Gift Giving 101

Experts weigh in on just the right hostess gift.

More whisper than shout, a hostess gift has one essential purpose: to send a thoughtful gesture of appreciation. To help you get it just right, we polled some of our favorite gift shops for tips and ideas.

Angela Phelps of Arlington’s Le Village Marche’s go-tos include candles, cocktail napkins, and chocolates. “For candles, choose a citrus scent. It’s a safe choice, as some people are sensitive to scents—they are great for using after cooking.” For times when something more lasting and substantial is warranted, she suggests a quality set of marble coasters. “They are useful and go with any decor.”

Gifts of flavored olive oil are favored by Emily Thomson of Manassas Olive Oil Company, who says it’s a perfect choice—something everyone will enjoy. “It can be used for cooking any meal, drizzling on a salad, or as a bread dipping.” Among her favorites: Tuscan Herb, flavored with rosemary, oregano, basil, and garlic, and Milanese Gremolata, a blend of lemon zest, parsley, and garlic.

Steve Wesley

“I’d rather bring a nice bottle of olive oil or specialty salt that they can use later,” says Amy Rutherford of Red Barn Mercantile in Alexandria. She advises against perishable gifts like flowers or consumable ones like wine. Two of her favorites are Sydney Hale Candles and liquid Marseille soap. And any consummate entertainer will appreciate the Wine and Cheese Pairing Swatchbook, an easy-to-follow guide perfect for get-togethers. At $15, it’s an easy price point too.

Courtney Thomas of The Picket Fence in Burke suggests focusing on treats that can be enjoyed after guests have left. “Put together a little goodie basket of Virginia peanuts, dip mixes, and locally made jams for the hostess.” For a fun twist on the traditional bottle of wine, she recommends adding a pack of Vinoos Wine Gummies.

And one more tip not to overlook: Be sure your gift has a “to and from” tag. Hand it directly to the host or place it where it can be found after the party—maybe on a front hall table. Be sure to include a simple handwritten message: “Thank you! This is for you to enjoy later.”

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