How about Hostess gifts?

maddiemom6December 28, 2008

Ok.. well all know that most people seem to have forgotten how to RSVP, but what about the art of the hostess gift??

I grew up with a mom who was from the old school.. so thus I (happily) follow that path. WHen you go to an event that someone has gone out of their way to organize you bring a small gift for the hostess ( or host!).. same deal if someone brings you a pie in a glass dish ( or cake..whatever) you never return it empty.. you don't have to do the same thing back but you bring it back to them with a thank you and token gift ( include a small bag of baking spices in a cute envelope or some such item)

I keep a special drawer filled with small items that are perfect for such gifts.. I often pick stuff up at Homegoods of the like.. never more than $2-3 dollars each. The drawer is getting low right now after the holidays but it still has in it.. boxes of coasters, wine charms, hand towels, nice candles etc.

Is this a lost art or what?.. people always seem so shocked to get a gift ( all except my close circle, we are all in the groove on this and work to find super cute things for each other.. sort of a silly contest :) I know that Miss Manners says it's optional these days but I find that the more we loose these little grace notes in our lives the more disconected and mechanical everything becomes.

Maddiemom, hostess gift giver

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Not a lost art here... I have given and received several hostess gifts these last two weeks.
My list differs from yours though...

DS already has his ready to go for when he visits his girlfriend at her parent's house next week - a bottle of raspberry claret & a pound of hand-dipped chocolates, both locally made.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:52PM
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It seems to be going the way of the rotary phone. I completely agree about it being a nice gesture. I made a flower arrangement for some friends who invited us for Thanksgiving and they seemed really touched, although I rarely receive anything in return any more. (Well, except for the requisite bottle of wine which I can no longer drink, but oh well.)

Not only Hostess gifts have gone missing...How About Thank You notes? I ask because I rarely get one of those either, even though I spent part of my day writing one to my MIL, including a picture of the gift that was received. I'm a little sad that old school isn't surviving. It's still a gracious thing to do.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 6:33PM
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I love giving and receiving small hostess gifts. A dishtowel, a potholder, some flowers, a box of candy, a bottle of wine. I guess I'm from The Old School. I was born in 1952. Do the math.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 12:07PM
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There was a long thread on hostess & other gifts on the Cooking forum a month or so ago. Many people liked "consumable" gifts such as gift cards, foods, toiletries, tickets to events, etc. A bottle of wine was a big favorite. We had a largish (16 people) brunch yesterday, & the hostess gifts included a LARGE bottle of Bailey's, a ceramic baking dish filled with homemade regular & rocky road fudge, a red ceramic cooking dish filled with bars of dark chocolate & bagged Christmas cookies, a glass jar shaped like a snowman filled with hard Christmas candies, a pot planted with thyme, rosemary & marjoram, & homemade honey butter & herb butter in glass refrigerator storage jars. Pretty nice.

We must be pretty lucky - people usually bring hostess gifts of some sort. And, I try to always write a thank you note - sometimes on note cards, sometimes on thank-you greeting cards. I sure hope niceties such as these are not going by the wayside - they show that people care & appreciate, & are courteous.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 3:22PM
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I'm 50 but only learned about hostess gifts in the past 6-7 years bc. of two older friends of mine, who were schooled that way and were the only ones to bring hostess gifts to a pool party I hosted (not my pool - a party I won at a school auction). Out of 20 guests, they were the only ones to bring gifts. Now I do it too - it's fun, but I don't expect it and it's fine if folks don't bring one.

However, I do think a thank you call (or note or email) is appropriate after somebody has hosted you for a dinner or party. I always do that and receive thanks more than half the time - but not all by any means.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 10:32PM
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Old school here, too. Never go to someone's home empty handed. I keep a small stash, too. I never heard that you shouldn't return a plate empty, though. I will remember that.

A bit of an extension on that last point...if I bring cookies or treats, I bring them on a plate or dish that becomes part of the gift.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 8:59AM
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My copy of Miss Manners says that you do not bring a hostess gift for a dinner party. Hostess gifts are for overnight or weekend stays. Every social event should prompt a thank-you note or phone call, even a dinner.

Frankly, I don't want people to bring stuff to my house when I invite them for dinner.

Not flowers, bcs my hands are busy; I can't bother trying to find a vase. Not food, bcs I *have* a full menu planned. Not wine, bcs I've picked wine to go with the meal.

and NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT generic, stupid stuff that they keep in a stash at home that has NOTHING to do with me.

My ILs are from the "never go empty-handed" school, so I always bring them flowers.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 7:14PM
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I'm with Talley Sue on this issue. I always bring a gift if I stay with a friend, but not for a dinner party. I do my thank you notes, and everybody seems pleased with that.

I won't turn away a bottle of wine, of course, but I won't serve it either. I already have my menu planned, the appropriate wine selected, and that's the way I want the dinner to go. I have observed some people get snippy if their wine or chocolates aren't served.

