The Ultimate Guide to the Right Hostess Gifts for Every Occasion

We know we're supposed to show our appreciation to our hosts, but it can be tricky to choose the right gifts for each situation. We got etiquette experts to explain the rules.

For an evening dinner party

courtesy Belvoir Fruit Farms and Kikori Japanese Whiskey
There are a number of etiquette rules to consider when you're a guest in someone's home. When it comes to selecting a hostess gift, a good guideline is to choose something that matches the effort the host put into the occasion, according to Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. "While your host will undoubtedly thoughtfully plan every event, a holiday cocktail or dinner party is a bit fancier than a BYOB barbeque."

Consider a good bottle of wine or liquor, like exotic Kikori Whiskey from Japan, or get the party started with drink mixers, like Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower and Rose Lemonade, Ginger Beer Lemonade or Elderflower Lemonade. If you're not sure your hosts are drinkers, you can't go wrong with Droga Chocolates Money on Honey Gift Boxes—confections with a caramel center made with wildflower honey.

For spending the weekend

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If you are staying overnight—or over two nights—you may want to go for a $50 to $100 gift, and also make sure to take the host out to dinner or brunch and chip in with daily chores such as setting the table, clearing the dishes, and keeping your room clean. "The hostess gift is not 'payment' for the kindness; it's simply the first gesture of gratitude. You should still contribute with other kind gestures or experiences, like something for the house or pay for theater or sports tickets while you are together," says Gottsman.

For the hostess gift, consider a Gold Cocktail Shaker Set, an update on barware with a gold plated stainless steel shaker and strainer. It's so elegant it just may upstage even the best-dressed guests. Or give something more personal, like Dogeared's wishbone jewelry—it's perfect for Thanksgiving, and they can wear and think of you for years.

Fragrant soaps and candles are also always welcome. Take the guesswork out of giving with classic options from Au Lit like the Illume Tonka Noir Candle, a delightful scent that blends bright and night by mixing notes of juicy mandarin, rose essence, and rich jasmine with hints of salted musk, creamy sandalwood, and smoky vanilla.

If you're on a budget and looking to go the homemade route? Consider one of these thoughtful mason jar gifts.

For staying a week or more

A week-long stay would require a $50 to $100 gift plus the same rules as staying the weekend. "The cost of a week's grocery is what you should aim to contribute in one way or another during your stay, as well as buying some groceries without asking and offering to make a meal or two," says Gottsman.

To that end, consider a Spanish Pantry Basics Gift Box, a gift box filled with staple items that evoke the distinct flavors of Spain, including intensely smoked pimenton de La Vera paprika, Marcona almonds, roasted piquillo peppers, membrillo quince preserve, solera aged sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Another great idea is to bring a taste of home, suggests Sharon Schweitzer, etiquette expert, frequent international traveler. If your host is from Texas originally and that's where you are visiting from, consider bringing some Texas BBQ sauce, Tito's vodka, a set of Moscow Mule cups with all the set-ups—ginger beer, fresh lime juice, candied ginger, and fresh mint, a Texas stone cheese board with host's favorite cheese assortment.

If someone is hosting your child for the weekend

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For someone taking care of your kids for the weekend, Gottsman suggests sending a $50 to $100 gift—a box of good quality stationery with their initial, a basket of healthy snacks for the kids and host parent, a casserole for breakfast, and a bag of roasted coffee beans, gourmet jelly and muffins. Also consider a gift card to a local pizza place or supermarket. It wouldn't hurt to add something luxurious they can do for themselves on their next DIY spa day, like the RPZL Polisher Brush, a lightweight quality hair brush that rivals big name professional salon brushes you've heard of that costs triple, but is even better, or Blue Lagoon Algae And Silica Mask Duo, a Silica Mud Mask made from the Blue Lagoon's iconic white wonder and an Algae Mask made of Blue Lagoon patented algae. If you know your hostess loves nothing more than to kick back in a comfy outfit, add the Lacoste Fairplay Robe to the mix as well. This soft cotton terrycloth bathrobe features a hood and wrap tie, as well as everyone's favorite crocodile logo.

For the hostess who needs a helping hand, Yumble is a new meal delivery service created to make feeding kids healthy, tasty meals that are also affordable. Currently delivering to 27 states east of the Mississippi, it has signature dishes like Chicken Lollipops and " Smack and Cheese" (created with whole grain pasta, protein-rich cheese, and a some hidden nutrients from squash). If you get desperate, these are the frozen dinners you can feel good about feeding your kids.

