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20-40-60 Etiquette: Hostess gifts for everything

It seems that since I moved here, people bring hostess gifts for every occasion. What's the real custom? 20-40-60 Etiquette weighs in, with Hilarie Blaney as guest.
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman Published: May 9, 2012

If you do take something, be sure the host does not have to do something with it immediately. It is hard to greet guests while trying to find a vase for a bouquet of flowers. If you take a food item, make sure the host knows it is not be served with the meal, unless you have discussed this beforehand.

Local customs vary. If you see everyone else bringing a gift to a party and you don't have one, you can drop one by later or write a wonderful thank-you note of appreciation.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Hilarie Blaney, etiquette and international protocol consultant: According to Emily Post's 18th edition, hostess gifts are obligatory in some places but only for special occasions in others. Here is my rule and when I give a hostess gift: 1. If I am being honored at a wedding or baby shower. 2. As a formal dinner guest in someone's home. 3. Weekend house guest. 4. Casual dinner in someone's home where I am not a regular guest. 5. Holiday party guest in someone's home.

The gifts should be cost appropriate, such as a nice bottle of wine, cocktail napkins and cheese knife, flowers or a homemade gift of a special item.

My view is that it is an honor to be invited or hosted; therefore, I reciprocate in some kind way by showing my appreciation through a gift and thank-you note.

To ask an etiquette question, email For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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