A hostess gift is a token of appreciation for the hospitality your host has extended to you. While it varies regionally whether or not a hostess gift is a must at every party you attend, if ever there was a time to consider it, a holiday party is it. This goes double if it is the first time you are visiting your host, or if your host is also your boss.
Hostess gifts are usually small gifts. This isn’t the right time to give a gift card—it’s better to get specific. Classic options include wine, chocolates and gourmet treats, soaps and lotions, and flowers (extra points if you bring them arranged in vase so your host doesn’t have to take time out from the party to attend to them).
You can also get creative with fun and personal gifts, such as a measured wine glass or aerator for the wine geek or a grilling tool with iPhone app for the grill master, both available at Staples.
Offer your gift to your host on arrival (unless the party is large and the host doesn’t greet you, in which case leave it with any other gifts). Hostess gifts are usually given unwrapped or in a gift bag, though you could certainly wrap your gift if you wish. Add a short, personal note to emphasize your appreciation (it also identifies your gift if you do leave your gift with others instead of giving it in person).
If you give specialty foods or wine, don’t be surprised if they aren’t served at the dinner or party. Your host isn’t being rude; he or she is simply adhering to the menu and wines already selected.
Lastly, if you receive a hostess gift this holiday season, it’s not necessary to write a thank-you note, but mention the gift the next time you see the giver.
Anna Post is a nationally known etiquette expert, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th edition and a member of the Staples Holiday Council.
*This post is sponsored by Staples.