What is a Hostess Gift and When Should I Bring One?

By DeAndrea Douglas
what is a hostess gift

Congratulations! You have finally reached the point in life where your friends are inviting you into their well-decorated homes and family invitations are coming directly to you, not through your mother. Do you not want to show up empty-handed, but you are not quite sure what to bring? We will walk you through proper hostess etiquette so you will know when to bring a hostess gift, when not to, and a few ideas for gifts to keep on hand. So, what is a hostess gift? Generally, a hostess gift is something that is consumable, can be used up quickly, so that the hostess does not have to worry about storing it, or can be used while entertaining.

There are a few important things to consider when choosing a perfect hostess gift. Unfortunately, if you don’t give this small act of kindness a little thought you could be creating an awkward situation for your host.

When To Bring A Hostess Gift?

When you are invited to someone’s home, it is customary to bring a small gift for the host or hostess. This is a gesture of appreciation for their hospitality. It is also an opportunity to make a good impression and start off on the right foot.

do you give a hostess gift at the beginning or end of your stay

Do You Give A Hostess Gift At The Beginning Or End Of Your Stay?

When you give the hostess your gift largely depends on the context. The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to call attention to your gift. The goal is not to scream that you brought a gift to the entire party. Most of the time this is easiest to accomplish as soon as you arrive, but sometimes it’s best to wait until later.

How Should You Give or Receive a Hostess Gift?

You could have chosen the perfect gift but will fumble the handoff if you are not prepared for how to handle the exact gifting situation. These are a few etiquette tips for giving and receiving a hostess gift.

What to Do When A Hostess Gift is Handed to You

If you are the hostess say thank you for the gift, that you look forward to opening it later, and invite them to come in. Offer them a drink, hors devours, or an introduction to someone else at the party. This lets your guests know that you appreciate their kindness and ushers them into the party.

If Other Guests Will See You, Don’t Unwrap the Gift

Unlike most other gifts, a hostess gift is not opened in front of the person that gave it to you. This is to help anyone who may have seen that you brought a gift feel awkward if they did not bring one too. The hostess should set aside the gift in a concealed place or in another room to be opened after the party.

If You’re Alone with the Guest, Go Ahead and Open the Gift

If there is an opportunity for you to inconspicuously steal your guests away from the party for a moment or you are alone when they give you the gift, go ahead and open it. This is a great way to be able to thank them in person, but only if it can be done discreetly.

Thank the Gift Giver, but Do Not Send a Thank You Note 

Hostess gifts are different from other kinds of gifts because the gift is a thank you on its own. For this reason, you would not send a thank you note for a hostess gift. If you did, you’d be sending a thank you for a thank you. However, people like to know that you opened the gift so it is nice to call, text, or email to say thank you. The hostess can do this the next day or later in the evening if the soiree was during the day.

When You Give Your Gift to the Host, Be Discreet

Think about the tips we just mentioned. Your host is likely considering all of those too as they are the one receiving a gift. Do them a favor and be discreet about giving your gift. Everyone at the party will not bring a hostess gift so not to call any attention to the gift, offer it to the host as soon as you say hello. The best option for this is to give it in the quick, private moment the two of you have as soon as they open the door for you.

what are bad hostess gift ideas

When Should I Not Bring A Hostess Gift?

You should not bring a hostess gift if you are going to a formal dinner party or if you are bringing a dish. If the host is having a formal dinner they have enough on their mind the night of the party so it is best not to concern them with a gift. If you are bringing food that is its own gift.

At brunch, dinner, or a cocktail party a hostess gift should be given. If you are saying overnight sending a gift after you have left is a good choice. That way you will have a better feel for a gift your host may like.

What are Bad Hostess Gift Ideas?


Who doesn’t like flowers? Your host if you bring them to the party. Why? It’s because they will feel pressured to put them on display immediately. They will have to stop what they’re doing, find a vase, make a fresh cut on the stem of each one, fill the vase with water, arrange them, and find a place to put the flowers so that they’re on display while you’re there. If not, they will wilt and your gift will have been a waste. Do you know what got wasted instead? Their valuable time. They are supposed to be busy greeting and tending to guests and attempting to enjoy the party. Not arranging flowers.

You may think sending the flowers ahead of the party is a good idea. If they arrive the hours or even the day before, the hostess will not have to arrange them quickly, but she still has to have them on display so as not to be rude to the giver. What if your choice of flower does not match the decor or theme? What if there is no good place to put them?

If you are set on giving flowers send them the day after the party. That way the host can put them wherever she likes without worrying about decor or hurt feelings.


Bringing a nice bottle of wine for your host sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t appreciate wine? However, if your host has planned a dinner party or something like it she has probably already selected wines that pair perfectly with the food. If you insist on bringing wine, immediately tell your host it is for her to enjoy later.

What Is A Good Inexpensive Hostess Gift?

Thankfully, hostess gifts don’t have to be elaborate. The cliché is true: It’s the thought that counts. A good hostess gift is something a host or hostess would use while they are entertaining. It could be entertaining for just their immediate family (a breakfast gift basket or a board game) or for a future party (coasters, place cards, guest hand towels, a serving plate, a candy dish, a tray, or even a candle).

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What is a Hostess Gift and When Should I Bring One? | The Lady Loves Living