To gift or not to gift
February 24, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Impromptu birthday invite...but not really a party, should I take a gift?

Just a quick little etiquette question here. My daughters were invited to spend the night at their friend's house tomorrow night. My husband and I were also invited to stay for some burgers because they will be having a few family members over to celebrate the mom's birthday. This was all done by phone last night, it's not a birthday party per se...they're just having a few people over for burgers. My question is should I take the mom a little gift? I don't want to make her feel weird or embarrased like "oh gosh, I didn't mean for her to have to feel like she had to bring a gift". I wouldn't say we're "friends" but certainly acquaintances since our daughter's are friends. I just want to get her a little something, like maybe a nice candle for the house or something like that. I just hate to show up empty handed. Should I bring something or not worry about it?
posted by daydreamer to Society & Culture (28 answers total)
I think a small token gesture is fine, and usually appreciated! I think a nice candle or bottle of wine or something generic like that is a good "acquaintance" or hostess gift.
posted by sawdustbear at 10:56 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

a token gift is always good
posted by Flood at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2012

Wine. Pretty much anytime you show up to someone's house, bring them wine. (Or a nice beer, Chimay, etc., if they're not wine people).

If they don't drink, bring flowers.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Since they're having people over for burgers, maybe bringing something dessert-y and saying that that's "for your birthday" could be a good way to go; like maybe some ice cream or some cupcakes or something. It could be received as a little something extra because of the birthday, or just "whee, we brought some food to share too".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think a hostess gift would be appropriate: flowers, wine, ...
posted by sciencegeek at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think you need to worry about it overly, but if it were me I would bring a bottle of wine as others have mentioned.
posted by mlle valentine at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2012

You could bring a nice six pack of a craft beer instead, if you feel like wine is a bit too formal for burgers.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:05 AM on February 24, 2012

Nthing sciencegeek...but not anything desserty; they will probably be serving something of their own.
posted by brujita at 11:07 AM on February 24, 2012

You never have to bring a gift. The best gift is to return their hospitality. That said, it's hard to go wrong with some nice adult beverages (I would go with beer myself for burgers).
posted by grouse at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2012

Response by poster: I wish I knew if they drank or not, but I really have no idea. We've never socialized with them before. Otherwise I would certainly take some craft beer or a wine for them to open another time.

brujita...that's what I was thinking...I'm sure there's going to be cake and possibly ice cream already and I know I hate it when my house is filled with too much desserty stuff.

Hmmm...brainstorming here and I'm thinking how about a small pot of flowers or a plant with a Starbucks gift card attached? I don't even know her well enough to know if she drinks coffee, but she could use it for tea or hot chocolate.

grouse...yes. We've been meaning to ask them over for forever but never got around to it. I definitely intend to reciprocate.
posted by daydreamer at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2012

I think a small potted plant would be perfect, though I wouldn't add a gift card of any sort; that says "I made a big deal of your birthday" to me, even if the amount is small.

If you're into craft beer, then I'd just give them a quick ring and ask if they drink. And then bring the good stuff.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:24 AM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you should bring a little something and not worry about it. You are right both times!

Bring her a bottle of wine, or a candle, or whatever feels right to you. My friends and I don't really observe the "never show up without something" rule, but many people do, so few people feel put out if you have a little hostess gift with you. I would actually not do a gift card, because that feels more ... gift-y, and less hostess-gifty, if that makes sense.

But at the same time, I wouldn't sweat it overly much. I doubt she expects a birthday gift. I like your candle idea, or a little plant (which I don't think needs a gift card attached). Think hostess gift, not birthday gift, and since you're not close, you'll cover both.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:24 AM on February 24, 2012

You could have your daughter make her a card. That's always nice.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2012

Personally, I don't think a gift card is appropriate for something like this.
posted by grouse at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A burger party calls for Bacon Jam.
posted by FreezBoy at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wait, I take it all back. Bacon Jam is the answer!
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:30 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wish I knew if they drank or not, but I really have no idea.