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If you're staying with friends vs. family

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You aren't off the hook when staying with friends. You want to make sure they don't feel taken advantage of, and you also want to get invited back. Consider a Thanks To You Crate, a ribbon-wrapped wood crate with a "Thanks to You" book, chocolate pretzels, lollipops, toffee almonds, and a "thank you" sugar cookie. There's also Spoonful of Comfort, a service that delivers a 64-ounce jar of chicken noodle soup complete with rolls and a cute ladle (cookies optional). Matchbox candle is another great choice—it's a subscription box that includes a soy candle, a decorative matchbox, and a cocktail and dinner recipe each month. Subscribe for one month or several depending on how long you're sticking around.

Family, especially parents, are a bit different. "They probably don't want you to do much financially, but you can certainly pitch in with groceries, a special gift or experience, and the gift of time," says Gottsman. Follow these rules to be a good house guest.

Make the right presentation

A hostess gift should always be packaged in a decorative bag or box with a gift tag or thank-you note, according to Gottesman. (This is the trick to writing an amazing thank-you note.)

Some great ideas for well-packaged, memorable hostess gifts: Brina, super-luxe insulated wine sleeves made in Italy. Gift the sleeve with a bottle of their favorite wine inside! Also Clase Azul tequila, high-end, super premium tequila that doubles as a vase, a lamp, or a candle-holder once the alcohol is gone (the product label is fully removable so there's no branding when you want to make it truly a piece of art).

Avoid bringing flowers if they're not already in a pretty mason jar or decorative vase. "Better still, send them in advance so the host can place them someplace special before her guests arrive," says Gottsman. Or skip the traditional flowers entirely and send a Plantogram, a cool fruit tree, as a thank-you gift. These avocado trees are fine for small spaces and are sure to be the most inventive gift they get this season. And as a bonus, avocados have powerful health benefits.

Never give a re-gifted hostess gift

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Especially if an item is dusty or a little beat up-looking, it will be obvious you grabbed it out of the closet at the last minute. Not to mention that you might not remember who gifted it in the first place, which could end up being rather awkward. "You never know if the original giver will be at the party!" says Gottsman.

A gift they know is fresh and just for them is a beautiful cheese plate if you know you share a love of cheese. How about a beautiful cheese and charcuterie platter from Murray's Cheese? The gifts range in price from $50 to $300 and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. Or, if you know they love to cook, a cookbook you love and think they might as well, such as Chrissy Teigen's Cravings cookbook or Shannon Sarna's Modern Jewish Baker. Golden Door Spa's three-pack of gourmet honey would also be a sumptuous treat here. (And honey will stay fresh forever if you do this one thing.)


Personalize the gift based on the hosts' preference

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Not all hostess gifts have to be one-size-fits-all. And customizing your gift to your hosts' taste and lifestyle shows you've gone the extra mile. "For example, for a seasoned cook, give a good bottle of olive oil and specialty balsamic vinegar in a basket with fresh bread and fruit," Gottsman suggests.

Do they love dirty martinis? The Bitter Truth Olive Bitters makes mixing a dirty martini surprisingly simple. Mix a few dashes with gin or vodka and there's no need to add any olive brine to the drink. Or add a couple drops to Bloody Marys for a salty kick at brunch the next morning.

Fruit fans will love the festive Holiday Spirit Gift Set from Edible Arrangements, with chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate dipped bananas, fresh pineapple, and more, all artfully arranged in a beautifully designed Happy Holidays container.

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Hostess Gift Taboos

09-Guest-Etiquette--The-Right-Hostess-Gifts-For-Every-Occasion-Matthew-cohenMatthew Cohen/
Of course, when you are visiting someone for a holiday dinner or party, they are very busy entertaining, prepping, cooking, plating, and clearing. That means there are some gifts that are just not an appropriate choice, and may end up offending, insulting, or inconveniencing them. What you should never bring as a hostess gift, says Schweitzer, includes anything needing immediate attention from the host or hostess, including fresh flowers that need to be placed in a vase immediately, cuisine or gourmet food for consumption that evening unless it was pre-planned (after all, they are making you dinner already!), anything that requires assembly that evening, a gift certificate to a gym or fitness center (which can feel like an unwelcome hint), or hygiene-related items that can be misinterpreted, such as body sprays or deodorant. Also, never bring alcohol to the house of someone who is in recovery.

Don't miss these other affordable hostess gift ideas.


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