21st Century Housewarming Etiquette - Housing Week


Cupcakes — always a welcome housewarming gift. Photo by Dani Lurie.

“Meghan & Sara’s Housewarming-I-still-can’t-believe-we-found-a-place-to-live BASH!!!! (B.Y.O.B.)”

That inevitable Facebook invitation is one that anyone in their early 20s will read as friends and colleagues finally settle into their first apartments. As the invitee, you are expected per the invitation to bring your own “b” (beer, booze, breath mints, etc.), but what remains is another all-important item — the housewarming gift. Some might consider the traditional gift a bit outdated — What, am I supposed to buy them a potted plant or something? While others think they can’t afford to buy friends anything of real use to the new homeowners. You’re telling me it’s my job to buy them flatware when they’re the ones who can afford rent in midtown?

Housewarming gifts are not mandatory by any means, and the actual term “housewarming” only refers to literally filling the house with people (warm bodies) to properly christen a new home. Still, the very definition of etiquette herself, Emily Post says, “If it’s the first time you’re visiting someone’s home, then it’s a very nice gesture to bring a small gift.”

She also categorizes suggestions by “Casual Dinner Party” and “Formal Dinner Party”. No offense to Ms. Post, but the fact of the matter is that your friends now have a place to have a party, and the only way to properly christen these new digs is with an “Epic House Party”.

In which case, bringing an extra bottle of your favorite libation for your host or hostess will do the trick. Guys, if you are not sure what to bring for your lady friends, you can never go wrong with a bottle of wine. Never. Even if you’re not a wine connoisseur, try going for looks over quality by finding an affordable wine with a nice looking label. No matter what kind of wine you pick, they can always use the bottle later on as a decorative flower vase. Depending on how well you know your hosts’ tastes, girls buying for their male friends can opt for a six-pack of any beer they think the host will like. General rule of thumb: buying booze for someone who now has to calculate every purchase to make monthly rent will never go unappreciated or out of style.

In the case that it’s a good friend of yours inviting you to their new home, you may want to go above and beyond in your well wishes. This does not mean you have to break the bank! Since your good friend is most likely living in their first apartment that does not have a cafeteria within a 5-minute walk from them, they’re going to have to start cooking for themselves. Instead of bringing them food or baked goods, consider helping them get started on their quest for domesticity with the proper tools.

A shockingly affordable option is buying your host a grill; not the kind you would use in your backyard for the Fourth of July, but the countertop George Foreman grill, which runs for about $16 online. The “lean, mean, fat grilling machine” is fool proof, unless you step on it in the dark because you, like Michael Scott, like the smell of bacon in the morning. Possible injury aside, it’s great for people living in an urban area where grilling space is limited but smoke alarms are everywhere. If they already have the grill, a crockpot is another great option because it allows you to cook a whole lot of food with very minimal effort. Especially with the cold weather coming up, being able to cook chili or stew by the gallon will make for an awesome money and time saver, and your friend will get a lot of use out of it.

If you’re wary of throwing down for kitchen hardware, or you want to give your gift a more personal touch, you can always find a creative way to gift your friend with a recipe for something you know they’ll like. Meghan and Sara for example, might love cupcakes so you could find an easy cupcake recipe for them to use, like this one.

Once you print out the recipe on computer paper, the trick to kicking your gift up a notch will be in the presentation. Go to your local craft goods store, or anywhere that sells scrapbooking supplies, and you’ll find an array of stickers, glitter, and glue sticks you can use to bedazzle the print out to your heart’s content. Mount the recipe to cardboard paper with glue to give it stability, and try giving it a personal touch by including a serving suggestion of a glass of wine or a favorite movie to watch while they enjoy the baked goods.

You know what they say: “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a girl to bake, and she will have cupcakes sitting around whenever you come over.”

Written by: Mary Kate Polanin