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Do you bring a host/hostess gift?

  • m

I was raised to always bring *something* when invired to a meal or a party, whether in someone's private home or in a resaurant. Depending on the occasion r person, it may be a bottle of wine, box of chocolate, a plant. Tomorrow, the man I've been dating, is taking me to a Labor Day luncheon buffet at the home of one of the doctors he works with. I have never met this person and, to complicate matters, my boyfriend's parents will also be there as his dad is also a doctor. His mom is not fond of the !CalifrnaGirl' in her on's life (I'm nice, I pronise! :)) and so I want to be sure to bring an appropriate hostess gift knowing that Scary Mom will be watching. I bought a very nice wicker tray filled with a variety of nuts and had it wrapped beautifully in cellophane with ribbon. Is that appropriate? Certainly better than the bag of weed I'm sure his mom thinks I'd deem appropriate! :-0. Any thoughts?

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    1. Bottle of wine. Even if they don't drink it, they can hold onto it for some occasion.

      1. It sounds like weed might improve mom's disposition :0

        Your gift sounds tasteful and appropriate.

        1. 3 thoughts re: nuts
          1. I think the basket sounds lovely and I'd certainly welcome one myself;
          2. confirm with BF that nuts will be welcome in recipient's home (allergies, dislikes, dietary considerations);
          3. it's nice to include any tools needed to use the gift, in this case, a nutcracker, esp. since some households don't have one. You can find a ~$5 set (simple cracker + nut pick) at a discount store or -- strangely enough -- a hardware store. I've seen them in the housewares aisle (canning supplies, slow cookers, etc).

          Personally, I'm frustrated by host behavior more than gift selection. The last 3 times I gave a food item, the host/hostess immediately opened the item and served it, no matter how inappropriate to his/her menu. Once, it there wasn't even food being served and i was so uncomfortable. A couple people asked if it was a potluck!

          The last time I gave food, I made caponata because I knew the hostess loved Nicoise olives. She asked how to use it and I said you could use it like a spread on crackers or bruschetta; or fold it into an omelet; or embellish grilled fish or chicken. Am I wrong that this explanation suggests I didn't bring it to eat immediately?
          Anyway, she disappears into the kitchen, I think to put the caponata away. But no, she comes back with cheese and crackers on a dish with the jar of caponata in the middle. Now, this gal has had a well-traveled childhood, having pretty sophisticated parents. And we're fairly close so I don't feel uncomfortable saying, "Actually, this is a hostess gift; I wouldn't insult you by implying that you needed help putting together refreshments for a small party."
          She blinks a few times and clearly doesn't know the term, "hostess gift". Her BF is one of those people who eats any time there's food within reach and he's already popped 2 pieces of cheese in his mouth. So I dropped the issue.

          Thus, I gave up giving food items, yet the craziness continues. I was the "+1" at a party and brought some ornamental soaps for the hosts. The female host looked extremely confused; I said "it's just a hostess gift, no big whoop." and went into the party. The hostess came by 1/2 hour later to show me the bowl she had put the soaps in and to ask if they should be in individual bowls for the guests. (???)
          I explained they were soap not candy, and repeated that they were a hostess gift. She got kind of stiff, so I very gently explained that a hostess gift is a thank you for being invited and the hostess should use the gift herself; I didn't bring them to be used at the bruncheon.
          She turned away and later I saw the bowl with the soaps ON THE BUFFET TABLE!

          That was at Easter. Since then, I've given hostess gifts after the event if convenient for me, otherwise, no.

          Has this problem happened to others? Like miri1, I was raised not to come empty-handed, so it is uncomfortable for me. But it's obvious that many hosts find it confusing or even burdensome to receive them.

          16 Replies
          1. re: meowzebub

            Sorry, but I disagree. A hostess gift does not necessarily mean it has to be used only by the hostess after the party. It is a gift and the recipient does with it what she wants. I think your friend thought she was being kind by sharing it with the other guests; showing her appreciation and allowing them to share in your generosity and cooking skills.

