Read this before pre-ordering a bouquet.

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Bringing your hostess a gift is a great way to thank her for the invitation and hospitality. But not all presents are created equal—and if you want your hostess to appreciate your thoughtfulness as much as you appreciate a spot on her guest list, it needs to be the right type of gift. But what, exactly, is the right present—and, just as importantly, which ones miss the mark? Ahead, some of the best and worst gifts you can bring along to the party, according to etiquette experts.

guests hugging and giving hostess gifts
Credit: svetikd / Getty Images

Best: Thoughtful, Personalized Gifts

There's nothing wrong with buying your hostess a more universal gift, but if you want to go the extra mile, a thoughtful present is the better option. "Anything that's personalized or catered to their passion or hobbies are going to, I think, be the best gifts for a host or hostess," says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of the consulting agency Beyond Etiquette. Does your host love to bake? Gift her a copy of your favorite pastry cookbook. And if she enjoys playing mixologist, bring her a monogrammed cocktail glass to add to her collection.

Worst: Flowers

Bouquets are a go-to gift, especially if you're not sure what else to bring, but according to Tsai, "flowers can be a little tricky." They actually present a slew of problems: You have to think about allergies, flowers' cultural connotations (some varietals actually aren't appropriate for celebrations in some parts of the world), and her personal taste (she might dislike the type or color you bring her). Unless you know the host extremely well—and understand the kinds of flowers she typically buys—it's best to steer clear.

Best: Items for the Home

It makes sense to bring your hostess, who has invited you into her home, something for her home—which is why décor is one of the best (and most common) gifts to bring. Candles for her tabletop or a lovely houseplant work, says etiquette consultant Maryanne Parker. When shopping, look for neutral items that translate across all design styles.

Worst: Re-Gifted Items

If you have received a gift that you don't use, you might be tempted to wrap it and pass it off to your host—but re-gifting isn't the best approach. While re-gifting may work occasionally ("It's is only appropriate if the gift has never been opened and used," says Parker), it can lead to a tense situation "if the host is in the same circle of friends with the [original] person who gave the gift," says Parker. "This could be very uncomfortable, because there is a large possibility of them finding out."

Best: A Shared Experience

Your hostess extended an invitation because she values your relationship. So, why not give her a gift that helps to deepen that bond? Gifting her an experience you can enjoy together—like tickets to a concert, a cooking class, or a day at the spa—will not only show them how much you appreciate the invitation but will also help strengthen your bond beyond the event. "[Gifting an experience is] another memory created—not just the dinner party or holiday party you [were originally] invited to," says Tsai.

Worst: Something Too Expensive

You might think the more expensive the gift, the better. But the truth is, you should actually avoid overly extravagant or costly hostess presents—especially if you're not aware of their financial situation. "We do not want to make the host feel uncomfortable—especially if they cannot reciprocate with the same value in the future," says Parker.

Comments (14)

Anonymous
August 6, 2021
Okay, so you say don't give something too expensive but then you suggest a spa day. You do realize don't you that a spa day can cost as much as $400 . Most of my friends would feel very uncomfortable and I would likely NOT get an invitation back. Unless it is for a special occasion such as a birthday, a retirement celebration, etc., I do believe a pedicure would be more appropriate than an entire spa day. That is just my thought. Not everyone makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year
Anonymous
August 6, 2021
Okay, so you say don't give something too expensive but then you suggest a spa day. You do realize don't you that a spa day can cost as much as $400 . Most of my friends would feel very uncomfortable and I would likely NOT get an invitation back. Unless it is for a special occasion such as a birthday, a retirement celebration, etc., I do believe a pedicure would be more appropriate than an entire spa day. That is just my thought. Not everyone makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year
Anonymous
July 18, 2021
Ditto on the flowers, pain in the neck while you're trying to get dinner on the table. I would like to add a bottle of very nice olive oil to the mix. If you get the right shape, you can put it in a wine bag. Everyone uses it, so at some point it will go away, unlike home decor.
Anonymous
February 10, 2020
I love getting flowers, I wish I would get them more often. I have enough things in my house, I really don't need more things. At this point our guest bring a food item for our gatherings, which is the best in my opinion. Our friends always add to our gatherings with a appetizer or dessert rather than a hostess gift.
Anonymous
February 10, 2020
Forget all the other reasons given. What do you expect your hostess to do with what is actually a thoughtless gift? Should she stop greeting her guests? Interrupt meal prep? Mix the floral preservative for the vase - after finding the vase? Trim an inch off the stems and then find a place to put the vase - which may be full of flowers that don't fit her color scheme. All so she seems grateful to you? Send a bouquet the next day, but don't bring them with you to the event.
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
I think flowers already in a vase are always welcome. I know myself and many friends who already have too many houseplants that we have to take care of and water and feed for years, friends say oh please no more house plants. It seems to me flowers are getting a bum rap. Funerals are saying in lieu of flowers and now you are saying it about hostess gifts. I think we need more flowers in our lives not less. It’s a big reason why I read Martha Stewart.
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
Concert Tickets are very expensive. To me, that is outside the realm of a "hostess gift"
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
Sometimes a friend (in my group of friends) gives me a great gift. I buy one for another friend, as it's fun to share great things. Now it seems like a regifting when it isn't.
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
Sometimes a friend (in my group of friends) gives me a great gift. I buy one for another friend, as it's fun to share great things. Now it seems like a regifting when it isn't.
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
Flowers are the worst. They always catch me flatfooted, usually still preparing stuff and interrupts the flow of that and greeting guests. The correct vase has to be sussed out, ends trimmed, arranged... another job added! ps I never appear less than grateful, for sure. I do love flowers. But I go by my ancient Uncle Willie's words: if you can't eat it or drink it, don't bring it.
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
Agree with above comment- way too much thinking about flowers . I do flowers and gift Baskets for a living and that is way too worrisome. I do suggest nothing with a strong scent as that can cause sneezing or interfere with the food . HOWEVER- I would suggest bringing something already in a vase so the host doesn’t have to deal with the flowers while greeting guests . Wine, candles, chocolates - all work well too
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
Flowers are a fabulous hostess gift in a neutral tone, if you are not sure of their color scheme. I also liked candles,however, if your concerned about fragrance , candles may not be a good choice.
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
When traveling to visit a friend, I always like to bring them something local from home. I live in the SF Bay Area. If the drink wine, it might be a wine from Napa that is only available locally. I also like bringing chocolate bars from a chocolatier based in Berkeley. I don’t bring any of the chocolates produced in SF, such as Ghirardelli because it is distributed just about everywhere and frankly nothing special.
Anonymous
February 9, 2020
Any friend who is that anal over flowers (outside of allergies) doesn’t deserve a friendship.