It is always exciting to watch the cocktail and dinner party invitations roll in this time of year. They give us a chance to catch up with friends, family and colleagues that we may not see too often otherwise. But to ensure that you make a good impression, and that you'll be asked back again, there are a few basics to keep in mind. I've put together a list of dos and don'ts of hostess gifts, so the next time you're preparing to go to your friend's dinner party, or your colleague's cocktail party, the only thing you'll have to fret over is what to wear.
Cocktail Party Guest
- Bring a gift that they can use at a future party. Hosts are always looking for more reasons to invite people over, so give them one! Tasting games, drink charms or a themed cocktail book are all great additions to their party repertoire.
- Give something that they can use at this party. (Only if you know they will appreciate it. Some hosts plan every detail and don't want unexpected additions).
- Wrap up a gag gift if it's your personality to do so, but don't be offensive. Save that for the Secret Santa exchange!
- Give a gift that requires a lot of attention. Anything that entails being put together, or involves complicated instructions or explanation is off limits here. People hosting cocktail parties tend to be buzzing around making sure guests are comfortable and that things are running smoothly, so they won't have the time or attention span to go too deep with you.
- Give a gift that will be useful for the meal or that can help them prepare future meals. If you have a favorite kitchen gadget, now is the perfect time to get one for your host! A fun set of cloth or cocktail napkins, napkin rings or place-card holders will be appreciated and used at a later date.
- Give them something fun to keep guests busy while waiting for the meal to be served like a deck of conversation starter or a book of parlor games. But only use them at this party if the host gives you the go-ahead. Otherwise, you'll have to be invited back to see them in action when they've been planned into the evening.
- Ask the host if she needs anything for the evening that you can contribute to the party. There is almost always at least one thing that will make you a hero. Too often, people just show up with wine when what the hosts really need is another wine opener or a cheese knife. It may not be glamorous, but they will never forget how you helped save the day.
- Pick up flowers on the way. Flowers, at worst, need a vase, and at best need to be worked in to the party décor while the host is busy tending to her guests and the kitchen.
- Give gourmet gifts that must be consumed that evening. Meals require careful planning on the part of your host. Showing up with a snack that will ruin everyone's appetite will not get you invited back.
- Give scented candles and expect them to be used at the dinner table. It's surprising how often a table is scented by candles that clash with the scents of the food. Don't let your host fall into this trap.
Now that you know all the dos and don'ts of how to be the perfect cocktail and dinner party guest get yourself invited to some parties and show off your new skills! These tips will help make you the guest that all your hosts will rave about.
Dana Holmes is a lifestyle, gift and etiquette expert who acts as Editor in Chief of Gifts.com and the Gift Rap Blog. She has been working in trend forecasting and gift recommendations for the past decade. Dana loves making occasions special with her unique gift ideas, tips and touches. She has been interviewed by the New York Times, Associated Press, Fox & Friends, TODAY in NY and many more.