            1. re: ttoommyy

              And what if you bring flowers? Can the hostess put those out right away, or is she supposed to throw them in the back of the coat closet until the guests leave?

              1. re: small h

                Or give each guest one flower to take home?

                1. re: coll

                  It seems to me that smallh and coll are deliberately ignoring the spirit of ttoommyy's post, which notes that the host/ess should not feel obligated to serve or share the gift but to do as s/he likes. If that pleasure is to share it, that's fine. The point is that the host/ess should not feel obligated to do so.

                  1. re: Lizard

                    <It seems to me that smallh and coll are deliberately ignoring the spirit of ttoommyy's post, which notes that the host/ess should not feel obligated to serve or share the gift but to do as s/he likes.>

                    You misunderstand. My point is that of course the hostess should not feel obligated to serve or share, but nor should she feel *forbidden* to serve or share. Meowzebub's post (the one that ttoommyy disagrees with, and that I disagree with, and that I assume coll also disagrees with) suggests that it's bad manners to serve a hostess gift, and that the recipient should hold onto it and use it at a later time.

                    1. re: small h

                      Right, small h, and your post implied that ttoommyy was forbidding this, and I saw no such suggestion in the post. So yes, we're all in agreement that the host/ess should not feel any obligation either way. Therefore, I'm not clear why disagreement is being introduced at all. Seems unproductive if you ask me.

                      1. re: Lizard

                        My post was not intended to imply any such thing. My post was intended to show agreement with ttoommyy and support his position by offering an (absurd) example to illustrate the inappropriateness of dictating to a hostess what she should do with her hostess gift. Disagreement was introduced by ttoommyy in his post of 9/1, so that's where the "unproductive" behavior began, if you're keeping score at home.

                        1. re: small h

                          smallh, you responded directly to me with:

                          "And what if you bring flowers? Can the hostess put those out right away, or is she supposed to throw them in the back of the coat closet until the guests leave?"

                          That does not sound in agreement with me.

                          Edit: sorry if I came off harshly in other posts, but I felt attacked for giving an honest, positive opinion and "came out fighting." I apologize.

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            I see where the confusion came from. I didn't mean "you" (ttoommyy); I meant "you" (person bearing hostess gift). I probably should've said "one," but "one" always feels so stilted to me.

                            Here's what my example was supposed to express: if the recipient should not pour the wine or serve the cheese, does it follow that she likewise must refrain from displaying the flowers? I hope that clears things up and caps this digression.

              2. re: meowzebub

                >>and later I saw the bowl with the soaps ON THE BUFFET TABLE!
                Lol. That one takes the cake. And the soap too.

                1. re: meowzebub

                  I prefer people bring something that can be consumed that night (wine, flowers, sweets, etc.). I am not ungracious when I receive a gift, but generally on the inside I'm groaning about more "stuff" that I will have to get rid of.

                  1. re: LeoLioness

                    Lately I've been bringing basil. Because I'm trying to get rid of it. So accepting the basil is actually the hostess' gift to me.

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      I prefer consumables as well. One of the best hostess gifts I have received was a pretty little set of specialty salts (a grey salt, pink salt and lemon salt). Perfect.

                    2. re: meowzebub

                      She turned away and later I saw the bowl with the soaps ON THE BUFFET TABLE!

                      Not on the buffet table but in the living room.

                      I gave someone three handmade soaps from France. Weeks later she told me they were too nice to use and she put them on the living room coffee table. I have no doubt they are still there 3 years later.

                      1. re: cleobeach

                        Maybe "too nice to use" is just a polite way to say "I don't like scented soaps"? They are actually being "used" while on display, just not in the intended manner.

                    3. Miri,
                      Considering the amount of thought you are putting into this, I am sure what you end up giving will be appreciated and, of course, dutifully noted by your boyfriend's mother. You can also think of this as an opportunity to further break the ice with her and hopefully become more accepted by your boyfriend's family. In any case, I am sure you come out of this ahead. Good luck!

