can bring." Usually a salad or side or dessert, but sometimes the main course. I'm up for a potluck as much as the next 'hound, but this drives me nuts. When I entertain at my house, I NEVER ask anyone to bring a dish. Oh, and we rarely get dinner invitations from friends since no one cooks.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jennywinker

                            What an interesting thread! Most of the dinner parties I attend are very casual with close friends. Even calling them "dinner parties" seems much too formal, so bringing a hostess gift would seem silly to them. Ideally, I'll bring something for dessert as that's my forte but that's where I run into trouble occasionally, even with close friends. It's hard to tell sometimes if people are rejecting my offer to bring something because they really have the meal planned and want to control what's being served or if they don't want me to go to the trouble. So, I always just let them know that it really isn't any trouble as I enjoy it and if they still insist I shouldn't bring anything, I don't!

                          2. I'm a hostess who really hates when people bring flowers to a dinner party.

                            It means I have to stop what I'm doing and find a vase and deal with flowers.

                            If you really want to send flowers, send them the day after as a thank you. (or even a thank you note... a real note, not an e note).

                            On the other hand if you feel you want to bring something... a nice bottle of wine or olive oil or some such thing is lovely.

                            But again, NOTHING that you have to serve that night. If I've spent time planning a menu I don't enjoy when someone comes with a cake that I then have to accomodate.

                            However, if someone does bring unwanted flowers or cake, the polite hostess will always make a fuss and say thank you and leave the heavy sigh for later.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Jennalynn

                              Wow. I have to say, I've been given flowers as a hostess, and it would never occur to me to find any gesture annoying... let alone to hate it. You all must be throwing significantly more taxing parties than I do. But for flowers specifically, usually what I do is if it's a good friend who brought flowers, I ask them to put them in a vase themselves, and if it's not, I grab a good friend and ask them to put the flowers in a vase. Anything edible or drinkable I open and serve immediately. No one who has ever been to my house would bring something like an actual side dish or dessert, because I plan too much for that to make sense, but if a new guest made that mistake, I would definitely find a way to incorporate their contribution.

                              On the guest side, I do always bring something, and it's almost always wine unless it's a potluck party. If a host(ess) says I don't have to bring anything, and it's someone I'm friends with at all (not like, a friend's parent or someone I work for, but basically anyone else), I tell them I'm going to buy them something so they should probably tell me what they prefer, or I might guess totally wrong. Sometimes I give a silly example ("If you don't tell me what kind of wine to get, I might show up with chocolate soy milk instead... you should probably give me directions"). I guess this style is a little aggressive, but it's an accurate, because I don't show up empty-handed, even if the host never brings me anything and even if they say not to bring anything, because bringing something is just what I'm comfortable with.

                              1. re: Adrienne

                                It does depend on the relationship involved. If my best friend is having a cookout, I'll say something like "I make a mean potato salad. Should I bring some?" More than likely she'll say yes, or tell me what she'd prefer I bring, or ask me to get there early to cook and set up.

                                If it's someone I don't know well who is a coworker or a friend of a friend, or if a good friend is cooking dinner, I'll bring wine or beer. If it's someone I don't know well who is someone's parents or older friends, I'll ask someone who knows them better or bring a small potted plant or vased flowers. I got burned once bringing wine to a dinner where the hosts had an issue with alcohol. They were polite but obviously not pleased.

                            2. Yes, always, always, ALWAYS bring something for the host or hostess. As other have said, as hostess, I find flowers lovely but sometimes problematic in the moment. I usually bring a bottle of wine or (if I have enough time) some homemade bread/muffins for the host or hostess to have the morning after.

                              1. Nobody ever made a rule that you had to bring wine or flowers. Lord knows there have been enough posts on CH about the dilemmas that can be caused by these simple gifts - to open or not, the burden of finding a vase, etc.

                                Other hostess gifts are so easy and just as thoughtful and welcome. Little consumables such as nice quality candles (good beeswax white tapers), hostess soaps, jordan almonds, after dinner mints, cocktails napkins, wine glass charms, a book of cocktail recipes, spiced nuts, good jelly, a potted herb in a small basket, note cards. A few small toys if you know that your hosts have children are nice touches.
                                You may even find things on sale to keep in a drawer to grab as you're going out the door. Some of these things cost less than wine or flowers if your funds are limited but they sometimes seem much more thoughtful and may be more welcome.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  "Little consumables such as nice quality candles (good beeswax white tapers), hostess soaps, jordan almonds, after dinner mints, cocktails napkins, wine glass charms, a book of cocktail recipes, spiced nuts, good jelly, a potted herb in a small basket, note cards."

                                  The list is pushing the 'danger' zone of the clash of personal style/tastes. No one ever has given me a candle that I liked.

                                  As for cheap wine, in worst-case you can always cook with it. There was a great article in the NYTimes recently on how the author ran experiment and found that cooking was a great equalizer.

                                  Sometimes, when I go to the non-drinkers' house I bring my own wine. It's only in cases when either if the hosts are good friends, or the hostess casually answers to my what should I bring 'maybe wine if you're going to have some for dinner, as I have no clue what to get'. If I go to the house of non-drinkers whom I don't know well and have not been told to bring wine, I just drink whatever they offer me (water).

                                  1. re: welle

                                    All gifts potentially push a "danger zone" unless you put at least some minimal thought into them.
                                    I wasn't suggesting wild scented candles from a hippie dippie head shop. Something safe like plain good white tapers can either be used or "re-gifted."
                                    Gifts should be pretty quietly generic unless you know the recipient's taste well. Something they can offer after dinner, save for themselves, or even pass on to someone else.
                                    I'd much rather have any of those than a supermarket mixed bouquet or bad wine obviously bought out of obligation.
                                    Not to sound ungrateful, but most of those show little thought beyond "Oh my God, I can't show up empty-handed!"

                                    1. re: welle

                                      i'm with you on the candles.
                                      the very worst type are the ones that emit perfume.

                                      i won't even try to regift these.

                                      sometimes the unscented ones go in the earthquake/power outage preparedness kit.

                                    2. re: MakingSense

                                      apparently there is a dearth of vases out there; perhaps this would be an appropriate hostess gift for many :)

                                      1. re: betsydiver

                                        i have about 50 of them that i'd love to give away. . . .
                                        they seem to multiply in my cupboards.

                                    3. It's taken me YEARS to convince people i know NOT to bring ANYTHING to dinner. Time after time after time I'd end up with bottles of NASTY $7.99 Argentinian wine that's at least 50% antifreeze. I appreciate the gesture and all, but when I say "just bring yourself" I mean it. If I'd wanted something, like rolls or cupcakes or icecream, I'd ask. If I know the crowd will definitely not listen to me, I'll tell them to bring some kinda dessert. That's usually safe.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                        I can't count the times I brought a NICE nice wine which was swiftly stashed away and then I'm condemned to drink the $7.99 crap poured at the party. Grrrrrrrr......

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Growling b/c people didn't open the wine you brought is not gracious. Better to give nothing than to have attitude about it. Its a gift, they can drink it when and how they want.

                                          That said, learn a lesson - Why spend money on good wine for people who serve crappy plonk (some $7.99 bottles are excellent, BTW - price doesn't mean much) with dinner again and again. If they like Yellowtail, spending money to buy them something good is a waste. Give them Yellowtail.

                                          1. re: andytee

                                            Sage advice, andytee. My growls are inaudible and I grin and bear it. But sometimes that nice wine would pair so well with that nice meal; it's just not meant to be that night. Se la vie. Second time around we make the adjustments you suggest.

                                            1. re: andytee

                                              actually, better than giving the yellowtail drinker more yellowtail - give a bottle of one of the many good wines you can buy for around $7.99. something accessible and affordable, but a little tastier and more refined. last night i drank a viognier from clay station, at $8.99 (trader joes) a bottle it is a good gift for that might pique the interests of someone who likes (or is familar with) mediocre cal. chardonnay, but is also something that could also be served to and appreciated (or at least enjoyed) by a serious vinophile. there are plenty of great chiantis, riojas, ribera del deuros, some cotes de rhones, sauvingnon blancs, and all sorts of good argentine wines out there for less than $10 that drink as well as many more expensive bottles. find them, they are a joy to explore and make great gifts who think that their wine choices are limited to either $30 napa cab or $7 yellowtail. when you are paying $5-$10 a bottle, there is no harm done if you dont like it - use it for a marinade or something, and just move on. few of us can afford to serve $30 bottles at a party, but that doesnt mean we need to serve bad wine.

                                              personally, i think the surest sign of someone who doesn't know much about wine is that they are still convinced they have to spend a lot of money to get something good. some of my favorite bottles cost under $10. i can't say i have the most expensive tasting experience, but i have def. tried wines in a lot of price ranges, and again, find the the price tag doesn't necessarily tell you much. i specifically remember a tasting of some great oregon pinot noirs, the most expensive bottle there (wish i could remember the name) was universally judged to be one of the least interesting, and a little know $20 bottle (cheap by oregon pinot standards) was knocking everybody's socks off.

