I was just quoted as an "interior designer and etiquette expert" by writer Beth Engleman in an atricle on hostess gifts . Since its about to be the time of year when we celebrate with family and friends (nearly every weekend, it seems!)- I pulled together my go-to hostess gifts and created a layout with my favorites. Hostess gifts aren't meant to break the bank, but they should be tokens of thoughtful appreciation. When I say "thoughtful" appreciation- that means a selection should be made or personalized based on the host. Everyone has a favorite flower, color, varietal of wine, scent, etc. Simply take what you know about that person, (or what you can gather if you are the +1 who volunteered to bring a little something) and use that as your guide. As mentioned in the article- cash and/or gift cards are inappropriate and careless. Also, keep in mind that you were not invited because the host wants a gift from you- so don't go overboard. Just a little something to say "Thank You" will suffice. Its an extra layer of social grace that, when remembered, is never forgotten.
My Favorite Hostess Gifts
Scented Candles- okay, I admit it. Candles are one of my favorite gifts in general. They are a nice and compact gift that the receiver can use just about anywhere. Also think about other items that go with candles, such as a Candle Snuffer. A snuffer is typically an item most people don't have- but once they have one, they love it.
You can never go wrong with a Bottle of Wine (unless, of course, the host and/or hostess do not partake in alcohol). Other items that go along with wine, such as a nice wine opener, a set of interesting wine stoppers, or a wine coaster and collar set would also make nice hostess gifts; however, not all at once (pick one!).
Flowers, glorious flowers. The only risk when bringing flowers is allergies- so please consider that. If there are no known allergies or you are willing to chance it- give away! I favor sending flowers before the event. This is a good way to do it so you, 1) don't forget, and, 2) don't have to risk possibly spilling water/pollen on yourself, in your car or in the taxi on the way. If you send them beforehand- you will definitely pleasantly surprise your host. Write a simple sentiment such as " Looking forward to dinner tomorrow". If its holiday time, you can may want to send a live wreath. Williams-Sonoma is my favorite source for live wreaths anytime of year.
My favorite type of dish to give is a platter. Go simple if you don't know the the host that well (think white porcelain) or find something really neat if you know the hostess's home style. My mom is a baker, and sometimes she will make what I like to call a "recipe kit". She will whip up a batch of her baked goodness (such as her signature petite lemon cakes with glaze.....yummm!), purchase a specific tool/pan that is needed in order to make the item and attach a handwritten recipe card. Its a hit- especially if you know the receiver loves your particular recipe for something. You could also put your signature item on a platter and attach the recipe card. My other favorite kitchen-related gift is an ice scoop. Its another item, like the candle snuffer, that people don't generally have, but love to use when they have one.
My last go-to item is a book. Everyone loves a book. It can be a "coffee table" book or a point of interest topic specific to the host (such as gardening, or vegetarian recipes, or a travel journal, etc.)
Lastly, keep a few sizes and colors of grosgrain ribbon, tulle, and sturdy boxes on hand, such as small hat boxes or quality gift boxes. You will never have to pick out wrapping paper or spend time trying to wrap an awkward shape. All you have to do is put a simple bow around your gift, place your gift in a quality box with a simple ribbon around the box, or wrap your gift in tulle and tie a bow around the neck (works great with a bottle of wine). Stay away from curling ribbon, stick-on bows, generic gift bags and tissue paper. Keep it simple, yet elegant.