Hostess gifts for non-wine drinkers: What are good ideas?

by EPI Staff on April 27, 2011

Q: My husband and I will be attending a dinner part hosted by a couple who don’t drink alcohol. Usually, I’d bring a bottle of wine as a preset-what’s a good alternative?

A: Hostess gifts should always be matched to their recipients. Though wine’s out, the options are endless: a potted plant, homemade blueberry muffins, or decorative coasters are a few possibilities. Or choose something tied to your host’s favorite hobbies- a selection of flower bulbs or a few golf balls of their preferred brand.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia April 27, 2011 at 8:19 am

Chocolates, flowers, fancy olive oils, fancy cheese, nice napkins, a jar full of vanilla beans,some taper candles, honestly any of the practical yet splurge items.

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Just Laura April 27, 2011 at 9:17 am

If someone brought me olive oil, I would be in a hog’s heaven. :)

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Nina April 27, 2011 at 10:16 am

I actually have the opposite problem. I don’t drink at all, but when I’m invited to dinner and ask, “Can I bring something?” the host/ess usually says, “A bottle of wine would be great.” I don’t mind at all (I just ask the staff in the liquor store what is good) but when I wind up drinking water all evening, the host/ess is usually embarrassed to have asked me to contribute something I can’t enjoy.

Should I stop offering to bring anything? It seems a bit pushy to make my offer more specific–I can’t think how to word it so it doesn’t include alcohol. And really, wine is a bit more of a contribution than cookies, etc.–I don’t want to seem ungenerous.

Thoughts?

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Alicia April 27, 2011 at 10:40 am

How about either just stop offering and just bringing a hostess gift.
Or saying something like ” would you like me to bring some dessert?” or ” could I bring some rolls from this great bakery near me?” or “Would you like me to bring an appetizer or a dessert?”

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Country Girl April 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Alicia’s answer is perfect. I, as well, would offer to bring a specific course or dish (ie. dessert/salad/side) which would compliment the hostess’s meal. Of course it is fine to continue to just bring a bottle of wine as you have been doing if that is what the hostess requests. Most of your friends and acquaintances will catch on to the fact that you don’t inbibe and they will likely stop asking you to bring the drinks anyway. =)

Also a good point for hostesses: try to give your guests a couple of options if they ask if they can bring anything. As this demonstrates the embarrassment of requesting your guest bring something they either will have a difficult time buying/making and won’t be able to enjoy at the party.

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Nina April 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Thanks, Alicia and Country Girl! It’s good to know that people wouldn’t mind me offering to bring something specific–I was worried about that.

I don’t find hostess gifts are done much in my circles–people just bring food or drink for the evening. I think it’s because none of us has much time or money, so if someone is generous enough to host, we try to help them out. I could be wrong, it might be regional.

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Lady Antipode May 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Trying to help each other out isn’t regional, it’s appropriate to your and your friends’ circumstances. If it means you can all happily enjoy each other’s company (without stressing because you spent your entire week’s grocery money on one meal), then all the better.

Alicia is right, instead of asking the open-ended ‘Can I bring something?’, be specific instead. If you’re accustomed to bringing something to drink, ask if you can bring soft drink (soda or pop, that is), sparkling water or juice. Or even some exotically flavoured coffee/tea and some chocolates for after dinner.

Country Girl, I’m interested in whether you think the guest offering should provide a few options, to make sure it complements the host’s meal. Should the guest offer to bring ‘soft drink or coffee’, or ‘bread rolls or a salad’? Or does this run the risk of being told ‘yes’ and therefore being none the wiser?

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Stephen May 3, 2011 at 3:27 am

If you know their menu, maybe something that would go well like a appetizer desert or an hors de obsourve of some kind might be OK.

Other things include Flowers, a centerpiece, or some type of gift that the person would love if you decide on a non-food gift.

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Mimi November 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm

We cannot drink alcohol and never have it in our home, so what do we do when new friends bring wine as a hostess gift? We don’t entertain very often, but the last time this happened we had to borrow a corkscrew from a neighbor to even open the wine! We now have a corkscrew but how do we avoid embarrassing the guest who brought it when they see we don’t drink a glass of wine with them?

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Elizabeth November 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm

You can avoid embarrassing your guests by simply not making a big deal out of it. Just smile, thank them, and say – “unfortunately we don’t drink alcohol for religious/medical reasons, but we’re happy to pop the cork if you’d like a glass!” If they seem uncomfortable and say, “oh, you’re not having any?” You again can put them at ease: “No, but you go ahead, it doesn’t bother us at all.”

You could also address it at the time of invitation. “Bob, Marsha, we’d love to have you over for dinner Friday night. Just so you know, we don’t drink, but if you’d like to bring an alcoholic drink for yourselves, that’s totally fine.”

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Alicia November 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Also you do not have to serve a hostess gift. One polite option would be to graciously say thank you for the wine and then at a later date quietly regift it to some friend who does like wine

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