                                            2. re: Veggo

                                              the way i've handled this is is to bring two bottles of wine, one of which i will open immediately upon arrival.
                                              the hostess can decide if they want to stash the second one as a gift, but the first is to make sure that MY glass is filled, at least once, with something decent.
                                              (once, a hostess was pouring $2.00/bottle wine --two buck chuck-- and didn't understand why i wanted to open one of the bottles that i brought before finishing the $2.00 wine that had been sitting, already opened, in her fridge for a week. i told her that i opened it because i couldn't wait for her to try this new wine i had "discovered.")

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                I would no more bring my own good bottle of wine and insist on it being opened first than I would bring a tray of hors d'ouevres to be sure that the first course were to my culinary standards. Being a good dinner guest is about sociability, more than food. Ideally the food and drink are superb but if not, one just grins and bears it.

                                                1. re: masha

                                                  since these are real friends, and we have been doing this for decades, and we always have each other's back in every true life challenge, and it looks like my behavior has been close enough to the hostess' desires so that i get invited over every three weeks or so. think i'll stick to what has been working for 20 some-odd years in this case. . . . .

                                                  maybe my friends aren't as concerned as you are about such things?

                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    Sorry if my response seemed off. If these are old friends, then that is different. From your original post, it sounded as though this was a regular practice that you followed even when invited to dinners of a more casual acquaintance. (Our friends all seem to enjoy good wine so it's not a problem we often face. There are a few who are, to be charitable, indifferent cooks, so I'm more familiar with having to pretend to relish their food, than drink.)

                                                    1. re: masha

                                                      s'ok

                                                      when you get as old as i am, the majority of your friends are "old" friends, you've already jettisoned the folks with whom you didn't really mesh. it becomes too much of a waste of time to maintain relationships with many acquaintances.

                                                      also, the definition of "friend" (as opposed to acquaintance) becomes narrower.. . .

                                                      for friends, we want/need the unlimited time to chat, debate, joke, complain, confess, strategize, speculate, , mourn, pour our hears out, etc. that comes with being in someone's home.

                                                      for acquaintances, if i can, i try to steer the get togethers toward restaurants where the assortment and quality of the food and drink is, for the most part, very predictable and the "rules" involved in going out to a restaurant allow me to order whatever i want to eat and drink.

                                          2. Yes, if the host says all you need to bring is yourself, the most gracious thing you can do is do what they say. Just bring yourself.

                                            A gift is sometimes appreciated but never necessary or obligatory. Part of what makes a gift special is that you don't give one every time - then it becomes "payment" and is utterly graceless.

                                            You have done your part by asking if there is anything you can bring. If the host declines, there is no need to second guess them. If you want to repay the favor, invite them over to your place sometime and cook for them.

                                            1. The jfoods ALWAYS bring a gift. When we ask if we can bring something that is a gesture of "can we help?" That in no way excuse the other basic courtesy of bringing a thank you gift for the host(ess). It's not a "get out of jail free" card.

                                              To the points of the flowers and the wine (other threads have addressed this) these are a gift. Let's assume you brought a nice candy dish all wrapped up. Would you require the host(ess) to open it? I don't think so, so why because it's a bottle of wine is that any different? And to those who think their gifted wine is gifted, please get over it. Maybe I do not want wine served at all.

                                              There are only two instances where the brought wine should be opened:
                                              1 - The host(ess) looks at it and says, I would love to open this bottle, would you mind, or
                                              2 - The host(ess) asks us to bring a wine for the dinner
                                              Notice in both instances, the host(ess) is directing.

                                              Flowers - As others have said. There is enough action going on at Kitchen Jfood to stop and start trimming and arranging. I have a simple rule for flowers. I do the big huggy thing with the people who brought them, thank them so much and then put them out of the way to take care of when every one leaves. I then make sure to tell them when we thank them for coming the next day that their flowers look lovely in the XXX room.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: jfood

                                                Jumping on board the jfood bandwagon on wine giving. I always bring a bottle (or beer on the rare occasion where it seems like it might be helpful, ie, crab boil, outdoor grill fest). One should never expect the wine you bring to be opened and the host shouldn't feel it necessary to open the wine. I've never had anyone feel that was at all odd. If the wine you are given is poor, you'll find out on your own later but since you've already been exceedingly polite in thanking the giver for the thoughtful gift, you needn't mention anything about it.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  to me, insisting on always bringing a gift when someone invites you to dinner is as silly as insisting you get the tip when someone takes you out to lunch. its fun to treat people you care about, and when someone offers to do so (whether by taking you out or having you over), accept gracefully and without a fuss.

                                                  later, return the favor. its that simple.

                                                  1. re: andytee

                                                    I couldn't agree more. But when I go to someone's home, I bring a bottle of wine. I don't try to come up wtih something super "creative" or fussy in terms of a gift.

                                                    1. re: andytee

                                                      i only insist on bringing gifts for the jfoods. if others do not believe in bringing a gift then they can decide not to bring them, but i do not agree with this basic courtesy and common manners.

                                                      when i was a college student i never showed up at a poker game or watching monday night football without a six-pack or chips (i do not remember bringing flowers, whew).

                                                      bringing a gift is not a substitute for having them to your house for a later dinner, i agree that "it's simple" but that future invite still does not override the "hosetess gift."

                                                      1. re: andytee

                                                        andytee, 100% agree with you on this

                                                        the only time i insist on getting involved with a restaurant tip is if i'm pretty sure that my host(ess) will not tip adequately. i have more than a little empathy for restaurant servers.

                                                    2. I frequently bring a small box from my favorite chocolatier, and slip them to the hostess with the comment that she should save them for herself, that way she doesn't feel obligated to open them if she already has a big dessert planned, and anyway, it is a gift for the host/ess, not for everyone at the party.

                                                      I like to get my chocolates here...

                                                      http://www.belgchocpiron.com/

                                                      1. I come from a different part of the world, the Caribbean, English-speaking Caribbean to be precise and when someone invites you for dinner they never expect you bring anything but a good appetite. Of late, people have taken to asking what they can bring but the answer is frequently the same - nothing.

                                                        1. I must live in a simplified world on another planet: we all always bring wine to each other's dinners.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Maybe it's a cultural thing, but I say it's poor form not to bring something. I usually take wine... but even if I'm told "bring yourselves", I turn up with a nice Pasta Dura for a BBQ, maybe... or some home made relish/mayo.

                                                            For a dinner party, I'll prolly bring wine and chockies, maybe some really good/unusual crackers for the dips.. something relevant to the style of dinner party.

                                                            Unfortunately, since I am the chowhound amongst my friends, I am ususally ALWAYS asked to bring something.. and I love it that way!!

                                                          2. I would never show up empty handed! I don't care if the hostess doesn't open my wine/chocolates/edible treat, I'm still bringing it.

                                                            In Japan, one always brings a gift, and it is extremely rude not to do so. Fruit is a beautiful gift there (because it's so damned expensive!) but cakes and other baked goods, liquor, flowers, anything, is welcome (and expected).

                                                            I did get burned once when I believed the "just bring yourself" line from the hostess. When I arrived without any offering, I found that she had laid out everything the others had brought--from strawberries to wine to chocolates, and was loudly announcing that we must try the whatever because so and so had brought it. Made us empty-handed rubes feel like, well, empty-handed rubes.

                                                            1. When I say "just bring yourself," that's exactly what I mean.

                                                              I invited you because I like you and enjoy your company, which is more than adequate repayment for my hospitality. I don't want any "contribution to the dinner," I am serving the menu I want to serve (and nothing else). I don't drink the wine I have, so don't bring any more. I don't even like flowers, they smell like funerals, plus I'm busy enough with the dinner so taking care of flowers is an unwanted extra burden. I don't want candy, or stupid knick-knacks to clutter up the house. If you have a jar of homemade pickles or relish, I'll take it, but it's not needed.

                                                              What you COULD do is ... (ready for this? Drumm roll, please) ... RECIPROCATE.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: wayne keyser

                                                                Excellent and best reply yet Wayne! I think that taking a gift does depend on how well you know the people. If it's my friends I see often and we're very casual with, not necessary to take a gift - gee, I've never even thought about it! But, then they're the people who have us over one time, we have them over the next, we've gotten into a groove. If it's the first time at someone's home for dinner I never show up empty-handed.

                                                                1. re: Axalady

                                                                  Good point, Axalady. I think all etiquette rules are designed for relatively formal interactions... I agree that it would never even occur to me with a close friend that I had to make some specific exchange, I'd just know that over time we'd both give each other plenty and we would never need to count.

                                                                2. re: wayne keyser

                                                                  Nice idea, but some people don't have the space in their homes to reciprocate. Obviously, taking care of flowers is a burden that shouldn't be placed on the host(ess). But is it really so bothersome to accept a token of thanks from your guests? Even if it's a "stupid" gift, there was probably a good intention behind it.

