Author Topic: Opening (Hostess) Gifts  (Read 2394 times)

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Semiramis

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Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« on: December 17, 2011, 06:06:16 PM »
Dear Ehellions, I've been lurking forever, but yesterday I hosted my first little dinner party and now promptly have an etiquette question.
All of our guests brought presents - two of them more hostess present-ish (i.e. wine and a chutney, and a pretty notepad that was handed to me unwrapped, as one might do with flowers), and just but some more christmassy (wrapped, with nice bow, and not bottle-shaped  :) ). One guest gave me a christmassy-looking present and told me he'd like to see me unwrap it, but having learned on ehell not to open 'hostess' gifts in front of people (if I understand correctly), I put all of them under the Christmas tree and proceeded to serve appetizers. After dinner, the aforementioned friend asked me to open his present, because he wasn't sure I would like it and wanted to see my reaction, so I did unwrap it. I was squealing with glee at the totally unexpected t-shirt sporting my favourite movie quote, and I think it made my friend happy to see that he made me happy.
But then I didn't really know what to do - open the other peoples' presents, too? I decided not to, because I would have felt just too weird sitting there and unwrapping stuff with everybody watching me in anticipation and not having anything to unwrap themselves.
What would be the correct way to handle such a situation?

Thank you in advance - I am looking forward to receiving Ehellions' advice!

ETA: As you may have guessed, English is not my native language. Sorry!  :)
« Last Edit: December 17, 2011, 06:19:43 PM by Semiramis »
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TootsNYC

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2011, 06:56:53 PM »
This is why I don't much love hostess gifts.

They distract the hostess when she's in the middle of her "job."

And hostess gifts probably shouldn't be wrapped, partly for that reason.

I also think presents should, when possible, be opened promptly and in front of the giver; to me, that just seems to go hand-in-hand with appreciating the gift.

The rule is, if only a few people bring presents, don't open them in front of all the other guests who did NOT bring you a present, because that might make them feel they've goofed.

In your case, everyone DID bring a present, so I'd vote for unwrapping them after the dinner. There was no one to feel they'd messed up by not bringing one. The only difference is, they didn't wrap them.

And in your situation, nobody else would be expecting a present, so it would be like a birthday party.

My vote: You could have opened all the other presents there after dinner, and you would probably not want to make a big deal out of it the way one does at a birthday. You just have it be "the thing you do with your hands while we're all talking," in a sort of "Oh, let's see what's in this box" sort of way.

TootsNYC

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2011, 06:57:15 PM »
Oh, and congrats on your first dinner party!

Was it fun to be the hostess?

Bijou

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2011, 08:43:31 PM »
T thought a hostess gift would be something that is not wrapped (except maybe a bottle of wine in a pretty paper bag) but would be offered to the hostess on arrival.  The tee shirt doesn't sound like a hostess gift, at all, but like a regular gift.  With all this talk of hostess gifts on the forum, it never entered my mind that if you invite 10 people you may end up getting 10 hostess gifts.  How uncomfortable that would be. 
I've never knitted anything I could recognize when it was finished.  Actually, I've never finished anything, much to my family's relief.

Balletmom

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2011, 08:43:57 PM »
I think either a quick and discreet  open and "thank you so much" or putting it aside with a "thank you so much" is appropriate.

It's pretty much the same rule I use for gifts from my students. I follow up with a written thank you for them either way.

I love giving hostess gifts, or any gift at all now, just because I was a late learner when it came to giving decent gifts or presentation. If someone says, "you didn't have to" I usually answer "but I wanted to, and I really enjoyed getting it for you."




Semiramis

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2011, 07:59:45 AM »
Thank you all.
Balletmom, you are right, it would probably have been best to open the gifts in the hallway right when they were given to me. Since I didn't do this, I should have done what TootsNYC suggested - I guess what really confused me was the mix of hostess gifts and Christmas presents  :-[
In the future, I may try to circumvent this issue by not hosting dinner parties one week before Christmas...  ::)

And TootsNYC, thank you for asking - it was fun! Agains all expectations, nothing major went wrong - the only glitch was that I realized the night before that my grandmother's damask tablecloth was not, in fact, in my drawer, but at my mother's home. Oh well, I just used a less fancy one, the table still looked nice. And my friends were lovely guests! :D
In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro. Thomas a Kempis

Thipu1

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2011, 11:08:28 AM »
Glad to hear that your first dinner party was a success.  It's so nice to see messages like that.

When we're invited to dinner we usually bring a nice bottle of wine in the pretty foil or paper gift bag.  We also take some of the pressure off the hostess or host by putting a note on the outside. Along the lines of , 'Here's a little something for you to enjoy at your leisure'.  When the host family has a pet we usually also include a toy or a catnip cigar.  That always goes over well.

jpcher

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2011, 03:19:29 PM »
Semiramis -- Welcome to this forum! ;D

There does seem to be a bit of confusion as to whether these were Christmas gifts (wrapped) or hostess gifts. I don't think that a hostess gift should be wrapped.

I, too, would have felt extremely uncomfortable about opening all the gifts in front of other guests. Especially since the guests didn't have any gifts of their own to open. That's more like a Bday party gathering . . . most definitely not hostess gifts.

I think that you did the right thing by putting the wrapped gifts under the tree, thinking they were more holiday gifts rather than a hostess gift.

Gently saying, where you erred was when you opened the one gift in front of everybody else. You should have brought insistent friend into the kitchen, or some such private place when you opened the gift.



I'm hoping that you will reciprocate the other gift-givers in some way. Simply because wrapped gifts around holiday time seems more like a holiday gift rather than a hostess gift.

Ceallach

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2011, 04:10:50 PM »
The guest wanted to give you a Xmas present, and ideally would have done so at a later time - perhaps waited until the end of the party to give it to you privately, if there wasn't another opportunity to see you.  Springing a wrapped gift on a hostess and expecting it to be opened straight away is a little snowflakey.  I agree with Toots that it distracts the hostess while she's busy.

IMHO a hostess gift is normally a bottle of wine or some flowers or similar, not a wrapped present.  Something quick that can be handed to the hostess who thanks the person, puts it in the kitchen/bench and encourages them to join the party.  Not something that takes up time as a distraction.   If a guest gave me a wrapped gift and specifically wanted me to open it, I'd probably thank them and suggest that I open it "after dinner" or similar.
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Semiramis

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2011, 04:23:21 PM »
Thank you for the welcome, jpcher, and thank you for being happy for me, Thipu!  :)

And thanks everyone for your answers - If I get into a similar situation, I'll try to lure the guest in question away from the party.

Thank you all! :D
In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro. Thomas a Kempis

Searcher

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Re: Opening (Hostess) Gifts
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2011, 06:42:49 PM »
As I see hostess gifts, they are supposed to be relatively small, token gifts to thank the host/ess for his/her hospitality, but they are not given as a major part of the agenda, and they are not supposed to be given with an eye towards their being opened at that time and put to immediate use.

So I favor their being put aside to be opened later, or opened discreetly.  There isn't supposed to be a "show" of the opening the way there would be at a shower, for example, and I wouldn't give one in hopes of "surprising" the host/ess or "seeing the look on his/her face."  If I wanted to give the host/ess such a gift, I'd use an occasion like a birthday or year-end holiday for that.