Etiquette, gift-giving for gracious guests

For tonight's polite parties, local expert offers do's and some definite don'ts.

December 31, 2006|By Amanda Pennington

Everyone's seen the holiday party slob or the guest who's had too much to drink and lets everyone know about it.

To avoid waking up Jan. 1 and wondering if you were that person, keep in mind that there is certain party etiquette to abide by in order to be invited back.

Before making a grand entrance, keep in mind that it is proper to bring a hostess gift if attending a cocktail or dinner party. Many people grab a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers, but that is not necessarily the best gift to bring, Costa Mesa-based Prezents Inc. President Diana Martin said Saturday.


And Martin would know. Her 18-year-old company specializes in designing appropriate gifts for everyone from Fortune 500 companies to someone who needs help finding the perfect present, including hostess gifts.

"The traditional wine or flower gifts one gives for parties are great gifts but very predictable," Martin said in her West 17th Street office. "Well mannered guests may find they want to bring a gift with more ingenuity and indulgence — it fosters better goodwill and fellowship."

The problem with bringing a bottle of wine or champagne is multifaceted. The host may be a sophisticated oenophile and already have painstakingly chosen what he or she wanted to serve. This can, in turn, make the gift-giver feel that their bottle was inadequate, which may not be true at all.

"You shouldn't put pressure on the host or hostess," Martin said. "Flowers are wonderful, but you need to put them someplace."

Having a host find a vase, fill it with water and find a place for it may be a burden when he or she is trying to cater to all the guests.

But if flowers are the perfect gift for the person, etiquette expert Naomi Torre Poulson suggested sending flowers before or after the occasion.

In lieu of these gifts, Martin suggested finding something the host may not purchase for themselves, like artisan salts or truffle olive oil for someone who loves cooking. Beautiful multipurpose dishes are also ideal, Martin said. A party guest may want to find a small box of high-end specialty chocolates made by a boutique purveyor. She suggested those made by chocolatier Michel Cluizel, which she called "the best chocolate in the world."

Cocktail napkins, whether they are simple or ornate, are always a nice gift for an entertainer, Martin said.

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