Beyond a Bottle of Wine: 5 of My Favorite Hostess Gifts

I've been thinking a lot lately about hostess gifts and tokens of appreciation as we're in the final stretch of planning our wedding and trying to figure out what we'd like to do for favors. While casual dinner parties are obviously much different in scope than a wedding, it's gotten me thinking about what we bring with us when we go to visit friends and family — and how nice it is to break out of the 'bottle of wine routine.' While wine is often a safe bet and often very much appreciated, it can become a bit expected, and it's fun to shake things up a bit, too.

Here are five hostess gifts that I've been bringing to parties and gatherings this spring and summer. If I had to choose my favorite it'd be hard, but I do love bringing something everyone can enjoy together —and talk about well into the evening, so a new album to listen to has been my go-to this summer. What's yours?

1. Something for the Morning

Last weekend we went to a wedding where the bride and groom sent the guests away with a little basket of homemade scones and jam. The next morning we were so happy to dig in as we lazily ready the paper before diving into the real work of the day. For something as casual as a dinner party, a jar of your favorite jam or a box of granola are always welcome gifts. This recipe for Cherry Pistachio Granola Clusters (pictured) is a great starting point if you want to mix up a homemade batch.

2. A Potted Plant

When we had a housewarming party a few years ago, a friend brought us a pretty pot containing a few succulents. It's now one of my favorite things in our kitchen: every time I look at it I think of her (plus, succulents are incredibly tough to kill —or at least this variety happens to be).

3. A New Cookbook

This gift can go either way, but I will often bring a cookbook as a gift for my host. For friends or family who you know have a ton of cookbooks and may feel overwhelmed by them (it's possible I may be speaking from personal experience here), this is probably not the best choice. But for those who like to cook and are curious to try and experience new things, a book you select specifically for them (and inscribe!) is always a really special, thoughtful gift.

4. Kitchen Serving Piece

I find it's generally a safe bet to bring something pretty for the kitchen that the host or hostess may not necessarily buy for themselves. A good example here would be nice wooden salad spoons, a pretty cheese knife, or a few linen kitchen towels tied together with some nice twine or string.

5. Music

Because we don't have a television in our living room, when we have people over we often gather in the living room to listen to records and have a glass of wine or a cocktail. It's inevitable that a conversation about music usually will unfold and I almost always learn something new about an artist or group — so bringing an album to kick that off is an great idea and, again, if you consider what the host or hostess might like or be most interested in: even better!

Got any more ideas for me? We'd love to hear!

(Image credits: Emma Christensen; Gina Biancaniello; Dana Velden)

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