In this age of texting and e-mails, old gracious customs seem to be going by the wayside. Many people do not RSVP or do not send handwritten notes or invitations anymore. Even a phone call is getting to be a rarity.
This is not the case in New Orleans. Even in these modern high-tech times, the customs of gentility and consideration prevail. All kinds of parties are given: cocktail, dinner, luncheons, housewarming, showers and Carnival. There are plenty of opportunities to exercise the art of giving a hostess gift.
A hostess gift does not have to be costly, but it should always be thoughtful. A bottle of wine or a bouquet from the supermarket will always be good options, but perhaps something more creative could be offered.
Here in New Orleans one would never think to turn up empty-handed to a soiree. Still, Emily Post says there are guidelines of when to bring a hostess gift.
Casual dinner party: Dinner party guests usually bring a hostess gift unless they are close friends who dine together frequently.
Formal dinner party: Gifts aren’t usually taken to large, formal dinners.
When there’s a guest of honor: If it’s a birthday, anniversary, graduation or shower, bring a gift for the honoree.
When you’re the guest of honor: Bring a gift for your host or hostess, or send flowers before the party. After the party, send a thank you note.
Housewarming: It’s customary to bring a gift to a housewarming. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be something lasting for the house.
Weekend visit: Either bring or send a gift. Your gift of choice will depend on the length of your stay and how elaborately you’re entertained.
There are so many fun shops in New Orleans in which to look for the perfect hostess gift. While you don’t have to break the bank, your gift should be sincere, thoughtful and personal.
A good rule of thumb is to give something you yourself would like to receive. New Orleanians are originals and always appreciate something a little different. If you must bring a plain old bouquet of flowers, then look for a cute container to deliver it in. Anything with an initial or monogram will be a hit. Consider the interests and collections of your host or hostess. A small item catering to what he or she loves is a gift that goes the extra mile. Any locally made product is looked upon with favor. People in New Orleans prefer to support their own.
A gift for your host or hostess is a classic and gracious way to thank them for their hospitality and is always appreciated. In some parts of the country, a hostess gift is considered obligatory, while in other places a gift is brought only on special occasions. If it’s the first time you’re visiting someone’s home, then it’s a very nice gesture to bring a small gift. If you have a few extra minutes, wrap it up; even if you only use tissue paper and a gift bag, it adds polish to the gesture.