Quite Continental Charm School: Day 7 – The Hostess Gift

07/02/2012 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Photo via the National Archives of Norway.

Day 7: The Hostess Gift
The first time I ever formally encountered the topic of a hostess gift was upon the occasion of my first visit to my high school boyfriend’s home, to meet his family.  As I breezed toward the door, my mother casually asked what I had gotten his mother, by way of a hostess gift.  A hostess gift? My uncharming 16 year-old self asked. What on earth for?  And when she explained that when visiting someone in their home, it was customary to bring the lady of the house a small token, I found myself caught unawares.  Luckily, my mother was prepared — as mothers often are — and I presented my new boyfriend’s mother with a small crystal vase my mother had on reserve.  Crisis averted.

Fast-forward to present day, and you’ll find that the hostess gift is a social custom that I still religiously follow.  If I am invited to your home I will first ask what I can bring, and even if you admonish me to bring only myself, I will still appear bearing a gift.  It truly is the classy thing to do and today I humbly suggest you observe it as well.  When someone opens their home to you, it is the gracious thing to acknowledge the gesture.

**Also** please do not be put off by the name of this gift – if a host happens to extend the invite, he definitely deserves acknowledgment.  I’ve decided, and do so declare, that hostess can mean host, just like mankind includes us ladies.  Done!

A few gifting guidelines:

  • The gift should correspond to the kind of event you will be attending.  A birthday party obviously requires a birthday gift, while a bottle of wine will suffice for dinner party, but a hostess gift for a weekend stay will need a to be a bit more substantial.  Also, keep in mind a hostess gift is generally consumable or related to the home.
  • Your entry point into the world of hostess gifts is a simple bouquet of flowers.  High impact and relatively low cost, a pretty arrangement will brighten the home and last for a few days after the party has ended.
  • The next level up in the echelon of hostess gifts is a bottle of wine, but do not expect to open this bottle that evening, as your hosts may have already specially chosen wines to accompany the food they are serving.
  • Better than wine, try to give something you know they will love: if your hostess has a special interest in a type of liquor, a nice bottle for her bar will be greatly appreciated; if she has a sweet tooth, bring her a finely wrapped box of macarons.
  • If you’d like to do something even better than that, let your relationship and budget be your guide — creativity and presentation will go a long way.

And for future reference, I’m quite partial to bourbon…

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

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