Holiday Etiquette

Should I Bring a Host or Hostess Gift?

The holidays are stressful enough without having to decide what to bring to the host of a dinner party or event to which you’ve been invited. The fact is though, that when invited to someone’s home during the holidays, it is proper etiquette to bring a token of appreciation in exchange for the invite. Of course, it’s also a fact that these gifts should not be extravagant or overly personalized, and they certainly don’t need to be expensive.

The key is simply to show gratitude and appreciation.

As Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

So, the basic premise is: just do something and don’t show up empty handed! To help you, here are a few tips of what to bring when:

Casual Dinner Party
If you have been invited to a casual dinner party, consider bringing a bottle of wine or sparkling non-alcoholic beverage or a box of chocolates. Flowers already arranged in a Mason jar are also perfect. When you bring a food or beverage items to the host of a dinner party don’t expect it to be served while you are there. This is a gift not to be used with the meal.

Formal Dinner Party
If you are invited to a formal dinner party and you don’t know the host, gifts are usually not taken but a nice thank-you note to follow up would be most appropriate.

Weekend Visit
If you are invited for a weekend visit, sending a fresh garland or wreath in advance is lovely gesture that expresses that you are looking forward to your host’s hospitality. A nice small tree to plant is also a great and different idea. Other gifts include fresh fruit, candles, a spa basket, his and her robes, restaurant gift cards, dish towels or a basket of homemade treats.

After the Dinner, Patry, or Weekend Visit
After a dinner, party, or overnight stay, send a handwritten thank you note to the host and hostess as soon as you can. You will want to do this even if you brought a gift. The note should be short but heartfelt.

As the great Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Enjoy the dinners, events, and parties you’re sure to attend this holiday season and practice the etiquette of giving to others. It will make you feel good and you will be remembered for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

Happy Holidays!

Kathleen Geneva
About Kathleen Geneva 3 Articles
Kathleen Geneva is a licensed Etiquette and Cotillion Instructor with the National League of Junior Cotillions (Prince William and Fauquier County Chapters) and the Emily Post Institute. She was recently awarded the Best New Director of the Year by the National League of Junior Cotillions. Kathleen is also the mother of two tech-savvy teens, and a new contributor to Lifestyle. Look for her column in future issues!

1 Comment

  1. I’d rethink the advice about dishtowels. I find them all too cutesy, impractical, not absorbent. To me, they say, “I don’t know you at all and have no idea what to get for you.” I have been gifted with dozens and they all end up at the thrift store or in the trash.

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