What Can You Bring a Host When They Say Not To Bring Anything?

Southerners know when our presence is not the present.

Invited to a party and the host says to not bring a thing? We've all been there—and, many of times, have even shot a "Just bring yourself!" text to a friend when hosting. However, Southerners know that nothing doesn't always mean nothing. While we aren't ones to expect a gift in exchange for an invitation, that doesn't mean we're showing up empty-handed to a soirée, no matter the occasion.

"If the party is at someone's home and the host says not to bring anything, that usually means nothing for the meal or the party itself," explains Lori Trent, owner of The T Shop Lakewood in Dallas. "But every host likes to receive a little something special, as a 'thinking of you' or 'thank you for having us' gift," she adds. Emma Wells Strait, owner of Heezie's in Mountain Brook, Alabama, agrees, saying, "When a host says not to bring any food or drinks, it is still polite to bring a little happy treat!"

Beach Party
Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Kathleen Varner; Hair, Makeup, and Wardrobe: Celine Russell/Zenobia

Here, everything you need to know—from how much to spend on a gift to dos and don'ts—next time a host says, "Bring nothing!"

How Much Should You Spend?

This depends on the host and party! As a general rule of thumb, Trent recommends spending $20 to $30 for a simple get-together like a dinner party, housewarming, or wine night. If the host is known for having expensive taste, or the invitation suggests a more extravagant affair, you can always arrive with a favorite bottle of wine or spirit on the day of the party and send a nice floral arrangement the following week as a "thank you." This way, you can tailor your investment to the party theme or host, and spend anywhere between $50 to $200, depending on the occasion. Though, it is the thought that counts.

Gifts Any Host Will Love

When it comes to go-to gifts, boutique owners know best, which is why we called on two of our favorite local shops to share their "been-there, recommended-that" expertise. On Trent's list of treats she loves to give and receive: a favorite room spray with a cute ribbon, a simple candle with a sweet note, or a single flower in a keepsake bud vase. "This is always cute, because it's meant just for the host," she says of the individual bloom. Another favorite? Mini succulents that are planted in small serving pieces, as her shop sells.

"Some of my personal favorites are paper cocktail napkins, a tin of Louis Sherry chocolates, or a unique candle," recommends Strait. "It is fun to bring something the host might not pick up for themselves! A gift for a host does not have to break the bank, it just shows you appreciate them for hosting."

While the above ideas are always appropriate, Trent encourages leaning into a holiday theme for seasonal gatherings such as a Christmas party or football watch party. "Bring something for the host to use during the season," she says. "For example, a small pack of beverage napkins with a bow, a sleeve of reusable cups, or some treats (like cookies or candied popcorn) for the kids."

Gifting Dos and Don'ts

Don't Bring Food, Unless It's For a Later Time

"The host already has a menu, so they don't want to feel obligated to put out what you've brought to be served," explains Trent. "There's nothing worse than having a beautiful charcuterie spread and someone bringing their favorite appetizer to share."

Do Skip the Bottle of Wine

"When you bring a cheap bottle of wine without a card, the host knows it's probably re-gifted," she admits. Instead, opt for a bottle of your favorite wine with a genuine endorsement, or a bottle of tequila to kick off the occasion if it's a themed party (say, a taco night or pool party).

Don't Deliver Open Flowers

While wrapped-up blooms from a grocery store or bodega are lovely, no host wants to dig for the right-size vase while entertaining guests. Trust us.

Do Add a Note, Always

Even if it's just a heart and your name.

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