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Mind Your Manners

Need a creative thank-you idea for your gracious host during the holiday party season? Here are a few guidelines to keep you soirée savvy.

Tiffany Duncan
December 1, 2016

Just like thank-you notes, the 
oxford comma and formally 
mailed invitations as opposed 
to e-vites, hostess gifts are sadly 
falling out of social etiquette. 
We are all busy — especially 
now as our calendars are quickly 
filling with Christmas parties and get-togethers — but don’t let that be an excuse to forget your manners. Even after December and the holiday season comes to an end, it’s still important to know what is and isn’t acceptable concerning the rules of hostess gifting.

When choosing a gift, the three main things to keep in mind are the following: consider the event; know your audience; and choose tastefully and functionally. For example, you might think that flowers and wine are always appropriate, but there is still a protocol for both. Depending on the situation, you may end up committing a social gaff rather than providing a proper gift. Here are a few guidelines to keep you soirée savvy this holiday season and beyond.

Showing up to a party with a bouquet
 of flowers is not exactly wrong, but it all 
depends on the presentation. Handing a bouquet that is still in cello-wrap to your 
hostess will cause her to have to stop what 
she is doing in order to find a vase to place
 them in. Instead, bring them already in a
 vase, or tell her you will personally get the
 bouquet in water. An even better option is 
to have it delivered to your hostess a day 
before so that she can place them out for
 the party if she desires. Also, although a 
potted plant may seem like a good gift, only
 bring one if you know your host or hostess
 already has a love for plants. Otherwise,
 you may cause him or her unnecessary 
stress about killing it.

If you choose to bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party, make sure your host knows that it is for him or her to enjoy later as a personal gift, not necessarily at the party. This also takes the pressure off your host to serve your wine if it doesn’t pair well with the food they will be serving. Also, unless you know for a fact that your hostess likes Rosé, keep it to reds or whites.

Bringing a bottle of nice whiskey or gin also makes a safe, tasteful gift, but sweet liquors or spirits with a more narrowed palate preference should be avoided, as your hostess may not like it. If you know your host is a microbrew aficionado, bring a unique bomber of beer. If it’s a party where something or someone is being celebrated, bring champagne. And unless it’s an inside joke about the good old’ college days, the Jagermeister or bottle of Burnett’s go into the dirty Santa pile and not the hands of your host.

Above all else, if you are attending a party where you do not know the host well, avoid giving alcohol altogether as you run the risk of offending them.

Chocolate is a great option for almost
 any type of party or event you attend — especially if it’s at the home of someone you don’t know very well. Purchase chocolate
of higher quality — not your leftover Halloween candy. Most people rarely splurge on luxury truffles just for themselves,
 so receiving a box of them as a gift is 
very welcome and appreciated. Glacier Confection in the Brady District and Nouveau Belgian chocolatier in Broken Arrow are both excellent places to find decadent and beautifully packaged chocolates.

Like chocolate, candles are nearly always a safe and appropriate gift. But also like chocolate, it should be splurged on a little bit (think Yankee or Anthropologie, not bargain store riff-raff with a residual gooey price sticker spot).

Bags of Coffee or Tea
Bringing one or two bags of coffee from a local coffee shop would make any coffee loving-hostess jump for joy. Try and purchase whole bean coffee only, however, in case they already have a grinder and prefer it freshly ground. If they prefer tea, provide a gift card to Teavana for them to pick out their favorites.

Tasteful Kitchen Items
Two words: olive oil. There are so many tasty varieties of olive oil available, and pairing one with a nice set of small dipping bowls would make an excellent hostess gift. This is a great combo for situations like meeting your significant other’s parents, or attending a party at your boss’s house. It’s not too personal, and also incredibly useful. Other viable options are balsamic, truffle oil, tapenades, jams, jellies and chutneys.

Creative Gift Basket
If someone is hosting a party in your 
honor, or you are staying with someone
 for an extended amount of time over the holidays, a detailed hostess gift may be more appropriate. Assemble a basket with a centralized theme, like bath products 
for pampering, or maybe a reading-related basket with one or two popular novels and some candles (that is, if you know your host/ hostess is a reader). And get creative with your “basket,” using things like a
 nice stockpot to assemble an assortment 
of colorful pastas, oils and pestos for an Italian cooking theme. If you don’t have time to put one together yourself, Lokal and Main boutique gift store in Jenks also sells preassembled baskets of themed gifts.

If you know your host appreciates a good cigar, a few nice cigars are a great gift option. Cigars are particularly appropriate if it is some sort of celebration party, like retirement, an anniversary, a birthday or even just a casual dinner party.

Other Dos and Don'ts of Hostess Giving

Keep it Edible or Functional
The best gifts are things that the hostess can enjoy in the days after a party, like chocolate, wine, cheeses or a box of gourmet cookies. Don’t buy something that might sit awkwardly around their home to collect dust, like a decorative snow globe. If you do buy something that isn’t disposable, make sure it serves a unique purpose, like a mixology tool for your host’s home bar setup.

Nothing too Personal
Skip the perfumes and beauty “miracle” products (body wraps, etc.). However, decorative soaps, lotions, or bathroom hand towels do make nice gifts if it’s a housewarming party.

Packaging is Everything
Take it out of the grocery sack and remove all price tags. Pretty packaging accounts for half of the gift, so put some thought into the gift bag, or add a bow to a bottle of wine to make it cheery and festive.

Don’t thrust your gift out to the hostess as soon as she opens the door; greet each other and wait until you are inside to offer the gift.

Unless Specified, Don't Bring Your Own Dish
Unless it’s a potluck or the invitation expressly said to contribute food, do not bring your own casserole. The host/hostess already has the menu planned and you don’t want to make them feel obligated to serve your dish, especially if it doesn’t fit with the meal. However, making a batch of your famous snicker doodle cookies for them to enjoy later is acceptable, especially if you know the hostess well.

General Rule of Thumb
If you think it might be weird, it probably is. Play it safe.