                      1. i always bring something and remain surprised by how many people do not.

                        raised by wolves?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          None of my friends come empty-handed, but I wouldn't call it a "hostess present" (a term that cracks me up--how quaint to assume the"lady of the house" is solely in charge of entertaining). I'm much happier to see them come with a bottle or some dessert than a candle or soap.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            There are different traditions. I was taught that a hostess gift is called for, BUT
                            My father's family brought it with them
                            My mother's family sent it after the event with a thank you note
                            My wife's family has it delivered in advance (wine or flowers)

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              however it gets there. :)

                              and YES!!! never, ever underestimate the power of a hand-written thank you note. definitely a lost courtesy that takes only a few seconds to do.

                          2. A friend is frying up some redfish today. I'm bringing a twelve pack of Modelo Especial.

                            1. there was a very long and very contentious thread along this exact theme not too long ago -- I'm pretty sure it was locked; it may have been removed.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sunshine842

                                I remember it well sunshine.

                                People's opinion on this subject is pretty much "goes one way or the other". This subject was beaten to death on the old thread, with both sides steadily arguing and holding on to their beliefs.


                                1. When staying in the home of family/friends I always bring a small gift. What it is depends on the nature of the visit and my relationship to the hosts. It usually consumables, often something I have made myself.

                                  When going to a formal dinner party I usually send a flower arrangement in advance that the host can use as desired or I will bring a nice bottle of champagne. I will offer to bring food but respect the host’s wishes if they say no knowing unwanted food can throw off your whole menu.

                                  For casual parties I never arrive empty handed but the "gift" really runs the gamut. These are people I know well so it matches the person-food, wine, flowers, cookies, fresh baked bread, even the latest OPI shade!

                                  Meeting a significant others family/boss/coworkers/etc for the first time (and many times after) I find out as much as I can in advance and try to arrive with something somewhat personal that can give the least offense. I have learned over time that there are many people who find offense in the smallest gesture.

                                  1. i love the idea of the nut basket - thoughtful AND original!

                                    how could you NOT love someone who is thoughtful enough to bring a hostess gift? sounds like Scary Mom needs to back off a bit. she's probably just being protective...right??

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: rmarisco

                                      I am so juvenile, that now I officially love the idea of a 'nut basket'.

                                    2. If I were your b/f's mom, I would not care what you brought over (well, I never liked weed. It made me too quiet--although others will argue). The fact you are bringing a hostess gift proves YOUR mother raised a very nice girl.

                                      1. I most often don't bring one (I've seen authorities who say it's not impolite to not bring one) and as a host I'd rather not be burdened with another plant or a wine I won't serve that night or some "gift food assortment" I'll throw away.

                                        But you mentioned BF's parents being there, so ... yeah, bring one. And your idea is IMO really very good.

                                        Save the weed for BF.

                                        1. I always bring a hostess gift. Mostly home made - jams, pickles, etc. or cocktail napkins with fun things to say.

                                          1. Sounds wonderful!

                                            Hope scary mom doesn't choke ...

                                            1. If Scary Mom already has it out for you, she may choose to find fault no matter what you bring or don't bring. (Personally, I think your gift is tasteful and appropriate).

                                              1. Yes.

                                                The actual gift depends on the host/hostess, but often it is flowers, or perhaps a wine, that they will never see at retail.


                                                1. I think that sounds like a really nice gift so long as you're certain there are no allergies and you don't mutter 'well you are what you eat' as you hand them over.

                                                  Good luck with the bridge building.


                                                  1. Sounds like a great idea. I would never go to a meal or party at someone's home empty handed. Simple bottle of wine or flowers works.
                                                    Dinner at a restaurant is different. If it was an occasion yes, otherwise it's all about the company.

