Hostess gift ideas: look past wine and go for handmade, locally-sourced, or unusual offerings

Posted by

Recently, we handled a last-minute question on our Facebook page — Amy needed ideas on a gift for an offbeat hostess. I’m, like, just barely grown up enough to start thinking about fancy stuff like hostess gifts, but here’s the skinny: of course gifting a host isn’t necessary, but a little prezzie can be an awesome way to show your appreciation when you’re surfing on someone’s couch for a few days, or if you know they spent all week (and half their paycheck) preparing for an amazing themed dinner party.

So, let’s talk over a few good non-wine gifts for gracious offbeat hosts.


Hanging mini succulent terrarium.
Hanging mini succulent terrarium.

When our homies on Facebook weighed in, flowers won out. So trot to the store or snip some from your garden before you head to dinner. If you want to go above and beyond, how about:

  • A potted herb
  • A carnivorous plant — they eat BUGS!
  • A little succulent. Crystal testified:
One of my best friends in college always brought a succulent she grew in a funny coffee mug. She’d give the little plant a name and write something cute on a popsicle stick and take them to dinner parties or give them as house warming gifts. I still have mine from back in 2005 when I ended a relationship and moved into my studio. She named my little hen and chick Paminto and it lived in a 70s era coffee mug till it got too big and had to be transplanted.

Food, snacks, and beverages

Tea Beyond Blooming Teapot Gift Set
Tea Beyond Blooming Teapot Gift Set

So wine is pretty much the go-to gift, but if your hosts don’t drink, you aren’t of age, or you just want something different, there’re plenty of other consumables to choose from.

  • Food can decorate! One Facebooker mentioned receiving a wreath of chilies.
  • Cheese. Proteiny. Fatty. Delicious. Hit a gourmet shop or a local Italian grocery for the best selections.
  • An indulgent tea or coffee. I get a milk oolong from my local tea shop that is to die for.
  • Locally-sourced jams, jellies, and honey are simple, sweet, and kinda luxurious. Farmers’ Markets are great for these.
  • A nice cooking wine.
  • Something offbeat, why not? Sonya said:
I had a friend once turn up with a pineapple… I thought it was hilarious. It broke the ice with new people at the dinner party and was also yummy!

Non-food niceties

Berries and Cream soap in skull form from SpookyGrrrl.
  • One commenter suggested a “badass scented candle.” Which…is frankly just a description I like. Maybe a Hershey’s syrup candle?
  • SOAP. Smells nice. Feels nice. Looks nice.
  • Tea towels. Sturdy but light, linen tea towels look nice, are super useful, and can really finish off a room.

What’s the best host/hostess gift you’ve received? Bonus points for a link in the comments.

Comments on Hostess gift ideas: look past wine and go for handmade, locally-sourced, or unusual offerings

  1. These kinds of things are good for holiday or birthday pressies, too, when you don’t know someone super-well but are sure they’re not gonna want ANOTHER scarf or pair of gloves or whatever the generic gift for the occasion is.

    If you frequent a good farmer’s market, that makes it so easy. I nice loaf of bread and some jam or honey… we have a lady that makes soap and another lady who knits things from the alpacas she raises. Sometimes you can get local popcorn, even on the cob! You just microwave the cob kind in a paper bag to pop it. Unusual, entertaining, and delicious.

    One that I wasn’t sure would be a hit but totally was was the time I picked up a piece of honeycomb for someone at Christmastime. It can be an interesting treat, or kind of a nuisance, depending on your eating style. Luckily, it turned out it was a big hit that all three people in the house were fighting over! LOL

  2. I have to disagree with tea towels. That seems to be many people’s default gift. I have about 20 tea towels now. Sure, it’s great that I won’t run out (and some are super cute)…but I don’t use half of them because I have too many!

    I would much rather have a bottle of wine…or vodka.

    • This!

      I love baking and tend to be broke so home made cookies or brownies are my go-to gift and a lot of people seem to really appreciate the effort.

  3. We moved into our home close to the holidays, and one of the first people to visit brought us a giant box filled with different sizes of food storage containers. Between the holidays and the move, it was absolutely the most useful housewarming gift we received.

    The most enjoyable gift I’ve received from a visitor was a small fossil. Completely random, but it sits on our bookshelf and is something I would never have acquired otherwise.

  4. I’m a basket maker. I do little themed baskets! Candy and popcorn and 2 movie tix, fun shaped pasta and a gourmet pasta sauce (I usually get stuff at cost plus world market) I also do lil baskets based on the season. Do they have kids? Sandpails and shovels. Halloween/Fall time? Candy and homemade pumpkin bread and a spice candle. Winter? Sugar cookie mix and an ornament! I can go on and on. You can pretty much put a few inexpensive items together in a cute basket (I collect them from yard sales and thrift stores) and voila! easy.

