Hostess Gifts: Yes or No?

Just one of the awesome gifts I have received from a guest recently...
Just one of the awesome gifts I have received from a guest recently…

A friend’s status update on Facebook has sparked this post. Well, not so much the update, as one of the comments “Hostess gift? Is this 1953?” I am here to tell you that there a few very acceptable times when you do not need to bring a gift with you when invited to someone’s home. But, most of the time you should. Why? Because it is good manners. 

When a friend, neighbor, colleague or person-you-hope-becomes-a-better-friend soon invites you over, it is customary to bring a token gift. If you are going for brunch, or dinner, something small is perfect. Bring a bottle of wine. Grab a bouquet of flowers (in a vase. Nobody wants to have to search frantically for a vessel when company is arriving.) Pick up a box of chocolates.

Some exceptions: People you dine with on a regular basis. Every time I go to my parents’ house for dinner, I don’t feel the need to bring chocolates. (Of course, since they are probably reading this, I am on the hook for next time.) When you dine frequently with the same friends or family, it is not expected that you would bring something. However, if you are dining with people only on occasion that is a good time to break out a gift. If you are going to someone’s house for a holiday, bring a gift. If you are going to someone’s house to watch the super bowl, bring beer. (It is something.)

My favorite thing to bring – and the often expected gift – is wine. All of our friends know that we are wine geeks, and are generally happy to share a bottle, or three.

In the past four months, we have had guests thirteen times, and we have received a number of gifts along the way. Everything from pie in a jar, to spatulas (on more than one occasion, and they are all awesome), dinners out, food that you can’t get in Key West was brought for us,and more. The point is to acknowledge your hosts. I have gone shopping and made my hosts dinner (complete with wine that we brought with us).

So, despite the person that commented that hostess gifts were reminiscent of 1953, yes, you generally should bring something, or if you are staying a while, do something.