When staying with friends I try to give a hostess gift I know they will enjoy - for a quilter friend it's a couple of fat quarters of fabrics I know suit her taste, in colors I know she uses. For my step-mother, always flowers.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 7:43PM
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"I have observed some people get snippy if their wine or chocolates aren't served."

Well, they shouldn't!
A hostess gift is for the hostess, not for the event.

BTW --- I'll take flowers anytime (even for a dinner party! LOL!). If I were rich, I would have fresh flowers delivered daily. I love them.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 8:29PM
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Weel said, Talley Sue. That was exactly what I was thinking- don't give me more clutter that I'll have to store until August, then donate to my sons' boy scout troop garage sale! Don't even bring me wine - my tastes are very limited in wine (dry red only). Bring food if I invite you to a potluck dinner, otherwise don't.

I had never heard of hostess gifts until I was 25 or so. It is not a common practice in my home town, and when I lived at home we went to other people's homes for dinner or to play cards almost every weekend, or had people over to our house. No one ever brought a gift & my mom never gave a gift. I heard about it from a lady from Toledo.

The last time I spent the night at someone's house was about 15 years ago, I spent the weekend with a friend in Wisconsin. After I returend home, I sent her a gift box of 2 bottles of Ohio made wine, a box of peanutbutter/chocolate Buckeyes, and an Xmas tree ornament from Ohio University (my alma mater). It was a mostly consumable gift, but I sent it afterward because it would have taken up to much room on the plane. I sent it with a thank you note.

I do have two exceptions - when we go to my (childless) brother & SIL's house, we always bring a snack tray or chips, nuts, etc and leave the extras. They don't seem to have the concept of offering refreshments and with 3 kids, someone is usually hungry. The other exception is when we visit my 97 year old friend. We bring lots of snacks, veggie tray, etc and always leave the extras. I don't want my horde to eat her out of house and home, and she doesn't drive so it's hard for her to replentish groceries. These both aren't really hostess gifts, more to cover my 3 boys appetites.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 12:11PM
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I would be interested if those who are dead set against a hostess gifts and those who think they are a thoughtful gesture are divide along geographical borders?

I live in the South and was rasied in the South but my mother was from up North. For me, when our freinds go to the trouble to have a party or host an event I know it's taken a huge amount of time, energy and money. Most of our friends have between 3-6 children and very busy lives so I know how much extra it takes to make the time to have an event. As I pick up small gifts during the year I have people in mind for them since I know that the X-family usually has a Halloween party each year and she likes to make cupcakes - so when I see a super cute jar of cake sprinkles I get them and put them away for her. I see a set of wine charms.. well I know the the y-family has been taking wine- buying lessons. Of course I keep keep a couple more generic items on hand, and if all else fails I have some wonderful handmade french milled gift soaps that look lovely wrapped up in my vintage seam binding.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 11:56AM
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I was taught to always bring a present when I went to visit someone for an extended length of time. If going for dinner, bring something to eat or drink.

Thank-you notes spread the love.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 11:57AM
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I am with all that Talley Sue has said. I don't want any gift for an evening over at my home, their arrival to my invitation is what I wanted. And the thanks I receive upon their departure is thanks enough, I don't want a card in the mail I will read and then place in recycling. I'm sure the postal system likes the thank you card method though.
I'm more for using less, the Thank-you card seems in excess to me. And when I attend a function (pot luck), I am happy to get my original dish back, I don't want more food in it that I or the family may not eat. I've tossed gifts actually, because they weren't to our tastes or uses: mulling cider, homemade almond bark when we've already overdosed on chocolate, bottles of homemade wine that get stuck at the back of the pantry for several years, and when finally taken out and inspected have little floaties on the bottom of the bottle to make me question it's safety, so it's uncorked and dumped, since no one in my family drinks much wine (one glass at Christmas maybe) etc.

No gifts for me, except flowers, which can be enjoyed and then thrown out with no guilt attached.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 12:01PM
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Hi maddiemom6,

I am in Southern California, where hostess gifts for dinners, gatherings, overnight visits, etc., are common. Wine, flowers or a small potted plant are frequent gifts for a dinner.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 2:11PM
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Well I'm in the midwest, whatever that means! I don't have kids either, but when I invite people over, I always clean my house, the bathroom and try to make things look festive. I also try to have most of the work done ahead of time, so I can make the ''event'' look effortless, even though most people would realize that it wasn't. In fact my sister seems to think I intimidate people simply because I planned ahead, and that no one feels they can live up to my ideas of how to entertain. (Which is absolute complete rubbish of course.) I appreciate anyone who makes any kind of effort, since of course I know what it takes.

