As the holiday season approaches, the influx of dinner invites and holiday parties might leave you questioning the etiquette of gifting to avoid the awkward empty-handed feeling.

If you’re wondering how to tactfully gift your hostess, you’re not alone; gifting requires some strategy and thought. Too big is obnoxious and too random doesn’t work either. (I won’t even discuss the faux pas of regifting.) There are certain unspoken rules when it comes to gifting, and we’re here to enlighten you.

When heading to someone’s home, never turn up empty handed. Something as simple as a dessert, a bottle of wine, or some flowers are a lovely gesture, even if your invite explicitly states otherwise. (No one will turn down your gesture.) However, if you want to elevate your gift-giving game, we’ve got a few creative ideas that take just a little bit of preparation and planning, but show you really went the extra mile. These are great not only for hostess gifts, but as a thank you after staying with friends, or as a sweet holiday gift for your extended family.

Customized Gifts

Customizing a gift really shows you put the extra effort in, but takes a little pre-planning on your part.

1. We love the luxe Le Labo candles that include a custom label for the hostess and her household. Santal 33 is a cult favorite and is a great neutral scent for the home.

2. Linen cocktail napkins embroidered with the recipient’s initials are that little something that she probably doesn’t have yet.

3. Personalized playing cards are a unique way to up the ante at the next poker game (and again probably something the hostess doesn’t already own).

Personalized Gifts

Personalized gifts are meaningful, sentimental, and often a reflection of your relationship with the recipient.

4. My mom always made it a point to print out photos of people and frame them, wrap them and gift them to friends. In our digital age, we’re printing far fewer photos, so this nice gesture is even more novel now.

5. Our go-to gift idea when sending a thank you (e.g., after a weekend at a friend’s vacation home) is a gift card to create a printed photo album keepsake with Chatbooks. This lets the recipient customize an album with their own photos and produce a gorgeous coffee-table quality book.

Quick and Clever Gifts

If you’re crunched on time, forgot about those dinner plans you made a month ago, or simply couldn’t get your shit together, these gifts are quick, creative and more unique than just bringing a bottle of wine you pulled from your liquor cabinet.

6. A nice cutting board, high-end olive oil or seasonally-designed tea towels are a sweet gesture, and take little thought and pre-planning.

7. Another avenue to take is some items for R&R, such as bath salts, room spray, a luxe bag of coffee (we love Wonder State), or some nice chocolates or other sweets. No one will turn down these items, trust us.

The Gift That Gives Back

And finally, one of our favorite go-to host gifts around the holiday season is to make a donation to a local charity in the host’s name. Pay attention to causes they care about and are close to their heart, and give a donation to the charity in their honor. This is great for the family that has everything or isn’t into “things,” and helps spread the holiday spirit.

with love,

Amy Abt