The Biggest Etiquette Faux Pas You Can Commit With A Hostess Gift

For many people, the rules of etiquette seem overly formal or outdated, bringing to mind completely incomprehensible dining situations most of us are unlikely to find ourselves in. Although knowing the painstaking royal etiquette for eating peas with a fork may not help you in this lifetime, plenty of other etiquette rules apply to your daily life, allowing you to move through various social situations with ease and grace. It is likely, for example, that you have been invited to a gathering at someone's house recently. While there, it's also likely that you inadvertently committed this incredibly common faux pas. Put simply: mistaking a contribution to the event as a gift for your host or hostess.

As a guest in someone's home, it's considered polite to bring a dedicated hostess gift — you probably already know this part. But what you may have failed to realize is that it's considered poor manners to bring a gift you expect to be opened or shared during your visit. So while it's perfectly acceptable to bring a bottle of wine for your host, don't mention how excited you are to try it. This is a gift, after all! And if you've been asked to bring hors d'oeuvres or beverages to the gathering, plan to bring another small token of your gratitude for your host to enjoy later.

What makes a proper hostess gift?

If you've only ever brought wine, chocolate, or something else meant to be consumed as a hostess gift, don't panic. The faux pas isn't to gift any of these products necessarily, but to suggest eating or drinking them during the party. If your host or hostess does decide to open and share it during your visit, however, that's completely their prerogative! This rule should come as a relief if anything. Now, rather than stressing over what's being served and painstakingly selecting a bottle of wine or other treat that will complement it, you can shift your focus to identifying a special something you think your host will enjoy.

If you want to avoid misinterpretations, consider bringing something else altogether. The hostess gift doesn't need to be expensive, beautifully wrapped, or even purchased. Consider the occasion and try to glean inspiration from that — a great bottle of olive oil, a flaky finishing salt, a decorative wine stopper, or flowers are all good options. If you're looking to avoid purchased gifts, consider bringing a homemade jam or mustard, that new craft you tried your hand at recently, or if you know the host well, perhaps a book you recently finished that you think they'll enjoy.

When is a hostess gift expected?

It's important to consider the context of the gathering because not every occasion requires a hostess gift. If you're attending a formal dinner party, for example, you may struggle to find an appropriate place to leave a gift, or the right moment to give it to the host. If you're attending a party that includes another type of gift — like a birthday, baby shower, or wedding — then an additional gift for the host is also not expected. And if you're stopping by your good friend's house for an impromptu pizza night, you probably can skip the gift as well.

Keep these guidelines in mind, but rely on your own best judgment when trying to decide if you want to bring a gift — and what gift that will be. Hosting can be a significant job, even if it's just a small, relatively informal gathering. So while you don't need to stress yourself out over finding gifts for every single event in your calendar, remember that it's important to show your hosts that you recognize the effort being put in. Even a small, homemade gift will go a long way in conveying your gratitude. And don't forget to return the favor — host your own ultimate dinner party every now and then!