1. Gnomon

    Hello. I’ve enjoyed Emily Post’s advice for a long time. This is the first time I’ve asked a question here.
    I am a single father with two young daughters. I will have custody of them this Thanksgiving. Normally I would take them to my extended family for the holiday, but that’s not possible this year.
    A good friend of mine (another single father) invited me to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. My daughters are friends with his daughter. I gratefully accepted the invitation.
    I have asked him twice whether I can bring anything, or contribute in any way. Both times he has insisted that I just come with my kids and enjoy the time together.
    My question: Would it be alright for me to bring something anyway, like a dessert, or side dish, or would that be considered rude (since he told me not to)? I don’t want to be a mooch, and I want to show my gratitude that he and his family have included us in their holiday celebration.
    Thank you!!!
    – Gnomon

    • Jerry

      You can show gratitude by bringing a host gift — a bottle of wine or whiskey, some chocolates, or some gourmet coffee beans.

      Bringing a dish would be obnoxious after he expressly told you not to bring anything. Your host has put together a menu — let him enjoy being the host and you can reciprocate another time.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      You can give a gift if you feel so inclined, but the best way to thank him is to say thank you by sending a thank-you note afterwards and also by inviting him to be your guest some time.

    • Alicia

      He has said no please do not bring anything. You should respect that. Instead send a thank you note ( actually this is a good thing for your kids to see you writing) and then invite him and his daughter over sometime soon something simple like pizza and board games or spaghetti and movie night would be excellent.

  2. Jody

    Gnomon — how kind of your friend to invite you. I would avoid bringing a dish that needs to be served at the dinner since your friend has said you don’t need to bring anything. If you want to bring a gift, ideas might be to bring a box of chocolates or cheese/gift box that doesn’t have to be served immediately (saying something like “this is for you to enjoy later”), or a gift card to your friend’s favorite restaurant.

    • Jerry

      For the love of all that is good in the world, please do not give your friend a gift card as a host gift. You might as well just bring him a check to pay for your portion of the meal. (The check, incidentally, would be just as tacky, but a lot more useful than a gift card that he could spend only at one place.)

      • Jody

        Jerry, once again you’re way off base. A gift card is a perfectly acceptable host gift. If you know the recipient likes X Restaurant (or X Store or whatever) a gift card to that establishment is a good way of giving something you know the recipient will enjoy. Just because you wouldn’t give one doesn’t mean it’s not a proper gift.

        • Alicia

          I agree with Jerry. Gift cards are an inferior host gift.Mainly because it is obvious exactly how much money is spent. I’m not saying they are wrong or unacceptable because they are acceptable they are just not nearly as good as something that is less about the money. A DVD of a movie that they could all watch together or a thing of chocolate or fancy sodas or even just a thank you note is better in my way of thinking then a gift card.

        • Jerry

          Dear Jody: I sincerely appreciate your willingness to articulate non-nonsensical positions and to serve as a foil.

          A gift card is not a proper gift because it is impersonal — there is very little difference between buying a gift card to a restaurant and writing someone a check. (And there can be no legitimate debate that giving cash as a host gift would be the height of rudeness.) Someone who has invited you to share a meal — a meal as intimate and important as Thanksgiving, no less — deserves a heartfelt gift. People who entertain in their home are not looking for you to pay a bill — otherwise, they would organize an outing to a restaurant. Gourmet foods, a book, a game, these are all appropriate host gifts. But a gift card in the circumstance described by Gnomon screams “thoughtless gift, thoughtless gift, you don’t care at all.”

          Gift cards to stores or restaurants are appropriate gifts for (i) your support staff (e.g., secretary, paralegal, or custodian) at Christmas, (ii) your teenaged grandchildren, nieces, or nephews when you have no idea what they might possibly want otherwise, (iii) an elementary school teacher or little league coach. You may also give a bride or groom a gift card to a store at which they have registered for wedding presents.

          • Joanna

            I also agree with Jerry – I would never give a gift card simply because it’s really impersonal. Any item, however small, indicates that you took a little time to make an effort as to a thank-you gift they might like. Even then, host/hostess thank-yous are typically along generic lines, i.e. a plant, a snack basket, etc. But still, that’s better than a gift card IMO.

        • Chocobo

          I also agree with Jerry, and I don’t think he’s off base at all. A gift card or cash payments are inferior gifts at any time, and I agree that they carry the connotation of paying for someone’s hospitality. If Gnomon knows that his friend likes a certain restaurant, the proper form of reciprocation would be to invite him out and host him at that restaurant, not to give him cash to go host himself there sometime.

          Personally I do not think it is necessary for Gnomon to bring a gift at all, especially since the friend has insisted that he not bring anything. Instead he should write a thank you note, and have his daughters do the same, and invite the friend for dinner with his daughters at another time in the very near future. Perhaps an informal Christmas party in a few weeks.

  3. Meredith

    Since there will be children, what about a child friendly board game? You can include your daughters in the choosing of the game; in addition to a bonding experience it will serve as an educational opportunity on how to pick out a hostess gift as well as a timely lesson in gratitude. I am sure the host will appreciate both the game and the memories the family creates by playing it.
    Another idea is a lovely bouquet of flowers; you can take advantage of fall colors and get something beautiful. Again, your daughters will probably have opinions, so why not include them in the process?

    • Elizabeth

      I really like your idea of the board games. You have to be careful with flowers. It’s fine to bring flowers that are already in a vase. But it can be very difficult as a hostess to receive a bouquet as a hostess gift because you have to stop what you’re doing (receiving guests, doing any last minute food prep, etc) to cut the flowers, find a vase, arrange them, etc.

      • Meredith

        Elizabeth has an excellent point, please be sure if you decide to bring flowers, they are cut, watered, and in a vase so as to not disrupt the host.

    • Jerry

      Flowers are an excellent idea. The only reason I did not suggest it above is that it is a bit awkward for a man to give flowers to another man.

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