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Holiday Entertaining Tips for Guest - and Host

Tuesday Nov 15, 2011
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NEW YORK, NY -Amidst the excitement of being invited to a holiday party, the universal question lingers - what should I bring? It is always considerate, and frequently expected, for a guest to bring a gift to a holiday party.

Although the standard gifts of flowers and food or wine are usually appropriate for a meal invitation, even these can be offensive if not chosen and presented with care. The key point to remember is that it is always appropriate to inquire, "Is there anything you would like me to bring?"

Dawn Bryan,author of the best-selling "The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving" and founder of Qualipedia (www.thequalipedia.com), offers the following tips to select a gift that is appropriate and appreciated by the host.

Three things to consider when selecting a gift for your hosts this holiday season:

  • The extent of hospitality and duration of your visit:The gift should depend on the extent of your stay - is it for a cup of coffee, a party in your honor, or a you a houseguest for a long weekend?

  • How well you know the recipient: Is it your mother, your regular tennis partner, your boss? Certainly if you are not as familiar with a person, or if it is your first time visiting them, a gift is in order. At the same time, although people who dine frequently with one another are not expected to bring gifts on each occasion, but you should always ask if they need anything.

  • What you know about the recipient: Are they a serious gourmet cook, left-handed, regular entertainers, an avid gardener? If you take time to customize your gift based on the hosts lifestyle, it will demonstrate how much you care about them and they will be grateful - even if it is just a small gift.

  • Tips for bringing standard gifts of Flowers, Wine, Liquor or Food:

  • Flowers: Brought to a formal dinner can create confusion while the hostess or others search for a suitable container, then attempt to integrate the flowers into the design and color scheme that has already been chosen.

    However, if you know the hostess well, tell her that you would like to provide a special floral arrangement for the occasion and ask if she has a color scheme. If you do take flowers be sure they are already in a suitable container. You can also send flowers or a plant with a thank you note the following day (having seen the decor).

  • Wine or Liquor: Unless you were asked to bring wine for dinner, usually must be given to the recipient(s) with the admonition that it is to be enjoyed at a later time rather than incorporated into the planned dinner party meal (your sweet white wine with his beef Wellington?).

    Many guests regularly bring wine or liquor because it is an easy gift to give. However, the successful gift of alcohol requires some thought. Selecting a name brand liquor may help the recipient with entertaining, but can also show little consideration for his or her preferences.

    Aperitifs and after-dinner drinks such as cognac, sherries and liqueurs are good gifts for those who entertain frequently and formally.
    Food: A gift of food should also be selected or prepared with the recipients’ tastes, needs, and family situation in mind.

    Bringing a surprise dish which is to be eaten at the event and which requires immediate oven warming, refrigeration or freezing, or a special bowl or platter can upset the kitchen, the menu, and the cook--and possibly all three.

    On the other hand, your well-loved special raisin cookies or pate with brandy will be welcome gifts for later consumption, especially if presented in an attractive reusable container. Be aware of others’ religious beliefs and taboos as well as their food preferences (vegan) and allergies (if possible).

    The key point to remember is that it is always appropriate to inquire, "Is there anything you would like me to bring?"

  • Things to consider if you are a houseguest:

    Bring some small token of appreciation upon arrival, then purchase a gift during your stay or wait until after the visit/weekend to select a suitable thank-you gift. This is an especially good idea if this is your first visit to someone’s home.

  • Make Plans to Host Your Host:

    Hosting your hosts, while visiting or with a promise for a later date, is always a good way to show your gratitude.

    If you take them to dinner and/or an event, you should also handle the reservations, obtain the tickets, and pick up all of the expenses, including tips and transportation.

  • Personalize Your Gift:

    Bring some small token of appreciation upon arrival, then purchase a gift during your stay or wait until after the visit/weekend to select a suitable thank-you gift.

    This is an especially good idea if this is your first visit to someone’s home.
    If he regularly entertains outdoors, send citronella-scented candle torches or a croquet set. If he is a serious cook, he may not yet have the most recent exotic spices he loves, a dumpling maker, or a talking food scale. If he is wine lover, send bottles or case of his favorite wine or a beautiful decanter.

    Personalized cocktail napkins or monogrammed soaps and hand towels, membership to a local museum, concert tickets, something for their yard or garden or gift certificate to a local nursery, new sports equipment, or a gift certificate for their favorite local restaurant are the types of gifts which not only say "thank you" but acknowledge your appreciation of who they are and their special brand of hospitality.

  • Other Thoughtful Ideas:

    Select decorative items with care: neutral colors and simple designs are usually a better choice than bright or neon colors and busy patterns.

    If you remember to gift the host’s children or pets, your gift may be even more appreciated than the host’s.

    A healthy houseplant or small tree in a decorative pot is a good choice for hosts who can care for it.

    Your photo, sketch, or painting of the hosts’ home, barn, yard, beach, boat in a simple frame is a wonderful remembrance of a special time.

    Always thank your hosts within a day or two by telephone or handwritten note. E-maIling thank-you’s is popular, but perhaps not commensurate with the effort the host took on your behalf, especially if you were a houseguest.

    If you are a guest on someone’s boat, waiting to send a gift afterward is a good idea, as space is usually at a premium, and the host would probably have to pack up and take gift home.

    Dawn is the founder of Qualipedia ™ and author of the best-selling bookThe Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving. Qualipedia ™ is the definitive source for making choices daily that count. Qualipedia ™ educates consumers on their choices, helping them achieve independence from product hype, providing transparency about everyday items and gives people the information they can use to determine quality for themselves, enhancing their lifestyles in a way that works for them. www.thequalipedia.com

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