The good thing about bringing a bottle of wine (or nice beer) to a party is that 1) either someone will drink it at the party, which is nice; or 2) you know they have parties, so they can serve it next time if it isn't drunk that night. You can't count on that with a candle, and people's affinities for scents vary widely (you'd be more popular in my household coming empty handed than with a scented candle, but YMMV).

I do think you're over thinking this--if this person is an adult, I really doubt they're expecting a "present" (though coming with a gift is always gracious). Have fun!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:31 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I guess I think of Starbucks gift cards as a pretty generic gift as opposed to like a department store or something.

Mmmm Bacon Jam!! Ya know, I think I just may try that! I was actually trying to think of a unique food item to bring, plus it's a conversation piece!

Freezboy have you actually tried it? Is it really good on burgers??
posted by daydreamer at 11:38 AM on February 24, 2012

Here is another recipe for bacon jam. I've had it twice -- once at a metafilter meetup a year ago and once a few months ago when I made it for my housemates -- and it was definitely a conversation piece both times.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2012

It's never a bad idea to bring what my 94-year-old great aunt calls a "hostess gift" -- flowers, candy, a bottle of wine, something homemade if you like to bake. It's a token of appreciation for having you. This fills the function of a possible birthday gift but is also just the right thing to do (in my opinion).

A Starbucks card is a little odd, but a bag of ground coffee from Starbucks (or somewhere else) would also be nice. Or tea. Basically, something small and edible, or flowers. A plant is too much of a commitment, I think - now they have to take care of it!
posted by k8lin at 12:32 PM on February 24, 2012

I don't drink, but that makes me appreciate wine/beer gifts even more, fwiw--it means I have something to serve wine-drinkers that is probably not rotgut in an interesting-looking bottle, and that's what I'm likely to end up with when left to my own devices.

Some interesting burger condiments would be fine too, and so would a nice dessert (not a cake since someone else'll probably be covering that, but a nice fruit plate or hot fudge sauce or something). In any case, I think you're looking for something that straddles the line between "birthday gift" and "a nice addition to dinner", so as to allow for interpretation in either direction.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:56 PM on February 24, 2012

I have been known to bring an appetizer on a dish and let the hostess know that the dish is for her. My favorite thing for this is deviled eggs, but you kind of have to know if anyone in the house eats them. Almost nobody actually has a deviled egg plate, but once you see it in action, you wonder how you lived without one.

The dish I gave most recently was just a plain white one from Target. The hostess loves it. Or at least gave a good show of pretending to love it.
posted by bilabial at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2012

A gift of bacon jam is always a beautiful thing. My birthday's coming up, just sayin'...

Don't forget to get a birthday card. A lottery ticket in the card is a fun gift. It's my goto for exactly this kind of occasion.
posted by theora55 at 4:26 PM on February 24, 2012

I don't drink, but I use wine in soups, for meats and gravy, etc. So wine is good.

I would go with cut flowers though.
posted by msittig at 7:37 PM on February 24, 2012

A nice box of chocolates is sort of birthday gifty but desserty at the same time. I would bring that and a bottle of wine or some beer.
posted by gt2 at 7:16 AM on February 25, 2012

Response by poster: I don't know if anyone will see this but....made the bacon jam for the party and it was a hit!! Tasted soooo good on burgers! I will definitely be making it again and will be my "thing". I love having a "thing"! Anyway...I made the simple Martha Stewart version, but next time I may try and spice it up a bit with madcaptenor's version. Thanks everyone for your advice...all of it would've worked just fine, but for a burger party the bacon jam was perfect. I'm thinking of giving jars of this stuff at Christmas time instead of my usual cookies. :)
posted by daydreamer at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2012

I'm glad the bacon jam came out well. But marylynn, not me, should get the credit. (She's the one who made it the first time I had it, and as far as I know introduced it among SF-area mefites.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:55 AM on February 27, 2012

Response by poster: Woops I thought you had linked to your own profile, I didn't realize it was someone else's. Thanks for the clarification!
posted by daydreamer at 10:10 AM on February 27, 2012

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