What gift should i bring my boyfriend's parents?
May 11, 2009 9:58 AM   Subscribe

What gift should I bring when I go to visit my boyfriend's parents' house?

We're in college and have been "officially" dating for about four months. His mom and stepdad took us out to dinner about a month ago and said I was welcome to accompany boyfriend when he goes home for about a week before his summer job starts.

I mentioned to him last night that I wanted to bring a gift of some kind (of course!) and he said something along the lines of "aw no you really don't have to do that!" (I had assumed he would help me choose something perfect for his mom).

My mom suggested a plant (boyfriend's mom gardens a little). I was thinking I could get a large nice potted plant, but my transportation situation is limited to public and bicycle. Plus I don't know a lot about purchasing plants (no idea what kind would make a good gift) and am extremely indecisive when it comes to buying gifts for people. I had thought about sending an amazon.com gift certificate (for maybe $50) after the visit, but my mom didn't like the idea of them being able to see how much I spent (agreed). Aagh! What should I bring boyfriend's mom? Should I send something after instead? or maybe both?
posted by sarahj to Shopping (25 answers total)
What about a cute watering can from Etsy, or something like that?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:04 AM on May 11, 2009

Best answer: A plant is ideal, but make it a small plant, not large. There's always a place for a small plant, and it's got the promise of growth in it.

Don't sweat the issue too much or it will show. A casual gift sincerely offered will be perfect.

Don't give money or a gift card; it's not a birthday.
posted by Aquaman at 10:06 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was dating a girl at college who hailed from a different part of the country, we brought things to each others' parents that were more common to our hometowns (macadamia nuts for my NH parents, maple syrup for her HI parents). I don't know if you guys are from drastically different parts of the country, but maybe something local to where you're from?
posted by Greg Nog at 10:06 AM on May 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think a bouquet of flowers when you arrive and a thank you note after you leave is more than enough. You don't need to give a plant or anything hard to carry.
You're in college-- if you were 30, then a plant or bottle of wine or something a little pricier and more permanent would be appropriate.
posted by rmless at 10:08 AM on May 11, 2009

As someone who has been in this situation with limited transportation ability in the past, I have found that food items are just about perfect. Chocolate makes a great gift if his parents like it.
posted by grouse at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2009

Best answer: It should be something little, so that you aren't placing an imposition on them to find a place for it, take care of it, etc. It should also be something for the family/household, so not a gift card or money. Fruit (a gift basket or a pineapple or the like), wine, a few chocolates, or a small plant are all good options. As far as plants go, orchids are fairly common for this kind of gift. It should be a token of your appreciation - something to say "I thought of you!" and nothing else. Keep it under $15, or at least close enough that they wouldn't think otherwise.

Check with your boyfriend about appropriateness of whatever you'd get - you wouldn't want to get wine for a household with an AA member in it, you wouldn't want to give flowers to someone with an allergy or a cat that would eat the plant and get sick, etc.
posted by Lady Li at 10:12 AM on May 11, 2009

Flowers sound good but I think an orchid might be easily damaged during transport. Also, they tend to not flower ever again after you've bought them.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:17 AM on May 11, 2009

Food or drink. Homemade cookies? Wine? Nice cheese and crackers? Some special jams, maple syrup, etc from the area where you and your bf go to school? As others said, just a little token to show that you are thoughtful & grateful, and ideally something for the whole gang. Food is particularly good, because it's for everyone to nibble on while you're there.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:25 AM on May 11, 2009

I'd caution on the food, as his parents are older and may have issues with some foods or diet. Do you really want to give chocolate to a diabetic? Check with the BF to see if there's something they need to stay away from and what sort of snacks they like.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:27 AM on May 11, 2009

Best answer: Bring a pretty blank thank-you note and leave it, filled out to both parents (& any sibs), on the bed when you leave.

Even more notable than a gift is to be a good houseguest- help clear the table, keep bed made, etc. Ask polite questions, compliment the food, and don't talk too much.

A bouquet of cut flowers are a good gift, I think. I brought my BF's mom an orchid on an early visit. Plants can be contentions, but it was her birthday, and it was all I could think of on short notice. It was ~$20 at a big convenience store. She doesn't like houseplants, I discovered when I gave it to her.... oops. Except, that plant has since lived for several years, looks fantastic, and has flowered repeatedly. So now she's pretty proud of her orchid prowess.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:36 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would always go with a nice bottle of wine. It is kind of the classic hostess gift (at least where I come from). Definitely not a gift card or anything like that. Like Aquaman said, it isn't a birthday. And like others have said, keep it small-ish and not overly expensive. 15-20$ is appropriate.
posted by gwenlister at 10:38 AM on May 11, 2009

Seconding Greg Nog's suggestion of a regional specialty (unless you two are from the same region!)
posted by vespabelle at 10:44 AM on May 11, 2009

Back in the day, I brought along a pretty tin of fancy tea to my boyfriend's folks. I didn't know if they drank alcohol or had dietary restrictions. It's about 32 years later and my (now) M-I-L still has the tin in which she keeps assorted kitchen doohickeys.
posted by angiep at 11:23 AM on May 11, 2009

I was going to suggest wine, but the OP may not be old enough to purchase it yet.

