You’ve been invited to a fancy dinner party and you know that you better not show up empty handed. Huge faux pas. But what should you bring? Naturally you’ve asked the hostess and she pleasantly responded with, “Just yourself.” You know that it is never actually okay to arrive without the hostess gift that we hear about all the time. What a 21st Century headscratcher. You’ve got to come up with a Goldilocks version of a gift that’s not too underwhelming (how pathetic your hostess will think...) and not too over the top (how showy all the other guests will think!) Luckily, there’s practically a cottage industry of personalized wine bags and wine glass tags that supports this ambiguous, but highly personalized gift category. Some super-efficient and possibly overly well-mannered people have closets stocked with apropos hostess gifts. The trick to stocking a hostess gift closet? You can’t stock it with things that are too generic. All gift givers with any kind of gifting finesse know very well that all good gifts must be picked out with the person in mind. Think about all those obvious re-gifts that you’ve received. Exemplary Southern ladies are also great givers of “happies,” a meaningful gift given for no reason. I frequently benefitted from lots of “happies” from my best friend Caroline’s mom who thoughtfully snags any matchbook, gift bag, napkin, and anything else from any restaurant or shop with the name Zoë (there are more than you realize). The key to a memorable hostess gift is making it personal and making sure that it’s appropriate for the occasion Without any more adieu, here is a clear list of what is never okay to bring with you.
1) Cheap wine, liquor, or beer. You’re getting a free meal so spring for the good stuff and a generous amount of it.
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2) An unrequested or unapproved dish. This rule is akin to wearing white to a wedding. You better not outdo the hostess at her event or mess up her pre-planned menu. This is a dinner party not a potluck – unless otherwise stated.
3) An uninvited guest. Cocktail parties with passed hors d’oeuvres are one thing. But a seated dinner takes a lot of planning and you don’t want to be the one who makes the host scramble for an extra seat, plate, or food.
4) Your pet. Editor’s Note: I’ve tried and I got denied. Don’t bother for obvious reasons.
5) A tiara. I know a real lady who does this. She gave me one. I felt obligated to wear it and I’m not the tiara wearing type. Awkward night.