Whether you’re headed to an S.O.’s family’s house for the holidays or just hitting the party circuit, it’s always a classy move to bring a little something to show your appreciation for the host. But it can be hard to know what to give, and how much to spend, especially if you’re staying at someone’s home for an extended visit. How do you walk the line between tasteful and appropriate, but not mind-numbingly boring? To make matters simpler (but still stylish), I asked two etiquette experts for some host/hostess gift protocol tips.
“Remember, it isn’t size or dollar amount of a gift, it’s the thoughtfulness that counts,” says international etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer, author and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. “As a party or house guest, it is always appropriate to bring a modest host or hostess gift. Excellent examples include homemade sauce or lemon curd, tea towels, scented sugars, wine, and confections. Show you appreciate the gesture of them opening up their home to you.”
Schweitzer adds that if you’re visiting a partner’s family for the first time, try to do a bit of investigating into their interests so you can be a more informed gift-shopper. “If you can figure out their interests, hobbies, and passions, you can buy accordingly, such as their author’s favorite new release, a beautiful coffee table book, their favorite wine or champagne, a delivery of their favorite flowers before your arrival, or luxury food items.” As for what to avoid at all costs? “Gag gifts or any gift that may belittle a culture, religion, sex, race, or person—through a weight-loss device, for instance—are always inappropriate,” she says. Hopefully those last few should be obvious, but just in case!
While research and personalization can make for a very thoughtful gift, the most successful gifts are often the ones that can be enjoyed by anyone, says Diane Gottsman is an etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas. “Cocktail napkins are always a hit because everyone can find a use for them. Holiday-scented candles go along with the theme of the season, so it’s difficult to go wrong, but include a gift receipt so they can exchange it for a scent of their choice,” she advises. “Arriving with a box of good-quality chocolate is always a nice touch. Even if the host does not eat it, they can offer it to their drop in holiday guests.”
Gottsman echoes Schweitzer’s opinion that it’s more about the thought than the price.”The cost depends on the person and the relationship that you share,” she says. “Some people will naturally spend more because they can afford it, but the price point should not overrule the sentiment. A less expensive, well thought-out gift is far more memorable than a pricey one.” On that note, click through the slideshow below for 17 classy, affordable host/hostess gifts that will be a hit with any recipient.