                                                    1. Miri,
                                                      By now you are at the luncheon and have made up your mind what to do.
                                                      You were brought up correctly and taught to bring a hostess gift when invited to a meal/party.
                                                      BUT>>>>you were not invited, you BF is the invitee and you are the plus one. It doesn't matter that your BF's parents are also there. It is your BF's obligation to get a hostess gift and put bth your names on the card. Chances are a hostess gift from you would be lost in the shuffle, the hosts don't really know who you are.
                                                      That said, what you MUST do is mail a lovely thank you card to the hosts tomorrow. That is necessary, and the chances are the hostess will mention to 'scary' mom, you know I git such a lovely thank you note from the girl your son brought yesterday, it was the only one that came, she was raised correctly.

                                                      sage advice from a dad, who is busy assessing suitors for his daughters

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                        Bagelman, you are a genius! :)! Iwill absolutely send a thank you card! Great idea.

                                                        As for the nuts, I didn't end up bringung them. When I got to the car, the bf asked me what I was carrying. When I told him, he begged me not to bring it because his mom specifically forbade him from bringing anything. I have no idea why, and there was no way I was going to go against her wishes/dictate!

                                                        The party was lovely, hus colleagues very friendly. My bf is a gem. I'm on crutches after a nasty fall and he catered to me, the entire night. As it was buffet style, he brought me plates of food, and when it proved to be too spicy for me (it was Indian) he went back and brought me a plate of pain rice, fruit, naan and some sweets. His mom was polite, if cool, but t was a nice evening.

                                                        1. re: Miri1

                                                          What a control freak! She "forbade?"
                                                          Don't let her rules keep you from being the generous polite person you obviously are in future situations.
                                                          Good luck sweetie! Your bf sounds like a doll.

                                                          1. re: Berheenia

                                                            I don't know this 'scary mom,' but keep in mind: Miri was not forbidden to bring anything. The mom 'forbade' her son to bring anything. The son extended this to his date.

                                                            As this is about dining/guest behaviors and customs, not social/family dynamics, I'll not pass comments about 'tied to the apron strings' and such.

                                                            BUT as the hosts are friends/associates of the BF's parents, 'scary mom' may know that the host/ess doesn't want gifts and was forewarning son in a strong manner.

                                                            Miri did the right thing, although not the invitee, she prepared and brought a hostess gift, and she honored the request of BF not to bring it in to the party, this avoiding confrontation. She is sending a proper thank you note, and a good time was had by all.

                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                              I did get it about who Scary Mom was forbidding. My post was to compliment and support Miri.

                                                          2. re: Miri1

                                                            Are bf/Scary Mom Indian? Lots of cultural issues, if so. Especially if you're not. (spoken as a non-Indian married to an Indian)

                                                            1. re: pine time

                                                              As a matter of fact, the host family IS indeed Indian. Such a warm, friendly family! I felt bad about not giving them something to thank them for their wonderful hospitality but Scary Mom...I was not about to butt headsnwith her.

                                                              As for the bf and apron strings etc, yes, its an issue. But I can't fault him because I was raised in a similar manner. Its hard to fahom unless you have lived it.

                                                              But, to bring the topic back to where its suppised to be, I did try, I did bring the gift, and a thak you note is in the mail. I helped keep the peace between mother and son, and all is well in the Land of Romance. And, after all, isn't that what matters? :)

                                                              1. re: Miri1

                                                                Absolutely agree.

                                                                And, some things I've thought were polite weren't acceptable in hubs family. And some things I'd find not acceptable weren't rude at all in his family. It's a constant learning & adjustment, but in happy ways.

                                                                Hope ya'll remain so happily in love!

                                                        2. A variety of nuts is lovely. The old adage "It's the thought that counts" definitely rings true with a hostess gift. It is a lovely, kind gesture, whether it be a bottle of wine, a succulent, nuts or truffles. I feel like its a dying trend, and that it should be brought back with a vengeance, after all, it's a small token for someone who has spent a lot of time and money to entertain you. However, I think you should be careful--while I don't think it can be too small, I do feel like it can be too big, after all, you don't want to embarrass the hostess or the other guests. FWIW, I have been to many a dinner party where a bag of weed would not have been at all inappropriate.