Bringing your hostess a gift is a great way to thank her for the invitation and hospitality. But not all presents are created equal—and if you want your hostess to appreciate your thoughtfulness as much as you appreciate a spot on her guest list, it needs to be the right type of gift. But what, exactly, is the right present—and, just as importantly, which ones miss the mark? Ahead, some of the best and worst gifts you can bring along to the party, according to etiquette experts.
svetikd / Getty Images
Best: Thoughtful, Personalized Gifts
There's nothing wrong with buying your hostess a more universal gift, but if you want to go the extra mile, a thoughtful present is the better option. "Anything that's personalized or catered to their passion or hobbies are going to, I think, be the best gifts for a host or hostess," says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of the consulting agency Beyond Etiquette. Does your host love to bake? Gift her a copy of your favorite pastry cookbook. And if she enjoys playing mixologist, bring her a monogrammed cocktail glass to add to her collection.
Bouquets are a go-to gift, especially if you're not sure what else to bring, but according to Tsai, "flowers can be a little tricky." They actually present a slew of problems: You have to think about allergies, flowers' cultural connotations (some varietals actually aren't appropriate for celebrations in some parts of the world), and her personal taste (she might dislike the type or color you bring her). Unless you know the host extremely well—and understand the kinds of flowers she typically buys—it's best to steer clear.
Best: Items for the Home
It makes sense to bring your hostess, who has invited you into her home, something for her home—which is why décor is one of the best (and most common) gifts to bring. Candles for her tabletop or a lovely houseplant work, says etiquette consultant Maryanne Parker. When shopping, look for neutral items that translate across all design styles.
Worst: Re-Gifted Items
If you have received a gift that you don't use, you might be tempted to wrap it and pass it off to your host—but re-gifting isn't the best approach. While re-gifting may work occasionally ("It's is only appropriate if the gift has never been opened and used," says Parker), it can lead to a tense situation "if the host is in the same circle of friends with the [original] person who gave the gift," says Parker. "This could be very uncomfortable, because there is a large possibility of them finding out."
Best: A Shared Experience
Your hostess extended an invitation because she values your relationship. So, why not give her a gift that helps to deepen that bond? Gifting her an experience you can enjoy together—like tickets to a concert, a cooking class, or a day at the spa—will not only show them how much you appreciate the invitation but will also help strengthen your bond beyond the event. "[Gifting an experience is] another memory created—not just the dinner party or holiday party you [were originally] invited to," says Tsai.
Worst: Something Too Expensive
You might think the more expensive the gift, the better. But the truth is, you should actually avoid overly extravagant or costly hostess presents—especially if you're not aware of their financial situation. "We do not want to make the host feel uncomfortable—especially if they cannot reciprocate with the same value in the future," says Parker.