                                                                  1. re: Kagey

                                                                    There are other ways of reciprocating (like taking people out to dinner); the issue is that the hostess gift does not eliminate the more fundamental obligation to reciprocate. Unfortunately, a lot of people are under the impression it does. That's one reason to make clear why hostess gifts are not obligatory.

                                                                    1. re: Kagey

                                                                      Reciprocate doesn't mean that just because your hosts had a dinner party for twelve, you have to as well - if you're really of such unequal means or circumstances, just ask your hosts over for dinner. If you don't have room in your home for any guests at all, then invite your friends out to dinner. As Karl S says below, "according to your means" - you don't have to break the bank, you don't have to take eight people out to dinner at the swankiest place in town if you can't afford it, but a thank-you note and some kind of a reciprocal invitation is a much better host(ess) gift than anything else. (suse, below, is not a big fan of the thank-you note, finding it less personal than a phone call or an e-mail, but personal snail mail is so rare in my mailbox these days that I find it a real treat to get a note in the mail, and I enjoy the exercise of composing a nice note myself.)

                                                                      All of that being said, when we're entertaining and guests ask what they can bring, we do usually say that beverages or flowers are welcome. I know that many many folks here, on this thread and on others I've read, say NO NO NO to flowers, and to be honest our guests do usually bring wine or beer instead, but I've never had a problem with taking a couple of minutes to deal with a bouquet - at the very least trimming the stems and parking them in a vase full of water till later. Much as a bottle of wine might or might not actually get served with the meal, I don't feel constrained to actally arrange and display a flower gift if it's not convenient, as long as I make sure that the flowers won't be dead by the time I get to deal with them.

                                                                      1. re: Allstonian

                                                                        It's not that I don't enjoy getting thoughtful snail mail, it's just that I find most thank you notes brief and impersonal. It's different when someone takes the time to compose a thoughtful note.

                                                                      2. re: Kagey

                                                                        K

                                                                        No such thing as a "stupid" gift, but as others have stated, the reciprocity is geared towrds the host(ess), not the dinner guests. If your abode is not a good site for a reciprical dinner for four, then by all means take them to a resto of your choice and within your economics. This is not a one-up sorta thing. The last thing you want to do is get into a pedulum effect of "well they took us here, we gotta take them ther."

                                                                        Little Jfood has been a guest at friend's vacation houses. We take the parents out to dinner to thank them for their generosity. We go to a resto that I know we will all like. It's the thought and the manners that are important not the number at the bottom of the charge slip.

                                                                        1. re: Kagey

                                                                          Kagey, if someone doesn't have space for entertaining in their home, they can invite someone to a nice picnic at a free concert. Even small towns have those.
                                                                          The invitation itself, even when it's regretted, counts as reciprocating. You've made the effort and you're off the hook.

                                                                          1. re: Kagey

                                                                            Good points by you guys about reciprocating, and I agree with them.

                                                                            What I took exception to in Wayne's post was the way he characterized some gifts. The implication, as I read it, was that some gifts are ok (homemade pickles) and some are not. That seems a little ungracious to me, since I put a lot of thought into what to bring as a host(ess) gift, as I expect lots of people do. And it makes me wonder if reciprocating by taking him to a resto I could afford, or to a picnic or concert would be good enough.

                                                                        2. You are never "required" by etiquette to bring other than a smile, a sociable attitude, gracious manners and gratitude. You then write a lovely thank you note and reciprocate according to your means within a year.

                                                                          If you feel you must bring something, do not bring anything to be served at the meal without the host's express permission beforehand, and don't bring anything the host has to deal with before or during the meal, as it were. Like arranging flowers. Don't bring anything that requires use of the kitchen or rooms where guests are being entertained. If you bring any such things, your attempt to show gratitude is actually getting in the way of the host.

                                                                          If a host says, "just bring yourself", have the social confidence to take the instruction at face value. If the host didn't mean it, that's the host's problem, not yours.

                                                                          1. I would NEVER go empty-handed and would consider an empty-handed guest to be suffering from some kind of social disability...One thing I like to take is something nice for the host's next-morning breakfast (maybe a box of Danishes from a good bakery) on the theory that the entire effort of the household has gone into producing the dinner party and the next morning they will like to kick back with a breakfast treat. Be sure and label it "not for the party---this is for tomorrow's breakfast".

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                                              Wow - it's been fun to read all these responses to my OP. I have to say,many of them truly reveal where we are as a culture when it comes to gift giving. We're so overloaded with stuff and I suppose the people who post here are mostly fairly well off, that we can be particular about what we like to receive and what not....too much trouble to put flowers in water....no cheap swill, please...etc. I do believe that it's the thought that counts. Some people like to write thank you notes - writing notes to someone you've already personally thanked just seems wierd to me. Well meant, and I'm not trying to offend anyone, but I've never been a fan of the thank you note. I know this is counterintuitive, but I find them oddly impersonal. I think it's just the formal nature of the thank you note that bugs me. For some strange reason, an email the next day or a phone call just to say how much fun was had I really like. On the practical front, I had a small dinner party last weekend for a couple of friends. One brought a bottle of wine and the other a bottle of wine AND a beautifully wrapped box of Belgian chocolates. I was thrilled. The chocolates came in so handy a few nights later when I had some people over last-minute and was able to serve some elegant chocolates as a little dessert.

                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                While I still don't understand the expectation of a gift, this idea strikes me as really quite good!

                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                  I agree - the breakfast treat is a great idea - someone did that for me once and I was thrilled.

                                                                                2. I usu tell people what they can bring if they ask. Since we dont drink wine it's not appreciated. Neither is chocolate. So we save a few small things for guests to bring and everyone feels like they contributed.

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: tom porc

                                                                                    I take issue with the expression "it's not appreciated." That's just rude. If you don't drink wine or eat chocolate, you can certainly let your close friends know, but there's nothing wrong with accepting a gift with a gracious smile and a thank you.

                                                                                    1. re: suse

                                                                                      It's not rude, if he means it literally, which I think he does. Literally, he can't appreciate wine if he doesn't drink. It is only rude if he exhibits rudeness in how he thanks (or doesn't thank) the giver.

                                                                                    2. re: tom porc

                                                                                      TP,
                                                                                      Do you ask the guests to bring the "few small things" even if they haven't asked what they can bring?

                                                                                      1. re: troutpoint

                                                                                        Fortunately, all my friends and family ask if we need anything and if they dont I tell them. And at the few times someone did bring wine, choc or liquor I was gracious but the point I was making is if you dont know the host/ess wine and choc are not a safe gift anymore. Would you spend a lot of money on wine/choc/etc if there is a good chance it wont be enjoyed and wasted?

                                                                                        1. re: tom porc

                                                                                          especially the wine part.
                                                                                          although i, personally, adore wine, in the last few years my social circle has come to include some "friends of bill," and i now look at gifts of wine a little differently.

                                                                                    3. Maybe it's all in how it's asked. When I say "what can we bring" I mean, "Is there anything you'd like to me contribute to the meal?" I do not mean, "do you want me to say Thank You or not?"

                                                                                      I agree, running over the Best Friend's for a supper type thing is probably reciprocal enough that a gift isn't needed.

                                                                                      But any other invite, I bring something for sure -- usually something small, related to the preferences of the host or their family. It's rarely wine since people's wine tastes differ and I'd rather not give what I drink at home -- but beer, if appropropriate to the meal, or a treat that doesn't have to be dealt with upon my arrival. I can't get into the whole french thing of sending flowers in advance, so I avoid cut flowers too. Since most of my friends have kids, it's usually something consumable for them. There are always all sorts of interesting candies or chocolates that can be given in small quanties as a goodie.

                                                                                      1. People seem to be confused over what is a very simple distinction - the difference between a contribution to the party and a gift.

                                                                                        Simple Rule:

                                                                                        If the hostess asks you to bring a "dish" or a bottle of wine or whatever, bring it. If the hostess says "don't bring anything but yourself", then absolutely do NOT bring anything to be served at the party. No clever crackers, no prize-winning dish that everyone loves, nothing. Respect your hostess.

                                                                                        A hostess gift is a COMPLETELY different thing. It is a gift, it is not to be served unless the hostess chooses to do so. Don't bring anything that strongly implies she serve it (like something hot in a container you want back). The hostess has the responsibility to understand that it is a gift and treat it as such, that is, offer thanks and not be a snot about it. If it's not to your taste, throw it away, regift, or give to charity. Respect your guest.

                                                                                        I'm glad I could clarify that for everyone. ;-)

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: danna

                                                                                          Wow...excellent reply Danna. I completely agree!

                                                                                          1. re: danna

                                                                                            Totally agree with you, danna!

                                                                                            1. re: danna

                                                                                              I agree with danna as well, and maybe adding a comment to your thank you gift like "brought you a little something to snack on for tomorrow" (if it's food related) so they know your intentions of them NOT using it for their organized gala.

                                                                                                1. re: danna

                                                                                                  Right on! For me, it's really simple and I don't agonize over it: when I tell people not to bring anything--I mean it. People who know me and who we have over know that I am not shy. If someone offers, I'll definitely speak up if there's something I have in mind.

