Gift her something thoughtful to thank her for the invitation.
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overhead shot of easter brunch table
Credit: The Ingalls

Whether you're joining your in-laws for their annual Easter brunch or spending the afternoon at a kid-friendly egg hunt hosted by your neighbors, bringing your hostess a small thank-you gift is a gracious touch. "Any social occasion at someone's home requires a thoughtful hostess gift," says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, the founder of The Protocol School of Texas. The one exception: If your hostess is a close family member you see often, you may be able to bypass an official thank-you present if you'd like. "We tend to do less when it comes to our family, in terms of formal courtesies," says Gottsman, "but bringing a little gesture of kindness will never be inappropriate."

Ahead, the thoughtful presents your Easter hostess will appreciate—and the ones to skip.

Choose something that they'll actually use.

Instead of generic bric-a-brac, choose an elevated, beautiful version of an essential your host can use in their home, yard, or at their next party, says Gottsman: a potted mint, basil, or rosemary plant; cocktail napkins with a witty catchphrase; not-your-grandmother's paper finger towels with a modern print for the guest bath; or seed packets and new garden gloves for tending the first bulbs of spring. "One of my favorite hostess gifts was a bird feeder, along with bird seed," she says. "I enjoy the birds outside my window every morning and think of my friend who gave me the feeder every time I watch them."

Skip over religious items.

Unlike Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July, Easter has a religious basis that might inspire you to choose a gift with spiritual significance. But that doesn't mean you should turn to your local Christian shop for a present unless you're absolutely certain of your hostess's taste. "You must know your host before making that call," says Gottsman. "The safest route would be to bring something seasonal, thoughtful, and useful. You may appreciate a religious icon, but your host may have their own preferences when it comes to how they worship and what they want to put out on a shelf."

Don't cook a side dish or dessert (unless the hostess approves).

You can offer to bring your family's favorite holiday dish but be respectful of hostesses who decline your suggestion to contribute—and don't surprise them with a recipe you expect to see on the table. They may have planned a menu that accommodates a specific dietary restriction or might prefer to coordinate the meal on their own, instead of relying on guests to assist. "When you are attending a family meal or other celebration, asking your mom or sister what you can contribute is a polite gesture," says Gottsman. "If they say 'nothing,' by all means, follow their request." If you do have a favorite food or drink you want to share, bring it, but set it aside for them to enjoy later. "Make sure it is something they can use, eat, or enjoy at another time, not during the meal," says Gottsman. "This rule goes for both family and friends."

Make it personal.

A gift chosen specifically for your hostess—instead of an impersonal knick-knack—will almost always be a success. Gottsman likes to give thoughtfully chosen wines in pretty bottles that the hostess can reuse as a water bottle or vase, or a picture frame with a sentimental touch: "A frame is nice but most of us have plenty of photos and not enough space," she says. "If you are giving a frame, make it four-by-six and include a special picture of a fond memory you share with the host."

In her experience, successful hostess gifts have one trait in common: "The thought put into the selection of it is what makes it feel special," she says. "When the host feels it was purchased, collected, created, or baked especially for them, it carries an extra feeling of warmth."

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