Host and Hostest Gifts

Etiquette and Advice from the Emily Post Institute
Host and Hostess Gifts

When should I bring a host or hostess gift?

Cocktail party
Host and Hostess gifts are completely optional for cocktail parties. But if you?re in a generous mood, a bottle of wine or a batch of blueberry muffins for the next morning?or, for the holidays, something seasonal, like an ornament?would be thoughtful. Be sure to enclose a gift card so the host won?t wonder whose thought it was that counts.

Dinner party
Yes, bring a gift, but keep it simple and under $25. Anything that distracts the host may be a nuisance. A bottle of wine, a small potted plant, a flower arrangement already in a vase, candles, or soaps are better bets. Present the gift to your host when you arrive, or leave it on an entry way table if your host isn?t there to greet you.

Casual get together such as brunch
A gift is optional. You may choose instead to bring something to the meal?a side dish, dessert or drink. But ask: just showing up with a tray of Danish puts the host on the spot.

Overnight stay
A gift is mandatory. You can present the gift upon your arrival, during your stay, or after your exit. Consider giving your hosts something you note in the course of your visit that would be right for them, like a tray that goes with their color scheme. The longer the stay, the more expensive or elaborate the gift. For example, for a weekend stay, you may decide to send flowers. If you?ve stayed for three nights or more, a gift certificate to the host?s favorite spa or restaurant would be a good bet.

What do you give the host who has everything?
Everyone likes a thank-you. Even the simplest token can have an impact?flowers, homemade jam, or a batch of your fabulous chocolate cookies.

Should you send something if you're not attending?
There?s no need to send a gift to a host or hostess if you?re not attending the event.

If I call a host the next day to thank her, must I also send a note? Is an email acceptable?
A call the next day is always thoughtful. For a dinner party, a phone call is enough. For informal gatherings among close friends, either a call or an email is fine. But after an overnight visit, a handwritten note is the way to go.

If a dinner party guest brings me a special gift, should I acknowledge that thank-you gesture with a thank-you note?
A verbal thanks is sufficient. But if you didn?t get to thank your guests at the party, you do need either to call or to drop a short note so that your guest knows you received the gift.

If I bring a gift or a contribution to a dinner, do I still need to send a thank-you note afterward?
If you?ve brought a gift or contributed to dinner and said thanks verbally for a wonderful evening, a written note isn?t necessary.

Perfect Host and Hostess Gifts

  • Bestselling book of interest to the host
  • A fresh flower arrangement in a vase
  • Hand towels for the powder room or beach towels for sunning
  • Packages of cocktail napkins, perhaps with the host?s monogram
  • Calendar for the coming year
  • Bottle of liqueur or cognac the host is fond of
  • Sturdy canvas tote bag
  • Unusual kitchen tools such as a pasta lifter or egg separator for an avid cook
  • A dozen golf balls for a golfer
  • Set of nicely packaged herbs and spices or a selection of peppercorns (black, white, red, green)
  • Picture frame, with a picture taken during your visit sent later
  • Candles and informal candlesticks
  • Houseplant in a simple yet decorative pot

When to give?
If it?s a dinner party, offer your gift when you arrive. Overnight guests can give upon arrival or during their stay. A gift can also be sent once you return home, once you?ve had a chance to see what the host may need.

Re-gift a Host or Hostess Gift?

The Wine Bottle Redux
Is it ok to recycle that bottle of wine you received from a guest at the dinner party you held last week and give it to the host or hostess of the party you?re attending tonight? What about the lovely box of chocolates you didn?t open because you?re dieting?

Regifting has become part of our culture?and a hotly debated topic. Is it OK to pass on a gift you?ve received to someone else? Is it ethical? The answer is a very qualified yes. Regifting can be done, though rarely, and under these very specific circumstances:

  1. You?re certain the gift is something the recipient would enjoy.
  2. The gift is brand new (no castoffs allowed) and comes with its original packaging, box and instructions.
  3. The gift isn?t handmade, or one that the original giver took great care to select.
  4. Neither your gift giver nor your recipient will be upset.

Simply put, you have to make sure you don?t hurt feelings?neither the original giver?s nor the recipient?s. For instance, if you received a set of wineglasses from your sister-in-law that you didn?t need, do you think she?d mind if you passed them along to a friend who just bought a house? Do the two women know each other? Would it be awkward if they found out? Is there a chance your friend might need to exchange the glasses for something else herself, and if she asked you where you bought them, what would you tell her?

When in doubt, do not regift. Only you can decide whether to regift?and how to do it appropriately. Think through each situation carefully, and if you?re in doubt, don?t do it. A gifting gaffe isn?t worth the price of a coffeemaker or bottle of wine.


About the
Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.
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