                                                                                                  And, when a host tells me not to bring anything, I don't.

                                                                                                2. wow i love all these replies!!!!! i agree.. i think it depends on your relationship with the people, the type of dinner, etc....

                                                                                                  as a hostess, when people ask what to bring, i usually say, "please don't." and then i give an explanation as to why i don't want them to bring anything. so that way they will know that i am serious. most of the time, i plan my meals and everything matches. if it's a quick kind of dinner, then i have no problems telling people what to bring, usually things i don't have time to do.. most of the time dessert. but i entertain so much with my close friends, that it's not even an issue. whether or not it's an informal or formal dinner, i always tell people to bring their APPETITE. for me, hosting is about having a good time and being able to share. the best thing i like is when people enjoy the food that i have specially prepared for them.

                                                                                                  all my friends and i are on the same page, so there's really nothing for us to bring to each other's place =) plus we're on a budget, so i think even if we got small gifts for each other, we would all be broke, considering the amount of times we all get together... also, u never want wanyone to give more than they can afford... so if someone is having a rough time, i will invite them for dinner for a "pick me up" and NEVER expect them to bring anything.. they have more important things to worry about than a hostess gift...

                                                                                                  howeever, if i'm going to a dinner that i know is more formal and i won't know people there, then i usually bring a small (like 6 pieces) of nice chocolate. nothing to ever overshadow the meal or decorations, or anything like that.

                                                                                                  but i think it changes in every situation....

                                                                                                  1. I agree with the post above that says there is a difference between asking if you can help with the meal and bringing a gift to your host/hostess. I am absolutely incapable of showing up at someone’s door without some sort of gift. If my sister's husband is out of town on business and she asks me come to her home for a quick spaghetti dinner with her and her toddler, I bring a gift. It might not be a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers but, it will be a gift and it will match her personality as I know it. All that being said I do agree that it is better to send flowers ahead of time than to bring them on the night of the event.

                                                                                                    1. With the exception of dinner in a Muslim home or the home of a recovering alcoholic or a fundamentalist non-drinker of any stripe, I don't think you can really go wrong with a decent bottle of wine. I usually hand it to the host/hostess and say - this is for your larder, so they don't feel compelled to serve it with the meal. The very worst that can happen is that they will re-gift it when they go somewhere else, or open it when cousin Ralph comes over, if they don't really care for wine. Or...cook with it.

                                                                                                      It's no worse than a giving a box of chocolates to someone on a diet.

                                                                                                      (Having said that, I will admit that I did show up for dinner at a Muslim home with a bottle of wine once. I didn't know the hosts - I had been staying with some friends who were going there for dinner and I was invited along. They were very gracious about it and said thank you but I'm still annoyed that my friends didn't tell me...).

                                                                                                      15 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                                                                                        Wine is not as safe gift as it may seem - there are more non-wine drinkers than you think. It's not only only Muslims. There are Mormons (chocolate, coffee and tea are out too!), then there is a whole Bible Belt that covers a lot of the US population. Most heartland Americans do not have a taste for wine, so it would be thoughtless to bring wine. A good friend of mine doesn't care much about wine (no religious restraints just never developed taste for it), if I go to her house I would make sure to bring something that I know she'd enjoy.

                                                                                                        1. re: welle

                                                                                                          I seriously doubt that any of the above posters mean that they would bring wine to someone's house if they knew they didn't like wine, for any reason! But if you do happen to accidentally make that mistake with people you don't know, the worst possible result is that they regift it (ok I guess theoretically you could also offend the host, but if you don't know them and they are *really angry* that you brought a gift they didn't like... well... then who wants to have dinner with them?)

                                                                                                          1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                            I gave wine as a gift once to people who not only didn't drink, but who would never, ever, consider giving anyone alcohol or cooking with it. I didn't know them well and assumed it would be a safe gift. They were obviously annoyed, though polite. I have no idea what they did with it. It might still be sitting under their sink.

                                                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                              If one doesnt know the host/hostess well then wine isnt a safe gift for reasons previously mentioned.
                                                                                                              When invited out I usu get stressed over what to bring and try to get the host/hostess to let me bring something or get clues at least.
                                                                                                              mojoeater, sadly I too have wine under my sink ... along with boubon, brandy and benedictine.

                                                                                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                                Well, obviously we're all going to screw up in the gift department at one time or another. Clearly it is impossible to anticipate all potential situations - the newly reformed drinker, the just-diagnosed diabetic, the suddenly re-born religious fundamentalist. But even so, it would be mean and snarky to let the gifter know that they have really made a horrible mistake. You accept the gift - whatever it is - you smile and thank the person for their thoughtfulness, and then you just dispose of the offering in whatever way you see fit when everyone has gone home. And anyone who cannot bring themselves to do that probably shouldn't be entertaining.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                    As I said earlier I am thankful but why spend good money on something risky. Why not avoid the risk by doing as Cindy said below and bring a host/ess gift instead?

                                                                                                                    1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                                      I agree-- that is often a better idea.

                                                                                                                1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                                  Tom, if you're morally opposed to the stuff, pour it down the toilet. If you just don't care for it, at least you have it to offer guests, or give it to someone who will enjoy it!

                                                                                                                  1. re: abowes

                                                                                                                    I'm afraid they will later ask me how I enjoyed it.

                                                                                                                    Wine gives me headaches so I have to abstain. I dont think I even own any wineglasses. A gift of wine puts me in an awkward position.

                                                                                                                    1. re: tom porc

                                                                                                                      Anyone who actually asks you how you enjoyed their gift deserves any answer they get -- testing you on your enjoyment is definitely rude.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                        Absolutely. I'm constantly amazed how outspoken people can be.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                          If I give a gift that wasn't appropriate, I'd like to know, so that I can choose more appropriately in the future. If they ask, tell them - you very much appreciated the thought, but don't drink, so you passed it along to someone who could enjoy it.

                                                                                                              2. re: welle

                                                                                                                Those strike me as awfully broad statements. Most heartland Americans don't have a taste for wine? How did you come to that conclusion?

                                                                                                                And as a denizen of the Bible belt, and member of a family full of Southern Baptist Sunday school teachers and deacons, I'll tell you this: the older generation generally does not drink much wine (preferring sweet fruit wines if they did), but would not be offended by it as a gift. The younger generation drinks. Although there is a small percentage who remain vehemently opposed to alchohol, I think you would be very unlucky to accidentaly bring wine to a Southerner who was actually offended by it.

                                                                                                              3. re: Nyleve

                                                                                                                When I first my my husband, we went to friends of his parents for a Jewish holiday dinner. I had never met the hosts before, but certainly I didn't want to show up with nothing. So I brought a box of chocolates. They accepted the gift and were gracious, but at some point I learned that they kept kosher in their home. They couldn't eat the chocolates (I'm not even sure what makes chocolate kosher or non-kosher), not that I expected them to open them at that time anyway.

                                                                                                                I felt like an idiot at the end of the night, but I still remind myself 8 years later that it's the thought that counts.

                                                                                                              4. I always bring a gift.

                                                                                                                1. Every person and every situation is diifferent. Some cultures require it even when the host/hostess declines, others you take at face value. I personally always bring something - usually something nice to drink as long as most of the people there drink - but whether it actually gets opened or not is not my concern. I leave it up to just about anyone else as I feel just lucky enough to have been in someone's good thoughts. If the majority don't drink - we have some friends who are Mormon - then it's usually something like a very nice box or bag of macarons or cookies from one of the local patisseries. "Gifts" like wine, beer, liquor, cookies and macarons aren't like bringing a five-gallon tub of ice cream that is going to melt if it doesn't get tossed into a commercial-sized deep freeze. They have at least a couple of days of shelf life, meaning there's no pressure on the host during this wild time of setting up and providing the entertaining. They could slip these in with the meal, or they can opt to have it some time later... To each his own...

                                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                    I don't think any of these answers are off base.

                                                                                                                    It may be me, but I don't stress over bringing something or not.

                                                                                                                    Most times, I bring a bottle of wine (for the hostess' stash).

                                                                                                                    At a very casual dinner with very close friends, I have been known not to bring anything.

                                                                                                                    My point is, I really don't think I would worry about dinner party "correctness", unless I was going to the White House, or dinner with HRM.

                                                                                                                    1. re: mcel215

                                                                                                                      I think it is funny that the level of concern about correctness appears to rise in proportion to how little you know the person. Don't our best friends deserve the best treatment and manners?

                                                                                                                      1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                                                        I don't think best treatment is the same thing as best manners. But I think that we're focusing on formal situations because if it's a close friend, you sortof ought to know what they really want you to bring or how they want you to help, if they do.

                                                                                                                        1. re: nummanumma

                                                                                                                          I think there is ONE standard and that best treatment and manners are for everyone who opens their homes to the Jfoods as guests. Whether it is my monthly poker game or a new business colleague who just moved to the area and is hosting a dinner for a few people, good manners are good manners, pretty basic.

