First impressions can be nerve-wracking, especially when you're visiting someone's home for the first time. To make a great first impression, you need to bring a proper gift that says something about your personality and shows your gratitude for the invitation. Modern Manners Guy has 3 great ideas.
Tip #2: Flowers…to the Next Level
Flowers, like wine, are an opportunity to express your personality, and as a first time guest, that’s what you're aiming for. After all, who doesn’t like flowers? Heck, even though I have allergies to most green things, I still love seeing flowers in a home. A good bouquet of flowers is like a good piece of art that can light up – and accessorize – any room.
However, as a first-time guest, I recommend taking it up a notch. No, I’m not talking about bringing a massive centerpiece contraption, where people will have to use a spy scope to see over it. That will be distracting and clutter a table. I’m talking about an extra something that adds a touch of class to the presentation of the flowers, even more so than the type of flower you select.
As a first time guest, you won’t know what colors the hosts like, or how much room they have to display them, so don’t worry about the size of the bouquet. Instead pay attention to how you present the flowers. I recommend bringing a simple vase with the flowers already arranged in it. I know what you're thinking, but by "simple vase" I don't mean a crystal goblet from Tiffany’s for $500 to complement your $25 bouquet. What I do mean is a simple, inexpensive clear glass vase that will present the flowers in an attractive way.
Bringing flowers in a vase is better than just bringing flowers a la carte because now the host or hostess doesn’t have to take the time to cut the stems, find a vase, put flowers in water, make room for them, etc. It’s all right there - ready to go. It shows your consideration and thoughtfulness.
NOTE: Never choose flowers that have a strong odor. Even if you like a strong smelling flower, you don't want to inflict that smell on your hosts. Ask the florist to recommend flowers with a subtle scent that won’t consume the room.
Tip #3: Dessert Is Always Sweet
Dessert is the ultimate holiday gift. And to be honest, of all the tips I mention today, this is the one closest to my heart (er, stomach).
However, there is a definite line in the sand when it comes to bringing dessert as a gift. Unlike wine or flowers, desserts can actually be a “touchy” subject. Even though for many people, nothing is a better gift, for some, when you bring food – of any kind – into their home, thay can take offense.
Wait a second...cake, cookies, pie...offensive? How can this be?
It can, and here's how. Imagine the host has been planning and preparing the meal for days. Imagine that he or she baked a wonderful homemade apple pie from scratch. It took ages! And suddenly, here you are traipsing into their home for the first time with a store-bought, pre-packaged apple pie. Don't be surprised if they're not thrilled to see you or your dessert gift.
Always ask if it’s okay for you to bring a dessert or appetizer for the party in advance. For one, you need to make sure there is space for what you bring. Secondly, you don’t want to double up on a dish someone else brought or the host prepared. It’s like walking into a party with two people wearing the same exact dress. OMG! You never want to be the reason people have to play, “Who Wore It Better?” with the dessert.
Once you get the green light from the hosts that it's fine to bring a dessert, now you have to choose carefully. You don’t have to spend hours in a kitchen crafting the world’s greatest pumpkin pie, but you don’t want to just phone it in either. Whether it’s homemade or store-bought, you want the host to know you took time to really think about them and the other guests.
I recommend bringing something that is not overwhelming, in size, aroma, or difficulty of transport. You don’t want to have to ask the other guests to help you bring in your six-tier cake. Also, try to appeal to the masses - stick to the staples and don’t veer towards the exotic. A simple berry cobbler? Great! A guava-pumpernickel tort with a camembert glaze? Not so much.
Do you have a story about the first time you visited someone's home? What gift did you bring? Post all the details in the comment section below.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
And if you have any future college grads on your gift list, give them Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's my new book on getting, keeping, and succeeding in any job. It's available in paperback, ebook, and even audiobook format!