Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

Put Thought into Personal Preferences When It Comes to Hostess Gifts

Oct 31, 2019 11:36AM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Oakmont Olive Oil Company

It is considered good etiquette to bring a host or hostess gift if you are invited as a guest to someone’s house for dinner, for a holiday or housewarming party, or if you are staying overnight.

“Generally speaking, a hostess gift is a small token of appreciation for someone hosting you at their home,” said Sharon Carroll, owner of Oakmont Olive Oil Company.

“A hostess gift is usually something useful, thoughtful and appropriate for the occasion. It differs from a regular gift in that it is usually functional, versus a keepsake,” added Amy McGinley, owner of So Me Artisan Wares and Jeweler’s Studio in Allison Park.

Host and hostess gifts can run the gamut between personal items—particularly if you’re well acquainted with the person—or something more general if you are not. 

For example, said McGinley, “Find out what candle scents they like, or if they love red or white wine; make an effort to curate the gift to their personality.”

“If you are attending an event hosted for a specific holiday or theme, you can choose a gift that will fit that occasion,” added Carroll.

There are times when you might be invited as the guest of a guest—in that situation, when you do not have a personal relationship with the host or hostess, it is best to choose something a little more generic, such as flowers.

Though there are no hard and fast rules about how much to spend on a gift, McGinley said that $15-$30 is typical. Of course, that could depend upon your relationship with the host as well as your own budget. 

“We’ve had people spend as little as $10 and as much as $100 or more, so it’s really a personal preference,” said Linda Wagner, owner of Shepherd’s Gifts in Wexford.

Keep in mind that often, the recipient will not open the gift in front of you, particularly if there are other guests around. If you do bring something that you think could be appropriate for use during the dinner party, make sure you communicate that to your host.

Hostess gifts can vary based on situation or occasion. For example, said Jan Osterholm, owner of Apropos in McCandless, “Often if someone has been invited to dinner, they will take a bottle of wine. If they want to do a little more they will purchase some snacks to go with it like our Whiskey Sticks pretzels or a box of Scamps Toffee. Popular gifts include a wine bottle coaster or chiller (depending on if you’re giving a bottle of red or white) or bar towel.”

If you visit someone who has moved out of the city, consider bringing your host or hostess a piece of Pittsburgh nostalgia, such as prints, coasters, tea towels or trays with a Pittsburgh theme, added Osterholm.

“Our number one hostess gift is almost always a piece of Nora Fleming’s collection and a plate charm. This line is so versatile and ranges from small pieces great for hostess gifting to large pieces for 'regular” gifting,' said Wagner. 

Another popular item is a Stonewall Kitchen mix. “Whether you combine them with a serving piece or create a collection of items, you can’t go wrong,” she added.

At So Me, McGinley said people buy unique linens, locally sourced honey, chocolates, artisanal salts or spices for hostess gifts.

Hostess gifts can vary with the season. In the fall, for example, the velvet pumpkins at Shepherd’s are popular. Wagner also sells a lot of faith-based gifts, particularly art stones.

“We currently love our Pittsburgh towels and painted glasses, wildflower honey, bottle openers and goats milk soaps—all of which are made here locally,” said McGinley.

Sometimes the particular occasion may call for a specific type of gift. For example, flowers work well for a dinner party, as does a homemade dish. In that situation, said Osterholm, a guest may opt to bring a food item on a plate or platter, with instructions to keep the platter as a gift.

Food is usually a great option for a gift, no matter the occasion. “If you know they love Italian food, you can tailor their gift to what they love by choosing a Tuscan Herb or Sundried Tomato Parmesan Olive Oil,” said Carroll. “To add interest, you can pair it with balsamic vinegar or seasoning salt.”

Keep in mind several etiquette taboos when selecting a hostess gift. If you are visiting the home of someone in another country, take care not to violate any customs. For example, certain colors may be taboo in certain countries, according to Osterholm.

“A gift card would be very impersonal and not represent the effort that the hostess put into preparing for the party, event or evening,” added Carroll.

The bottom line is to put thought into a hostess gift and try to personalize it to the event and to the host’s tastes.