That's the sound of the doorbell as you stand awkwardly on someone's doorstep waiting for them to invite you into their home and join the party. If you're a bit introverted like me, the awkwardness of entering a room full of people you probably don't know is only intensified if you're standing there empty handed.
Not only do I appreciate the ice breaker of offering up a gift upon arrival, I feel the gesture of bringing a gift to thank the host or hostess for their efforts is a must. Previously I've covered ways to spruce up the typical bottle of wine offering to make hostess gifts more special, but today I want to talk specifically about housewarming gifts.
So what does "proper etiquette" dictate on this subject? Well, according to Wikipedia, gifts are customary but not necessary, and usually consist of something that can be used in the new house or enjoyed during the party. Interestingly enough, bluebirds were once given as they were believed to bless the new house with happiness and good luck, but in modern day it is more customary to provide bluebird-themed paraphernalia such as china. (I've never heard that one before!)
Remember, customary does not always equate to "tasteful."
Pineapples are also common housewarming gifts as the pineapple has served as a symbol of hospitality and warm welcome through the history of the Americas. Ironically enough, the pineapple is also the symbol of Alexandria, so I particularly love this gesture.
Would a bottle of wine work? Sure, assuming your hosts enjoy wine or would serve it at the party or to friends and family, we've given this gift often, especially in a pinch. But for close friends I think it's nice to go a little further to give them something that's meaningful or has more thought behind it.
Alex and I were recently invited to a housewarming party to celebrate our friends' purchase of their first home. When I saw a wine bottle opener in the shape of a large key, I knew it was for them. They enjoy wine quite a bit and I love the symbolism of the key since it's a housewarming party.
I'm also a huge fan of wrapping gifts in a special way. (You won't find soft wrapped gifts in our home.) So I set out to package the wine opener with a little extra flair. Using a flat card purchased from Paper Source, I stamped the front of the card with an image of two champagne glasses and the word celebrate.
Once the ink had set, I flipped over the card and wrote a personalized note to the couple. To tie it back to the gift itself, I included "The key to a happy home is plenty of wine."
Next up, I raided my wrapping supplies to find a box that was the perfect size. After lining the box, which used to hold stationary, with tissue paper, I placed the gift and the note inside.
I tied up the box with ribbon (no wrapping was necessary since the box itself was decorative) and I was all set.
In addition to giving them something to keep, I whipped up a batch of delicious lemon cupcakes to share with other party guests.
Tip: One thing I always try to avoid is giving someone something that has no purpose other than to be displayed. People have wide-ranging taste when it comes to home decor, and it's not always something easy to judge. Take a friend of mine for instance. She received a large platter adorned with a rooster as a wedding gift. It wasn't her taste at all, and to make matters worse, the plate wasn't food safe. So if this item was to ever see the light of day, it had to be displayed in her home since she couldn't use it as a serving dish. (Let's just say ten years later, it's still in her basement somewhere.) That's why I play it safe and try to give gifts that have a function (serving items, housewares, etc.) or can be consumed (wine, dessert, chocolate, etc.).
The funniest part of this housewarming story is that despite my best efforts to arrive with both a thoughtful gift and delicious treat, I made a major faux pas. I suppose I was too focused on the gift itself? Maybe too distracted at work? Perhaps I just had a blonde moment and totally flaked out? Regardless of the reason, I goofed up the date of the party and we arrived two weeks early.
Yep, you read that right. As we were parking, I noticed no one else was parked at their house. Nervously I pulled out the invite and made the horrifying discovery that we were there a full 14 days in advance. Luckily our friends were understanding, and had us in for a "VIP" version of the party a little early. So we hung out in their barely unpacked home, chatted, and had some cupcakes. After all, that's what good friends are for. (And the cupcakes didn't hurt either.)
What sorts of gifts do you like to give at housewarming parties? Do you attempt to complement the party or contribute to the overall usefulness of the house? Have you ever pulled a smooth move of showing up for a party on the wrong day? Or is this just something that I would do?