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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Is a Hostess Gift Appropriate
for a Company Party?

Dear Sue: I've been invited to attend an after-work social function at the home of my company's CEO. The email invitation came from him, but it said that he and his wife would be hosting the event. From what I gather, people from the out of town offices will be attending as well as executives from the office I work in. The CEO wants everyone to get to know each other better. Spouses are not invited.

My question: Is a "hostess" gift appropriate under these circumstances? The CEO's wife does not work for our company, but she is co-hosting the dinner, and it is at their home. If it is appropriate to bring a gift, what do you suggest I bring?

- Empty handed

Sue Says: Bringing a hostess gift is almost always appropriate and a gracious gesture. I doubt your boss or his wife expects anything, but since you’ve asked the question and are considering bringing a gift, I suggest you do.

Chances are not everyone who was invited will think to bring something, and I am sure your kind gesture will be appreciated and noted. It is the thought behind the gift that counts most, and I am sure that any gift you bring will be appreciated.

You might consider asking some of your colleagues to go in on a gift with you enabling you to do give something more substantial than if you buy a gift on your own. For example, more people (and more money) would enable you to order a substantial floral arrangement, which you could order in advance to be delivered during the day of the event. This way, you can include a card with all the names of the senders, and your host will have a chance to decide where to place the flowers before everyone arrives. Arriving at the event with a bouquet of flowers is fine, but you won’t know how many other people might do the same, or how much of a hassle it might be for your host to find the right sized vase or a place to put them out.

Whatever you decide to do, don't over do it or try to select anything too personal. Select a “generic” type of gift. If you want to offer to bring something, you can talk with your boss or call his wife and ask what is needed.

If you decide to show up with a gift in hand, unless someone has an allergy to chocolate or nuts, you can’t go wrong if you bring a box of chocolates, mixed nuts or a basket of crackers and cheese. A bottle of liquor or wine is usually a suitable hostess gift, but only if you know, without a doubt that the CEO and his wife drink. While these are common and generic gifts, you are not limited to them.

Finally, in addition to personally saying thank you when you leave, send a handwritten thank you note. While not everyone will think to bring a hostess gift, I am willing to bet even less will think to write a thank you note. A note will surely be appreciated, and you can be sure you will be remembered.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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