                                                                                                                          As one gets more comfortable and knows the host the gift becomes more personal and targeted. For example, people know he Jfoods do not drink, yet some will bring wine knowing that a good red will be turned into a beautiful braising liquid over the next few weeks. If, by chance, the wine they bring is something that would fit the meal, the corkscrew comes out and it is served. Most people who know the Jfoods have one items in the front of their minds, CHOCOLATE. And I can not remember the last time something shocolate was not shared. Unlike wine, chocolate goes with everything.

                                                                                                                          But anything they bring is perfect because it is not who or what I invited to share some good times.

                                                                                                                        2. re: mcel215

                                                                                                                          And you don't bring hostess gifts to the White House or Buckingham Palace.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                            Well, thanks Karl.

                                                                                                                            I doubt I will ever have to "worry" then. ;).

                                                                                                                            1. re: mcel215

                                                                                                                              You might put Karl's advice in your memory bank, mce215.
                                                                                                                              There's many situations where a gift is not appropriate. Let's hope that you become successful and get invited to some nice dinners. For many corporate and international level things, bringing a gift isn't the thing to do. You might send flowers ahead depending on the culture. Or send nothing at all.
                                                                                                                              Sometimes you could find yourself in another country, working or on vacation, and be invited to a diplomatic event - entirely different set of rules! And it's not far fetched. Peace Corps workers and ordinary Americans are often included in those.
                                                                                                                              Don't assume that what you do for your buddy's barbeque is the same rule that applies in Timbuktu. Let's hope you lead a rich enough life that you get many chances to "worry."

                                                                                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Persuasion through diplomacy! Can we all get along? I need a drink - someone crack open a bottle of that Yellowtail that Andytee was talking about...

                                                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                  At my age, I have most of the knowledge and schooling that would make myself and my family proud of me, in any cultural setting!

                                                                                                                                  And I never assume anything.

                                                                                                                                  I have lead a very rich life, and have gotten beyond most of worrying what people will think.

                                                                                                                                  My dinner parties now, mostly consist of dear friends and loved ones, who know that the company of friends or family, by far outweighs the difference if someone does or does not bring a gift to a dinner party, just to be politically correct.

                                                                                                                                  And living in Boston, is very far from Timbuktu.

                                                                                                                                  I hope that one day, your success in life is not dependent on judging people too harshly.

                                                                                                                                  And I always like Karl's advice : ). Have a good day.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mcel215

                                                                                                                                    The world is too complex for me to assume that I can cope with all cultural settings. Like you, I'm on solid ground with family and friends but there are times that I have to deal with cultures and religions that I'm not familiar with and I ask for help. Not out of "political correctness," but out of respect for my hosts. Not because I "worry what people will think," but because there are some taboos that are truly offensive in other cultures and religions.
                                                                                                                                    Sometimes you don't bring a gift. Sometimes you can bring a very wrong, even insulting gift. As you say, "never assume anything" if you aren't sure. Ask somebody, not necessarily the host.
                                                                                                                                    I judge my success by being willing to learn. If you consider this an unnecessary exercise, judge me as harshly as you please.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                      I was not judging you at all, I was replying to your post.

                                                                                                                                      And I wish you well in your success.

                                                                                                                          2. I never go empty-handed; I think a little "hostess gift" is always in order. A potted plant, some pretty cocktail napkins in a nice basket, a box of imported chocolates are just a few things that are enjoyed and appreciated. "Just bring yourself" to me means that the host/hostess is fine handling all of the dinner details. A little house gift is a token of appreciation for the invitation.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                                                Finally, a simple answer...uncomplicated and to the point..yes!

                                                                                                                              2. Just for the record, not everyone hates flowers as a gift. I like it when my guests bring pretty flowers, and don't mind handing the reins over to my husband for a few minutes while I arrange them. I asked a few friends about this and they agreed. I had never heard that people hate getting flowers before I read it on this board, so it may be a regional, cultural or maybe a social class thing.

                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: oolah

                                                                                                                                  When we take flowers, the gift includes my taking care and arranging them. As kids we learned Japanese flower arrangement--even us boys.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                    Sam Fujisaka = STYLE. What a great gesture.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: oolah

                                                                                                                                    It's not the flowers themselves - I love flowers, really I do. And sometimes, if the dinner is casual and I'm not juggling ten things at once and the kitchen isn't a total madhouse, I have no problem stopping what I'm doing and putting them in a vase. But, for example, a couple of weeks ago two people showed up at my Passover seder with bunches of flowers. They were beautiful. But I was entertaining 25 people that night and the kitchen was wall-to-wall chaos and no one offered to take care of the flowers for me. I would have felt mean to ask the person who gave them to go find a vase and deal with the flowers. But, at the same time, I would very much have appreciated either the offer or having the flowers arrive already vased. As it was, I smiled and took the time to cut them down and put them in water. No one - except you Chowhounds - knew that I was frantic.

                                                                                                                                    However this is a lesson learned for me. Next time I have a big to-do, I'll keep a couple of vases close at hand and remind my husband that this is his job.

                                                                                                                                    On the other hand...chocolate requires no arranging.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                                                                                                                      Nyleve, we keep a couple of big glass vases - tall and wide - close at hand under the sink in the powder room. When last minute bouquets arrive, we accept them, usually saying something like: "Oh! These are so beautiful! I'm going to get them into water right away and wait to arrange them until after dinner when I have time to really do them justice. I know that I'm going to enjoy these so much!"
                                                                                                                                      I keep them out, usually near where all the action is, so people don't feel like I'm hiding them. I just don't take time to cut and arrange them.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                                                                                                                        Sorry, didn't mean to imply that people didn't *like* flowers. I posted because I often bring flowers to friends houses (or a bottle of wine) and I had a growing sense of horror as I read this thread that all this time I had been causing lots of grief with my gifts. But then I remembered that a lot of people bring ME flowers when I entertain, and I have never minded it, and a few of my friends felt the same way when I asked them in a (very unscientific) poll.

                                                                                                                                        Anyway, point is, flowers can be a nice gift, *depending on your host* -- don't automatically rule them out.

                                                                                                                                        Personally, I'd much prefer them to chocolate, since I don't eat a lot of sweets, or knick knacks, since I have a small apartment without room for much clutter.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: oolah

                                                                                                                                        I don't hate flowers at all, but the giver may want to keep in mind whether the hostess is someone who is prepared to receive them in the middle of a dinner party. I recently had a dinner party at my house, and one of my colleagues from work arrived with an absolutely beautiful bouquet of flowers. It was really simply stunning, and something that he had obviously taken a lot of time to put together.

                                                                                                                                        Unfortunately, I am not one to keep fresh flowers and none of my friends had (so far) given me flowers for my apartment (I had moved relatively recently), so I had no vase at hand. I ended up having to dump out my ceramic kitchen utensil holder, and duct taping the flowers into it with some water, swearing "No, I saw this on the Food Network! It'll work!" as my friends watched somewhat incredulously.

                                                                                                                                        It ended up being fine and the flowers were really gorgeous (and much appreciated), but yeah... not everyone is prepared for flowers.

                                                                                                                                      3. I think that if I show up empty handed, even after being told to do so, I should write a thank you and post it the next day, or send flowers. I wouldn't do this with close friends, but with people with whom I'm less acquainted.

                                                                                                                                        Having dinner at friends' houses, and having been told I shouldn't bring anything, I sometimes do bring something. More often than not, it's not intended for dinner, but for them to enjoy the next morning: coffee beans, something I baked, or fresh fruit that's particularly delish. I find those gifts much appreciated, because people are often tired the morning after a dinner party. But, you really do have to know people for this--whether they eat breakfast, if they're coffee drinkers, etc. Another option is hard liquor for their bar, especially if it's something harder to find, but you have to know people pretty well for that. Honestly, I'm not attending or throwing many dinner parties these days! I moved six years ago, and it's very hard to meet new people once you're in your thirties, or rather to meet people who are looking for new friends at this age.

                                                                                                                                        1. I was taught to bring host(ess) gifts when invited for dinner, altho admittedly I sometimes forget. When I'm the host, I really don't want my guests to feel obligated, so if they ask if they can bring anything, I will sometimes tell them, "Just bring a joke to share." My brother, who likes to suss out interesting microbrews, once brought a six-pack of Busch. He gave it to me and said, "Here...here's the joke."

                                                                                                                                          1. I have always brought Meyer lemons from my tree when they are in season. Across all cultures people love this and can use them for cooking, tea, sanitizing the disposal etc. Always appreciative and from the heart, not generic. General rule of thumb for a hostess gift... bring something you would like. Love that people bring ice... seems to be what I always need.

                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Oh Robin

                                                                                                                                              Fantastic idea! Lemons are a great gift. They don't spoil easy, great for cocktails or cooking. I wish I was in lemon-country

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Oh Robin

                                                                                                                                                Oh Robin, are the lemons in season now? If so, when would you like to come over for dinner?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: andytee

                                                                                                                                                  They are and they're super sweet and delish! It's actually my parent's tree in the house I grew up in. My whole life I wondered why lemons from the store weren't like ours. Only about five years ago discovered it was a Meyer. The best lemonade and lemon cake and even good eaten like an orange.

