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Unique Hostess Gifts and Etiquette Advice

By Isabel Kallman

As I sit here, Friday night, simultaneously wishing I were at a holiday party right now, and yet dreading my busy calendar over the next couple of weeks, I finally have the time to compose this post which has been forming in my head for a few weeks.

What do you bring a Hostess?

Different occasions call for different protocols. But, I think you should be thoughtful and really just share some of your favorite things. Heck, your hostess is sharing some of hers (food and friends) with you.

Here are my recommendations:

Cocktail Party

Gift Etiquette as I understand it: Unless asked to do so (like a bottle of wine), you are not obliged to bring anything. If I have time, I love to plan ahead and gift my hostess. I try to keep it small and simple. It’s meant to be a nice gesture. Think stocking-stuffer-sized.

During the holidays, bring a unique Christmas tree ornament. But, if you know the hostess is the type to have color-coordinated her tree, your odd-colored one might make her lose sleep at night. So, instead bring some candy, like these slabs of chocolate and brittle in a tin that you don’t think she will buy for herself. Who doesn’t like gourmet candy? Who?


Another idea is drink coasters. Interesting or personalized ones will always hit the spot. Grace Bonney of Design Sponge even curated some coasters for you. Plus, cocktail party and coasters? Could there be a better match? Maybe.

Cue, corny music.

A beautiful set of matchboxes always brings a smile to my face. Lately, I have a seen a whole bunch of artful ones and it’s now so easy to order some personalized or monogrammed ones on-demand. I love almost anything on-demand.


Fun matches available at Etsy.

Dinner Party

Gift Etiquette: you should bring or send a gift. If you bring one to the party, please do not bring flowers. Seriously, even though it’s a lovely choice, it’s a pain-in-the-neck for a hostess to stop, find a vase and arrange the flowers, blah, blah, blah. You get it. Instead send her a flower arrangement (think cocktail-table size or for the powder room) the day of the party to decorate her home. Or, a bouquet the next morning as a thank you. Dessert and wine are always lovely, but please do not expect her to open up either that evening. I’m sure she has already planned out a bottle of wine and dessert to complement the dinner.

Also, I think there are many more unique and unexpected gifts you can bring to the party. These are some of my favorite things.

How about a unique sugar shaker like this snowman one!?!


Available at Panik.

Salt and pepper shakers, baby. Both sets available at The MoMA Store:


Holiday Open House

Gift Etiquette: I really don’t know. But I would buy a small gift appropriate for the entire family. Living in New York City, holiday open houses are not common as I wish they were. If I were attending Melissa Summers’ Holiday Open House in Michigan, I would bring one of these gifts. I think mom, dad, and the kids would enjoy it.

A package of lollipop suckers in awesome flavors like blueberry, green apple, and cinnamon. Available through Sundance:


Holiday ice cream sandwich makers are perfect and available at William-Sonoma:


Mini doughnut maker found at Amazon. I, myself, asked Santa for this.

Relive the experience with the Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker. Available at Amazon.
Okay, these are kind of big gifts for a Holiday Party. Now that I have listed them all, I think a Christmas tree ornament would be just perfect for the Holiday Open House Party.

Overall, my best advice is to buy in bulk, or if you want to go with personalized gifts, place the orders as soon as you receive or RSVP to the party. And, the next thing you know they will arrive just in time for the party.

Now, I’m going to watch HSN. In bed and in the dark. I need to rest up. Lots of parties coming up.

Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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I want that donut maker too! And the sno-cone machine, and well, everything. Great ideas lady.


THANK YOU. I love these hostess gift ideas. I’m hosting a party myself next week. Is it bad that I hope someone brings one of these great gifts?
Great site!

Melanie at BeanPaste

What lovely ideas! Those slabs of candy from D&D make me swoon-y.
And I can guarantee that showing up with a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine in hand would make you the hit of many a party.
Bonus idea: I think a really great piece of cheese and a small, wooden cutting board, maybe wrapped in a dishtowel, makes a winner hostess gift.