Hostess gifts that are thoughtful, practical, inexpensive, and that your host will love. Bonus: Find out what NOT to take!

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These hostess gift ideas are just what you need to show your hosts how much you appreciate their hard work. Whether for a dinner party, holiday party, birthday party, bridal shower, or any event, the best hostess gifts follow the lines of good etiquette: something that doesn’t require any time or effort from the host, that’s not home decor, and that doesn’t come in a dish to be returned.

Two hands holding a hostess gift on a blue background with a question mark above it.

Although you can’t go wrong with a small baked goods gift, maybe chocolate chip cookies or banana bread, I tend to steer away from those types of hostess gifts and lean toward something that doesn’t need to be consumed right away.

My girlfriends and I have hosted so many bridal showers and baby showers over the last few years, that we have had to come up with some pretty unique gifts for each other.

Some of our favorites have been:

This is the perfect choice for those friends who like to go out a lot and of course this falls under easy hostess gift ideas! You can keep some gift certificates on hand so you’re never without a gift.

Another one of my favorite gifts to give is a gift certificate to a local restaurant – nothing says thank you for working so hard to host us like a gift certificate that lets you get out of the kitchen!

One of the best hostess gifts we’ve ever received was from some friends of ours from another state who came and spent a few days with us. A few days after they left, we received a box with various treats/gifts that were from their local area. It was so thoughtful and touching and we absolutely loved it. 

Another friend once gave me a small container of vanilla sugar – regular sugar with a vanilla bean to infuse the flavor. I loved that and used it in several desserts!

Below are some of my most highly recommended hostess gifts. And keep reading below the list to find out my recommendations for what NOT to take and why!

Gift ideas for a hostess

Thoughts to consider

There was a discussion recently in an online forum about whether to bring a bundt cake as a hostess gift when the host had specifically requested guests not to bring anything. The comments were so interesting and across the board. 

Lots of folks saying, “Who wouldn’t love an extra dessert? If she doesn’t want to put it out at the party, then she can serve it later or freeze it!”

Well, I can tell you who wouldn’t love an extra dessert – ME! As a frequent hostess, I have a system and plan for every detail when I host an event. I set out serving dishes with serving utensils to make sure I have what I need and to select the best layout and space for every single thing I plan to serve. 

And, I carefully plan the menu to ensure the least amount of leftovers, especially desserts. No one wants to take home leftovers from a party, so as the hosts, you are stuck with it. And I don’t know about you, but if there’s cake in my house, my sweet tooth demands that I’m going to eat it! 

Yes, your hostess can serve it later–but when? What if all the company is leaving? What if there’s no room in the freezer? 

There are other special occasions where we plan on a potluck party, and in that instance I’m perfectly happy to have folks contribute. But even then, I try to coordinate so we don’t have duplicates. 

So what is one to do? Of course, you should not show up empty-handed! But there are ways you can make things harder for your host (like bringing flowers that are not already in a vase!) and ways you can express your gratitude that conveys thoughtfulness and induces smiles rather than anxiety!

You can even make a special DIY gift bag designed with your hostess in mind.

Here are some gifts I would not take:

  • Flowers – your hostess probably already has decorations planned, so if you bring flowers she has to make a spot for it. Or worse, if you bring fresh flowers that are not in a vase, she’ll have to stop what she’s doing to trim and arrange flowers in water.

    And, you never know what someone’s allergies are and whether or not flowers are a good idea in their household!

    With that said, if you wait until the next day and SEND flowers, that’s a super nice gesture and a wonderful hostess gift. Send something with minimal pollen and allergic properties. I have allergies that most flowers aggravate but I can keep roses and hydrangeas with no problem. Or if you feel as though flowers are your only option then at least prepare and put them in an inexpensive vase or a mason jar.
  • Any food intended for the event – unless your hostess has requested that you bring a particular dish for the party, then don’t. Not even your Great Aunt Sally’s pound cake recipe that is simply the best thing ever! 

    And if your host did request something, say an appetizer, choose something that you can make entirely at home and bring it plated with a serving utensil (unless she has asked you not to). Don’t bring something that needs to be “just popped in the oven for a few minutes” because she may have the oven allotted to other recipes already. 
  • Crockpot – for the love of God, please don’t take your slow cooker to someone’s house and ask them to find a spot for you to plug it in. Again, unless it’s a potluck party and your hostess has specifically requested that you bring your amazing cheese dip!
  • Coffee – while coffee sounds like it would be a nice hostess gift, what if your hosts don’t drink coffee? Or what if they only stick to a particular brand? You don’t want to take something that will just go to waste. Unless you know your hosts are coffee lovers, and you know what they like, I would avoid coffee.
  • Watermelon – I’m only listing this because there were several commenters in the discussion group that suggested taking a watermelon. No one specified whether they meant a whole watermelon (are you kidding me???) or cut-up watermelon in a dish. 

    Either way, while this might seem like a great option in the summertime, this is a gift that’s at best going to require your hostess to find a spot in what may already be a super-crowded fridge, and at worst, require your hostess to cut up a watermelon (which they may not even like!) and then find a place to keep it. All of which sounds like a lot of work when you’re hosting a party! 
  • Coffee table books or appliances – I’ve seen some gift lists out there that recommend large coffee table books or fancy espresso machines or monogrammed door mats. Please no. Don’t tell your friend how to decorate their home, or bring some counter-top appliance that they may not have room for.

These guidelines leave you a lot of room to come up with the perfect hostess gift for YOUR host, or housewarming gifts, or even just a unique gift for a family member who’s having you over for lunch.

What are some of your favorite hostess gifts to take or receive? Leave a comment below and your gift idea may get featured!

Lucy standing behind a counter with a cheese board and glass of wine.

About the author

Hi, I’m Lucy! I’m a home cook, writer, food and wine fanatic, and recipe developer. I’ve created and tested hundreds of recipes so that I can bring you the best tried and true favorites.

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