How to Become a Host(ess) Gift Expert
Call me crazy, but I believe that cooler weather is the ideal time to host—or attend—a party. Oh, sure, summertime has poolside romps and outdoor grills, and spring has those first, deliciously green outdoor brunches, but there’s something about a gaggle of pals packed together in a cozy space that makes for the most memorable nights. Like molecules bouncing off of one another, the most unexpected conversations, hilarious new relationships and (dare I say it?) best chemistry is born from these parties where we’re all swapping stories and—inadvertently—a little bit of body heat.
The nucleus of these sweater-loving shindigs are your hosts for the evening: The people who have welcomed you in out of the cold—literally—for a night of relaxation and pleasure. And for this noble and kind gesture, it’s imperative that you get the person or people hosting a gift. Yes, that’s right, imperative. There’s no getting out of it.
A gift for the host of the party should be something that feels thoughtful and singular—somewhere between a bottle of wine you snagged at the corner market and a monogrammed sterling silver julep cup. And that means considering your closeness to the host, the number of people attending the event, and the level of involvement that (you can assume) went in to pulling everything together.
I like to rank each of these on a one-to-three scale to determine the type of present to buy. If you have a work colleague (a level-one acquaintance) who is having the entire office (a less intimate affair) over to watch Monday Night Football (a casual hangout), this requires a less thought-intensive gift: something under $20. For these types of low-key gatherings, an item that works with the party’s theme—like, in this case, these silly $10 football-themed photo booth props or a $13 novelty jersey for her pet—would be a solid way to go.
When it comes to something a little bit snazzier, such as a friend’s annual holiday cocktail party for your extended friend circle (“level-two” across the board here, if you’re playing along), it’s time to step the gift game up a notch. Instead of focusing on the party itself, I like to err on the side of self-care for the host following the event. This can take any number of forms, from a collection of 3-5 new-to-them facemasks for rejuvenation, to a new pair of slippers and a basket of her favorite movie candies, to a weighted blanket or a box of fancy teas. For this, think all things hygge—but nothing has to break the bank (under 50 bucks, total, unless you want to splurge).
With level-three gifts—those fancy, formal dinners with the in-laws that require several outfit changes before heading out the door and will involve several different courses throughout the meal—it’s ideal to give a gift that keeps on giving. My pick? An annual subscription centered around one of their unique, beloved food items. This is a savvy way to remind these family members once every month-or-so that you (yes, you!) gave them an amazing service that delivers unique types of honey, coffee, hot sauces or whatever they fancy directly to their door. Signing loved ones up for local subscription services, like a CSA for unique breads or a pasta club, is also a way to give to others while giving back to the community.
Oh, and offering to stick around and help clean up afterward is always a stellar guest move that’s, perhaps, the biggest gift of all.