Quest of the Guest
Don’t let your ticket in the door be a bore
With the holiday season just around the corner, friends and colleagues are preparing for festive gatherings at their homes. In addition to our regular holiday shopping, we should stock up on great host gifts that make an impression.
Lisa Gache, an etiquette expert and CEO of Beverly Hills Manners, says that bringing a host gift is customary when visiting someone’s home for a dinner, overnight stay or special event. If it’s a fundraiser, book club meeting or casual visit, there’s no need to bring a gift.
“A host gift is one of the ways guests can express gratitude and respect from the get-go,” Lisa says. The best guests focus on the needs and tastes of their hosts. Ask yourself, “What do they do on weekends? What are their hobbies and interests? Do they like to travel?”
If you don’t know your host well, this may mean doing a little digging. Ask a friend who is close to the host. You might even check out their social media profiles that are open to the public, suggests Lisa Parker of San Diego’s Mrs. Parker’s Charm School. A friend of hers recently delighted someone by bringing an item she found on the host’s Pinterest page.
Safe choices for host gifts are small gourmet food products, like an herb-infused olive oil and aged vinegar set, gourmet jams or spreads, and dried-fruit trays. Nice gifts for the house include decorative candles, specialty soaps and printed cocktail napkins.
A popular gift is a bottle of wine. It’s a fine choice as long as guests clearly communicate that they do not expect it to be opened at dinner. Hosts often put great thought into menu planning and may feel pressured to serve a guest’s offering even when it doesn’t quite work with the meal. Suggest the hosts open the wine for a special occasion, giving them the option of opening it immediately or at a later date.
Take a similar approach when bringing prepared foods, be it something you made or a box of chocolates. One way to communicate that a food item is a gift for later consumption is to festively package it. This could be as simple as tying a ribbon and bow on the item or presenting it in a gift bag lined with colorful tissue paper. Steer clear of a wrapped package that hosts may feel obligated to open immediately, taking their attention away from other guests.
Similarly, don’t bring cut flowers without a vase, which involves the search for an appropriate vessel, filling it with water and arranging the stems and buds.
If the gathering is an intimate one and you are sure you will be able to personally present your gift, you do not need to attach a card. At larger events where your hosts may not be tending the door, a card or tag is advisable. People do not like having to guess who brought what.
Presenting hosts with gifts should never replace the handwritten thank-you note that mentions specific highlights of your visit. Nothing will delight your hosts more than knowing all of the time and attention they put into creating a wonderful event were noticed and appreciated.