Hostess gifts are always well received. If you are going to a dinner or staying a few nights, giving a small gift to the hostess lets them know they are appreciated. Of course, you should match your gift to the effort put forth by the hostess and something that compliments the occasion. For instance, it wouldn't be appropriate to give a silver wine bucket for a BBQ dinner. It would be great to give a colorful tub to hold iced drinks in.
Here are some of my favorite gift ideas. Some I have received and appreciated or I have given personally. Hint: if they hostess has given you a gift, she would probably appreciate a similar gift herself. I have collaborated with my sweet friend Melissa (who is the hostess extraordinaire).
Nice dinner at a friends house:
A bulb in a pot is so nice. She can enjoy it for weeks to come!
Flowers in a vase (say they are for her kitchen, so that she doesn't feel compelled to put them on her carefully set table.)
Coffee or tea (say for her to enjoy the next day)
A fun party game
A fancy foam soap for her kitchen
Pretty salad tongs or serving spoons
Is she a gardner? New gardening gloves, garden shears and plant labels
Pretty paper napkins
Pretty Coaster Set
Cookie cutters (ornate metal ones are best)
Pretty sticky notes or stationary with stamps
Kitchen towels (plain colors are good)
Gift certificate to her favorite restaurant
Gift certificate for movie tickets
Gift certificate to a book store
Paper Guest Towels and Towel holder
Serving platter or bowls
Pretty salt & pepper set
Bird or hummingbird feeder with food
Cake plate (crystal matches everything)
Pretty Tote bag
Starbucks gift certificate with cookies
Specialty food delivered to the hostess (Louisiana pecans for holiday baking are wonderful!)
Bailed you out of jail:
First rights to your kidney
What not to bring:
Lets skip the bath products, candles, hand lotion and fancy soaps. They have been overdone and most of us have tons of this stuff laying around anyway.
DO NOT bring food as a hostess gift unless you have been asked to contribute to the menu. And then you should see what the menu is and take suggestions from her.
A word about giving wine. My wise friend Shannon once told me that we never know what secret struggles someone has. They may say "yes" to a glass of wine at your house, but inwardly struggling with alcoholism. I took those words to heart. I don't want to cause a friend to stumble. My new rule: Unless I know the person well and have spoken with them about the topic, they will not be served wine in my home and will not receive such a gift from me. As a side note - I am fine with receiving wine as a gift and being offered a glass of wine at a dinner. My limit is one glass, so you will save a bundle if you have me over for dinner!