Is a gift necessary? If so, what?
May 25, 2016 7:53 AM   Subscribe

A bunch of family is meeting for lunch. I feel compelled to bring a hostess gift. Should I?

We had our second baby. My parents are visiting from abroad bc of this. We arranged for my mum's Extended Family Members A and B to travel up to London for lunch to see us; about 3.5 hrs drive for them. Then I thought, "Hey, we haven't seen mum's Extended Family Members C and D in a long time, and they live just outside London, let's invite them too and then meet near to them to save A and B from driving as far." Everyone seemed happy with the basic idea, family member C booked us a table at a restaurant, and we're meeting for coffee at their house beforehand.

So. In other circumstances, like if they were serving us a meal, I know a hostess gift would be called for. What is appropriate in a situation where we'll have a hot drink at theirs and then go out for lunch, bearing in mind that she also arranged the lunch booking and I feel guilty about kind of forcing that bit of labor on her? My gut says maybe flowers, but a potted plant carries the expectation of further labor (I hate receiving them, they always die) and I know cut flowers are depressing for some. I don't know whether alcohol is appropriate; I've only met them once before this and can't remember if they drink. They're also a lot posher than us, so I'm feeling anxiety about not performing etiquette properly. My husband thinks the chance to cuddle the baby is gift enough (and they do seem very excited to see the kids), but haha no really how do I not look ungrateful?
posted by catch as catch can to Human Relations (18 answers total)
I do not think there is any hostess gift expected here, especially because you have a new baby (people cut new parents a lot of slack, and rightly so!). If you do want to take something, I think cut flowers are nice. I have never heard of people saying they're depressing, unless somehow you chose a super funeral-looking bunch! But if you pick up some nice bright daisies, I would have a hard time seeing anyone criticizing it -- even if it's not their personal cup of tea, I'm sure they will be able to recognize that it's a nice gesture and intended in a kind manner.

Another good option I've often taken is fancy sweets - something like a small box of chocolates or similar. You can usually get a small box of something fancy for a fairly reasonable price, and I think most people will appreciate this (even if they somehow hate chocolates/desserts, this is something that is super easy to take to work and pawn off on grateful coworkers).

But again, I don't think anything more than simply saying "We're so grateful for you taking the time to schedule this!" is necessary.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:59 AM on May 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

Seconding flowers. If cut flowers are too depressing, then an annual in a pot (something lively that will only last through the season) would be fine, I think.
posted by xingcat at 8:15 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is there a local treat that would be nice? I like the idea of some interesting sweets from a favorite shop or by a favorite local candy maker. Also, keep in mind you're bring the best gift already: the baby! Everyone will be so pleased to see the baby and fuss over it. If the first child is old enough, perhaps a drawing or card from him/her would be nice.
posted by LKWorking at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

You're overthinking this. Nthing that flowers would be lovely. If your hostess is not fond of cut flowers that's unfortunate but she should recognise that in bringing them you have discharged whatever social obligations there may be.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:26 AM on May 25, 2016 [12 favorites]

Pictures of the baby! If London is anything like the US, there should be someplace where you can email photos you took with your phone to an overnight photo place and then have them mailed back to you or to a place nearby where you can pick them up. If you want to put one in a frame, great, but if you don't have the time or energy to do that, a half dozen or so cute photos of the baby and your family would be amazing. People love baby photos, and prints are so much better than email.

Alternatively, if this is coming up soon, take some photos of everyone with the baby during the visit, then get them printed afterwards and mail them to everyone. Post-visit hostess gift is also totally fine, especially with a short thank you note.

Babies and kids mean that you have built-in little presents for everyone forever, because anyone who loves a kid is going to love having some cute photos of the kid.
posted by decathecting at 8:33 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

If I were the host, I would be quite (pleasantly!) surprised to receive a hostess gift from you. I think your husband is right.

However, daisies/sunflowers/etc. or a small box of candies from a local place in your town should be easy ways to ease your anxiety and go out of your way to show your appreciation.
posted by samthemander at 8:43 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

a potted plant carries the expectation of further labor (I hate receiving them, they always die)

But certainly if someone you don't know that well gives you one as a gift you understand that it was the thought that counts and you don't judge the person harshly for it, right? You should assume that your extended family member will have the same grace, should you bring a plant or flowers or candies or a bottle of wine, all of which are perfectly reasonable to choose.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:54 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding that they might enjoy a family photo. If you want to be super, how about a simple wooden frame with a photo of your whole family inside. Bonus: you can keep one for yourself.
posted by amtho at 8:58 AM on May 25, 2016

I would go with a small box of chocolates or biscuits. Perhaps something light that might go with the hot drink, but nothing that would expire if not eaten for a while. I would not bring/give photo(s) of my family/baby to posh British people.
posted by bimbam at 9:11 AM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I agree with rainbowbrite; the important thing is to say thanks for arranging the lunch. I'd do it while handing them a small box of chocolates but that part is not necessary.
posted by BibiRose at 9:23 AM on May 25, 2016

Also I think a thank-you note later is just as good as a hostess gift, better in some respects, especially since you hardly know them. They would probably like to hear that you enjoyed seeing them. Disclaimer; I'm not a posh brit but posh people elsewhere seem to do this, especially if they are a bit older.
posted by BibiRose at 9:31 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't take any gift, personally. In fact you are likely to be the recipient of gifts for the new baby. Also, since the meal was originally to get together with A & B it could feel really weird to them that C & D get a gift and they don't. When getting together with close family for something that doesn't involve an overnight visit, no hostess gift is required in my American Midwestern opinion.
posted by MsMolly at 10:07 AM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

No need to bring a hostess gift but please do send a thank you note.

If you really want to (and why the heck not if it's not a burden to you!), cut flowers are lovely, or you could bring a small succulent (then there's no need to worry about them having to plant it and hardly any burden to taking care of it).
posted by sallybrown at 10:07 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would say get some kind of sweet and a baby picture item like a announcement card/photo mug/fridge magnet for both C&D and A&B. I'm not a fan of big host/hostess gifts because then there are urges to reciprocate and the whole thing becomes a disincentive to actually meet up with people. Plus while C&D did some extra work it was likely less than the 3.5 hour drive that A&B took to meet you all.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:48 AM on May 25, 2016

I'm with your husband - the baby IS the gift! They'll be delighted enough to meet and snuggle the newest member of the family. Afterwards, you can send a thank-you note and enclose a snapshot. Have fun!
posted by jhope71 at 10:53 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would not bring a hostess gift, but I would write a thank you note and post it ASAP.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2016

Family, no stay over or meal at their place, they aren't really "hosting" you IMO except having you over for tea, and I'm not sure how big that is really. A hostess gift would feel strange to me, like you were expecting them to buy lunch. A box of biscuits to go with the tea would feel more properly familial-but-thoughtful to me - you can always ask, "thank you so much for arranging the luncheon and inviting us to tea also! What can I bring?" And you can always bring a few cut flowers as just a "thinking of you" gift.
posted by Lady Li at 11:58 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Biscuits! That's exactly the right type of gift that my baby-addled, exhausted brain couldn't think of. Thanks, everyone.
posted by catch as catch can at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2016

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