As any good Southerner knows you never show up to a dinner party empty-handed. After all if someone is opening their home and emptying their refrigerator, it’s common courtesy to bring a hostess gift. There’s one present, though, that’s slightly controversial—flowers.
Whether you’re grabbing a bouquet at Publix or picking some gems from your own garden, typically a gorgeous bunch of flowers makes a thoughtful and elegant hostess gift. The only time its appropriateness is in doubt is at dinner parties. If you show up at the door with a bunch of wrapped peonies or tulips, your host or hostess will want to get them in water right away to make sure they don’t wilt. That means stopping whatever it is they are doing, be it welcoming guests, doling out cocktails, or tending to the dinner spread to find a vase and get those blooms in water.
Plus, dinner party plans usually include which flowers and centerpieces should be on the dinner table. Since most hostesses wouldn’t want to be rude to a guest bearing gifts, that means adding the new bouquet to their already set table.
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While fresh-cut flowers are thoughtful, sending them at a less frenzied time is an even more considerate choice. One way to surprise a host with flowers is to send them the day before the party with a note saying you are looking forward to the get together. That way the host can have a nice surprise and will be able to appreciate the gesture without the hassle of interrupting meal prep and hosting duties. (One tip for busy hosts: if you think guests will arrive with flowers, consider pre-filling a vase with water so flowers can be quickly stowed.)
Another option, if you’re good friends with the host or hostess, is to ask in advance if you can bring flowers for the table. That way it’s one less thing the host needs to purchase for the party. Bringing a bouquet in a vase with water, a small potted succulent or herb, or even a tiny fairy garden could make a sweet floral gift, and won’t require extra effort from the host.
Of course, flowers aren’t the only option for a thoughtful hostess gift. Consider bringing a bottle of champagne or a box of chocolates for the host to enjoy later. Other always-appreciated gifts, include a jar or two of your famous homemade jam or something your host can enjoy for breakfast the next day when they need a break from cooking.