    • As a knitter I LOVE this, I always keep my yarn in baskets so I can move projects around rooms easily. It is seriously the handiest way to keep everything for a project together, looking nice, and easy to move if my girlfriend wants the side of the couch where I put everything. You would be my best friend!

  5. I’ve brought homemade balsamic glaze as a house warming gift before. They loved it!

    Just boil down a bottle (or two depending on how much you want) of balsamic vinegar with a few teaspoons of sugar. Stir often.

    The vinegar smell is quite potent, so it’s more of a summer acitvity. Once the liquid has thickened, pour into a nice glass bottle. We found the perfect one at our local second hand shop.

    Cheap but gourmet!

  6. On the subject of tea towels, I often embroider tea towels as gifts. I try to make the designs personal to the giftee sometimes adding names or designs that I know have meaning for them. My friends always love them.

    • Yes! Pineapples are actually one of those gifts that are SO traditional they’re offbeat! They were a big deal in Colonial America and almost always featured at parties as the welcoming dessert. You’ll even find tons of antique guest beds with pineapples carved into them 😀 The things you learn on plantation tours.

  7. something hand-made, even if it’s small is always something sweet and memorable. I once received a set of hand-made patchwork placemats, and I use them all. the. time. The other “bests” include a sourdough starter, and plant-cuttings that I could transplant into my garden.

  8. I make a large batch of cookie dough every couple of months, then roll it into a long sausage and freeze it. If I’m invited somewhere/a friend breaks up with their partner/whatever, I just cut a couple of slices and bake them and I have a warm plate of cookies with almost no effort.

  9. I would actually recommend against giving flowers because you never know what people are allergic to. For some reason – possibly because I’m a bit quirky – people always want to give me gerbera daisies. But I can’t be in a room with any daisy without my nose running a marathon and my head feeling like it’s been run over with a steamroller! I’ve had more than one person give me a bouquet that pretty much had to go straight in the bin because it could not exist in the same house as me.

    I suppose the same could be said of food, but I find if I’m going over to someone’s house, I have a pretty good idea of what they can and can’t eat already. (Plus with the possible exception of severe peanut allergies, simply existing in the same room as an allergenic food won’t cause distress.)

  10. Home made caramel is easy and fun. Just heat up butter and brown sugar together (portions are to your [or your gift reciever’s] taste) and pour in a small container. They think you’re all kinds of fancy and cook-y and crafty but you really only killed a few minutes before you left to see them. Cool trick.

    I like the fossil idea from a previous poster. Really like it. They’re just so bad ass.

  11. The badass scented candle?! That suggestion was from MeEeEeEeee!!!!!!! We are total candle hoarders when we can afford it, and then I get the label off, put it in super hot water to get the last wax out, and I have storage for my paint brushes, nick-nacks, I even brought a TON of the jars to a art/lingere themed bachelorette party I hosted to hold the water in! So functional 🙂

  12. Every time I’m going to someone’s house, I call and ask if they need any part of the meal made for them. I’ll offer to do the finger foods and snacks, or the dessert, or to make a side. If it’s a more relaxed thing I’ll make fruit dip and get the right fruit or rice krispie treats. Sometimes I’ll swing out and buy a bottle of peach wine from the farmer’s market or a few truffles from the local confectionary. They’re easy go-tos.

  13. Another idea is to give a gift card to a local restaurant or ice cream place. After hosting a party, a host more than likely won’t feel like cooking… so it’s a nice break for them. =)

  14. My BF make awesome Argentinian style chimichurri and is just an expert griller (at least an expert argentinian home griller) and people alwasy harras us about the amazing chimichurri he makes.So when visiting our friends and Family, we’ve have taken to making a fresh batch of chimichurri (, putting it into a cute pickle jar and slapping a funny tag or lable on it (the last one was P’s Sexy meat Sauce).

  15. When we bought out house, the neighbor brought over the best gift. She made a gift basket out of a trashcan that had a roll of tp, a roll of paper towels, a candle, and I can’t remember just what else-but you know, essentials! It was super handy. I got a similar grad gift out of HS: a hamper with stuff like hangers, travel sized toiletries in reusable containers, etc. My go-to housewarming gift is a horseshoe to hang upside down above the door. Easy to find & cheap @ antique stores or new @ a place like Tractor Supply. My hubby and I are like the king & queen of BBQ among our friends, so as the favor at our wedding, we gave out little containers of our special dry rub blend. We’ve brought larger bottles of this, as well as our own BBQ sauce as an offering at get togethers, or in gift baskets for b-days & holidays. We’ve jarred homemade salsa as well. I also have to say, I’ve gotten jars of home pickled peppers and a pretty jar of dry cookie ingredients w/ the recipe attached. Loved them both.

Join the Conversation