Friday, November 10, 2006

Host/Hostess Gifts

A reader e-mailed me to ask about appropriate gifts for the host or hostess of a holiday party, and my first thought was "holiday parties? as in Halloween?" until I realized about a half second later that December is less than 3 weeks away. Eek! On to some gift ideas...

Because each party and host or hostess is different, I don't like the idea of "one gift fits all." As a college student, I'll probably only attend holiday cocktail parties where boxed wine and jello shots are the main attraction, so I'm not going to go out and buy a $30 bottle of wine or a big bouquet of flowers for the hostess. Instead, bringing a snack or a bottle of alcohol to share is more than sufficient.

I'm a big believer in personalized gifts. You should pick a gift that matches the theme of the party or the interests/personality of the person hosting it (assuming you know them). It's also nice to do something a little different and unexpected.

For example, if you're going to a wine and cheese party, everyone is going to bring a bottle of wine for the host, so be a little different and stop by a cheese shop to pick up a couple different cheeses (ask the staff for recommendations). Or, if you're going to a dinner party and you know the host loves to cook, pick up some nice olive oil or balsamic vingegar, kitchen basics that can really add oomph to a dish. If your host is a huge dog lover, a box of gourmet dog treats would be a nice and thoughtful gift.

If there's a book you recently read that you think the hostess would enjoy, that's a great present too. Make sure to include a short note on the title page saying why you thought they'd like it.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time you're invited to a party by someone you don't know personally, like a company party. In this case, it's ok to go with a generic gift. Traditional host/hostess gifts include a bottle of red wine, a bouquet of flowers, hand or body lotion, a nice scented candle or a picture frame. No one will be offended by any of these gifts, but they're kind of boring.

Personally, I think that you truly cannot go wrong giving someone food, particularly something sweet. A box of chocolates, cookies, brownies, macaroons or cupcakes from your favorite chocolate shop or bakery is always welcome. If you're looking for a more adventurous gift, check out the gift ideas from Zingerman's, my favorite gourmet food store (they ship nationally).

I don't think it's necessary that you bring a present with you to the party, as long as the host gets it by mail within a couple of days. Order the gift at least a week in advance so you can guarantee it'll get to the person on time. If you want to bring flowers, mailing them is actually a better option so that you're not asking the hostess to find a vase and arrange the flowers when she has other things to do as the guests are arriving.

I hope this helps, and if anyone has any other suggestions of gifts they've given or received that everyone loved, please feel free to post in the comments.

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