"If you think business and manners don’t mix, try talking with your mouth full.” - Diane Gottsman, Modern Manners & Etiquette Expert, Author, Media Resource

Hostess Gift Etiquette

July 21st, 2017 by

Dear Diane,

I love to entertain and often invite people over to my apartment for dinner. I am always stumped when they bring me a hostess gift, not sure if I should open it in front of them or wait until later. Some friends insist I unwrap the gift but I feel awkward if there are other guests who didn’t bring me anything. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. What do you suggest I do?

Emily A.

Gift Etiquette

Dear Emily,

When you are hosting a party, it is often easier to wait to open your gift until after your guests have left. Some people insist you open it in front of them, and of course, you may oblige. If you are given wine, it is not necessary to serve the wine during your event. If someone shows up with an unexpected dessert or platter of appetizers, use your best judgment. If they wanted to surprise you with an extra dessert, you may consider serving the confection to be gracious. However, most guests know their host has carefully planned the menu and is serving food and drinks that carefully complement each other.

As a host, your ultimate goal is to make your guests feel welcome. You are correct, opening a hostess gift from one person may make others feel uncomfortable, especially if they did not bring you a present. Use your best judgment if you are asked to take a look. Do it away from the crowd, discreetly and quickly. Thank your guest warmly for their thoughtfulness and get back to the rest of your guests.

The following are a few considerate hostess gift etiquette tips:

  • A hostess gift should be given in a pretty bag or box.
  • Always include a gift tag so the host will know who gave it to her (or him).
  • Avoid bringing flowers if they are not in a pretty mason jar or decorative vase. Better still, send them in advance so the host can place them someplace special before her guests arrive.
  • Never give a re-gifted hostess gift. You never know if the original giver will be at the party.
  • Consider giving a quality bottle of liqueur or champagne as opposed to a bottle of wine.
  • Dazzle your host with a kitchen-centric gift, such as a tea towel wrapped around a bottle of olive oil, held together with a satin bow.
  • Give your gift discreetly without a fuss.

Best of luck,

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