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Sticky Situation: What Gift to Give a Thanksgiving Host or Hostess

10/11/2013 12:30 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Sticky situation :

Ahhh it's the long weekend of the turkey and bonus, it's your sister-in-law's turn. No, no, not to be the turkey...;-), but to cook the traditional fowl and fixings. You plan on going apple picking with your family before driving over in time for happy hour.

While you are making memories with your loved ones, your sister-in-law will open and close the door to baste the bird, twice mash the potatoes, twirl the brussels sprouts in butter, gently simmer the cranberries in o.j. -- so they don't pop, shine the silver, decant the wine and oh yes, make origami turkey napkins to delight the little ones... Ouf! Hosting is a lot of work, takes a lot of time, and yes, it is expensive.

As the Huffington Post's Sticky Situation blogger I regularly get hostess gift questions from readers on what to offer, when to offer, and how much to spend. So here are 10 guidelines to make sure that you get re-invited.

Solution(s):

Originally, hostess gifts were offered in lieu of reciprocating an invitation. When you were invited to someone's home, as a sign of appreciation, you were expected to invite them back to your home, usually within the season.

These days with all the hustle and bustle of our daily lives with two working parents, extracurricular activities, and extended family visits, most guests prefer to relieve themselves of this obligation by simply offering a gift.

Although this custom depends on your entourage and family habits and it may not be expected, it is certainly always appropriate, appreciated and I strongly recommend it. Someone took the time to organize a celebration, prepare a meal and chose to invite you. A hostess gift is a grateful offering in recognition of the time, effort and money spent by your host.

1. Gifts for thanking your host or hostess for their hospitality need not be extravagant or expensive. Their typical price point is at about $20 and will go up or down depending on the occasion and the extent of the food and meal served.

2. Ideal gifts reflect the season and do not necessitate reorganizing the host's planned decorations or menu.

Some of my favourites are:

  • Gourmet seasonings, sauces, oils and vinegars, it's even better if you made them
  • A brie baker
  • Party accessories like wine charms, a handbook of cocktail recipes or a family game when the hostess has children
  • A small potted herb garden
  • Serving dishes and utensils
  • Seasonally themed glasses

3. When attending a large celebration with a lot of people make sure to accompany your gift with a card to facilitate the hosts thank yous.

4.Flowers should be sent before or after the event. This allows the host to arrange and display the flowers without interfering with his greeting duties.

5. Most hosts spend time pairing the perfect wine for the meal. So, don't be offended if your bottle of wine is not served. The hostess has the choice of serving the wine received as a gift.

6. If you offer chocolates or sweet treats, expect them to be shared at dessert time.

7. If you are participating in a potluck the necessary serving platter and utensils could do double duty and be your hostess gift.

8. Yes, re-gifting hostess gifts is appropriate "if" the gift is neutral, non personal and non customized.

  • Popular re-gifts are readily available bottles of wine; not the rare collection kinds, candles, perishables; make sure to check expiry dates, and most generic gifts. Remove the "evidence."
  • Re-gifts "must" be in their original packaging with intact tag. Take the time to freshen the wrapping including the little tag, if the gift was offered to you in a bag. Imagine how embarrassing it would be for your hostess to see a note to you from your neighbour. Yikes!
  • Doubt means don't. If you are afraid of hurting someone's feelings, if you think that your neighbour is going to ask about the colourful hand towels that she offered you this summer, don't pass them on. If there is a slim chance that your worlds will collide, remember the Seinfeld episode, don't re-gift.

9.A thank you call or email to your hostess the next day is a gracious gesture, even if you offered a gift.

10.When you are the host, open gifts as they are received, away from empty-handed guests. Immediately thank the giver in person. Only if you did not open the gift, as in large parties, and did not have the chance to thank your guest verbally do you have to send a thank you note.

Lastly, I give thanks for you and this platform. Thank you for reading, thank you for your comments and thank you for your questions. You give me the opportunity to do what I love and for that I am thankful. Thank you also to the Huffington Post and my great editors. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. I hope that you take the time to disconnect from the techno to reconnect with loved ones.

Have a Sticky Situation? Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more Solutions to Sticky Situations? Like her fan page on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter or read Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility, now available for pre-order. Planning a conference? Customised business etiquette activities are available.

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