I second the handwritten note when you leave; it's so rare to receive these nowadays that I'm always extremely gratified to get one. Food or flowers are good second choices; I'm always very hesitant to give plants ever since a friend told me, "Flowers are a gift, but plants are a responsibility and I've got too many of those already."
posted by anderjen at 11:23 AM on May 11, 2009

She sounds fond and approving of you. A 5x7 picture frame with a nice photo of the two of you might be appreciated. No allergies to worry about, no imposition like a plant makes on you or her. It goes in a drawer if she doesn't like it, and the frame can be re-used in the unlikely event that you don't marry. You can easily do this in the $15 range others have reasonably suggested.
posted by fydfyd at 11:26 AM on May 11, 2009

A nice photo of her son, with or without you, would probably be very welcome. My dude's Mom has some photos of him that I sent her, and she also has a photo I took as her Windows desktop background. Moms adore photos of their kids.
posted by amtho at 11:45 AM on May 11, 2009

If they aren't allergic to nuts, a 5lb bag of Bazzini pistachios. It's a social food!
posted by spec80 at 11:47 AM on May 11, 2009

In my experience gardeners almost always prefer to choose their own plants.

But they can also almost always use more tools. A good trowel with a stainless steel blade (rust on the cutting edge dramatically increases digging resistance) is hard to find, and most gardeners seem not to have one.

Here is the most likely-looking one I could find on line this morning; they're pretty cheap-- I suggest getting her two.
posted by jamjam at 11:51 AM on May 11, 2009

Regional specialties are good, food and drink are good, flowers or a small plant is good. No on a gift card - I see why you would think of it, but I would stay more personal.

Definitely a handwritten thank you afterwards.
posted by KAS at 12:07 PM on May 11, 2009

In my experience gardeners almost always prefer to choose their own plants.

Unless they were raised by wolves, they would nonetheless be gracious when someone pays them the kindness of a small gift.

Chiming in with those saying big NO to gift cards in this context. Better no gift than a gift card. The note afterward is a nice touch.
posted by aught at 12:18 PM on May 11, 2009

Nthing regional treats, if you in fact live in a different area than his folks. When I first visited my future in-laws (who live in Georgia), I brought a small sampling of Detroit-specific things like a bag of Better Made potato chips, one jar of Sanders' hot fudge topping, and a bottle of Vernor's ginger ale. I also sent a card with a handwritten message thanking them for their hospitality, etc, after I returned home, and MIL used to mention that card for many years afterward ("It was so nice to get some mail that wasn't a bill" and "I knew you were a good catch for [son] when you sent that beautiful note."). Handwritten, snail-mailed correspondence is such a rarity these days that recipients really remember and appreciate such gestures.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:23 PM on May 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, all your answers were really helpful!
I went with a cute little basket planter with a few different plants in it - a little flowering plant and a fern type thing. My bf said she has a bunch of potted plants so adding one more to the bunch shouldn't be a problem. I'm also going to make some oreo fudge brownies from a "secret" recipe I have, for the family. Thanks for the advice!
posted by sarahj at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not to be mean, but I think my parents would be amused, rather than grateful if they got a picture of me and a s.o. only months into the relationship.
posted by mercredi at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2009

Don't give plants to gardeners. People are always giving me plants because I'm a gardener, but they give me plants that I don't want or need, and then I feel obligated to keep them, or I let them die and then I feel guilty. I know it's curmudgeonly but it's really annoying.

Cut flowers, box of nuts or chocolate, some food specialty that reflects your family background (we always used to bring Turkish Delight as a hostess gift), a twelve pack of specialty beers or a bottle of nice wine, then a thank you note at the end; or take them out to dinner one night that you're there.
posted by nax at 3:53 PM on May 11, 2009

Crap, just noticed that it happened already. That's what I get for not finishing the thread. Plus, I feel bad for saying "no plants" when you got a plant! (face red) Glad it went well.
posted by nax at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2009

« Older Bizarre visual phenomenon   |   argh. blech. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.