While hostess gifts are certainly not mandatory, they are thoughtful and show good manners. Your manners can expand beyond the thoughtfulness of the gift by helping take care of what you brought to the party. Many people ask, “If I bring flowers, what do I, as the giver, do next?” The answer is easy. Help.
If you bring a bottle of white wine, put it in the refrigerator, especially if it was chilled when you arrived. If you brought red wine, mixer, chocolates or some sort of dessert which can be set on a counter, put the win and/or mix in the designated bar area. Place the desserts where it looks like they are congregating. Finally, if you brought flowers, ask the host(ess) if you can go ahead and place them in a vase. Ask where to find the vase, get it, fill it with water and arrange the flowers. Then clean up any ribbon, plastic or spare leaves so that everyone notices the lovely bouquet, not the garbage left from “helping” the host. While all of this may seem like work on your part, again consider your host(ess). They are busily preparing for guests and making them feel welcomed. Although they may not have time to thank you for going above and beyond to help, trust me, you will be the one they remember, thank profusely and invite again and again.
There are plenty of websites which can help you discover other gift ideas. One caution, however, is to make sure you give something the host will appreciate. You want to give something that will help with the party, the hostess. If you adore cats and the host is a dog person (or not into pets or animals), you are not giving a considerate gift if you arrive with a cat figurine. The same goes for rubber ducks, bells or anything else that you may be into and they have no interest in. Never, ever give a gift you would like to receive. And don’t kid yourself by believing that when they look at it they will think of you. If it isn’t appreciated, doesn’t fit with the decor and does nothing for them, they most likely will never see it again as they will get rid of it and probably not invite you back. Further, if the host does not drink, a martini shaker is probably not the most thoughtful gift.
As stated before, hostess gifts are not mandatory. They are a thoughtful way of letting the inviter know you are flattered they included you in the event. So go have some fun. You can enjoy a good read and assistance with a good gift with Kate Spade's book, "Occasions".