Bringing a gift to a holiday party is never a simple task. So we spoke to the DMV’s lifestyle insiders on what to buy, where, and how get it in the hands of the host.
Think outside the box.
“You don’t want to be the 12th bottle of merlot at a holiday party,” says Candace Ourisman, who co-founded the DC-based gift concierge company Secretly Gifting. Consider what you might like to receive yourself. “Red Barn Mercantile has a treasure trove of fabulous gifts for the home,” says Ourisman of the Alexandria shop. “I love a good pairing, and would be so thrilled to receive their beautiful wood cheeseboard with The Wine & Cheese Pairing Swatchbook.”
Give from the heart.
“Thoughtfulness goes a long way,” says Lori Tran, co-founder of Leesburg-based interior design studio and specialty shop Wldwst. “A gift should speak to who your host is and should surprise and delight them.” It should also represent your relationship. If you and your host share the same small group of friends, for example, collaborate with them on the present; it’ll be cohesive and make the recipient feel cared for, adds Colleen West, who runs Wldwst with Tran. It also helps keep the cost down if you’re looking for something special but affordable—in fact, don’t think too much about the price tag. Something doesn’t have to be expensive to be chosen with care. “The type of occasion or formality level can also dictate what’s appropriate,” says Tran. “Someone hosting a backyard barbecue for the whole neighborhood is likely expecting you to bring a bowl of potato salad. But someone hosting an intimate dinner party would have the bandwidth to appreciate a well-chosen token of thanks.” Tran and West suggest a Na Nin reed diffuser or candle from their shop (their favorite scent: Fig Leag and Olive Branch), or a sleek bar of handmade goat’s-milk soap from the Naked Goat Soap Co.
Avoid presenting a problem.
Keep in mind that your host is likely to be busy, says Ourisman. “Don’t give something that needs to be addressed immediately, like a vase-less bouquet,” she says. “[There is] enough to juggle at that exact moment.” And don’t just place your present on a table or hand it to your host when you arrive: Ask where it should go. Better yet: “Ask a caterer or the partner of the host, who may have that information for you,” says Secretly Gifting’s Ashley Bronczek.
Don’t sweat showing up empty-handed.
“A host gift should be a nice surprise, not an expectation,” says Tran. Or, consider the follow-up, adds Bronczek: “A handwritten thank-you note or even a gift after the event is always a lovely gesture.”