Hospitality is a State of Mind: Choosing the Right Host Gift

by Neal Kielar, Tastemaker in Residence

Birthday gifts are usually easy. Anniversary gifts can be tricky. But it’s the host gift that trips people up the most.
The path to appropriate host gift-giving starts with this simple question: is this a right occasion for giving one? We’ve all become so informal in socializing that the rules for when you should consider a gift are hazy.
So, let’s make it simpler: if you’re attending a very special event in someone’s home – something that’s one of a kind, that requires a lot of preparation and has great meaning in the life of the host, then a token of thanks for being included might be in order.
Now comes the harder part: deciding what to bring. Variables include not only the nature of the item but also the expense, the presentation and how personal it can be. Here’s a checklist of questions to consider when selecting a host gift:
1. Does the host have a collection of some sort? Adding to it could be an easy option but you also want to be sure you really understand the particulars of what they collect and why. And you don’t want to offer a duplicate, so go for something that can’t be found every day.
2. Does the host have a passion, like gardening, a sport, music or something that really defines them? Getting a gift that acknowledges a passion is a sure thing. So, for the gardener maybe a plant they can add to their plot. A sleeve of favorite golf balls for the golfer. Some music that expands the host’s listening horizons.
3. Do you have a special shared memory with the host? Think of something that signifies an experience you had together. Remember not to get too personal because host gift-giving is often shared with other guests and you don’t want to leave them in the dark.
4. Would your host appreciate something unexpected? Some of the best gifts are the ones that are unexpected. Maybe its something exotic you found on a trip. Or something uncommon and unusual you stumbled upon in a vintage store. When you give a gift like this share the story behind it, because that’s another layer of the gift itself.
5. Will your hosts most appreciate something that’s not for them personally? I definitely have too much stuff at any given time, but I never mind someone bringing something for my dogs. How about a pet toy or healthy treat? Bringing something for your hosts’ children is another thought, but maybe you’ll want to check in first to be sure that’s OK and that the gift is on target.
6. Do your hosts have too much stuff? That’s where something consumable works well. Consider a bottle of wine or unique treat that can be shared at a dinner party. Just make sure you take the occasion and menu into consideration.
7. Is the gift of your time the best gift of all? Preparing for a special event can take a lot of time. So, how about offering to help by showing up a little early, running that extra errand or maybe preparing a specific dish to bring to the party?
Neal Kielar is owner of MidModMen+friends, a St. Paul, MN-based boutique offering a classic modern mix of home furnishings, from vintage to artisan and artist originals.