QUESTION: I have only lived in Oklahoma City for 10 years, but where I used to live, we didn't take a “hostess gift” to every event. Here, the bride gives hostess gifts to people having a shower for her, and sometimes there are many hosts. People take hostess gifts when they go to someone's house for dinner. If we are someone's house guest, we need to take a hostess gift. It really has gotten expensive (and time consuming) to always be gifting. Is this a local rule? Am I terrible for questioning this? What should I do?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: Throwing parties is expensive and time consuming. Think of it like this: At least you didn't have to throw the party, right?
Bring a bottle of wine, or send flowers before the event to say thank you for the invitation. A bride should give the hostess (or hostesses) something a little more creative.
LILLIE-BETH BRINKMAN: Hostess gifts are a thoughtful way to thank people for making the effort to entertain or have a shower for you. Perhaps it falls under the category of what we in Oklahoma consider Southern hospitality. I don't know how the tradition started, but it's not always expected or required. It doesn't have to be expensive.
As a guide, think about the type of occasion. Is it being held in your honor? Then a gift is appropriate. Is it a large cocktail party? Use your discretion, but if you are good friends with the host, then you won't go wrong bringing one. Is it a fundraising luncheon? Then, no, unless you run the organization for which the person is hosting the party. And so on. The 18th edition of “Emily Post's Etiquette: Manners for a New World” has a good answer to your question about geography: “In some parts of the country, a hostess gift is considered obligatory, while in other places a gift is brought only on special occasions.” You, apparently, are witnessing more of the former.
HELEN'S ANSWER: Hostess gifts are certainly not required, and there are not rules that dictate that you should always come bearing a gift.
There are still some people who never even think about bringing gifts to events and parties, and that is OK. If you are invited to large party, I don't think it is mandatory to bring something. Let your heart be your guide. If you know that someone has spent hours preparing a meal for you, it would be a nice gesture to take something. People do give gifts to wedding shower hosts because they are appreciative of their efforts. These gifts do not have to be expensive, particularly if there are several hosts.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to blog.newsok.com/partiesextra.