                                                                                                                                              2. When guests ask what they can bring, I always say, yourself ready to be pampered. That said, I assume they will bring wine. I believe too if the guest brings flowers, the etiquette is that they will cut and vase them for the hostess. I loves my wine but I love waking up the next morning to a beautiful vase of cut flowers (I am lucky as the guests who do bring me flowers are considerate to the style of my home-modern- and bring simple lilies or tropicals). Once a couple brought a pastry shop dessert. It did not go with my theme, but I served it anyway, in place of the more simple dessert I was planning to serve (greek yogurt and spoon sweets). I think it's best to appreciate those we honor and lose the ego. My self I always bring wine, and sometimes a small vase of simple flowers. The hostess can decide to put it on their bedside table or an end table. The flowers shouldn't be brought as a centerpiece. Knowing the wine will likely be consumed that evening, or some other evening, the flowers are a gift for the host/ess to enjoy the next day afterall the hard work.

                                                                                                                                                1. A great idea is to bring some fresh fruit in a unique bowl or vase.
                                                                                                                                                  The host/hostess can keep the container for use in the future, and the guests can have some fresh fruit after dinner instead of filling up on more fattening desserts. I like to bring fruits like mangos, kiwi, or something unique that's in season. One time I brought some pluots (plum/apricot) for my boss. She never had one before, and they're one of her favorite fruits now.

                                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Veggie_Girl

                                                                                                                                                    My friend once brought me a pineapple. I didn't serve it, since it was too much work to cut it plus everyone was gaga over the dessert I served, but I did appreciate it - pineapple is one of the fruits that I love but don't buy too often because good ones are rare and I get lazy over a thought of cutting and cleaning it.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: welle

                                                                                                                                                      Ah the traditional symbol of hospitality! My Indonesian and Japanese friends are always so considerate. They bring a lovely basket of fresh fruit, and I enjoy it all week!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: welle

                                                                                                                                                        welle:
                                                                                                                                                        any tips about fool-safe ways to identify the sweetest pineapple on the display?
                                                                                                                                                        smell?
                                                                                                                                                        color?
                                                                                                                                                        brusing?
                                                                                                                                                        lack of brusing?
                                                                                                                                                        size?

                                                                                                                                                        tell us the real scoop!

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Veggie_Girl

                                                                                                                                                        This really is a great suggestion. One of my friends knows that I love fresh fruit, but I rarely get up early enough on Sundays to make it to our local farmers market (it's my only day to sleep in). He brought a beautiful basket of strawberries from the market to my last party, and it was absolutely marvelous.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggie_Girl

                                                                                                                                                          when i worked near the farmers market i would always buy fresh fruit for my friends every week.
                                                                                                                                                          it wasn't given as a "hostess" gift, or any other kind of specific gift.
                                                                                                                                                          it was always given as a "i saw these and i thought you might like them" kind of gift.
                                                                                                                                                          the fruit was universally appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                        2. i agree, I like to bring bottle of wine or flowers because you can always use a bottle of wine and flowers always looks great anywhere.

                                                                                                                                                          1. I always keep a few tins of vahlrona chocolate for hostess gifts. I wrap them up very simply with an elegant bow and give it to the hostess wrapped. I tell her that it's a treat for her so she knows that she won't have to serve it during the party

                                                                                                                                                            1. If my host/hostess said "nothing," I will not bring anything. That's because when I say "nothing" to my guests, I mean nothing. But not everyone is like that, so there's probably some people who have said "nothing" and is still mad at me for not bringing anything!

                                                                                                                                                              1. I wish my friends would read this thread. I've got a couple of close aquintences that almost never bring anything to our bbq's etc...(perhaps a bag of ice).

                                                                                                                                                                Unfortunately, they're part of a group of friends so and some how they get away with it... it makes me crazy.

                                                                                                                                                                For the most part though - I'd rather hang out with folks than worry about them bringing something or not. If it;s not habitual and there's enough for everyone it's fine with me.

                                                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sparky403

                                                                                                                                                                  Why don't you just ask them? If you ned help subsidizing your BBQ's etc, or if it's your expectation that everyone bring something when they dine in your home just ask them instead of making yourself crazy.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sparky403

                                                                                                                                                                    People aren't mindreaders, sparky. Well, perhaps some are - but obviously not your friends. :-) And some just don't think about asking to bring something.

                                                                                                                                                                    So as foodieX2 suggested, just ask them to bring along a bagged salad or several 2 liter sodas or a case of beer (give them specific amounts, if necessary, so they don't bring one bag of salad greens for 20 people!).

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                      LindaW-good point about being specific! I remember when I asked my nephew to bring bread for christmas dinner and he showed up with a loaf of wonder-type bread.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                        Belive me I have - it's a delicate line.

                                                                                                                                                                        I live in SF so said bbq's are actually co-hosted a friends house with enough room. I am very handly on the grill and obviously love to cook so I bring the bulk of the grillables (10 - 15lbs of ribs, a salad, steak, dips etc).

                                                                                                                                                                        These are very informal, yet large, get togethers where just about anything would work.ao there's no mind reading involved.. friends and aquitences bring very little to nothing... So I end up doing it for my own amazement / satisfaction....

                                                                                                                                                                        I've cut way back because It's not once or twice but for several years these same folks will show with very little. If I want to see them and I want to cook, I show up.

                                                                                                                                                                        Despite making my wishes known they still show up with little or nothing... so can't get too "angry white male" about it and the end of the day it's better to see them and enjoy - they know how I feel and don't care.

                                                                                                                                                                        In this case unforunately it's not a question of weather or not they're mind readers. they're cheap and lazy ageing hipsters - I still love them save for there lack of genorosity.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sparky403

                                                                                                                                                                          Based on this reply, sparky, I don't think your friends would change even if they *did* read this thread, as you hoped for in your initial comment.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                            You're very right - I've made my wishes known so if I want to cook and share my food - I show up - otherwise forget it.

                                                                                                                                                                            However, I don't get it - I was raised that you Never show up empty handed.... apparently they didn't get that memo.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sparky403

                                                                                                                                                                              I don't have any hard feelings, but we have many friends (and it's the ones younger than us, now that I think of it) that don't bring anything but do tell us, in an embarrassed way, they would like contribute to but I always have everything that is needed, and more. And I know they are being sincere, guess I'm like a mother figure to them!

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Back in the day, I always brought a few joints if I knew the host would approve. They usually did. These days.....not so much.

                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                      grampart, you hit on the ONLY gift that i would really appreciate!
                                                                                                                                                                      what a great gift that would be NOW.
                                                                                                                                                                      (it could be the centerpiece of theme party.)
                                                                                                                                                                      all the "children of the '60s" that i know would so enjoy that.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                          just yesterday went to a birthday party for one of them that had a "70's Hippy" theme.

                                                                                                                                                                          we wore the clothes and brought the pictures we had from those days.

                                                                                                                                                                          now THOSE were the days. . . .

                                                                                                                                                                    2. Unless it's a very close friend/family member that I dine with often, I always bring something. Never flowers, because those are a bother, and you never know who is allergic (my mom for example). Sometimes wine/champagne/liquor, depending on who is hosting. Other times I find a small hostess gift.... I've done a really nice lightly scented citrus candle (for someone I knew liked candles), or a set of napkin rings, or even an edible snack (that is very wrapped and clearly not for consuming that night), or a really nice set of hand soaps. I try to customize it for the person I'm giving it to, not just something generic.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. i know that my preferences are probably very idiosyncratic, but here goes:

                                                                                                                                                                        speaking as a frequent hostess:
                                                                                                                                                                        when i say, "just bring yourself," i MEAN "just bring yourself."

                                                                                                                                                                        if i need wine, i'll ask for it. if not, i'd prefer to serve my own wine and i really don't need your wine to take up residence in my already full collection.

                                                                                                                                                                        if i wanted another book (or other tschotske) to "admire" then to end up throwing it into the recycle in a few months or so, i'd request it.

                                                                                                                                                                        flowers once gave a guest of mine (a person who has asthma) a full-blown allergy attack which embarrassed her. again, i'd rather be in charge of the flowers myself.

                                                                                                                                                                        if i've invited you to my house it is because i really like spending time with you. just arrive. the time you spend is what i will most appreciate.

                                                                                                                                                                        as a frequent guest:
                                                                                                                                                                        it is so much nicer if the host(ess) tells me exactly what they really want me to bring:

                                                                                                                                                                        such as "please stop by Petit Cafe and get some of their hummus and pita"
                                                                                                                                                                        or
                                                                                                                                                                        "if you have a good bottle of Zinfandel to bring, that would be lovely"
                                                                                                                                                                        or
                                                                                                                                                                        can you make a fruit salad? we'll be having 9 guests.
                                                                                                                                                                        or
                                                                                                                                                                        i really like the bread they make at XYZ bakery, but i won't have time the day of the party to stop by there, can you pick some up please?

