8 Gift Ideas for the Host or Hostess

By Kate Riley November 22, 2011

Greetings all, are you feeling the frenzy yet?  I started to feel it today, with a million things on my plate. The kids are home from school this week (who’s idea was that?) which adds to the craziness, but I finally got a chance to sit down for a spell to answer some emails and create this list.

I was asked by several readers this month to recommend some gifts for a host or hostess that don’t cost a fortune.  Most of us will be invited to a soirée or two this holiday season, whether a big Christmas party or smaller get together with friends. It’s a gracious gesture to bring your host or hostess something special they’ll use or appreciate but I don’t think you need to spend a lot of money. 

Of course, there’s always the lovely gift of a bottle of wine or bubbly (forever welcome at my house!) or the thoughtful presentation of a homemade treat if time permits. Here are eight more ideas for less predictable stylish gifts for your entertainer: 

1.  Bowl Her (or Him) Over.  Little sets of bowls are perfect for smaller amounts of sauces or condiments.  Bright colors or rustic wood bowls will blend well with so many table settings, stack them up and tie them with a big bow, they’re sure to be a hit. 

wood bowls

Lacquerware bowls, $17 each, Branch Home; Acacia Bowls; $6-$11, One Sydney Road


2.  Shake Shake Shake.  Salt and pepper shakers or mills are such a great gift, they’re one of those necessary items required for any dinner or buffet but something one rarely buys for oneself. Find a rustic, nostalgic, quirky, or colorful version to give to your host or hostess and you’ll be thought of fondly every time he or she seasons the food!    salt and pepper shakersKing + Queen salt and pepper, $40 Perpetual Kid; Mason Jar salt and pepper; $16 Terrain; Turquoise Pepper Mill, $42 Target


3.  Spread the Love.   Cheese spreaders are universally appreciated and so useful for all those dips, spreads, and appetizers.  I know I could certainly use a new set, and these are two of my recently found favorites.  

cheese spreaders

Vintage Cheese Knives, $29 Williams Sonoma;  Wine Cork Spreaders, $15, Z Gallerie


4.  Wood is Good.  Wood cutting boards are always always always useful, and the unique versions work so well for food presentation.  You can pick up several one-of-a kind versions at online shops, or you could get jiggy with your jig saw and make your own cutting boards.  Either way, they’ll be well received! This puzzle board is very fun, and I love both of these too:        cutting boards

Ash Cutting Board, $32 Terrain; State Cutting Boards; $40 A Heirloom on Etsy


5.  Coast!   I think coasters can be a very cool gift, and the prettier or more unique the better (and more likely they’ll end up on display!)  For a simple personalized DIY version, check out these snowflake coasters and these chevron coasters as well.  

coaster collage

Granite coasters, $42, Uncommon Goods; Trina Turk coasters $31, Inglenook Decor 


6.  Light it Up.   You can’t go wrong with elegant candles, from sophisticated to casual, especially ones in pretty packages.  Tie a bow around them for a simple but always appreciated gift. candle duo


Esque Candles, $19 – $34, Z Gallerie; Linnea Candles, $29 Inglenook Decor


7.  Grow Baby Grow.  A contained garden is a fabulous gift that allows your host or hostess to grow a garden on their own time. They’ll remember you when they bloom!

contained garden

  Flowers in a Can, $15 FredFlare; Basil in a bag, $9 Branch Home


8.  Bake and Take.  Nothing is more personal than a homemade treat, whether it’s your summer preserves, your best holiday cookies, or your famous pie.  Wrap up your treats in a stylish container your host or hostess will use long after the morsels are gone, or take it one step further and present them with a personalized dish, how very sweet of you! 

stylish food storage

Tapestry Food Storage; $32 Seltzer Studios; Personalized Pie Dish; $40 Red Envelope

In the past I’ve also given homemade baked bread wrapped in pretty dish towels (like these) tied up with ribbon, lavender linen water wrapped up in velvet wine bags, or shea butter soaps wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.  Finding the perfect host or hostess gift just depends on taking a moment to think about what he or she would really love, then keeping it simple and personal.  What’s most important is the time spent together so give it a little thought but then make it fun! 

What’s your favorite gift to give to a host or hostess?




  1. I absolutely adore the idea of the salt and pepper shakers! If you go the same place each year for the holidays, they could have quite the collection of salt and pepper shakers. Plus, they are always available at a good price at antique stores. You could be gifting a collection that may earn the host or hostess some money down the road. Can’t beat that!

  2. I have been waiting for a chance to bring a hostess gift. At Trader Joe’s they have big glass bottles of pure maple syrup. It looks like a bottle of wine (but most of our friends don’t drink wine) but contains a tasty treat, for only about $14! Someday I will get to give one to somebody…

  3. I’m eyeing those mason jar salt + pepper shakers. This year we will be brining homebrewed hard cider for our host. My boyfriend has a gluten allergy and has started a tradition of brewing and bottling his own cider each year right before Thanksgiving. This year we’ve even carbinated some and will likely bring a bottle of the old and new version for our host this Thanksgiving.

    Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  4. These are great ideas! Thanks for sharing!
    Personally, I love to give a nice bottle of wine, but I recently found a recipe for homemade vanilla extract that I’ve been wanting to try. I think that would be a great host/hostess gift too!

  5. A “good” candle, not a yucky cheapo one with a Christmas scent. This year, it is a Willow House verde bowl (that was on sale in their November sale) with seasoning shaker to make dip and a dip spoon or spreader. Sometimes, a good book. Usually something someone can use.

  6. I like Becky’s maple syrup idea! My daughter, Becky, is obsessed with maple syrup since she went to a farm and got her own out of a tree. I may have to make a Trader Joe’s run. Rachel, I already bought my vanilla bean from Penskey’s to make my own extract. Recipe? I just thought that you stick it in vodka or gin and leave it there for a month or two. Do you do something else?

  7. I should have said “a good candle with a Christmas scent.” I love the smell of Christmas!

  8. We are invited to family celebrations, and have brought a couple of tins of wonderful cocoa and handmade marshmallows, and a bag of high-popping Popcorn. It’s a great way to include the family in a gift, and perfect for cold winter days. I’ve brought crafty toys too for the children of the hostess, to occupy the children, and leave a space for adult time.

  9. We usually bring a nice bottle of wine (and do not expect it to be opened at the party), but I really like the idea of bringing a baked item in or on a serving piece that the hostess can keep. Great ideas!

  10. I don’t know. While I’d love to receive some of these items, the idea of guest arriving with gifts I have to keep is just not appealing to me. I have two sets of salt and pepper shakers (everyday and fancy), and I neither need nor want any more. Even if it’s a cute or vintage one, I’d feel as is clutter is forced on me (ok, so I’m a minimalist). I love real gifts, but if you entertain a lot, these sweet nothings amount to clutter at the end of the holiday season…

    This is why the gifts I love the most are the edible ones. First of all, because I love eating and drinking ! And secondly, you don’t have to keep those, they naturally disappear, sometimes quicker than they should, no doubt. Get me chocolate, homemade anything, liquor, and I’m the happiest hostess in the entire world. I’ll probably stuff you to death with my Christmas cookies though, so beware.

  11. I recently gave a gorgeous ceramic container of Spanish sea salt from Sal de Ibiza with a cork top and its own tiny porcelin spoon, beautiful enough to repurpose once empty. It was a little pricey, but a lovely gift, something I would have been very happy to receive! I also love the christmas tree-shaped rosemary plants from Trader Joes. They are under $10 and all you have to do is remove the TJ’s branded wrapping, dress it up with something more festive, put a bow on it and you’re good to go!

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