Thoughts on being a guest

Clipart courtesy FCIT

Clipart courtesy FCIT

Disclaimer: If you are my friend, you have never given me anything stupid. I love your gifts! None of these stories are about you!

 I woke up with the urge to start dispensing holiday advice. Not the decorating or cooking kind but the “I got invited to a shindig and I’m not sure what to bring” kind.

Long-time readers know that I like to recycle gifts I can’t use. I am sure I will resurrect my regifting advice at the proper time but not yet. My goal here is to catch you before you buy that absolutely stupid gift that you think is just perfect for someone.

Over the years I have gotten my share of “pink elephants.” I just love regifting but some end up in the trash. I am too embarrassed to put them on Craigslist. I can’t help feeling that the giver is an unskilled regifter, hit a sale or maybe this was on the first counter in the first drugstore (or Ollie’s) she stopped at on the way to my house.

If you don’t believe the last one I can tell you it happens. One of my good friends from the 1970s had a nice husband but he wasn’t a natural-born gift giver. In fact that was putting it mildly. She got a scarab bracelet two years in a row. One year she received a very masculine watch that was all they had at the drugstore where he stopped on Christmas Eve to get her gift. He was going for Tabu or some other out-of-style perfume (she was wearing Charlie at the time) but even that was sold out. They are divorced today but I’m sure it wasn’t about the gift giving. Maybe.

I digress.

You are invited to someone’s house. It’s not always necessary to bring a gift especially if you do a lot of reciprocal activities with the hosts. If you want to take something make sure it’s usable but don’t expect them to serve or use it at the event.

Here are some thoughts on gifting:

  • Don’t take flowers if the person is allergic, has a pet that eats them or doesn’t have any place to display them. Yes, I have seen someone put a bouquet on top of the refrigerator. If you want to bring the centerpiece, discuss it with the hostess beforehand or be content with it on the side table in the bathroom.
  • Don’t take candy to a diabetic or someone who is dieting. I mean really dieting not just fantasizing about it. (You know what I mean. We all know people who fantasize about it so much that they believe they are actually dieting even if that’s a piece of cheesecake they’re eating.) That’s just cruel. I am not dieting nor am I diabetic so chocolate works for me.
  • Wine or some other spirits are a good thing if your host drinks alcohol. They can be served or easily regifted. I made the mistake of taking a bottle of wine to a new friend who didn’t drink. Neither did her husband. Oops!
  • Candles are wonderful but can be touchy. Again think about pets or allergies. Many people with pets do not burn candles for a couple of reasons. One is that the pet may tip it and start a fire and another is that animals are more sensitive to smells than we are so it’s like dousing your nose in perfume. Unless, of course, it’s a tuna-scented candle. Then my cats would LOVE it. They are partial to liver too.
  • Another great idea is a froufrou food item from a fancy store, like Williams Sonoma. Make sure it’s not too weird. They have wonderful finishing sauces, designer vinegars and oils, and glazes for cooks and I love their dish towels, liquid hand soap and other nifty things they stock. Stay away from the cookware unless you want to mortgage your firstborn.

It’s always best to match the gift to the hostess if you can and make sure it doesn’t add more work for her. If you don’t know the hostess well enough, stick with something simple or perhaps a small gift card – Starbucks always works for me!

I have dropped enough suggestions for today. Enjoy your parties!

28 thoughts on “Thoughts on being a guest

  1. There seems to be Rule Book out there for just about everything, except this very important subject. I think you’re off to a great start Kate…now onto Chapter 2. It appears the holidays brought out the snark in you too…lol!


    • Chapter 2 might be a gathering at a restaurant. I was recently given something (a paper item) at a restaurant get together. There was no bag, no envelope, no protection. I couldn’t fit it in my purse. I had no idea where to put so it wouldn’t get soiled. There are some things that don’t travel well in that environment (like flowers unless they are in water).


  2. thank goodness I am a recluse, and rarely have to contemplate the appropriate hostess gift

    with that being said, I can honestly say that I enjoy choosing just the right gift for someone, but in my present reality, it becomes about choosing just the right gift for somebody that happens to cost less than a gallon of milk. Or a package of wienies. Or a bag of dog food. But still, I usually try to see it as a personal challenge, and try to ferret out something special, even if it isn’t the Taj Mahal.


    • A few years ago, my nephew (40ish) got a big chocolate chip cookie from his cousin for his birthday. He was in heaven. It doesn’t take much to make someone happy. You just have to pay attention.


  3. Great tips. Truly, as you pointed out. gift giving can be a landmine to be avoided at all costs. I know I can be hard to buy for because I never give any one any ideas. The only year I squawked was when I got 5 coffee mugs for Christmas. I guess they ran out of ideas. 🙂


  4. Oh Kate, I really loved this. It’s so funny for starters…the Tabu/watch/Charlie sold out guy…the tuna scented candle…and yes…gifts can be tricky. I regift providing it’s regiftable. I got a nutcracker once that played Donqa Shane, which I cannot spell nor care to. I was even too embarrassed to take it to Housing Works, my charity du jour. Somethings need to be stopped in their tracks. Fun, informative, Kate kinda piece. SNARK SNARK…


  5. Fun post, Kate. Social situations are designed to be AWKWARD, right? 😉

    Sometimes I view the pleasure of my company as “the gift” . . . and arrive empty-handed, full-hearted, and full of FUN.

    Other times I bring dessert and hope they send the leftovers home with me. Or, if they don’t drink, I bring wine . . . a vintage that I’ve been anxious to try. 😉

    All kidding aside, I often bring funny cocktail napkins or note cards (like those from Emerson) with a small box of sweet treats to eat:


  6. These are all great suggestions — especially the flowers/candles. Hubbs is asthmatic so both make him wheeze. I love flowers & candles but just can’t have them. Period.

    My favorite gift to bring is to bring what we would welcome in our home — food — a cheese/sausage/cracker tray, a canister of cashews or a tin of Tim Hortons coffee 🙂

    The worst gift I was ever given was a gravy bowl that had been glued back together. What a good idea = hot gravy + broken china + glue. Nice! (not). It went into the trash

    Let the bad-gifting season begin!


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