                                                                                                                                                                        if they say, "just bring yourself," i just bring myself.

                                                                                                                                                                        also, OT, when i tell guests that, although i appreciate their good intentions, i want to clean up myself, i MEAN that i want to clear the dishes and clean up myself. dunno why, it really bothers me to see someone who i wanted to "take care" of, standing by my sink doing dishes. i always intercede and say, "this is a full-service operation, when i invite you over i intend to provide you with the full service experience. please sit down and relax, let me pamper you, and enjoy yourself."

                                                                                                                                                                        17 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                          A gift is just that - a gift from them to you, whether it be wine, a small tchotcke, or whatever. It is their choice to decide to bring it for you as part of their thank you for inviting them to your home. If you have difficulty fitting another bottle into your extensive wine collection or you choose to toss it on the recycle pile, that is for you to deal with.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                            which i graciously do.
                                                                                                                                                                            but it would be unfortunate if they brought the wine out of a sense of obligation or as a requirement of "manners" or etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                            i am not annoyed by such gifts, but they are not at all necessary, nor desired. the presence of the guest is what is truly valued and desired.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                              It is obviously either what they were taught to do or wish to do, so discounting their choice to follow the rules of etiquette isn't fair to them, is it? And gifts are *never* necessary, That's the whole point - they are GIFTS.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                if i graciously accept their gifts (which i do), how isn't it <<fair to them>>?
                                                                                                                                                                                please explain.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                  By saying they're not necessary or desired. Perhaps you don't want them, but again - they are *gifts*. That is their choice to give them, regardless whether you want them or not. Yes, you choose to accept them. But you seem to dismiss the fact that they chose to give you a gift, calling their choice "unfortunate" because of a sense of obligation or what they were taught to do as a matter of etiquette. I don't think that's fair to their sense of etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                    it's my opinion.
                                                                                                                                                                                    as long as i don't hurt the feelings of any of my guests, what does it matter?

                                                                                                                                                                                    i have a friend who likes a written thank you card after each dinner. my opinion is that this is silly. still, in order to have my friend feel good, i dutifully write and mail the card.
                                                                                                                                                                                    another friend wants a phone call on the day of her birthday. i dutifully note the date and make the call and sing the "happy birthday" song to her. again, in my opinion, this is silly, especially at our age, but it's what she needs to feel loved.
                                                                                                                                                                                    another friend recently threw a "hippy" themed birthday party for herself and insisted that everyone come in costume. this is the sort of thing that mortifies me. even worse, the party was thrown at an elegant restaurant at which i've been a regular, so there was no chance of getting in and out without being recognized. still, i procured a proper batik tie-dyed outfit and, looking imho, like a crazy bag-lady attended the party with as much gusto as i could muster.

                                                                                                                                                                                    my opinions don't matter nearly as much as my actions.

                                                                                                                                                                                    i do all that i can to protect the feelings of my close friends as long as there is no other higher moral, ethical, or legal issue involved.

                                                                                                                                                                                    for the most part, as i get older, and my friends get older, and by this point we all have encountered true, profound, adversity/terror/loss in one way or another, and we have stuck together through it all, more and more of the "rules" have become superseded by our true love, dedication, understanding, and acceptance of each other including an acceptance of most of our differences.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                      I think you got to the heart of the matter with "my opinions don't matter nearly as much as my actions"

                                                                                                                                                                                      It sounds like you are a good friend.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ohmyyum

                                                                                                                                                                                        thank you.
                                                                                                                                                                                        it is so kind of you to say that.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                I concur completely with Westside Gal on this issue. My guests are enough. I don't need gifts.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                  Need doesn't factor into this situation. They are *gifts" - something being given to honor the occasion of dining at your house. Perhaps you don't need them - but perhaps they wish to give them. Simple.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                    It's just so unnecessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Plus, you know, I had this friend, who has since died, whom I used to hear gossiping with other friends from time to time about the various hostess gifts he'd given or received throughout the years, and I guess it was he who really turned me off to the process.

                                                                                                                                                                                    At some point, it would get really bitchy, and I'd be, like, this is something you do because you like each other? Because this doesn't sound much like "like" to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                    And I had a girlfriend who used to insist on buying my mother gifts all the time. I finally had to say "Stop. They LIKE you. They really like you. You're part of the family now." Because, I mean, she'd make us late sometimes buying a last minute hostess gift. Drove me nuts.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                      not only is it unnecessary,
                                                                                                                                                                                      sometimes it really makes the whole evening much more stressful for the hostess.

                                                                                                                                                                                      at this point, among my friends are:

                                                                                                                                                                                      a severe asthmatic
                                                                                                                                                                                      a person with severe nut allergies
                                                                                                                                                                                      a gluten-intolerant person with celiac disease
                                                                                                                                                                                      a vegetarian
                                                                                                                                                                                      another vegetarian that eats no soy
                                                                                                                                                                                      several people who will not touch pork for various reasons
                                                                                                                                                                                      two friends who can't have alcohol: one a "friend of bill," the other has some sort of liver condition that i've never understood.
                                                                                                                                                                                      and on and on and on.

                                                                                                                                                                                      as a hostess, i work around all of this because i have true respect and feelings for all these people and their significant others/children. the people, are more than WORTH the effort of the work-around.
                                                                                                                                                                                      that said:
                                                                                                                                                                                      the work-around becomes that much more difficult if i have to try to corral the gift-giving folks.

                                                                                                                                                                                      still, if a friend shows up with a gift in hand, i am gracious (even if the gift will be brought to the outside trash bin as soon as it can be slipped out of the house.)

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                      i think i understand what LindaWhit is saying:

                                                                                                                                                                                      the desire of the gift-giving person to give the gift always takes precedence over the desire of the gift-receiver NOT to have to deal with the gift.
                                                                                                                                                                                      this is true even when the receiver has expressly asked that the giver NOT come with a gift.

                                                                                                                                                                                      is this a correct understanding of what you're saying, LindaWhit?

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                        That's it, westsidegal. I think we're all on the same page that one's actions as to how they receive the gift in front of the gift giver is of utmost importance. How you actually feel about it and what you do with it afterwards is your business.

                                                                                                                                                                                        A "sort of" example - when I was young, my father's mother used to give us clothes from the slightly older girl down the street as gifts. We *knew* she got hand-me-downs from this family for us girls. But we understood where it came from based on the family history of being incarcerated by the Japanese while living in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and losing everything they had. This was a waste not, want not woman. (She also saved and reused foil, plastic bags, rubber bands, and the like - she was a recycler from *way* back! LOL)

                                                                                                                                                                                        One Easter, I was given a cream colored cardigan sweater with embroidered pink and yellow flowers all the front that was too small - as in I had difficulty putting my arms down the sleeves, which were way too short. (We usually weren't given gifts on Easter - just the Easter basket.) My eyes widened, but I thanked Grandmother for the gift, folded it, put it back in the box it came in, and when we got in the car on the drive home, Mom turned to me and said to me "Don't worry - we can donate that." When Grandmother called me on my birthday and asked how I liked the sweater (6 months later) I was able to say I had grown out of the sweater.

                                                                                                                                                                                        But the gift giver, Grandmother, was pleased I "liked" the sweater when it was given to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                          my mother, , as she was trying to downsize the tremendous amount of "stuff" she had accumulated over the years, started giving her used items as gifts.
                                                                                                                                                                                          i believe that all my cousins, the primary recipients of the gifts,
                                                                                                                                                                                          thanked her and chucked the stuff. (by then, nobody wanted to spend the time or money to maintain a hand-embroidered linen tablecloth).

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                            ::::wincing:::: But then again, I like antiques and "old things". Especially since I am one. :-P

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                              if you're sharing a studio apartment in new york with a galley kitchen and absolutely no room for ANY kind of dining room table, the whole process of storing and maintaing such items for the imaginary day when you MIGHT actually be able to afford a dining room table just was too much.

                                                                                                                                                                                              i was about to fly the coop and live in a college dorm.
                                                                                                                                                                                              my brother was in high school.
                                                                                                                                                                                              truly, there was nobody in the family that could afford the space, dry cleaning, life style, that someone would need to support those tablecloths or any other of the hundreds of items that my mother had collected over the course of 40 years or so.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. In theory, I would show up empty handed if the host told me to, but in reality my wife would never allow it.

                                                                                                                                                                              My dad and I have been lampooning the gifting ritual for years now by exchanging random pantry items, such as sardines or hot sauce. Both of us will be deadpanning with the most sincere facial expressions, pointing out things on the label and saying "look, these beans are from Ontario! They're the good ones!"

                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. As a host, I can't stand it when people bring flowers. I don't need any "host" gifts, really, and when I say "just bring yourself" I really mean "just bring yourself."

                                                                                                                                                                                  The one exception is to call on your way over and ask if there's anything I need at the last minute.

