Hostess Gifts

Ever since we moved to the country I have been embracing and been embraced by traditions of old. You’ll find me sifting flour! Collecting eggs! Cutting flowers from my garden and of course hosting to odd event here in our home. Throughout all of these lunches, dinners and weekends with friends and family, I have been lucky enough to receive the odd hostess gift.

Now don’t get me wrong. I embraced the notion of the hostess gift way back in Sydney, but now being somewhere that people come to visit for at least a night if not more, I have been on the receiving end of some cracking gifts. A hostess gift is the small something that you take to someone’s home when they are hosting a party, or a dinner, and if you are staying with them for a few days then the gift can be a little bigger. From the website wise geek:

“A small hostess gift is generally considered appropriate for dinners and parties, while guests who are staying for several days may get something larger. The ideal hostess gift is tasteful and elegant, reflecting the presumed good taste of the host or hostess, and it is also something which the recipient would not personally buy for him or herself. While the hostess gift might seem like a quaint tradition to some people, it is still alive and well, and bringing a hostess gift to an event will indicate that you are well mannered and that you have been raised in polite society.”

Whether it’s been a basket of eggs or some home made jam, a bottle of wine, or a bunch of flowers, any gift I have received has been greatly appreciated – who doesn’t love someone taking time to get something just for you? I do love some of the etiquette behind the old tradition. Some of the rules are quite funny “You should not necessarily expect to see your hostess gift displayed or used while you are present, especially if it is food or wine. Many hosts have planned very specific meals and wine pairings, and while your gift may be delightful and gratefully received, it may not be appropriate for the event in question.” You can guarantee that if you bring a bottle of wine to my house…it will be opened! How about all those times where you bring along a fancy bottle of something hoping it will be opened and it’s snaffled away never to be seen again? Hate that!

And this, “You should never pick a hostess gift which is ostentatious or gaudy. The goal is not to impress the host, but rather to please him or her with a small, thoughtful item which reflects your appreciation for the invitation”.

Some of my favourites that I have received over the years have been:

1. A pair of shoes! From Styling you of course…


2. A Bonnie & Neil Table Runner from my little sis


3. A couple of crackers from my sister in law (both from different visits): A sandwich press and some under the sink cupboard management storage things from IKEA.

4. THAT jug from my Dad and Step Mum


5. A home made bowl for hosting a birthday party for his wife from my mate Col


6. Plants, bags, books, flowers, jams, tea cups, tea towels….I could go on and on…

I was interested to see some of Martha’s ideas for hostess gifts here mentioning that if you take flowers to a dinner that the hostess can be running around trying to find a vase or cutters so it’s best to give them pre arranged in a vase….OF COURSE YOU DO MARTHA.

And my beloved Anthropologie has its own section on their website for the hostess gift. I would take one of EVERYTHING from there.

For me I like to give things for the home that seem a little over the top (NOT GAUDY, DEAR GOD NOT GAUDY) and not something that the host would buy for themselves. Some special linen napkins, potted plants, jugs, plates, fancy paper napkins, bunches of herbs and veggies, any kind of homewares, CUSHIONS and one of my better ones a soda stream for my hosts in Brisbane for having me last weekend. Because: game changer.

I’d love to know your experience with the hostess gift.

Are you a giver?
What’s the best you have received? Or given?
Ever had a good bottle of something hidden away from you?
Or does this whole notion seem outdated and ridiculous to you?


  1. Sally Boyle says

    exquisite Christmas decos, given and received; hands down best gifts ever, frivolous and beautiful, totally justifiable if a gift 😉

  2. I’m a great believer in “Give and you will receive”. I always take Champagne and Food of some description when we go to a friends house, never empty handed and they do the same. Champagne or Red Wine the guest brings is always opened first to enjoy, unless you already have a bottle opened and then it’s the second bottle to be opened.

  3. StevieLauren says

    Not out dated at all! I love it. I keep a little collection of bits and pieces (aura home features heavily) ready to go for when we are to be invited to a friend or family members house. I thoroughly enjoy giving gifts! It pays to put a bit of kindness into your life in whatever way you can in my books!

  4. I gave a jar of spiced mixed nuts I cooked up via Smitten Kitchen that were appreciated for a Xmas Party. The hosts sent me a little email thanking me of their delicious discovery after the party and I was suitably chuffed. Anything, anything from Anthropologie or a candle from Dipitique would be a win.

  5. MotherDownUnder says

    Never go to a dinner without wine I say!
    And, yes for a longer stay, I think something more unique is appropriate.
    I will have to remember that Martha tip too..of course flowers should come in their own vase…so obvious and yet I never thought of that…leave it to Martha!

    • BabyMacBlogBeth says

      That Martha…I know, I hadn’t thought of it either but it makes perfect sense. And you can grab a half way decent one from a $2 shop that would do the trick.

