Dear Heidi: When attending a dinner party, do I have to bring something?
And how do I know what to bring?
It is kind to bring a small token of your appreciation for the invitation to the host. The gift is an early “thank you” for being included in the dinner, and should be thoughtful, but not extravagant. Deciding what to bring can be tricky, and you may need to do a little research. If the host is a good friend, whom you know well, then you probably already know what to take— something you know they’d like. For instance, bring a bottle of the host’s favorite wine, assuming it is not extremely pricey. But, please be aware that alcohol can be very tricky and if you do not know the host well, stay away from alcohol—the host may not drink, or have strong feelings about alcohol, and you do not want to offend them.. Other tricky gifts include candy—maybe for health reasons, the host does not eat candy; or flowers—the host has to find a vase, the colors could clash with the decor and the host might feel compelled to use your flowers as a centerpiece. Do not bring something that will make the host feel he or she has to use it unless you have consulted with them prior to the dinner. Once, a guest brought a cherry pie to a dinner party I hosted, and insisted I serve it with dessert. I had already planned dessert and had to find extra plates and forks for the pie. It was a great pie, but it did not go with my menu.
Be a good guest and appreciate your host’s hard work in putting on the dinner party by bringing something you have put some thought into. If you want to be asked back, plan ahead...and whatever you bring, avoid something last minute, like gas station flowers.
The best gifts are something that reflects you, or your connection to the host.