After almost 25 years as an event planner, TableArt founder Kathy Warden is no stranger to throwing a party, or to giving the perfect hostess gift. Earlier this month, Kathy shared some thoughtful tips for hosting a warm and welcoming holiday gathering, so we knew just who to ask about finding the right gift to say “Thanks!” when it’s our turn to be a guest.
terrain: Starting with the basics, what are some things to consider when choosing a hostess gift?
Kathy: It’s always best to plan ahead, thinking about your hostess and what she would appreciate based on her home, lifestyle, and interests. Does she love chocolate or wine? Is she a foodie? Give her something that can fit naturally into her décor and lifestyle.
terrain: What are some of your go-to hostess gifts for holiday get-togethers?
Kathy: A bottle of wine, chocolates, or a holiday-scented candle are choices any hostess will enjoy. Homemade snacks and sweets are a lovely, personal touch. If your host likes birds, bird seed or a birdhouse can make a wonderful, seasonal gift. If she's a close friend or family member, consider a more personal gift based on what she especially enjoys.
terrain: The holiday season can mean a lot of parties to attend. How do you make sure you always have the perfect hostess gift on hand?
Kathy: As the holidays approach, plan ahead and buy a case of wine with wine bags, several of your favorite holiday-scented candles, and a box of pretty note cards. As you RSVP to invitations, take the time to write a thoughtful note and pair it with a gift. Handwritten notes to accompany your gift are a must!
terrain: What are your thoughts on living gifts?
Kathy: Think about your hostess and her lifestyle before bringing a living gift—does she like gardening, or would a plant be a burden? Where would a plant live in her home? If your hostess does enjoy plants, choose ones that celebrate the season, like paperwhites, amaryllis, or Christmas cacti in festive packaging.
terrain: Are there any types of gifts that you prefer to avoid?
Kathy: I avoid any gift that is perishable and needs immediate attention. You don’t want to add to your hostess’ to-do list by giving something that needs to be taken care of or eaten right away. And fruitcake, of course!
terrain: What’s the etiquette for thanking a hostess who specifies “No gifts, please”?
Kathy: Always write a thank you note in the week following the party, and mention the special details of the evening that you enjoyed most. Compliments on the holiday décor, the food, or your dinner partner are always appreciated. Make sure your note is personal so that you acknowledge the hard work and generosity of your hostess. In lieu of a gift, you might also make a donation to your favorite holiday charity in your hostess’ name.
Kathy’s Hostess Gift Picks
Cocktail Party: linen or vintage cocktail napkins
Dinner Party: a bottle of wine or a gift for the kitchen
Overnight Stay: hand towels for the kitchen or bath, luxurious soap or lotion
Family Member: something personal that she will enjoy
Close Friend: a photo of you together in a pretty frame or a CD of favorite holiday tunes
Acquaintance/Neighbor: a bottle of wine or holiday plant
Colleague: a gift certificate to a nice restaurant or a bottle of wine