Hospitality = Choosing the Right Host Gift

by Neal Kielar, Tastemaker in Residence

Is the concept of a host gift even valid anymore? Hosting guests isn't the same as it used to be, and the role of "host" can be hard to determine. I wrote guidelines for host gift-giving a few years back and decided to revisit them as the social landscape keeps shifting.

Hospitality is a State of Mind: Choosing the Right Host Gift by Neal Kielar - posted 3/22/14

A sneak-in note from Cindi…Here is my editorial gift to you our followers. Neal is the Owner of MidModMen in St. Paul, MN. That’s where I find some of my favorite hostess gifts. Click here
This much is still true

The path to appropriate host gift-giving still starts with this simple question: is this an appropriate 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. 

The harder part is deciding what – and how much of a gift – to bring. You want to consider the nature of the item, the expense, the presentation and how personal it can be. And a new consideration: will others bring a host gift or will you be the only one and stick out out like a well-meaning but sore thumb? 

A refreshed look at selecting a host gift
1. THE GIFT OF TIME. 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?

2. A GIFT FOR EVERYONE. Consider bringing something that can be shared by all the guests. That’s where something consumable works well. Consider a bottle of wine or unique treat, taking the occasion and menu into consideration. This works well in most informal gatherings, but never ever upstage your host.

3. A THEMED GIFT. If the gathering has a specific focus or theme, a gift in keeping with that theme could be a hit. 

4. A GIFT FOR SOMEONE ELSE. Sidestep the potential awkwardness of a personal gift and bring something for other members of the household, like a small toy or book for the kids or a treat for the dog or cat (or bird, iguana, ferret, etc.).

5. THE GIFT OF COURTESY. Being a great guest is a gift in itself. Show up on time. Dress appropriately. Be engaged and engaging (even in a quiet way if you're a quiet type). Be respectful of the surroundings and circumstances (no feeding the dog from the table or putting your wet glass on an unprotected wood surface, for example).

Now get out there and have some fun, and of course some sweets!