I have to say, I always appreciate a thoughtfully phrased thank you note, especially if it's more than the required two sentences I usually receive from brides who need to send a Thank You for a gift I spent far more energy on, than the acknowledgment of said gift. (Can you tell it's a pet peeve?) It's become such a lost art that I think learning it should be included as part of our educational system, since I believe it's that important.

Neither would I turn my nose up at a hostess gift I might actually consider clutter, since of course it's the thought that counts! I guess I prefer people who practice their manners, which are never wasted on me...even if the gift may be.

Maddiemom6, I'm certain I'd love to invite you to my home, and be received in yours as well!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 2:56PM
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Actually, there is another potential problem w/ hostess gifts.

When you accept an invitation to dinner at someone's home (or the like), you also accept an obligation to invite THEM somewhere. You are supposed to RECIPROCATE with a social invitation.

THAT is how you pay people back for the trouble they have gone to on your behalf. It is required.

It is possible that people who bring a hostess gift will think that this gift is sufficient payback; that they have now discharged their reciprocity obligation toward their host. But they have not. Not until they invite their host to some other event.

Please don't think that my sinking heart, when I behold the coasters you have so kindly brought me, will let me receive the gift ungraciously. I do have manners. But I don't enjoy receiving those sorts of gifts. And I absolutely don't enjoy giving them.

Flowers, at the most, will I consider appropriate.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 3:59PM
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Well TS, I'd love to think that everyone knows the rule about reciprocity, but so far haven't run into any, at least in my neck of the woods. Yes, that's the way it used to be...but apparently isn't that way any longer. When I think of the ribs I've cooked, the wine I've poured, the desserts I've made, and how many hours I spent in preparation for those I've invited over and never received an invitation/or thank you in return, it makes me want to stop entertaining. The problem is, you never know who those people are, and sadly it's most of them.

Then of course, there's always the person who thinks they can have one party and invite everyone they've ever owed a dinner or invitation to, and take care of all obligations in one fell swoop!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 6:40PM
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I always bring a hostess gift and always write a thank you after.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 8:16AM
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I think I have a different opinion on reciprocating. I invite people over when I want to spend time with them. I never want them to feel that it comes with attachments and obligations. JMHO.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 8:52PM
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nancyjeanmc - thanks for the great insight. I "owe" invitations to several people right now, but just haven't felt up to entertaining anyone other than our extended family. I've been feeling weighed down by the "reciprocal responsibility" lately, and you've made me feel lighter :)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 9:54PM
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You are very welcome, Momma Bird! And from your handle, I'd say you have a few young ones at home. Leave the guilt behind; you are doing enough!!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 8:04AM
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Forgive me, please. Although it's quite understandable to tell a mother with young children at home to ''leave the guilt behind'', I still believe people need to make some kind of effort, especially when they have enough energy to accept an invitation where others obviously make an effort to include them. SADLY, that's exactly the attitude that permeates our society. nancyjeanmc, obviously the time to invite people over is when you want to spend time with them...and Wanting To is much different than actually doing it. You know, I never have trouble getting people to come to my house, since I look after their needs the entire time they're here. What is evident to me is when they don't want to look after mine. Leaving their guilt behind isn't even an issue, since there's no intention to reciprocate. Ever. Making Excuses is too EASY.

Instead of letting yourself completely off the hook for reciprocating an invitation, I think a better way to look at it is to dial down your expectations of what you're willing to spend effort doing. Making the ''event'' one where everyone contributes a dish, keeps the work down to cleaning your house. If you don't want to clean your house, schedule something at a local park. It's really not hard to pick up some cupcakes at the bakery, or bring a thermos of coffee to go with it. The point is, someone has to progress the idea forward, pick a date, time and act like they want to get together. The amount of effort is up to you. People will always remember any kind of energy you spend on them, as well as when you don't. INTENTION means a lot.

If you have children, it teaches them to be thoughtful of others, by making some time in their day to focus on someone else, yet receiving much in return.

I say leave the guilt behind about making home-made food if you don't cook, hand-crafted favors if you don't craft, a clean house if you don't clean...but make some kind of effort, please! Just because I cook and clean, doesn't mean you have to do things like me. But please...if you owe someone an invitation...Do Something! Isn't it better to be remembered fondly for something you planned, instead of being remembered only as someone who only knows how to receive?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 12:59PM
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I still disagree. I have been grateful for friends who don't oblige, or feel obliged. And reciprocating "just happens" with friends. A person who freely opens her home just might appreciate someone who has the gift of listening and compassion. I'd rather dump the score card and work with what I...and my friends...have.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 2:06PM
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Whether you agree or disagree, thoughtfulness will never be out of style...nor manners either. That is of course, if you're thoughtful enough to have any! I don't actually feel obligation, nor expect any in return, although it's quite delightful when it happens.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 2:31PM
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In our beach area of Southern California it seems to be more common to bring a bottle of wine or some small thing for the hostess when invited to a party. I have never received a thank you note. Phone calls afterwards though.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 4:40PM
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