There are so many more glorious gift ideas, way better than the good old faithful and sometimes convenient bunch of flowers, or the fake red carnation in a cylinder (that OMG moment, did they seriously give me that) gift!
There is nothing more loving than putting a little thought into the gift you give to the Hostess.
It’s not all about the Wine | A bottle of wine is still a must, whereas the hostess is also given a small gift as a gesture of your appreciation. The bottle of wine you take on the night may not be opened on the night because this is always at the discretion of your host and the same applies to any food you might give as a gift.
Gifts should not be elaborate or expensive as this can make the Hostess embarrassed and it can also make other guests feel uncomfortable that their gifts look less significant. Keep it affordable and keep it thoughtful.
So when is too much? That is difficult, because the traditional gift of a bottle of wine or champagne still exists, as does a small gift. Just remember that it is always less about the value of the gift and more about the thought behind the gift. Just never go empty-handed.
The perfect gift is when you stop and think what an amazing gesture and you realise that your guest gets you. What a massive compliment!
The Power of Flowers | Flowers are always a safe option and yet not always the best option. If you are buying flowers on the way to the dinner party, it will often look as if the flowers have been purchased as a last-minute thought. Flowers that have a look of love about them can never go wrong. Consider putting a bunch of flowers into a glass bowl or ceramic pot for a point of difference. A vase demonstrates just that little bit more thought. Better to make the bunch of flowers smaller and add a container. An orchid plant is always an absolute showstopper!
An alternative to a bunch of flowers could be a potted plant, cacti or pot of herbs, which are all very in at the moment. Keep your container neutral in colour and style, not patterned. You want your gift to fit easily into any home style.
Wrapping Up | Wrapping the gift also adds weight to your gift and makes it look a little more loved. Attach a ribbon to your gift or place it in a gift bag filled with cellophane or tissue paper. And of course, ribbons, ribbons, ribbons.
Attach a Tag | Add a gift tag to your gift (this is again me suggesting you do as I say not do as I do). How often have we hosted a dinner party and in the flurry of tight deadlines and in the middle of a series of back to back hot flushes, we find that we paid little attention to the gifts given on arrival only to later find that we cannot remember who gave what (difficult to type with one hand in the air)?
Sweeten up the Night | Chocolates are always guaranteed to please. There are also many gorgeous sweet alternatives you could consider such as decadent peanut brittle (one of my favourites), delicious rocky road (another of my favourites) and the likes.
Empty a box of Baci (oh dear another of my favourites) into a lovely glass jar and tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar. This looks gorgeous and again it makes for something a little less predictable than the commercial box of chocolates.
The Unexpected | Something a little unexpected and equally appreciated would be a delicious jar of jam, a tin of herbal tea, a tin of hot salted caramel chocolate, flavoured oil of sorts or a basket filled with Ottolenghi style herbs.
Make it and Take | If you have the time and the talent, then nothing beats a homemade condiment of sorts, such as spiced oil, jam, chilli, biscuits or meringues. Whatever the item place it in a lovely jar, basket or gift box and finish it off with clear cellophane paper and a ribbon. I keep a box filled with beautiful ribbons in many colours for exactly this purpose and the purpose of gifts. Handwritten labels on jars can make your gift more personal.
I have shared stories about Ottolenghi and I have spoken about his pistachio and rosewater meringues. Bake some and give them away. Again, don’t expect them to be eaten at the night, they are a gift. Wrap them in cellophane paper, fill the bag with dried rose petals and tie it all together with a gorgeous big bow (better still let the Hostess know what you are bringing so that she can rely on them on the night).
Queen of Hearts | Now let’s get different and thoughtful. If they play cards, how about a beautiful set of designer cards (so special) what amazing thought. These Christian Lacroix are of a beautiful set of cards and seriously who would be unhappy to receive these!
For those of you who love linen napkins, then there are sets of affordable linen serviettes on the market right now. Maybe consider a set of 4 linen napkins in a neutral colour, which will work for any casual setting or a linen tea towel (which is perfect for an afternoon tea or high tea gift). Simply roll them and tie them in a ribbon.
A scented candle always wins in my house. I love burning scented candles and I love giving them as a gift. Add to this list a lovely jar of hand cream, hand towel, and soap on tap, (I adore Aesop’s mandarin and orange soap).
Short story | I gave my brother-in-law a get-well candle a short while back. A black container with white writing, so contemporary and so masculine. The words read, “From someone who cares … and that someone isn’t me”. Fortunately, we have that kind of relationship and he loved the thought and the candle … and me of course!
When you are out shopping and you see a gift and think of a particular person, grab it, store it and wait for that special occasion when you can give it.
Staying over the Weekend | Does anyone do that anymore, unless they are your grown adult kids trying to save money? If they do, then absolutely a gift is appropriate. Friends came to stay at our beach house a short while back and bought with them a bottle of red wine and a hamper filled with beautiful cheeses, biscuits and jams. Delicious, so kind and so perfect!
As for me | I am off to eat a little peanut brittle, or maybe some rocky road or maybe a Baci or maybe a little of each! Next time you will find me just a little bit sweeter.
Tip | Stockpile some lovely small gift cards/tags, gift bags, ribbon, cellophane and tissue paper so that they are sitting waiting in the ready for your next Hostess gift.