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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!