Absolutely Never Show Up to Your Host Empty Handed

As southern women, we often attend events for family and friends. We frequently even host parties and know the countless hours and effort that goes into planning and putting together a successful event.

In southern tradition, we are encouraged to show up at events with a gift to show our appreciation to the hostess.

However, there has been much controversy surrounding this practice. We wonder if bringing a gift will be annoying or unnecessary, or if our empty hands will be a symbol of our laziness or indifference. The last thing we want to do is insult the person welcoming us into their home. So how do we decide what to do? What is the best practice?

So, what is the formula for hostess gifting?

Let me start by saying there is not a one size fits all formula for hostess gifting. At the end of the day, the best formula for host gift giving is to go with your gut. If you feel like you need to bring a gift, go pick something thoughtful up. However, if you are on the fence then think through a few, simple steps to feel more confident in the decision you have made. So when that invitation comes in the mail, consider these 3 steps before you purchase a perfect hostess gift.

culture + event + relationship

1. Culture

While this may seem like a silly detail to consider, this might be the most critical thought. If you are going somewhere, before attending it is important to consider the culture of the hostess. Culture should prescribe your decisions from what you wear to what to bring.

Cultural traditions can range vastly from one area to another, even within the United States. When you are visiting someone’s home for the first time, think about their traditions. Family traditions and their culture have a significant effect on what we believe are good manners. In the South, it is traditional for someone to bring a small gift to the host, like a bottle of wine or flowers. In Indian custom, however, it is traditional for the host to gift their guests. Our opinions are deeply rooted in our family, and our traditions stem from our family culture. So, if they are from out of town, do a little research or even ask your host before heading over.

2. Event Type

What are you going to attend? A holiday party? Birthday party? A shower? Dinner party? Overnight stay?

If there is a guest of honor, I gift the guest of honor in those instances. So a shower, a birthday party, etc. I bring a gift to the person we are honoring and celebrating, instead of the host. The host worked hard to prepare an event for the guest of honor, so we can all pay tribute to them. The best way to thank the host would be to show attention to their guest of honor. Unless you are the guest of honor, then you should always bring a host gift for those who helped coordinate your special event.

If the event is held at a venue or other location, I do not always bring the host a gift. However, if I am attending a party at someone house such as a dinner party, I find showing up with a gift is the best way to thank the people who invited me.

3. Relationship to the Host

How do you know the host? If I am going over to my parent’s house for dinner, I don’t always feel obligated to bring a bottle of wine or anything. Most of the time, I merely ask can I bring anything? It comes down to how comfortable I am at the host’s house. If it’s a second home to me, I ask what I could bring for them. If not, show up with a gift!

It also matters how frequently I visit their home too. The more frequent I visit them (or they visit me), things are considered a lot more informal. It is not necessary to bring a host gift for each time. Your company is what your friends and family most cherish in those instances.

So when that invitation comes in the mail, consider this simple formula before you purchase a perfect hostess gift. culture + event + relationship .

Happy gifting! Keep you days just peachy!


What do you consider before attending a party? How do you decide when to bring a gift? Leave us a comment with your host gift tips and tricks!

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