  6. I’m a giver. I never go to anyone’s house without wine (unless I’m fresh from the airport and haven’t had time to grab some!) and whenever I stay with my parentals I shout them dinner or buy flowers for my mum and bake for my dad. I’m also a thank you note sender. If I’m visiting someone interstate and I’ve been on a plane, arranging a hostess gift can be tricky. I’ll often send a little thank you note and a travel scented candle or fancy tea towel after my stay.

  7. Lisa Mckenzie says

    I am a giver depending in the amount of time I stay a beautiful candle a bottle of wine,chocolates some homemade something ,I think it just says thank you and shows your appreciation for them having you and I don’t think it’s outdated at all!Now I must have someone to say so I can get a jug for my flowers I have been looking everywhere for one x

  8. Living so far away from our loved ones, we frequently host friends and family for the weekend. A hostess gift is always lovely, but never expected. Friends often turn up with the makings of cheese platters, or a box of chocolates to pick over once the kids are all in bed. If we are going to a friends for the weekend, I will make sure I pop a little something in as a gift to say thank you.

  9. I need to get some new friends I think. I always take wine, chocolates or something else small when staying with friends. But I can honestly say that in the 3 years since we moved to the country not one of our friends has ever given us a hostess gift. Of course it is not expected as we love their company, but it would be lovely. You look like you have scored some beautiful things Beth.

  10. Yes I’m a giver, will always turn up with a hostess gift. Alcohol or flowers are my go to items. Maybe I’ll branch out a little now thanks to ideas in your post.

    But even us givers like to receive every now and again.

    • BabyMacBlogBeth says

      There were some great suggestions on Martha’s link especially. Also I find Bed, Bath & Table a great spot for cheap, pretty homewares.

  11. I love hostess gifts. It seems to me to just be part of the Australian way to never show up somewhere empty-handed. Mind you, I get really awkward if someone gives me one. I’m always like “Awww! That’s so swee-HOW DARE YOU I AM FEEDING YOU SHUT UP AND EAT AND BE MERRY”.

  12. 1.Yes
    2. champagne, perfume, those fancy dip-whatsy candle, books..
    3. yes
    4. no. We are a civilised society, feeding someone is an act of love, it’s nice to give back.

  13. Margaret Elvis says

    What lovely gifts you have received Beth. I am not sure this is a tradition over here in the West although when we were invited to someone’s home we usually took a bottle of wine if it was for a meal. These days we don’t host anything as I just can’t do it any more and we seldom are asked out to anything other than a BBQ and we just take our own drinks and whatever salad they want me to bring. Oh, what a dull and dreary life we two live. LOL

  14. Fashionista says

    I’m a fan of the hostess gift and the thank you note. Always wine/flowers/a tiny box of really extravagant hand made chocolates (absolutely not for sharing) if going for dinner or lunch. I found these really cute little calico wine bags in a gift shop in Noosa (and promptly bought the whole lot) which dress up your bottle of wine. For an overnight stay I send flowers (in their own vase which is a genius idea!) after I have left because who doesn’t love to get flowers delivered to them? Other go to gifts are the hostess’ perfume (you have to know them really well though, or not be above snooping in their bathroom ;)), vintage tea cup & saucer set, pretty guest towels, pretty tea towels. And always ALWAYS send a snail mail thank you note, regardless of the occasion.

  15. I’m glad you did this post because I’ve been struggling with a couple of long standing relationships, two friends who came to stay for 3 nights, and I was the perfect hostess (had their rooms ready, little guest bags for them with local produce) cooked most of the meals, had even texted to check what they eat for breakfast before they came, and they both arrived with nothing, not even a bag of chips, and they went to the bottle shop and bought clean skins (for gods sake). Anyway the weekend went from bad to worse, and when I bitched about it to my real friends (ahem) that was my first comment, they didn’t even turn up with a tiny little gift, not even a tiny little chocolate, a tiny little candle, nothin! So I’ve been wondering if my expectations are too high and you Beth have confirmed to me that I am on track, I still have good old fashioned manners and you know what, I’m glad because I think its much nicer that way. Thanks, I really needed to get that off my chest!

    • BabyMacBlogBeth says

      You are completely 100% allowed to be pissed off! I don’t understand how some people are like that – I have had the same a few times. It doesn’t even occur to them I think…? I will back you on this all the way…NOT OK. Vent away xxx

  16. Chelsea Sutherland says

    I usually do the boozey gift (or contribution) but I think I need to step up! Loving how many people say they do thank you notes. I don’t, but I think I’m going to make an effort to start. I am also thinking that initial mugs from Anthropologie might become my “thing” for gifts with a handwritten note.

    • BabyMacBlogBeth says

      Now THAT would be a perfect gift. A card or note is so lovely to receive and it’s nice to put something in the mail box!

  17. Annette Hill says

    I really like this tradition of hostess gifts, and a post-event thank you note for special times with friends is always good. I confess to being a sender of texts to say thank you, which maybe I should re-think. Any excuse to buy some sweet stationery which will make me and a generous hosty friend smile has to be a good thing! I like to bake and take too – muffins ago-go.

    And if you took Martha’s advice and turned up at my place with a vintage book, about Paris, or lemons, or Art Deco, you could practically move in!


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