                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                    I just want to say: I love when people bring flowers, it's not an everyday occurance for me and I like seeing them for several days after, reminding me of the fun we had. So if you are a friend of mine, don't stop bringing them!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                      JayF
                                                                                                                                                                                      if you don't like flowers now, i guarantee that you'll like them even less after you watch an asthmatic dinner guest go into a severe allergy attack when the flowers are brought into the house by another guest.

                                                                                                                                                                                      really "makes the party."

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                                        My best friend has asthma, so I'm well versed in not having the things around that set it off. I myself am sensitive to scented things, so we make a good pair.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I think we could have a nice dinner party together, WSG.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I'm old skool and always bring ~something~.

                                                                                                                                                                                      A note to those who find their panties all a-twist...the "little something" is a host(ess) GIFT. The use of said gift is at the discretion of the receiver. Soap. Candles. Candy. Flowers. Wine. If the host chooses to use those item immediately that is the choice of the receiver.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                                                                                                                        I can conceive of situations in which candy, flowers, and wine would be nice gifts.

                                                                                                                                                                                        But soap? And by candles, do you mean scented candles? No comprendo. Straight in the garbage.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Since this thread has been revived, I want to share the most fabulous gift we got last week.

                                                                                                                                                                                        A large, monogrammed canvas tote bag with monogrammed wine glasses, a lovely entertaining cookbook, a wine opener and hand towel.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I told our friends it was like Christmas morning in a bag. It was prepared beautifully with tissue and ribbons and made me day.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. My family never, ever, showed up emptyhanded at someones home. Even if we just happened to be in the neighborhood and were stopping by for coffee my mom and dad would stop by a bakery or deli for to get some cake or cookies.
                                                                                                                                                                                          I follow their lead which I believe is proper manners.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Guests showing up emptyhanded always amazes me. I always figure that they were not brought up right. Most offenders are clueless. Go figure?
                                                                                                                                                                                          It does not take much energy to stop at a liquor store, supermarket or deli for some beer, flowers, wine, cake or cookies.

                                                                                                                                                                                          22 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                            <Guests showing up emptyhanded always amazes me. I always figure that they were not brought up right.>

                                                                                                                                                                                            This attitude sickens me.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                What do you expect? I wasn't brought up right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Jay F
                                                                                                                                                                                                  you make me laugh!
                                                                                                                                                                                                  (speaking as someone who clearly wasn't brought up right either)
                                                                                                                                                                                                  FUN!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The travails of the "not brought up right." What can I say?

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                And here I am, appalled that anyone should feel there is a "price of admission" to my home when they are invited.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Guess I wasn't raised right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Violatp

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Price of admission? Not! Just common (maybe not so common these days?) manners.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Guess I wasn't raised right." Perhaps?
                                                                                                                                                                                                  We've all got our value systems and traditions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Violatp

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Do you truly feel that your guests who bring a gift feel forced to do so? Do you really feel that is what they are thinking-that you are requiring a "price of admission"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I find that so incredibly sad, regardless of how one was raised.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    To be "appalled" that someone wants to bring you something is not something I can even conceive. I could no more be "appalled" by that than I could be "appalled" if they didn't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Putting aside the "hostess gift" idea do you feel this way about gifts overall? Are you appalled by birthday parties too?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I am floored by this. All these years, I was supposed to bring a gift every time I went to someone's house, and I didn't know it. I thought my friends actually liked ... *me*.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Floored.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                        OK Jay- I am not getting you? I responded to Viola, asking why she would be "appalled" by someone who did bring a gift.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I could no more be "appalled" by someone bringing a gift than I could be by one who didn't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Growing up it was common place to bring a small token when invited to someones home for an "occasion". First dinner with the BF's parents, a holiday meal at a non-family members home, a semi formal/formal dinner party, a celebratory luncheon to name a few. It was not expected "every time you went to someones home". I can say that one of my single "uncles" who I don't think ever ate a meal in his own home ever arrived anywhere empty handed though. Maybe thats how he kept the meal train going?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Now all grown up and in my 50's the culture in this area has remained. But even so I cannot think of single one of my friends, family members, work associates or acquaintances who have people over dinner in the hopes of getting some loot. They have people over for dinner because they like them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        edited to add- if you (general you) have been doing or not doing something for years with no issue, why worry about? Why does someone else doing (or not doing) it bother you, especially to point of having such extreme reactions?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                          What I'm really reacting to, foodie, isn't you, or what you wrote, so much as the person who said that people who don't bring a gift every time they go to someone's house "weren't brought up right."

                                                                                                                                                                                                          My reading of what Viola wrote is that she's appalled by the notion that a friend would feel they *have* to bring a gift when they come to her house for dinner. I don't think she is appalled by the gift, or the person who brought the gift, but by the thought, apparently popular in some quarters, that a friend might think she's unwelcome Viola's house if she's not bearing some kind of offering (help me out here, Viola).

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I happen to feel the same way. I neither need nor want gifts. My friends' company is enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          This is the concept I was floored by, this notion that I "wasn't brought up right" because I don't bring or expect gifts from my friends when we get together in each other's homes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          FWIW, I have brought desserts I made to many, many dinner parties, just in case you think I'm some complete social retard. But soap? Bring soap to someone's house? Or candles? Not on any day of my life. And I should feel bad about it? Please.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          As for "such extreme reactions," well, it simply never occurred to me until today that there is a type of person, some of whom I may think of as very good friends, who are dissing me, if only to themselves, because I'm so un-well-brought-up that I dared to darken their doorstep without first stopping off to buy them soap or candles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          It honestly never occurred to me, and I'm old. So I may have a list of offended friends so long I'll need the rest of my life to make proper reparations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                            No soap and candles here either! LOL Unless you know your host/hostess really well those are way too "personal taste" gifts. Though I am guilty of not giving things that I don't want to receive- smelly candles and sops, hand creams, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            My gifts for friends are usually something homemade-jelly, jam, bread and butter pickles or maybe a bottle of wine or some scotch, For a few friends I might bring over something for them have the next am-good coffee or tea, homemade muffins or scones.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            For dinner at the bosses, visiting my husbands family who I see rarely, I might go more "gifty" but only after doing my research first.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The only time I would give soap or candles (as I mentioned in my post) is if I really did know the person well. For example, I have an aunt in her 70s who LOVES fancy soaps and candles. So, I know that any of those items I give to her will be appreciated and used. I wouldn't give something personal like that to someone I wasn't that close with, like a friend of my SO's or a work colleague.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                                                                          maybe our friends keep inviting us back even though we don't bring gifts, are doing it as a way to give to the "poor" people who weren't brought up right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          if not, i just can't imagine what their motivation would be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Violatp

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, the traditional (Emily Post/ Miss Manners) response as to the duties of a dinner guest are: arrive on time (but not early), be sociable and mingle with everyone, And, then, after the event, send a handwritten thank you note, which at the guest's option may be accompanied by a hostess gift, as well as reciprocating in due time with an invitation to one's home. Modern manners seem to have largely dispensed with the post-dinner thank you, by replacing it with an anticipatory gift in advance. Indeed, it's become so well-fixed in most circles that a gift should accompany the guest to the event that, as this thread demonstrates, one is often viewed as a clod if you fail to do so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Do you do that even if the hosts tell you not to bring anything?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                                          When I ask: "Can I bring something" it infers something to eat, as in dessert, appetizer, ice, beverage, etc..
                                                                                                                                                                                                          The host/hostess response: "you don't need to bring anything" means they have all aspects of the dinner covered.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          A bottle of wine, flowers, Miata, kittens or puppy has never offended a host or hostess. Maye the puppy and kittens are going too far.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'd love to have a guest bring me a kitty! Clever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Nor did mine, motosport, and I carry on in kind. Never flowers, but a food or drink they knew the hosts loved---just for the hosts, for "later", not for the party.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I absolutely don't expect hostess gifts on the rare times when I host, but I think it a very sweet gesture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. I don't think it's great/cool to enter with a gift that all the other guests see. Just bring something the hosts can have for breakfast, or dessert the *next* night. Bring some gingerbread (wrapped to refrigerate) and a can of Reddi-wip (real cream) topping in a bag, quick into the fridge, back to dinner party.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. This thread has really gotten interesting over the last few years. Soap? Candles? How about deodorant, would that send the wrong message?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Heh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                                              for the hostess with B.O.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              might as well throw in a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some breath mints while we're at it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I was raised with a mother who made everything from scratch...jams, jellies, bread, pastries etc. She also grew everything we ate. Whenever she'd go down the street to visit a friend in the neighborhood or we'd be invited to dinner or lunch or breakfast we brought one of her homemade goods or fruit or vegetables. She considered it a nice gesture.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              I suppose it's why I also carry on the tradition. I don't bring wine with the expectation it be used at the meal or anything else that I bring, for that matter. I don't bring flowers because I wouldn't want to disrupt the host's rhythm. Whatever I bring it is placed near the door, on a table, with a note...with no acknowledgement.